What happens when you blend 19th century England, modernization of the court of law and deductions with the Ace Attorney series?
You get The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles, featuring the ancestor of Phoenix Wright, Ryonosuke Naruhodo.
However, this isn’t a brand new game, but rather a remaster of the original two titles (Adventures and Resolve) that were released only in Japan. Why it took over five years for Capcom to bring it over to the West is still a case that’s yet to be solved, but better late than never.
My history with the Ace Attorney series extends only to the fantastic original trilogy so I was curious how receptive I would be to this collection. Suffice to say, I’ve enjoyed my time with The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles, as it’s filled with humorous but heartfelt dialogue, intense court cases and charming characters.
Objections across two countries
The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles takes place in both Japan and England during the late 1800s, which are in the Meiji and Victorian eras, respectively. A distinct highlight between these two time periods is that they come after the Industrial Revolution and bring the advancement of locomotive trains, gas lamps and more technology into the courtroom.
However, while England has advanced more rapidly during this era, other countries such as Japan are playing catch-up. As such, the Empire of Japan decides to form an alliance with England by sending a law student overseas to London.
That’s the backdrop of The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles, which stars protagonist Ryunosuke Naruhodo, a student at Imperial Yumei University, along with his best friend Kazuma Asogi, a law student who will be sent to learn about the British courtroom and strengthen relations between the two countries. Naruhodo ends up being framed for murder (sound familiar?) against an English professor and, with the help of his friend, must defend himself in the Japanese courtroom with a case that has big political consequences.
Since The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is primarily a visual novel, I won’t delve into spoilers as the story should be experienced fresh. However, what I can say is that there are a lot of twists in these stories and you’ll definitely need your detection skills to discover an underlying political drama filled with murder mysteries.
The game is afoot!
The main aspect that the Ace Attorney series is known for is dramatic courtroom battles. Since you play as a defence attorney, the objective is to receive a “Not Guilty” verdict for your client.
The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is no different, as most of the chapters require you to engage in trials to defend your client and uncover the truth. These trials involve listening to witnesses, pointing out inconsistencies in their statements and presenting evidence to win your case. They’ll also require you to inspect evidence, which may lead to more clues that will help during your defence.
One gameplay element that’s been brought back is the presence of multiple witnesses during a testimony, who you can question at any time if someone reacts to a specific statement.
However, the twist for these trials involves members of the jury. For those who aren’t familiar with the English law system (which is similar to Canada’s), the jury is made up of randomly selected people to help decide on the final verdict for the defendant. As such, your job is to convince the jury that your client is not guilty and, in turn, win the case.
Because this is Ace Attorney and there’s no exception to drama, there will be instances where members of the jury turn against you and preliminarily judge your client as guilty. From there, you’ll need to find inconsistencies with the jury and pit two members against each other to overturn their initial verdict. While the jury loses some of its novelty later on, it’s a great addition that brings lots of intensity to the courtroom, especially during your first trial in London.
That’s not all The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles adds to the list of new features.
Alongside courtroom battles, you will need to investigate the crime scene for any clues or evidence lying around (with the second game re-introducing forensic science). Here is where you’re introduced to Herlock Sholmes (no, that’s not a spelling mistake), the “ace” detective famous for his legendary stories about solving murder mysteries. Though he’s a spoof of the actual character written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Herlock borrows many traits that the detective is known for and makes them quirkier.
One of those involves his well-known deductions that are used as another gameplay element. These “Logic and Reasoning Spectaculars” involve Herlock Sholmes using his observations on a specific person to uncover clues and expand on the initial case.
Unfortunately, because he’s not actually Sherlock Holmes, Herlock will get a few details wrong during his deduction that leads to an incorrect conclusion. It’s Naruhodo’s job, then, to fix the deductions by looking at clues (whether it’s an object or a person), which is similar to inspecting court evidence, and arrive at the right conclusion.
Though I didn’t find these deduction setpieces to be hard, they are charming and cleverly used, since they give you aspects of the courtroom while offering a breather from the investigation portions of the game.
Plus, who wouldn’t love dancing around with Herlock, snapping fingers and trying to deduce the culprit (in more ways than one)? It makes Herlock feel more unique instead of a straight copy of the detective we know in modern literature. It also gives a distinct quality to Naruhodo and allows him to be his own character instead of an ancient version of Phoenix Wright.
The trials and tribulations of 19th century London
Though the courtroom is the trademark gameplay focus of the Ace Attorney series, what really makes these games enjoyable are the loveable, over-the-top characters. I’m happy to say that The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles continues to deliver in this aspect.
Naruhodo has the same fun nature as Phoenix Wright and his interactions with judicial assistant Susato Mikotoba deliver both humorous and wholesome dialogue. Herlock Sholmes is a great iteration on the classic detective, as he’s endearing and goofy without sacrificing his intelligence (most of the time). Even one-and-done jury characters have their own quips that enhance the story.
Because of the setting, character interactions and story, I can mostly excuse my biggest issue with The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles: its length.
Keeping in mind that these are story-driven games, I felt that both the investigation and court cases were a bit too long for my liking. Unlike the original trilogy that had brilliant pacing, the dialogue in The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles seemed drawn out, both in investigations and in the courtroom.
Granted, this issue is most prevalent in the first game, especially since Chapters 1-3 contain tutorials for each gameplay addition so there’s more information than you’d typically see at the beginning of an Ace Attorney game.
I clocked in 37 hours on Steam for the first game and personally speaking, that’s going a step too far when I could beat the first Ace Attorney and its sequel, Justice For All, in that time. However, despite my grievances with the length, I appreciate that The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles introduced new ways to expand on investigations without being egregious.
One of my complaints with Justice For All was the introduction of Psyche-Locks mental barriers, which stilted progression in the story with little added charm when you just wanted to get a move on. However, Sholmes’ “Logic and Reasoning Spectacular” is far better implemented and serves as a great way to progress through the investigations.
Bringing the joys of justice to all
Getting in on the ground floor of this screenshot from The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles before it becomes the biggest reaction meme on Twitter pic.twitter.com/MqXGg7sWw2
— Jason Schreier (@jasonschreier) July 27, 2021
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles. While the pacing leaves something to be desired, its story, characters and setting make up for it. It’s shocking that Capcom waited so many years to bring the two Great Ace Attorney games overseas.
With the Japanese company looking into developing a third game in this series, I’d love to see Ryunosuke and Herlock Sholmes together again. If nothing else, I hope that Capcom makes a console/PC collection for the Ace Attorney Investigations series, especially since the sequel hasn’t seen an official translation for the West.
Image credit: Capcom