Anyone who has listened to me talk here on The Outerhaven over the years, especially on the Nintendo Entertainment Podcast that we do, knows that I’m a huge fan of the Ace Attorney franchise. I love the characters, I love the storylines, and seemingly with every single game, the franchise gets better, deeper, and more enhanced in their craft. I had heard about the prequel games that Capcom had done but didn’t know if I’d ever get to play them. But now, The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles has arrived, and while it’s not my favorite in the Ace Attorney line, it is a worthy entry in the series.
Game Name: The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PS4
Release Date: July 27th, 2021
So if you have no “OBJECTIONS!” let’s get right to it, shall we?
The game itself is actually two titles in one (not including the DLC, of course). You play as Ryunosuke Naruhodo, who is the ancestor to the one and only Phoenix Wright. He’s a young man thrown into impossible circumstances in 19th century Japan and then England that leads him on a journey to not just becoming a lawyer but realizing what it means to be one and the power that they have in terms of finding the truth and dispelling the darkness that surrounds the law at times.
That’s actually a key difference between the original Ace Attorney games and these titles. When we first met him, Phoenix was a lawyer, and it took three games to find out his whole story. But here, we have it all play out in one straight-ish line, and it benefits from that because we get to see Ryunosuke grow from someone out of his depth to a lawyer that would make his descendent proud.
Of course, we have a big cast of supporting characters who help make the game’s mysteries and courtroom battles all the more exciting. Not the least of which is Miss Susato, who plays the “Maya Fey” role if you will but is totally her own character and honestly is my MVP of the game given how they portray her as smart, tough, humble, and yet incredibly caring.
Then…there’s this guy…
Lord Barok Van Zieks, who, as an excellent Honest Trailers video noted, is basically Lord Dracu-Law. Get it?
Anyway, he is actually the main Prosecutor you battle in the game up until the final case. And he is an imposing figure for sure, one who has a deep-seated hatred for the Japanese people…and isn’t afraid to go and express it, as you can see in my screenshot above. It can get a little much at times because he’s not the only one who does this kind of bigoted talk, but in the end, he’s a cool character.
The other major addition, if you will, is the variety of characters from the Sherlock Holmes library. Oops, I mean, “Herlock Sholmes” library. Yes, it’s a dumb name; let’s move on.
The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles does give an interesting take on Sholmes and the OG characters from the books. Including Gregson, Watson, Lestrade, and even Moriarty (though very loosely in this last case). They are curious takes on the characters, but most have a lot of heart, including his new companion in Iris, as well as the pickpocket turned detective-to-be in Gina Lestrade.
Plus, through Sholmes, we get a new gameplay mechanic in “Deduction,” that is…something, I’ll get to that later as well.
I also want to note that anyone who has played Ace Attorney will very much be at home in terms of the storylines that are shown here. Nothing is exactly what you expect. The murderers may be known, but their methods aren’t quite as straightforward as you’d sometimes hope, and by the end, you’re unraveling a “great darkness” in the legal system. In this case, you’re helping unravel two massive mysteries in Great Britain that will change the country forever in certain ways.
Also, for those familiar with the Ace Attorney games, you’ll know exactly how the gameplay works…more or less. The courtroom system of going and raising objections, presenting evidence, pressing for more information is all intact, as is going and examining evidence for more clues and insight before presenting them.
The key changes here are the multiple-witness system (though if you played Ace Attorney vs. Professor Layton, you’d be familiar with it) and the Jury System. The former is straightforward enough, multiple people give testimony at once, and at times, one of the witnesses will react to what the other says, and you have to question them about it.
The Jury System, though, is a bit…trickier. You see, there are 6 jurors that at any moment can decide if the defendant is innocent or guilty. And if (see: when) they decide your client is guilty, you have to go through a long process to try and sway them to see your side so the court case can continue. It’s honestly very arduous, especially in the first game where you have to do the swaying a LOT. The second game seems to have realized this by having 3 of the 5 cases not deal with this at all. There’s another element here, but I’ll say that for the negative thoughts at the end.
All in all, each case is special, and at times downright riveting. The last cases of each game are naturally the best, with many twists and turn that even I didn’t see coming, and I’m an Ace Attorney veteran. And in one case, there was honestly an outcome that was a first for the franchise that had me wondering how this hadn’t been done before because it was so brilliant.
Speaking of brilliant, let’s talk about the art.
The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles took the 3D models approach that the later Ace Attorney games did, but they take it to a level that is downright gorgeous. Not just in how crisp the models look, but also in how the animations are. I once noted that Spirit Of Justice had the best animations of the series, but The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles puts it to shame. You get to see basic animations for models, naturally, but at times they go and convey emotions of all levels and do simple but beautiful animations that will just blow you away even if it’s a simple thing like having a character turn their back to the camera in disgrace.
I could literally go on about these animations for a while, but I’ll just let you see them for yourself.
So, what are the bad parts of the game? Well, some of them I’ve already laid out. The Jury System is a slog, and just as important, they state in the game that the Jury System is “randomly selected.” Yet, you have people from previous cases on the jury that wouldn’t be impartial because they know the main character, or, they were on the jury in a previous case! One was even stated to not be an English citizen, and yet he somehow was on the jury? How does that work? Even the game points out at one point that it’s “odd” that the jury selection is such, but they never explain the purpose behind it.
The other biggest flaw in the game is the Deduction mini-game, if you will, by Sholmes.
In it, Herlock will go on a LONG monologue (seriously, it’s like five minutes per “question”), and it’ll be all wrong. And then, you have to go back through ALL of it and correct his mistakes. This not only makes Herlock seem like an idiot (which he honestly is 50% of the time), but it totally bogs down the momentum of the game, and it’s an even bigger slog to get through than the Jury System.
There are also some issues with certain cases that make you wonder what was going on in development. For example, the first game ends on a major mystery, and while we NOW can figure out that mystery right away, it was a big risk ending it like that when the first title came out years ago. Furthermore, in the second game, there is a mystery that is a bit of a “flashback tale” that makes no sense when you consider what happened in the first game in regards to continuity and how NO ONE mentioned this case beforehand.
Just as important, the final two “Cases” of the second game aren’t two cases; they’re just one, but they’re oddly split up, and it doesn’t make sense why they do that at all.
Finally, a key “death” in the key really made me mad. In the first game, your best friend Kazuma dies in much the same way as Mia Fey. In the way that they’re the inspiration for the main character going and doing work as a lawyer full-time. And yet, in the second title, they’re found out to be alive in a very contrived fashion, and they become a very different character overnight, and it’s just…sad, really.
Still, even with those flaws, The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is a very solid game that will take a LONG time to beat due to the true depth of the investigations and cases. If you’re a fan of Ace Attorney, you need to go and get this game and enjoy it.
The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles Review
The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is perfect for any long-time fan of the franchise who wants new mysteries to solve and new characters to meet. Some of its gameplay mechanics do hold it back, but the story and courtroom battles will help you hang on through the journey!