The Ace Attorney series has really come a long way since its debut 20 years ago and now, western audiences finally have the opportunity to play through 2 of the latest iterations which are set in the Victorian era and feature a familiar fellow.
The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles contains 2 full Ace Attorney games with a grand total of 10 cases to dig into and over 50 hours of gameplay. It's a great treat for fans in the west who have been waiting for this pair of games to finally release here.
The characters and settings are similar in both titles with the second being set a few months after the first. The main cast consists of student lawyers Ryunosuke Naruhodo and Kazuma Asogi, judicial assistant Susato Mikotoba, Herlock Sholmes, Sholmes' assistant Iris Wilson and prosecutor Barok van Zieks. Given the settings are Victorian England and Japan, you'll notice many similarities in the main characters that give the impression they could be ancestors of characters set in other Ace Attorney titles which, as a fan, I'm grateful for.
In true Ace Attorney fashion, every character that you meet including the various victims, witnesses, and jurors is brimming with personality. From the way they talk to their mannerisms and even down to their detailed and sometimes hilarious outfits, a lot of energy was put into crafting just the right ensemble. There's excitement in meeting a new character then wondering if they'll manage to stay composed during a court session or completely lose their mind and I always look forward to the animations that you only get to see when you manage to unravel the mystery behind a ne'er-do-well's suspicious activities.
The animations and 3D graphics look great and there are plenty of interesting camera angles that spin around characters or follow them as they pace back and forth in court, showing off the 3D models. In terms of sound, it's an orchestral soundtrack that changes its intensity and sometimes stops abruptly; all in service of keeping court sessions and investigations as tense as possible. Unfortunately, there isn't much voice acting to be heard except when you're treated to the odd animated clip or when a character yells "objection!"
Throughout the 10 cases, you'll meet the main cast and a large mix of delightful, devious, and downright entertaining characters. The most interesting one has to be Herlock Sholmes which is obviously a play on words of the Arthur Conan Doyle character Sherlock Holmes. The addition of Herlock is more than just a new face, though, as he also adds new gameplay. When at a crime scene with Herlock, he sometimes goes into deduction episodes where he attempts to piece together clues and ascertain a chain of events. Of course, his deduction is always incorrect to start and it's up to you to look further into the clues and come up with a more likely story.
I thoroughly enjoyed the portions of these games where you get to hang out with Herlock because it brought gameplay to a portion of the experience that in the past Ace Attorney games, has felt a little mundane as you were simply tapping items in the scene to collect clues. On occasion, you'll also be at the scene of a crime when it takes place which makes it feel like the stakes are elevated when you're gathering clues and then presenting them in court for a crime that you were actually a witness of.
Something that piqued my interest was Capcom's ability to address the more sensitive subject matters around what life was like back in the Victorian era. Given the stories take place right after Great Britain signed a treaty with Japan and the 2 countries are just starting to mingle, xenophobia is rife and The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles doesn't shy away from showing mistreatment of Japanese people in Britain. In addition, it portrays how cultural norms required women to dress up as men in order to defend clients in the Japanese court system. These hard-hitting aspects helped solidify the stories' settings and made everything much more genuine.
While in court, you spend a lot of time reading text and piecing clues together, presenting evidence, and pressing witnesses when necessary. This is standard for an Ace Attorney game but The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles brings something new to most of the cases in its introduction of a jury as you must convince every jury member of your client's innocence to warrant a not guilty verdict. It was a great decision to mix up the court session formula, especially with each juror having their own personality to bring to the table.
Once all jurors decide on a sentencing, they must present their reasoning why and this is your opportunity to question them as you would a witness. You must pay attention then choose to pit one juror against another when you spot a disagreement in what they're saying. Capcom did an excellent job at switching things up from the established method of only convincing a single judge.
Of course, my main complaint about The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is the same that I have with previous games in that I still manage to find myself getting stuck in situations where I know what I want to say but don't know how to say it. What piece of evidence do I present and on which statement? I wish I could speak into a microphone and say "this person did it with this weapon in this location!" It's frustrating to be sure about what happened but not knowing how to get it across. This doesn't occur regularly, though, and it's about as often as in other titles. Also, The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles includes a new Story Mode that can be toggled on and off as needed which allows you to just sit back and watch things unfold so this is an option if you're completely stuck on what to do next.
Besides Story Mode, The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles brings more additions if you aren't already happy with this amazing package. First is auto-play which basically allows you to set the text to automatically progress so you don't have to keep pressing a button to advance the story. This has been sorely needed for a while and I'm very happy that it's here. I was literally able to knit a scarf while playing The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles and I didn't miss a thing. Of course, this says something about how much dialogue there is and there is a lot so be prepared to read for hours on end. Other extras include a gallery, auditorium, tailor to switch costumes, accolades which are like trophies, and additional mini-stories called escapades. Overall, it's an awesome package and fans will not be disappointed.
The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is a collection of the best Ace Attorney games yet with a top-notch cast, loads of thrilling cases, and oodles of extras. On top of all that, multiple new gameplay elements reinvigorate the standard formula both in and out of court. In the end, this is a must-buy for fans of the series as well as anyone who enjoys solving a good mystery or 10.
- + New gameplay additions make the overall experience more rewarding and immersive
- + Solid collection of 10 entertaining cases
- + Great cast with some familiar characters
- - Still occasionally suffers from making it difficult to present a deduction
- - Could use more voice acting