Note: This is specifically for the PC version and the reviewer has beaten both versions of the game. So, for what it’s worth, the reviewer’s experience of the game is complete.
After being a Japan-exclusive 3DS title for so long, The Great Ace Attorney finally makes its way overseas to the world at large, and for those looking to get into the series as well as long-time fans familiar with most of the titles in the franchise, it’s sure to make a big impact. The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles features two games that have 5 playable cases each, for a total of 10 cases that can easily add up to over 60 hours of playtime. Due to this being a spin-off, this is a great place for new players to the Ace Attorney series to start, as no prior knowledge of the other games is needed. But this doesn’t mean that veterans to the series won’t find something to enjoy. On the contrary, as someone who has played every Ace Attorney game released in the US up to this point, I can safely say that any card-carrying Ace Attorney fan should add this to their collection.
The main director of the series, Shu Takumi, makes a magnificent return with these two installments to the series. So, veterans of the series can expect the writing to be more like the original trilogy of games and not like Dual Destinies or Spirit of Justice, which were both directed by Takeshi Yamazaki. And while both of those games were decent in their own right, this one is a game made with passion and it shows in every aspect. And if you are a fan of visual novels in general, this game is an absolute must-play.
The main draw of this game is the plot and the cases the player must solve to absolve their clients of crimes that they did not commit. The story itself focuses on both Japan and Britain at the height of the 19th century, as well as the relations between both countries. The player will find themselves in the shoes of a Japanese University Student that wishes to accompany his best friend on a study trip to Great Britain. Which, over the course of the 60-hour play-time, spirals into a plot far larger than most Ace Attorney games before. For fans of Sherlock Holmes, you’ll get to see many references, or even characters, from the novels, such as Herlock Sholmes (based on Sherlock himself, obviously), Inspector Gregson, and Lestrade. Unlike other games in the series, it feels like there are no filler cases.
Cases are either referenced again in some form, deeply impact the story, or leave the player with more questions about the story than answers. The biggest problem for some people is the pacing, which can feel slow at times. This is especially felt in the first game, but thankfully the pacing issues all but vanish by the second game. The game builds up to a great finale that feels well-earned and solves every question the player has in a satisfying way.
Just like every Ace Attorney before it, the games are full of wacky and eccentric characters that are both memorable for their gimmicks and the secrets they hide. The main cast in particular really shines. The protagonist, Ryosuke Naruhodo, is the weakest part of the main cast, in my opinion, but he gets to grow over the course of the game in a satisfying manner, similar to Phoenix in the main series.
Herlock Sholmes will be in most cases and is a less serious take on Sherlock Holmes. The man is genuinely funny and might make the player laugh out loud during certain points. But it becomes quickly apparent that he’s called the “Great Detective” for a reason and has his own secrets. His roommate, Iris Wilson, is a child genius. She’ll come up with wacky inventions that can heavily aid in a case and is the center of her own personal mystery that should have players very surprised once they learn the answer. Judicial Assistant Susato Mikotoba is elegant, refined, and courageous. She is not afraid to speak up in court and will sometimes even counter what the Prosecution has to say.
Speaking of the Prosecution, the main prosecutor in these two games is Barok Van Zieks, also known as the Reaper of The Old Bailey. From the outset, he is seemingly the character with the most secrets, from his obvious hatred of the Japanese, down to the nickname given to him, “The Reaper”. And this is just the main cast. This section would be far too long were I to cover every important character such as Naruhodo’s best friend, Kazuma Asogi, Gina Lestrade, and Tobias Gregson who are all noteworthy and appear in numerous cases, but cannot be considered part of the main cast. And they’re all are hiding secrets of their own that the player must discover.
The visual style of the games is more akin to Dual Destinies or, to be more accurate, the Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright crossover game rather than the pixelated sprites that the original trilogy uses. While there can sometimes be a goofy animation here or there, they are great overall at depicting the craziness happening around the player. Herlock Sholmes, in particular, has amazing animations that you can’t help but be amused at. Ace Attorney is famous for its “breakdown” sequences where the perpetrator or the witness on the stand begins to panic as the player uncovers all their secrets.
They’re just as satisfying in these games as they are in the previous ones. Perhaps even more so here, as the gameplay mechanic of having multiple witnesses on the stand at once (which we’ll cover in the gameplay section) makes for some very unexpected, but still satisfying breakdowns.
The soundtrack was composed by Yasumasa Kitagawa and he did a fantastic job. Some characters have their own themes, like Kazuma Asogi, Tobias Gregson, Barok Van Zieks, Sholmes, and Susato, all of which are memorable and reflect the character’s personalities quite well. As is usual in the Ace Attorney franchise, almost every song that plays during the trial sections of the game are phenomenal and can truly raise the tension or make the player feel like they are on the verge of grasping the truth.
For those that know what Leitmotif is, this game does an excellent job at incorporating it into the soundtrack. What this means is that at times, you’ll hear parts of a character’s theme in a different song that plays during a moment revolving around that character. This helps tie everything together and the game even provides a music gallery where you can see previous versions of songs with Yasumasa Kitagawa’s thoughts behind them as he composed the soundtrack. Overall, the soundtrack sets the mood for whatever is happening and is well thought out.
The difficulty in these games comes from the cases themselves. Some are easy, while some have logical gaps that might not make sense to players. If you’re a new player to the series, don’t worry as the first game is aimed towards getting new players into it. The first game is pretty easy to grasp and is easy to follow, but should still get you to ponder heavily about the cases. The second game has a higher difficulty and had me (a series veteran) stumped for dozens of minutes at a time during certain points.
However, I feel like if a player is willing to invest the time and really comb through every last detail of a case, the conclusions would come eventually. But if the player wants to move faster, the new “Story Mode” feature will allow players to automatically move on from the points that they cannot figure out. This can be turned on at will and is a helpful tool if you want to play quickly and are stuck, or keep it on the whole time and breeze through the game purely for the story. Either way, the use of this feature is entirely up to the player, so anyone can feel free to ignore this should they choose to do so.
The gameplay of the Ace Attorney series can be split into two segments: Investigations and Trials. Investigations are where the player moves around and talks to potential witnesses, gathers evidence, and learn more about the case at hand. Trials are where the series truly shines. In trials, the player must defend their client in a battle of wits and logic. In this game, many witnesses will be called to the stand at the same time and give their testimony as to what they saw on the day of the crime. During the testimony, the cross-examination begins.
The player has three courses of action: “Press” the witnesses for more information, “Present” evidence that contradicts a statement, and unique to this game and the crossover game, “Pursue” a different witness than the one currently speaking for more information. Pursuing should occur when a witness on the stand reacts oddly to what a different witness has stated. Both Investigating and Trials have a new feature in them that makes both far more interesting. Sometimes, Herlock Sholmes will aid your investigation with his great deductions. And while he can cut to the heart of the matter instantly, the logic he uses to get there may be flawed. Thus, it’s up to the player to aid in his deductions by examining the crime scene in more detail. This “Dance of Deduction” as the game calls it, requires players to correct some of the errors in Sholmes’ reasoning by demonstrating what the crime scene actually shows and which of Sholmes’ deductions ring true. Meanwhile, in trials, there is a brand new jury system. Your client’s fate is in the hands of 6 jury members that will put their sentence of Guilty or Not Guilty onto the Scales of Justice.
There will be times when all 6 jury members lean towards Guilty, and during this time, a Summation Examination will begin. All the jury members will state the grounds on why they find the defendant guilty, and it’s up to the player to turn their verdicts around. This is done by “Pitting” two of the jury members’ contradictory statements against each other. Just like cross-examination, the player can “Press” each juror for more information, as well as sometimes present evidence to change their minds. Just like with witnesses, the player can also “Pursue” a different juror depending on their reaction to what another has stated. Both of these segments add so much to the feel of the game as a whole and makes it stand out from the rest of the series and, best of all, they’re both just as fun as the trials.
After finally making its way overseas, this game is sure to make an impression on new players and older fans alike. Featuring a soundtrack that rivals and maybe even surpasses the older games, memorable characters, a far more connected plotline than the series has ever seen before, and new gameplay mechanics that spice up the formula a bit, I can safely say that these two games have become my favorite in the series. With the only issue being slow pacing in the first game, this game collection receives a score of 9.5/10 and should be played by every visual novel fan.