Disclaimer: This is reviewed for the PC version and the reviewer has beaten both games. So the reviewers’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 over shores to the world wide audience, and for those both new to the series or familiar with most of the titles in the franchise, it is sure to make a big impact. The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles features two games that feature 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 are needed. But this does not mean veterans to the series will not find something to enjoy out of this game. 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 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 and Spirit of Justice, which both were directed by Takeshi Yamazaki. This is a game made with passion and it shows in every aspect of the game. 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 Attorneys before it. For fans of Sherlock Holmes, you will get to see many references or even characters from the novels, such as Herlock Sholmes (based off of Sherlock himself), Inspector Gregson, and Lestrade. Unlike other games in the series, it feels like there are no filler cases in either game.
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 with the story for some people is the pacing, which can feel slow at times. This is especially felt in the first game, but the pacing issues have all vanished in the second game. The game wraps up in a great finale that feels built up to and solves every question the player will have in a satisfying way.
Just like every Ace Attorney beforehand, the games are full of wacky and eccentric characters that are both memorable for their gimmicks, and the secrets most of them hide. The main cast of the game 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 journey in a satisfying manner, similar to Phoenix in the main line games.
Herlock Sholmes will be in most cases in the game, and takes on a less serious version of Sherlock Holmes. The man is genuinely funny and might make the player laugh out loud during certain points. But, it becomes apparently obvious he is called a “Great Detective” for a reason and he has his own secrets he hides. His roomate, Iris Wilson, is a child genius in every shape and form. She will come up with wacky inventions that can heavily aid in a case and has a mystery surrounding her 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 the character with the most secrets behind him, from his obvious hatred of the Japanese down to the nickname given to him, The Reaper. This is just the main cast as well. 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 important and appear in numerous cases, but can not be considered main cast. All of whom are hiding secrets of their own the player must find out.
The visual style of the games are 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 overall great at depicting the craziness happening around the player. Herlock Sholmes in particular has amazing animations that you can’t help but at least grin at. Ace Attorney is famous for its “breakdown” sequences where the perpetrator or the witness on stand begins to panic as the player uncovers all their secrets.
These are 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 stand at once (will cover this in the gameplay section) makes for some very unexpected but still satisfying breakdowns.
The soundtrack was made by Yasumasa Kitagawa, and he did a fantastic job composing for this game. 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 very well. Per usual in the Ace Attorney franchise, almost every song that plays during the trial sections of the game are phenomenal and truly raise the tension at times or makes 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 will hear parts of a character’s theme in a different song that plays during a moment revolving around that character. This does a great job at tying everything together at times 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, and some have logical gaps that might not make sense to some players. If you are a new player to the series, do not worry as the first game is aimed towards getting new players into it. The first game is pretty easy to get into and has logic that is easy to follow but should still get you to think heavily about the cases. The second game is far harder and had me (a series veteran) stumped for dozens of minutes at a time during certain points.
However, I feel like all the logic a person needs can be reached if a player is willing to invest the time to do so and really comb over every last detail of a case. But if the player wants to move faster, the new feature of “Story Mode” will allow players to automatically move on from hard points that they cannot figure out. This can be turned on and off at will and is a helpful tool if you want to play quickly and are stuck; or the player can 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 overall learn more about the case at hand. Trials are where the series truly shines. In trials, the player must defend their client of a crime they have not committed in a battle of wits and logic. In this game, many witnesses will come on 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, or 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 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. Thusly, it is 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 on the crime scene actually shows 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 pit their sentence of Guilty or Not Guilty into 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 is up to the player to turn their verdicts around. This is done by ‘Pitting’ two of the jury members’ statements against each other that are contradictory. 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 juror 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 are both just as fun as the trials of the game.
After finally making it’s way overseas, this game is sure to make an impression on new players and older fans alike. Featuring a soundtrack that rivals, or 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 a 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.