The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles Review

Matt Lorrigan

There have been many iconic depictions of Sherlock Holmes across the years, from Jeremy Brett’s faithful portrayal of the great detective in the 1984 TV series, to more modern interpretations such as Benedict Cumberbatch in Sherlock, or Jonny Lee Miller in Elementary. In The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles, however, there is no Sherlock Holmes. Instead, the violin-playing, pipe-smoking, consulting detective for hire residing at 221B Baker Street in the two Great Ace Attorney games is the similar-but-legally-distinct Herlock Sholmes, a character who quite easily could have been turned into a bumbling caricature, but instead is a surprisingly interesting spin on the classic character.

In The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles, however, you won’t be playing as Herlock Sholmes. Instead, you take on the role of Ryunosuke Naruhodo, a young Japanese defence lawyer and the ancestor of Ace Attorney’s first protagonist, Phoenix Wright. This change in character also comes with a brand new setting, beginning in Japan in the late 1800s and setting sail for London at the height of the British Empire, which is where young Naruhodo crosses paths with the great detective.


Shout it with me - OBJECTION!

This change in setting brings with it a set of new game mechanics which spice up the classic Ace Attorney formula. If you’re a fan of the older titles, you’ll still find plenty of familiar courtroom shenanigans here - examining crime scenes; cross-examining witnesses; inspecting and presenting evidence. There’s plenty that’s familiar, but it’s bolstered by a selection of new systems. 

In the London courts, you’ll have a jury of six to contend with, and it’s not uncommon for these members of the judgemental British public to quickly come down on a guilty verdict before you’ve even been given a proper chance to present your case. The more things change, aye? At this point, players will take on a Summation Examination, asking each juror to present their reasoning, and pitting two jurors with conflicting logic against one other to get them to overturn their verdict. It’s one of the more interesting, and sometimes difficult, sections of each trial, and it feels great to turn the tide and bring the jurors back onside.

In the courtroom, the other new mechanic sees multiple witnesses able to take the stand at once. While a suspicious witness can remain composed when under your glaring eye, they are more likely to slip up when listening to the testimony of the witness next to them, and you’ll have the chance to question them if they seem to react strangely to another person’s statement. It’s an interesting twist to witness testimonies, but doesn’t add all that much from a gameplay perspective - it doesn’t come up too often, and when it does, it’s nearly impossible to miss, meaning it doesn’t add much strategy to the cross-examinations. It does offer up a few great character moments though, which are bolstered by some brilliant animations.


Outside of the courtroom, investigations once again return, and you’ll have to flit between different crime scenes and witnesses, looking for evidence or much-needed testimony. Most of the time, these will play out as usual, but on occasion, you’ll be treated to a ‘Dance of Deduction’ by Herlock Sholmes himself. Here, Sholmes will quickly pull together a series of clues within a scene to draw two conclusions pertaining to the crime that has been committed. However, the great detective is always a bit too hasty, putting two and two together and getting five, and it's up to you to steer his deductions in the right direction. During these moments, you’ll attempt to find the relevant clues, picking apart the scene and making your own deductions. Herlock’s own deductions are always just absurd enough to make you chuckle, and the game does a really good job of making you feel like a bit of a genius in these sections, even when your options are limited.

The change in setting doesn’t just mean new game mechanics, however, and The Great Ace Attorney offers a surprisingly fascinating look into the political relationship and struggles between Britain and Japan in the 19th century. Playing as a Japanese law student in London, Ryunosuke and his judicial assistant, Susato Mikotoba, are subjected to a lot of casual racism and stereotyping, even from well-meaning characters. Members of the jury will make remarks about you being an untrustworthy foreigner, and in cases involving both Japanese and British citizens, you’re always reminded of the huge political implications and fallout that could happen if things don’t go the right way. 

A jaunt to a fictionalised version of Victorian London for an Ace Attorney game could have simply offered a change of scenery and the chance to meet Sherlock Holmes (I mean Herlock Sholmes), but instead the Japanese developer has taken a turn into political intrigue and the tensions of East-West relations, and the game is all the better for it.


Beware the Reaper, a prosecutor who makes even Edgeworth look warm in comparison.

Stuffing all of this character work and overarching political mystery into The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles does come at a bit of a cost, however. Each of the two games included in the collection - The Great Ace Attorney Adventures, and The Great Ace Attorney 2: Resolve - feature five episodes, and nearly each and every one outstays its welcome a little. The episodes all feel a mite too long, and have a tendency to drag, either from large amounts of dialogue during the investigation sections, or one twist and turn too many during the trial. The game thankfully features an Autoplay option, which progresses text automatically until you reach an interactive moment. This will save your thumbs from repetitive strain, luckily, but it only serves to highlight just how much of the game is played when, well, you’re not playing at all.

Luckily, the game’s visuals make it a joy to watch, even when you’re not interacting all that much. This may have been a 3DS game, and that’s obvious from the slightly square edges to the 3D models, but The Great Ace Attorney’s art style and animations are all a natural - and beautiful - evolution of what made the original games so great. 3D scenes are textured in a way that makes them look hand drawn or even painted, and each character brings tons of life into every scene. One pair of burglars, who talk almost exclusively in cockney rhyming slang, and who will often be found eating an apple and a pear, respectively, are a particular standout.

The slow pace of the games can make it drag just a touch, but it allows for a lot more character development and story exposition, and this pays off in a big way in The Great Ace Attorney 2: Resolve. In fact, the second game is almost certainly the better of the two titles, but it leans so heavily on the events of the first game, it’s nearly impossible to recommend playing it by itself. Regardless, if you’re up for a nice slice of investigation, turnabout trials, murder, comedy, and political intrigue, The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles will make for an excellent purchase. It’s elementary.

The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles

The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles struggles with some pacing problems, but its expressive characters, unique setting, and interesting cases means there’s no objection when it comes to recommending the game for fans of the Ace Attorney series, or those looking to get involved for the first time.

Form widget
80%
Audio
80%

None of the music tracks quite hit the highs of 'Pursuit - Cornered' from the original Phoenix Wright game, but on the whole, the music selection is excellent, and fitting for the locations and period.

Visuals
85%

For what is essentially an up-ressed 3DS game, The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles looks positively excellent, with wonderfully animated characters and rich backgrounds.

Playability
75%

When you’re given control, whether that’s investigating a scene or cross-examining a witness in court, the game plays very well, bar the odd obscure puzzle solution. However, there are large sections where you aren’t playing at all, which can go on a little too long.

Delivery
80%

The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles manages to balance humour with dark themes, like murder and corruption, really well, and each case offers a new mystery to solve. However, despite offering a good 50+ hours of gameplay across the two titles, each of the ten episodes can drag on a little too long at times.

Trophies
55%

A strange mix of unmissable trophies, and rewards for finding some obscure clues or offering specific responses during conversations. There’s even a couple that require you to find every inane conversation relating to certain objects through both titles. These trophies are nice surprise pop-ups for when you accidentally stumble across something, but as a platinum to get, they are a bit of a pain.

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