Published on July 27th, 2021 | by Ignis0
REVIEW: The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles
Ace Attorney has been around for more than 15 years at this point and has always relied on it’s tried and true characters such as Phoenix Wright, Maya and Miles Edgeworth just to name a few,so much so that it’s hard to imagine what Ace Attorney would look like without them.
Enter the Great Ace Attorney Chronicles, a two game bundle that marks the series’ first foray into an entirely new cast of characters due to it being a prequel to the current Ace Attorney games. Even in other games where Phoenix Wright wasn’t the main character, either him or other characters from his games have made appearances – take Apollo Justice Ace Attorney for example, which features quite a few of the characters from the standard Ace Attorney games in them, even if they don’t play a primary role. So how does Ace Attorney go without any of the characters we’ve come to know and love? As It turns out, pretty well actually.
Story/Concept: Taking place during the Meiji period of Japan, you play as the ancestor to Phoenix Wright – Ryunosuke Naruhodo who finds his way into the legal world during its inception. Modern Law is just beginning to come into practice in the West and has barely even made its way into Japan when an unfortunate event causes our hero to take on the mantle of being a Defense Attorney. This concept is nothing new for the Ace Attorney series, this has been the origin for just about every protagonist of the franchise as they’ve reluctantly stepped foot into the role and are somehow incredibly proficient at it right from the get-go.
For a concept, it’s certainly nothing revolutionary. But where the Great Ace Attorney Chronicles tries to deviate from this path is the concept of Law being a very new thing in the world. This is not a well defined world, we the players find the differences between older Ace Attorney games which is set in modern times through the eyes of someone who has never been exposed to any of these concepts for the first time and is needing to think on his feet. Chronicles does a decent enough job of doing this, but the concept of becoming a Lawyer is simply to kick the story off and start introducing us to the characters that keep the world together – if the story of Ace Attorney Chronicles are the Potatoes, the characters and their relationships with each other are most definitely the meat.
For those who have played Ace Attorney games before, it should come as no surprise that the game is held up entirely by it’s fantastic writing and endearing cast of characters. The more fleshed out characters such as Naruhodo and Van Zieks have a level of depth that is hard to balance with how light and fun the game attempts to be in a courtroom setting. While the one-off witnesses that provide testimony during a trial are the caricatures that you would expect, humorous enough to keep you engaged but rarely making you feel bored. From this perspective, this is truly where Chronicles shines; which it absolutely should given this is a visual novel style game. It has this wonderful knack of effortlessly moving you between episodes and always leaves you wanting to see what’s going to happen next – especially once a certain Detective starts getting involved quite early on in the story.
The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles comes with both the first and second game in the series and I think this is another piece to the puzzle of making the package feel so good, the developers never felt a need to rush the story or any of the characters they were building, because it was done over the course of multiple games, it gives everyone that much more time to develop into their own which ends up making a pretty noticeable impact, especially with 10 cases on offer for you to make your way through, watching Ryunosuke and his friends evolve over the course of 2 games is something that I feel hasn’t been nailed since the first few entries in the series. Even Apollo Justice and Athena Cykes weren’t able to feel this natural though I think a lot of this has to do with our Japanese protagonist feeling very similar in many ways to Phoenix Wright.
Graphics: The game uses a lot of still environments and the animation is primarily focused on the various characters that you encounter throughout the 2 titles. “Fine” is about what I would say this looks like, I don’t feel like the move to 3D has been a remarkable one. While Ryunosuke, Van Zieks, Susato and many others all look good in their 3D variants, I can’t help but wonder what they would have looked like if they were made in 2D art like many of the older titles have.
It’s hardly a dealbreaker though, the characters animations seem a little weird sometimes being in 3D given the over-the-top movements they tend to make, it strikes me as very ‘anime’ which is traditionally in a 2D format. Though there are some nice nuances that can only be found in the 3D models, Ryunosuke for example has a number of different animations where he will stand firm and upright, and another where his eyes nervously dart around – such small differences that you wouldn’t be able to make out in a 2D environment that suits the game quite nicely.
The courtroom and various other locations you’ll find yourself going through over the 2 games certainly fit the part, they all make the world feel more believable and it all comes together in a solid package.
Gameplay: Gameplay largely takes a backseat here for the story, much of the Great Ace Attorney Chronicles will be doing little more than progressing text, if that’s not necessarily something that you’re into then this might be the wrong game for you. Assuming you’re into a primarily text-based adventure, there’s enough going on here to keep you invested while the story keeps you wanting more. Whenever you’re trying to punch holes in a witnesses testimony, you’re required to present evidence to back up your claim, or prove their claim wrong. There isn’t much more to the game than this to be honest, but needing to make logical leaps and selecting evidence or accusing the right people of a crime feels incredibly satisfying in it’s own way. When you present evidence you are presented with a satisfying “Take that!” which never seems to get old, even 15 years down the track.
One of the new pieces to the Ace Attorney games are the deductions that you need to assist in making during your investigations. Typically these have always been my least favourite part of any Ace Attorney title, the courtroom is where I feel the game performs at it’s best and investigating crime scenes to gather up evidence and get a strong idea of what your court case is going to look like is necessary and makes a lot of sense. However, I’ve always felt that there was something missing in these sections where the game boils down to a point and click adventure and deductions appear to be the perfect compliment for achieving this; giving you something to break up the investigation with something that is actually incredibly fun to sit back and watch, needing to correct mistakes made by characters while they attempt to logically leap toward a conclusion by using either your surroundings or evidence you have in your possession already is awesome and these sections of the game are an absolute joy – and actually quite hilarious too.
For what it is, I don’t feel the large lack of gameplay really hurts this series too much: it leans toward it’s strengths which are well honed at this point (the characters and world building) and doesn’t try to force gameplay on you where there shouldn’t be any.
Sound: We need to primarily focus on the soundtrack here, because the game doesn’t have any real voice acting outside of a few individual lines each character has and the narrator at the start of every chapter – Which are mostly well done mind you (though Ryunosuke’s “Take That” and “Objection!” are a lack the punch I was hoping for).
The soundtrack is quite good, though I don’t really think there is much that blows me away here – Though the track that plays when making deductions will infect every part of your mind for days after hearing it, it’s not quite on the level of “Cornered” from previous Ace Attorney titles that has become so iconic. I found myself nodding my head to the songs playing more than a few times, and even stopped to specifically admire the music at times as well which is a good sign of a solid soundtrack. There are some very limited sound effects disbursed throughout the series as well which do the trick well, sounds of things breaking, fire bursting out or the little ‘ping’ noise when a character has an epiphany about something.
Awesomeness: 2 games in 1, double the Ace Attorney experience. I’ve always had an issue with these games, as they always feel like they’re just too short; that they’re missing an extra chapter with just 1 more court case. It doesn’t help that the series has always done a fantastic job of making you want to play just 1 more case to see what happens next and having 2 games on offer here just means that much more to play. It took me about 20 hours to beat each game as well, meaning you’re getting 40+ hours of content here which is more than enough for players to want to sink their teeth into – and what’s here is good too. You won’t find yourself in a position of just wanting to check that next court case only to figure out you’re at the end of the game like other Ace Attorneys have a habit of doing to you.
I just wish we’d gotten these games sooner, the first Great Ace Attorney game has been available for 5 years in Japan but better late then never.
Final Word: Ace Attorney is a game that hasn’t changed much over the past 15+ years, it is a game that very much adheres to the old saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” and if you haven’t played the game since you were a kid, this is going to feel familiar to you – like an old friend that you see once every few years but you feel like it’s only been a few days and if you haven’t played any game in the series before, now is the perfect time to do so; you don’t require any prior game experience to dive into the world of The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles and it will do a great job of reeling you in and making you want to play the other titles and find out just how great of a franchise this really is.
Capcom has had something special on their hands for many years, and while Phoenix Wright will never quite make it into the mainstream of gaming, I appreciate that they haven’t let this series fall into obscurity – even if they don’t make as many titles as I would like these days, whenever one of these do come out I’m more than excited to dive back into the ridiculous wonder than is Ace Attorney.
If part of this has piqued your interest at all, give it a shot – you won’t be disappointed.
Out of 5 Bugs!