The Great Ace Attorney ChroniclesJuly 27th, 2021
PlatformPlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC (Steam)
Before Phoenix Wright ever donned his defense attorney badge and set foot in a Los Angeles courtroom, his ancestors were navigating the treacherous path between truth and damning a client to false imprisonment. In The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles, players will embark on a new era of courtroom trials set within the height of the Meiji era of Japanese history. As Ryunosuke Naruhodo, predecessor to Ryuichi Naruhodo as he's known in the original Japanese release, players will work as one of Japan's first fictional defense attorneys and work to save ten unlucky souls from a fate of false imprisonment solely due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time, often in a locked room with the victim.
While The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles bills itself as two separate titles with five cases each, it's best to consider that this verbose collection of cases is best treated as one singular story of some great renown. Far more than the primary Phoenix Wright trilogy, each case in the pair of Great Ace Attorney entries feeds back into one another in spectacular fashion. Events that take place in one seemingly standalone court case are instead brought up as a major plot point or source of inspiration for a character's motivations later on. Even the typically lackluster first case of each game, typically relegated to serving as the tutorial for courtroom etiquette, each have a significant place amongst the greater lore of Ryunosuke Naruhodo's tales in a Meiji-era Japan and Victorian London.
Much of the story to The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is told in visual novel fashion, dropping longwinded monologues and narrations for the quick banter between two or more characters as objections fly about murder accusations and those defending against such charges. Reading the story is how much of the story is presented to the player but there is far more interaction than one might otherwise expect from this tale of courtroom drama. Investigations play out like hidden picture hunts, seeking out obvious clues from among the rubble and scenery of each locale. Clues will often have to be examined in close up inspection to find their hidden uses, while conversing with key characters and presenting them with evidence can unlock new clues to take to the courtroom. Once every vital piece of information is gleaned from a crime scene, the time automatically progresses to the daily courtroom battles.
It's these one-on-one dances of deduction and objections that make the Phoenix Wright series such a unique series of storytelling. As the defense attorney in each case, it's up to Ryunosuke to save his client from a lifetime of false imprisonment. It's that unwavering belief in his client that gives Ryunosuke the courage to raise Objections when the deck is so unfairly stacked against his client. The core gameplay to The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is silently listening to a witness' testimony and waiting for an opening to appear to present itself in order to raise an Objection and rebuke with either facts or hard evidence. It's in these testimonies that a case can decidedly be flipped and what may otherwise be an airtight alibi and motive for murder can each be flipped about to reveal an entirely new chain of events, typically absolving the client on trial of all guilt by no mere coincidence.
The localization of The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles ranks among some of Capcom's greatest literary achievements of recent years. Each character, no matter how minor, has its own distinct manner of speech. If there were proper voice acting, I would no doubt be able to single out young Shamspeare from a lineup of other blowhard thespians. Instead, what little voice acting exists in The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is limited to a brief narration for Sholmes and Dr. Wilson in the leadup to each court case and the usual shouts of Objection and Hold It! between each turnabout in testimony.
If there's one thing that hurts The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles' storytelling, it's in the reliance on locked door mysteries, a staple of whodunnits no matter if solved by Herlock Sholmes, Percule Hoirot, or other public domain investigator. In most of Ryunosuke's battles as a defense attorney, the premise seems airtight: an innocent victim is murdered in such a way that the defendant brought to trial could be the only such culprit. As Ryunosuke quickly learns, even the most damning of prosecutors might not have the perfect case and with enough Objections and deductions, a path will slowly reveal itself to the truth. After all, once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.
In previous Ace Attorney titles, the game would spend equal amounts of time between defending a client in the midst of heated courtroom battles and investigating various crime scenes and locales to uncover crucial pieces of evidence. The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles eschews these conventions in ways that make the rudimentary formula feel fresh in each distinctive case. After learning the ropes, Ryunosuke's second case doesn't even see the inside of a courtroom, let alone a trial by a jury of his peers. In cases such as this, the entirety plays out with the investigation phase and uncovering clues behind a speckled band and convincing a crew of seamen that a young stowaway isn't the culprit of a heinous murder.
In another, a court case opens up mere moments after Ryunosuke makes his way to Great Britain. Without ever having set foot outside the courtroom, all of the crucial witnesses and evidence will come by way of the official Court Record and uncovering mysteries from within the courtroom itself. In these ways, the basic formula of each of the Ace Attorney courtroom showdowns feels unique from one another. And without more than a namesake between a few key characters, this collection of a Meiji-era predecessor is well-deserving of being played without ever having set foot in a Japanese (or Los Angeles) courtroom before.
By the end all ten cases come to a dramatic close, young locum esquire Ryunosuke Naruhodo will have defended a great number of poor unfortunate souls that would have otherwise been destined for the gallows. Each case becomes more dramatic than the last and the simple act of playing defense attorney for an innocent patsy becomes a near addiction as the story keeps the player's attention in an iron grip. It's been years since the last Phoenix Wright title was localized for a Western audience and that absence has only made my interest in The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles grow to the size of a Baskerville hound. For those that hung on every word of Phoenix Wright's objections, the wait has been well worth it to play this turnabout prequel.
Reviewed on PlayStation 5 (back-compatibility); code provided by the publisher.
A long lost tale of courtroom heroics and tribulations, The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is finally available in English for the first time and well worth the six years long wait.
- Less Payne, more Auchi
- Ten cases of intrigue and mystery
- Multiple attempts to break free from the structured formula of investigations and courtroom battles from previous games
- Small collection of art book samples, music player and eight additional escapades available at any time
- Standalone without having ever played a previous Phoenix Wright game
- Great Deductions, jury battles, and other new mechanics keep each court case feeling fresh
- Limited voice acting beyond the introductory monologues by Dr. John S WIlson and various courtroom exclamations
- An unhealthy addiction to locked door murder mysteries
- Failing a battle of wits because you know the solution too early and haven't asked the right basic questions
- Herlock Sholmes will never not be a silly attempt to evade Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's estate
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