The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is a mouthful, but even that title doesn’t tell the whole story. Nor does the first game in the recently localized duology. Contrary to prior Ace Attorney games (which you may better recognize by their protagonists, Phoenix Wright and Apollo Justice) neither part of the two-for-one pack stands alone. And that’s a welcome change of pace from the long-running series’ usual standalones. Not to mention it makes for one beefy dose of a franchise we tragically haven’t seen in the west for some time.
In my preview of the collection I called Great Ace Attorney an equally great starting point for newcomers. That’s still true. Though players ought to know what they’re getting into. While Great Ace Attorney could be categorized as two visual novels — mostly set in an alternate 19th century Great Britain — it’ll still take you dozens of hours to chew through. The first primarily sets up our heroes, Ryunosuke and Susato, as they transplant from Japan to England to learn and practice law. Great Ace Attorney is still a legal comedy-drama (with slightly more emphasis on drama than past entries). And you still stumble from case to case, defending innocent clients from false accusations, while exposing the true killers by questioning testimony and presenting evidence.
Yes, there’s almost always a killer or two. Ace Attorney is goofy as hell: full of larger than life witnesses, victims, culprits, and authority figures. Yet it constantly deals in murder cases. These are usually split into two parts. There’s the trial itself — where you get the classic “Objection!” callout that extends outside the series in memes. Then there’s… everything else. That’s typically pecking through crime scenes in classic point-and-click style. This half of the franchise has always been a bit tedious. Though Great Ace Attorney alleviates the grind a bit.
The Phoenix Wright and Apollo Justice games were particularly bad about making you talk to someone, leave an area, talk to someone else or click on something, then return to the first zone to talk again. All before you could proceed. Often these sequences offered no hint where to go next or where to return last.
There’s far less of that now. Plus some onscreen indicators help you remember what you’ve already searched. While you still need to hover your cursor over every item in a scene, those objects are highlighted to show when there’s something to check. Once it’s been checked, it’ll grow an icon to indicate you’re done there. The same goes for dialogue options you’ve exhausted with different NPCs.
Then there are less subtle additions. One “Herlock Sholmes,” for instance, accompanies you on many capers. Usually he just adds color commentary as a ridiculous, clueless, and overconfident Doyle stand-in. But every so often he actually aids your case with a “Logic and Reasoning Spectacular.” Each begins when Sholmes makes some absurd deduction; then it’s up to Ryunosuke to find the truth. This means rotating a 3D model around, looking for clues, and clicking on the obvious inconsistency the detective missed. The little minigame isn’t particularly challenging, but adds some energy to the pre-trial segments with synchronized animations between the two characters, and adds more contradiction-spotting action to the mix.
More than that, it helps establish a unique relationship with Sholmes. Ryunosuke, his assistant Susato, the detective, and an inventive 10-year-old named Iris slowly start to make up a family unit. It’s a familiar dynamic we got in earlier Ace Attorney games — as that cast ballooned and old rivals became allies. Sholmes in particular seems abrasive at first, but grows more endearing as he gets taken down a peg or three while harmonizing with our attorney.
There’s a “comfort” to their arrangement that sneaks up on you. Just as there’s comfort in becoming part of it. Capcom itself seems to approach this kind of story with ease at this point. There’s no shortage of fanfic and fanart of Phoenix Wright and Miles Edgeworth in domestic life, for instance, and for good reason. There’s a quiet warmth between the killings.
Not that it ever lasts for long, of course. Sooner or later it’s back in the courtroom. There’s lots of classic Ace Attorney fun to be had there — slapping evidence in the face of each speaker as you show how and why they’re lying. Each accusation is received like a literal gunshot, which is where The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles really shines on the Switch and PC.
Freed from the low power of older handhelds, every character shines, even as they contort into ridiculous poses and explode with cartoonish sound effects. Each has a very specific rhythm and style that quickly establishes their character. All of which completely unravels as you take apart their arguments. The satisfaction of knocking them off their clockwork animations only works because they’re so well-realized and absurdly designed. Such as the dubious reporter who snaps his suspenders (as well as an infinite supply of pencils) to punctuate his every sentence. Or the exhausted bobby who literally gives testimony in his sleep while his wife puppets him through his scarf.
The shenanigans are the star, as ever, but there’s also that aforementioned tissue between both games. The Great Ace Attorney: Adventures (the first game in the two-pack) ends on a hefty cliffhanger, built out of small hints woven throughout each chapter. The Great Ace Attorney 2: Resolve picks up shortly afterwards and even doubles back, adding more context to the first game. If we had to wait for the sequel this would be awfully frustrating. But the Chronicles collection is the first official English translation of either game. So it’s really just one extra long Ace Attorney game with a new setting.
Just as I said in my preview, that makes it a great entry for new players. There are no old rivalries or references to understand. There’s no waiting for future payoff. You just get tons of the intense conversational buildup and revelatory payoff the series is known for in one package.
Things aren’t quite as fantastical as the older games (which outright involve ghosts and magic at times). But the passionate mystery solving intercut with surprising moments of coziness sum up the series perfectly.