For me, getting to review The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is absolutely a dream come true. Even after having played it, I still can’t quite believe it exists. It’s a collection of the previously Japan-only The Great Ace Attorney: Adventures (2015) and its sequel, The Great Ace Attorney 2: Resolve (2017), long desired by internationals fans. Though it might’ve taken quite a while for them to get here, the wait was certainly worthwhile, as these games may just be my favorites of the entire franchise.
The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles follows university student Ryunosuke Naruhodo as he embarks on a journey to reform the Japanese legal system at the turn of the 20th century. To do so, he, alongside his judicial assistant Susato, travels to London to observe, participate in, and learn from the British legal system. Along the way, he befriends a cast of characters such as the quirky great detective Herlock Sholmes (yes, that’s his actual name) and the 10-year-old medical expert and inventor, Dr. Iris Wilson. Of course, as things tend to go, Ryunosuke and his friends get wrapped up in an adventure that’s far bigger than any of them ever expect.
This may be the best overall story in the Ace Attorney franchise. The individual cases threw me for loops I never could’ve expected and even earlier than in most other games. There are quite a few series firsts in the episode list, and these are cases that will stick with me for years to come. Plus, The Great Ace Attorney 2: Resolve is unusually a direct sequel to the events of the first game, to the extent that the end of the first game just feels like the midpoint of a larger story. This does slow down the pacing of the first game a bit, but it’s extremely effective overall.
The gameplay and structure are largely the same as in the rest of the Ace Attorney franchise. Each title in this collection features five cases, during which you’ll investigate crime scenes, interrogate a cast of zany characters, and defend accused criminals in dramatic court battles. However, The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles adds the Dance of Deduction and Summation Examination mechanics. A Dance of Deduction happens during investigation phases, wherein the great detective Sholmes might use his powers of observation to conclude facts about the current scenario or character. However, these deductions are wrong in a few key areas, leaving it up to you to nudge these deductions back onto the right path in a dance of logic and reasoning.
The Summation Examinations, on the other hand, take place during the trial phases of the game. Unlike in past Ace Attorney games, trials are not decided by a judge; instead, in most cases, a six-member jury will decide the fate of your client. As the trial proceeds, these jurors can interrupt the proceedings to deem your client either guilty or not guilty. Once the full jury is convinced of your client’s guilt, the Summation Examination proceeds. This process has you questioning the jurors themselves on their rationale for thinking your client is responsible for the crime in question. By using their own reasoning against the other jurors, you can find contradictions or connections between their statements, thus influencing the jurors to reverse their decision and prolonging the trial further.
Both of these mechanics are wonderful additions to the franchise that excel in different areas. The Dance of Deduction is visually exciting, as Sholmes and Ryunosuke jump around the room, providing for different camera angles and a fast-paced experience. However, these sections are also significantly easier, as the game is somewhat heavy-handed in pointing you in the right direction. Meanwhile, the Summation Examination more directly enriches gameplay. The first time you come across this, things are fairly straightforward, though as you progress throughout the games, they get more involved and require a bit of digging to fully get through. The mechanic justifies and makes excellent use of the existence of the jury.
The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles seems slightly less difficult than prior entries. I generally didn’t have a problem figuring things out, as the game seems to guide you if you pay attention to it. The only times I really ever got anything wrong was when I tried to “big brain” the solution and made it out to be more complex than it was. I would’ve liked a bit more difficulty, but it’s not awful as is. If the game does prove to be too difficult for you though, have no fear, as you can retry the section you failed with full “health” at the cost of a little backtracking through text you’ve already seen.
One neat addition to the franchise is the inclusion of a “Story Mode” setting. This is a step up from the autoplay mode standard in adventure games, as it will not only skip text, but play the game for you. This includes all aspects of gameplay, such as talking to people, examining points of interest, and presenting evidence. It turns the experience essentially into a movie. Of course, this is entirely optional, and the standard autoplay mode exists as well if you still want to play the game without having to manually progress through mountains of text.
It provides another way to enjoy the exceptional localization effort, and The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles absolutely lives up to the standard set by prior games. The writing is full of humor and pop culture references, and a lot of the characters are given pun names. As can be expected by the inclusion of Herlock Sholmes, there are countless references to the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, both on superficial and in-depth levels, even going so far as to mimic some of the detective’s most famous adventures. I also appreciate both the blatant references to Japanese author Natsume Soseki and references to Japanese expressions within some character names, even if these won’t be readily apparent to most of the audience.
The presentation of the games also includes references to the franchise as a whole. The soundtrack is beautifully composed, featuring the traditional themes we’ve come to know and love, while reimagining them to fit the game’s setting. Characters are well animated and feature familiarly over-the-top gestures.
There are even a bunch of little details I really loved. My favorite of these is that often when Ryunosuke slams his podium, instead of the resounding thud you’d expect, a light tapping sound plays instead, accompanied by a confused Ryunosuke looking at his hands as if to say, “What just happened?” This perfectly reflects his doubt in his abilities as a fledgling lawyer. Even better though is that when Ryunosuke is asserting his position with full confidence, the weak sound and confused look are replaced by the loud thud and smug look we would expect. My only real criticism here is that sometimes the English voice acting, as little as there is, felt a bit off to me. It’s not bad but not amazing either.
Finally, in addition to the main games, there are a handful of extra features for you to explore. Notably, there’s an art gallery with behind-the-scenes commentary, a sound test, and a special movie gallery featuring some humorous court cases and promotional materials. Unfortunately, these videos can’t be played in full-screen mode, as they’re only in Japanese and the English subtitles are situated so as to not cover the video. I also enjoyed the Escapades, a series of eight side stories taking place after some of the main games’ trials. Lastly, there’s an in-game achievement system for those who are looking to squeeze just a little bit more fun out of the experience.
Whether you’re a newcomer to the franchise or a longtime fan, The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles offers something for you on Nintendo Switch. Newcomers will find an excellent entry point into the series, as it does not rely on any prior knowledge. Meanwhile, longtime fans will find yet another quality Ace Attorney adventure, at least on par with the best the series has offered thus far. This collection stands near or at the top of my list of favorite Ace Attorney games and will be one I come back to time and time again.
A Nintendo Switch review code for The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles was provided by the publisher.