The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is the latest installment in Capcom's Ace Attorney series, which launched almost 20 years ago in Japan. The franchise has gone on to spawn multiple sequels and spin-offs, gaining a passionate following along the way. The franchise has always been a bit niche – combining visual novel and adventure game elements with over-the-top courtroom drama – but that hasn't stopped its fervent fan-base from enthusiastically consuming each entry.
A compilation title, The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles bundles two titles – The Great Ace Attorney: Adventures and The Great Ace Attorney: Resolve – which were previously exclusive to Japan. Longtime fans are obviously thrilled to see the games make it stateside, but the pair of entries also serve as a good jumping-on point for the uninitiated.
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The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is a prequel, trading recurring protagonist Phoenix Wright for Ryunosuke Naruhodo, a student learning the legal ropes in Victorian-era Britain. As such, the games require no previous knowledge of Wright's finger-pointing exploits. They also offer intuitive tutorials, ensuring you needn't be a legal eagle to hold your own in the courtroom.
Of course, this isn't to say The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles will be everyone's cup of tea. It's still a fairly niche experience, aimed at a very specific audience. It features some engaging gameplay, complemented by a colorful cast of characters and beautiful, anime-inspired visuals. But slow pacing and a text-heavy presentation often make it feel more like a passive experience than an actual game.
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: July 27, 2021
The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles review: Gameplay
The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles quickly pulls you in with an absorbing story hook. Law student Ryunosuke is on trial for murder and forced to defend himself. His inexperience is wonderfully woven into the tutorial. Players learn the basics, even as the defendant gets up to speed on his new profession.
Interrogating witnesses, examining and presenting evidence, and discovering inconsistencies in testimonies is great fun, especially when it all leads to proving the protagonist's innocence. As you take on more complex cases, these elements evolve, adding welcome layers and nuance to the core formula. Before you know it, you're facing six jurors, simultaneously, while attempting to overturn a guilty verdict by finding contradictions in their stories.
Utilizing all these tools in the courtroom can lead to some thrilling moments, making you feel like a heroic, crusading attorney from a television legal drama. Seeing your skills grow right alongside Ryunosuke's confidence is equally rewarding.
For all the gripping moments, however, there are nearly as many that feel like a slog. Cases generally drag on far too long, leaving you button-pressing through exposition-heavy text boxes just to keep things moving. While this is somewhat inherent to the genre, I still found the pacing here to be unevenly balanced in favor of watching instead of playing.
Some relief comes in the form of investigations, which unfold outside of the courtroom at crime scenes. These sections switch up the gameplay, focusing more on looking for clues, collecting evidence and questioning witnesses. There's also an amusing mini-game that has you debunking the incorrect, if well-intentioned, conclusions of a pseudo-Sherlock Holmes detective named “Herlock Sholmes.”
The investigations are more interactive and dependent on you actually doing things. But they, too, contain too many characters who don't know when to shut up. The gameplay present in The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is absorbing, intuitive and occasionally capable of convincing you that you should have followed a law career. There's just not nearly enough of it.
The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles review: Story
The story in the Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is far better than the sum of its parts. While individual courtroom battles and investigations can drag, the larger narrative arc should keep you hooked from start to finish. The two included games, originally released several years apart in Japan, tell one complete story. Don't be surprised if you're compelled to immediately jump into the second half of Ryunosuke's journey after completing the first. That said, you're also looking at a hefty time investment, as the bundle's ten total chapters easily clock in at over 50 hours.
Each case spins a self-contained murder mystery, but there are plenty of connected elements among the growing cast of characters. Completing an individual investigation or courtroom battle is satisfying, but the real rewards come from watching the overarching narrative unfold, especially when an unexpected twist or turn ties back to a much earlier encounter. The game is guilty of pulling this trick too frequently, though, introducing “shocking” plot points late in cases, even when they don't make much sense. The story would benefit from a bit more restraint in this regard; it would make the best surprises that much more impactful.
Of course, it's the large cast of quirky, colorful characters that brings the story to life. This Ace Attorney series is partly defined by its bizarre personalities, melodramatic performances and over-the-top courtroom exchanges, and The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles doesn't disappoint on that front. Ryunosuke makes for an interesting, likable protagonist you'll root for from the get-go. His perpetually charming assistant, Susato, is equally appealing — almost to the point where you might find yourself wishing she was the lead.
The excellent supporting cast, as well as the revolving door of eccentrics that pop up, also do their part. From a red wine-swilling prosecutor who could moonlight as a Castlevania antagonist, to the aforementioned detective Sholmes, there's no shortage of compelling, well-written characters. You won't fall in love with every personality you encounter, but stick around long enough, and you'll find a few favorites. If the hard-nosed military man with an infant strapped to his back doesn't make you laugh, maybe the Scotland Yard detective testifying while clutching a newspaper full of fish-and-chips will do the trick.
The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles review: Visuals and sound
The third chapter of The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles kicks off with Ryunosuke and Susato arriving in London, where snow-covered cobblestones host horse-drawn carriages, busy street vendors, and plenty of distinguished chaps in top hats. Like a Dickens novel come to life, it's a lovely scene that also serves as a story-driven transition between an investigation and courtroom battle. All of the game's animated interludes are equally easy on the eyes, offering a welcome respite – and reward – from the talking heads that make up much of the game.
The more gameplay-driven sections don't pack the graphical punch of these cutscenes, but still pop with vibrant detail, anime-inspired personality, and lively character animations. The use of the latter is especially entertaining, ensuring lengthy exchanges between two characters don't devolve into boring back-and-forths between a pair of static portraits.
The cinematic scenes are also accompanied by top-notch voice acting, but you'll rarely hear characters speak in the courtroom or during crime scene investigations. These sections aren't entirely silent, as sound effects, ambient audio cues and the occasional spoken exclamations complement the tone of the proceedings. That said, the most prevalent sound is that of text ticking across the screen while you click through dialog boxes.
The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles review: Verdict
Supported by an endlessly entertaining cast, pretty presentation, and clever gameplay, The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles' delivers a fun, story-driven romp. All this should be more than enough for series stalwarts to enthusiastically embrace the experience, warts and all.
Complete newcomers, however, could find it more difficult to overlook the game's uneven pacing, exposition-heavy exchanges and text-driven dialogue, combined with the fact you play passive spectator as much as active participant. Those craving a peppier, more interactive experience will quickly find this one in contempt.