Are you ready for the trial of the century? The nineteenth century, that is.
The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is the perfect starting point for franchise newcomers. The series dates back to 2001 and has cultivated a dedicated fanbase, selling more than 8 million units worldwide as of March 2021. The collection brings two older titles — The Great Ace Attorney: Adventures and the Great Ace Attorney 2: Resolve — to players outside of Japan for the first time.
Capcom provided Inverse with an early hands-on preview of some of the first few cases in The Great Ace Attorney: Adventures. What I’ve played so far is both enthralling and tense, and filled with some genuinely hilarious moments. Each of the cases have incredibly high stakes, while at the same time creating fascinating, relatable characters who learn and grow as the story progresses. Don’t be surprised if this is the next cult-hit Japanese series to become a mainstream sensation, like Yakuza and Persona before it.
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The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles follows a young student studying law named Ryunosuke Naruhado at the end of the 19th century. He travels to Great Britain to learn all that he can about the country’s legal system in order to bring his newfound expertise and experiences back to Japan.
Case 1 is called The Adventure of the Great Departure, which starts off with Ryunosuke himself on trial for a murder he didn’t commit. His friend, Kazuma Asogi, aids him as his associate in this particular case. This first case does a great job of introducing some of the basic gameplay elements, such as examining evidence to uncover new clues about the real culprit. You can also listen to witness testimony and if you spot any words that seem important, you can press witnesses to further elaborate on their statements and that could lead to additional clues. In order to progress through the case, you must present certain pieces of evidence that supports the defendant.
One of the aspects that grabbed me most is the attention to detail in the 3D character models. Ryunosuke is still an inexperienced student, but he’s being framed for murder. Oftentimes, he’s breaking out in a nervous sweat, with his eyes darting in all kinds of different directions around the courtroom. This is contrasted by Kazuma, who is serenely confident in his own legal expertise. This is communicated humorously through the headband he wears, which elegantly flows in the wind at all times, even though logically there is absolutely no wind blowing indoors. These sorts of cartoonish characteristics remind me of the characters from Danganronpa, but in a more grounded and realistic setting.
Case 3: The Adventures of the Runaway Room is Ryunosuke’s first trial in London, where he is tasked with defending a rich man accused of a murder in a horse-drawn carriage. This case introduces both The Scales of Justice and Summation Examination gameplay mechanics, which are new to the series. The jury is made up of six people, who literally launch fireballs onto a set of scales, with one side representing a guilty verdict and the other being not guilty. The Summation Examination allows Ryunosuke to question each of the jurors’ lines of reasoning. You must find holes in their argument, pitting them against each other to convince them to retract their “not guilty” decision.
What makes this particular mechanic so interesting is that Ryunosuke is completely cornered in these instances, creating palpable tension and stakes. While it seems incongruous with the over-the-top visuals, it totally works here. Spotting inconsistencies and watching the jurors change their mind one by one provides a great sense of accomplishment. The game does a fantastic job of balancing silly and suspenseful moments to keep you invested.
The last case in the demo was Case 4: The Adventure of the Clouded Kokoro. This is another murder trial, but this time around the defendant is a Japanese man named Natsume Soseki. (This case also features an appearance from Herlock Sholmes, based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s similarly named sleuth.) Another new-to-the-series mechanic shown off here is called Dance of Deduction, where Sholmes conducts rapid-fire reasoning to reach conclusions based on details of the setting. But sometimes his conclusions can be ridiculous. That means it's up to Ryunosuke to “course correct” Sholmes’s train of thought, picking up clues his British counterpart may have missed, often leading to completely new conclusions.
I particularly love this mechanic because it’s incredibly over the top and full of personality. Each scene is dimly lit, with a spotlight on a specific clue, with either Herlock or Ryunosuke explaining their reasoning. For a game with heavy visual novel elements, it’s surprisingly cinematic.
The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is shaping up to be a fun and exciting adventure and I’ve loved what I’ve played so far. Ryunosuke is the ancestor of series protagonist Phoenix Wright, so the game doesn’t really have ties to previous games. This is my first experience with the franchise and I didn’t feel lost at all. Though the series has a daunting, decade-spanning history, there aren’t any barriers to entry here.
Given how much excitement there is around this game, this could potentially be the Ace Attorney franchise’s Yakuza 0 moment, where the prequel could spark interest in new fans to check out other entries in the series.
Great Ace Attorney Chronicles comes to Nintendo Switch, PlayStation, and PC on July 27.