Gaming

Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is a must-play for mystery buffs

Inverse score: 9/10

One person’s ambitions and dreams can spiral into an untangling countrywide conspiracy beyond their wildest dreams.

That’s what The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is all about. You follow Ryunosuke Naruhado, a law student from Japan during the Meiji period. In his home country, being a defense attorney is a wholly new profession. With Japan and Great Britain having already established a working relationship, Ryunosuke and his judicial assistant, Susato Mikotoba, travel to Great Britain to study and solve cases.

Ryunosuke and Susato’s adventure starts out as a simple study abroad trip to the shining city of London. But they soon learn that the brightest lights also cast the darkest shadows, and eventually discover some of the city’s most sinister secrets.

The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is an incredible ride filled with twists and turns from start to finish. It’s a must-play for anyone who enjoys narrative-driven games.

A trailer showing off the gameplay mechanics in The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles

Simple yet engaging

If you’re unfamiliar with the visual novel genre, it’s important to come in with proper expectations — story and character development take priority over fast-paced action. Yes, there’s quite a lot of reading involved. In recent years, other games in the genre have added more gameplay elements to make the experience more interactive and keep the pacing lively. Examples of this include Dangaronpa’s minigames or 13 Sentinels’ real-time strategy mech battles.

The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles contains two games: The Great Ace Attorney and The Great Ace Attorney 2: Resolve. They both mostly stick with the genre’s traditional roots, with most of its interactive elements involving clicking on potential evidence at a crime scene, or picking a suspect out of a list of people in the courtroom. Once a victim has been discovered, you’ll enter an investigation mode at the crime scene, followed by the actual trial. During these trials, Ryunosuke presents evidence to support the defendant.

This is where the main challenge of the game lies. The trial’s pace is entirely dictated by you, where you’ll have ample time to hear out witness testimonies and jury statements. Additionally, you can examine evidence at any point during the trial, and it’s really satisfying to stumble across a new clue that lets you go forward might come in handy later.

Ryunosuke confidently holding his own in the courtroom.Capcom

The court will also adjourn at certain points, breaking up the long trial sessions. These adjournments can consist of going over the events that just transpired, or investigating a new crime scene. These welcome breaks help you feel like you’re not stuffed in a courtroom for several hours straight, dialing down the tension only to have it rise again once the trial reconvenes.

There’s a health bar at the top right corner of the screen. If you provide the incorrect piece of evidence to back up your objection or pick the wrong spot in a photo to support your claim, you’ll be docked. However, even if you’re having trouble, the game is incredibly generous with the ability to save any time you want if you’re afraid of making a mistake.

Each trial isn’t too difficult to figure out, but they’re just challenging enough that you feel like patting yourself on the back when you’ve figured something out. There’s no better feeling than getting to the end of the trial and seeing the “Not Guilty” verdict for Ryunosuke’s defendant.

The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles main cast: Herlock Sholmes, Ryunosuke Naruhodo, Susato Mikotoba, and Iris Wilson. (left to right)Capcom

Full circle

The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles truly shines because each of the cases and characters feel distinct and memorable. Both games in this duology contain five chapters, each with an overarching mystery to solve. The beginning chapters are seemingly self-contained. But as you get further into the game, it’s gratifying to see the connections between past cases you’ve solved and the trial you’re currently going through, as well as their far-reaching implications.

Many characters that Ryunosuke comes into contact with appear in later chapters — they aren’t just dumped for new ones. Because the games consist of five separate chapters, the continuous use of characters in previous cases enriches that sense of a cohesive, overarching narrative. This also allows each of them to develop shade and nuance, even the perpetrators. Once they reveal their motives, you really do end up feeling bad for some of them. That’s a testament to how strong the scenario writing is in this game.

But it’s Ryunosuke’s growth that is the beating heart of the game, and he is constantly being challenged on his own ideals and convictions as a defense attorney. He’s supposed to have an unwavering belief in his clients’ innocence. But during the trial, if he suspects something is off with who he’s defending, should he keep doing his job?

Barok Van Zieks, also known as the Reaper, is a legendary English prosecutor and Ryunosuke’s greatest rivalCapcom

Even when Ryunosuke manages to turn the tide on the prosecution and is on the cusp of securing a “Not Guilty” verdict for his defendant, he might sense there’s still something more than meets the eye. During the later trials, he’ll often have his own internal monologue saying that his upcoming victory feels bittersweet.

Throughout the game, Ryunosuke’s friends offer him advice and during pivotal parts of the trial, their words come back in flashbacks. Susato is right next to him and offers him words of encouragement from time to time as well. Adding to his experiences in previous trials, these paint Ryunosuke as a sympathetic defense attorney. During his early trials, he constantly breaks out in cold nervous sweats. But as he gains more experience, you’ll notice that he’ll assert his claims with confidence more often when he slams down his fist yelling “Objection!”

A trailer showing all of the wonderful shenanigans and tense moments you’ll encounter during a trial.

More Theatrics, Please

The only real shortcoming with The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is that it isn’t fully voice-acted, which would make the experience more immersive. Both the English and Japanese voice tracks sound authentic, especially the former since Capcom employed British actors to portray the main cast. Unfortunately, they’re mostly relegated to the introduction anime scenes shown at the start of each chapter, or the rare fully animated cutscenes with the absolute biggest plot revelations in the game.

You’ll hear the voice lines, “Objection!” and “Hold it!” plenty of times in the courtroom. Granted, these games have massive amounts of text and dialogue, but the trials have the most intense interactions in the game. Adding full voice acting could have elevated the tension and suspense to even greater levels.

The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is a fantastic duology that visual novel and mystery fans will love. It’s also a great starting point for newcomers in the Ace Attorney franchise. With strong writing and deep, yet fun characters, this bundle will keep you engaged for every minute of its 50-60 hour runtime.

9/10

The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles comes to PC, PS4, and Switch on July 27. Inverse played the Switch version.

INVERSE VIDEO GAME REVIEW ETHOS: When it comes to video games, Inverse values a few qualities that other sites may not. For instance, we care about hours over money. Many new AAA games have similar costs, which is why we value the experience of playing more than price comparisons. We don’t value grinding and fetch quests as much as games that make the most out of every level. We also care about the in-game narrative more than most. If the world of a video game is rich enough to foster sociological theories about its government and character backstories, it’s a game we won’t be able to stop thinking about, no matter its price or popularity. We won’t punch down. We won’t evaluate an indie game in the same way we will evaluate a AAA game that’s produced by a team of thousands. We review games based on what’s available in our consoles at the time. And finally, we have very little tolerance for junk science. (Magic is always OK.)

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