Review: The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles

The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles are…great!

I’ve written about the Ace Attorney series for Real Women of Gaming several times over the years. Most of the games involve a defense attorney named Phoenix Wright, who fights to prove his clients’ innocence and expose the true killers. 

The Great Ace Attorney follows the adventures of Phoenix’ ancestor, Ryunosuke Naruhodo, a young man who has no interest in becoming a lawyer but gets swept up into it anyway. From Meiji Japan to Edwardian England, Ryunosuke sets off on a series of adventures that shape him into a legendary attorney in his own right.

Oh, and one of the people he befriends along the way is a “great” detective who goes by the name of Herlock Sholmes. No, I am not kidding, and yes, he is perfection.

Initially, Great Ace Attorney was released as two separate games in Japan that formed a duology. For the English translation, they were packaged together in one cartridge (or disc, if you’re playing it on PS4). And now that I’ve played them both, it makes so much more sense to do it that way, because these two games are actually two parts to one complete story. If only the first game had been released, my impressions might have been completely different.

As it is, I love how each case plays out like a chapter in a novel and they all tie into a larger story arc. Great Ace Attorney accomplishes something that I felt like the sequel trilogy tried to do and never quite got there: reinvent the formula while still feeling like an Ace Attorney game. The structure for each case is different. Not all of them follow the typical “investigation-trial, investigation-trial” route. And not all of them turn out to be a straight murder. In fact, two are cases of attempted murder, with the victim in the second case testifying against your client.

The games also introduce multiple witnesses that give testimony together. Sometimes one of them will react strangely to what the other is saying, and you can press that person to find out why. And while there’s still a judge on the stand, you also have to contend with a jury as well. They are the most fickle, biased people in Great Britain and it doesn’t take much to convince them that Ryunosuke’s clients are guilty. But you can just as easily change their minds again by addressing their arguments and showing them evidence that contradicts what they believe.

Then you have the sections of the game where you have to investigate the crime, and this is where you will find the best addition to the Ace Attorney franchise: the Dance of Deduction.

When Herlock Sholmes comes upon the scene (and he is “Sherlock Holmes” in Japan but needed to have his name changed for the English version due to copyright complications), he will have his own ideas of what happened that start out with some basis in logic and grow increasingly bizarre. The best theories include one about an antigravity device and one about the victim eating soap before he died. At this point, Ryunosuke and his judicial assistant, Susato, will examine Herlock’s train of logic and make corrections until the three of them uncover the truth.

Herlock is strangely chipper about this and takes all the corrections in stride. Does he really believe the things he’s saying, or is he just messing with them? The game plays around with your perceptions of him, twisting and turning just like one of his cases.

Herlock is not the only great character in this game. Ryunosuke and Susato make a great team and I love how much they don’t remind me of Phoenix and Maya. Susato has her quirks and a mischievous side, but she takes her job as Ryunosuke’s assistant seriously and teaches him everything she knows about British law. Ryunosuke might be Phoenix’ ancestor and you can tell they’re related, but he still feels like his own person. There’s also this game’s version of “Watson,” a little girl named Iris Wilson who has been living with Herlock since her father went away. She’s a clever investigator in her own right and her cheerful personality fits in well with the rest of the cast.

Overall, The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is an excellent addition to the franchise and one that you can enjoy regardless of whether you’ve played the other games or not. You can play it on Steam, the Nintendo Switch, or the PlayStation 4. Whether you love Ace Attorney, or Sherlock Holmes, or a good adventure, I highly recommend playing it. 

So, what are you waiting for, my dear fellows? The game’s afoot!

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