The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is my first time dabbling in the Ace Attorney series. This collection includes the beloved Nintendo 3DS games The Great Ace Attorney: The Adventure of Ryunosuke Naruhodo and The Great Ace Attorney 2: The Resolve of Ryunosuke Naruhodo. As you may have noticed, Ryunosuke Naruhodo, the ancestor of the more well-known Phoenix Wright, is the protagonist in this collection.
While Ace Attorney normally takes place in present day, this time we go back in time to Victorian-era Britain. Japan just opened its doors to the world and signed a treaty with the British Empire. This political turmoil is the backdrop of the many cases Ryunosuke has to deal with.
The first game starts with Ryunosuke being accused of the murder of an English doctor who was visiting Japan. During this case, the basics get explained to you: how to examine evidence, how to press witnesses and, most importantly, how to yell “Objection!” When you win this case and prove your innocence, the world opens up a lot more as Ryunosuke and company go abroad to Britain.
While the separate cases are definitely intriguing, it was the overarching plot spanning both games that kept me going; especially because the end of the first game drops a bombshell of a plot twist, making the player all the more eager to immediately start the second game.
Every single case in the game adds new features, from witnesses reacting to each other to a full-blown jury that you have to convince. This is why it feels like a bit of a step back when you go from the first to the second game and it starts at the basics again. Plot-wise it makes sense, since for this particular case, you’re playing as Ryunosuke’s judicial assistant, Susato Mikotoba. Gameplay wise, it’s very jarring though. You go from a bombastic final case where you have to show off all the things you’ve learned to a very simple case again.
I do want to add that, while piecing together the puzzle is ridiculously fun, I would make a terrible lawyer. Half the time I needed a guide to figure out which piece of evidence contradicted which statement. The further in you get, the harder it gets, but sometimes it was really ridiculous. Bless the people who make guides or I probably wouldn’t have been able to get through this.
Now, the amazing characters got me invested and made me come back every time. Ryunosuke gets accompanied by his charming assistant Susato and his best friend Kazuma. Once in Britain, they meet the world-famous detective Herlock Sholmes and his small but fiery assistant Iris Wilson. Each character has their own mannerisms and musical theme, making them instantly recognizable and memorable.
The music in this game surprised me the most. This was the first visual novel type of game I’ve ever played, so I didn’t really know what to expect. But I certainly didn’t account for the music being so top notch—I now regularly listen to “The Little Biographer” or “The Great Pursuit” while reading or working. The songs get me pumped while never really being annoying.
The animation is also absolutely stellar. There’s the fully animated cutscenes, but the background art in the game itself is where they really knocked it out of the park. It’s so incredibly detailed, and I loved having a look around while investigating. The commentary Ryunosuke and friends have on certain things in the background is hilarious as well.
I couldn’t write about The Great Ace Attorney without discussing the language in it—there’s a lot of racist remarks coming from the British towards the Japanese. The game never frames this as a good thing, and Ryunosuke regularly thinks his own of it, but it’s still pretty jarring. It’s a realistic portrayal about how it was (and sometimes still is) for Eastern people travelling abroad.
One particular character you encounter, Barok Van Zieks, proclaims his hate for the “Nipponese” almost every case. He’s featured a lot since he’s the public prosecutor for a lot of cases in Britain. Van Zieks is a very intriguing character, but he’s inherently a racist. However, Van Zieks is the guy to beat, so while his racism is definitely problematic, it’s also framed as evil as it should be.
The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is an amazing starting point for newcomers. This latest installment never fails to lose sight of what its fanbase loves. It has a great overarching plot, intriguing cases, and well-written characters. If you haven’t yet, you better get on the case!