Ace Attorney is one of the most beloved series in gaming history, though its popularity is not limited to Japan. It has been adapted into a spin-off anime series called Dual Destinies, which premiered back in 2013. It was a success on its own, so Capcom decided to continue the story beyond that point. Now, Ace Attorney 6: The Tower of Justice is set to be released in English speaking territories. For the uninitiated, this series is a re-imaging of the Ace Attorney series, with a new cast of characters, and a new setting. How do you pull off an intro in five minutes? It took me 30 minutes on the first try. I’m not going to lie: I’m a perfectionist

I recently had the great pleasure of getting to review the first Ace Attorney game from the Game Boy Advance, and it is one of the most phenomenal games in the entire Ace Attorney series. As a longtime fan of the series, it was quite a treat to finally see a new Ace Attorney game in person.  With this being my first time experiencing the Ace Attorney series, I was quite skeptical about whether I would even enjoy it at all, but I am happy to say that this, without a doubt, is the best Ace Attorney game yet.

The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles appeared destined to remain in Japan. Capcom completed the second, less well-received Ace Attorney trilogy in the early 2010s, before moving on to a prequel narrative and crossover in the mid-decade. The prequel did not get a Western release, although the crossover with Professor Layton did.

With Great Ace Attorney Chronicles, that has changed, and it was well worth the wait. Despite its proclivity for getting lost in itself, Great Ace Attorney Chronicles remains one of the series’ finest titles.

Review of The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles: Unquestionably Outstanding

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There are two games in the Great Ace Attorney Chronicles: Great Ace Attorney Adventures and Resolve. Both are set roughly a century before Phoenix Wright’s time and feature Ryunosuke Naruhodo, Wright’s Japanese ancestor who studies law both at home and abroad, among other characters. 

Overarching storylines are nothing new to Ace Attorney. The original trilogy tells a broad story with revelations that throw everything up to that point into a new light and end on a satisfying note, but the word “broad” is crucial. The stories in Great Ace Attorney Chronicles are more intertwined than ever before, and the narrative, despite being told in ten slightly disjointed episodes, feels more cohesive than ever.

It’s also surprisingly engrossing right from the start. The original trilogy offers plenty of shocks of its own, but the lighter tone and slower pace make it tough to become involved.

There are several pace problems in Great Ace Attorney (more on that in a bit). It does, however, know how to add just enough mystery and surprise to keep you interested even during the slowest parts, and it’s a surprisingly touching and powerful story.

Any more remarks would be considered spoilers. To summarize, the cases are among the finest in the series, and the increased focus on character interaction is something I want to see in future games.

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This is due in part to the additional case-handling techniques that Great Ace provides. One will appear in the first case, and it is a novel feature that allows you to cross-examine two witnesses at the same time. In certain instances, there are several witnesses in the witness box, and in addition to identifying flaws in the testifier’s account of events, you must also look for indications of dissatisfaction in the other witness in order to dismantle the false narrative.

The Dance of Deduction is another early element, in which Naruhodo must identify faults in Herlock Sholmes’ deductive thinking in order to get the investigation back on track. Finding inconsistencies and supporting them with evidence is basically the same method. Nonetheless, it adds some more immersive techniques of evidence collecting to the traditional study of the court record.

The “Dance” portions live true to their moniker. Each round of reasoning is a fast-paced back-and-forth between Sholmes and Naruhodo that makes use of the games’ more dynamic models and settings and is surprisingly elegant and entertaining.

The Summation Examination is a new addition to the courtroom fights, which follows a similar structure to previous games. Instead of a judge, Naruhodo must persuade a panel of jurors, each with their own motive for thinking your client is guilty.

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You may convince them at any time throughout the trial, even at the final minute, after they’ve already made a decision. It, along with the other improvements to courtroom fights, is a refreshing breath of fresh air in what has become an all-too-familiar routine.

Granted, I wish courtroom fights and evidence collecting were more open, allowing for various interpretations of evidence or even the discovery of missing facts. But that’s more of a genre criticism. Despite its flaws, Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is a smooth, smart, and entertaining interactive adventure that is one of the best out there.

The setting is another clear distinction between these two games and the mainstream Ace Attorney series, and it’s one of the more intriguing aspects of the collection.

In 1853, Matthew Perry and the United States Navy issued an ultimatum to Japan: reopen commerce with the West, particularly with America, or risk bombardment by Perry’s fleet. A year later, Japan consented to Perry’s demands, setting in motion a sequence of events that would alter Japan and the rest of the globe. Japan was ready to play a role on the global stage after decades of intensive political and social transformation, but other countries were not eager to accept an Asian country as an equal.

Japan was often ignored in international affairs, regarded as a second-class country attempting to become “civilized.” This is the setting in which Great Ace Attorney takes place, and Capcom makes creative use of the tension.

The first game begins in Japan with a short mention of progress’s fast speed, but soon you’ll see a darker side to these “improvements.” On the one hand, the Japanese are eager to abandon their culture in order to gain favor with outsiders. On the other hand, outsiders are keen to preserve the Japanese in what they think is their rightful position as a backward civilization.

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Characters hurl snarky and cruel remarks about how dumb and untrustworthy the Japanese are without regard for the Japanese characters, who are compelled to put up with it since no amount of backlash alters their minds.

For a variety of reasons, this is remarkable. Great Ace Attorney succeeds in creating a lavish late Victorian environment, but rather than romanticizing it, Capcom incorporates the period’s brutality into the story in a manner that few games do.

The majority of characters that are ostracized do so for reasons related to their fate or whatever. Naruhodo and Susato, for example, are punished just for being alive.

Another notable achievement is how simple it would have been to make the situation more contentious by encouraging the sort of strong nationalism that fueled Japan’s militarism in the early twentieth century and led to its involvement in world war. 

Capcom, on the other hand, skillfully avoids this by remaining loyal to the Ace Attorney essence. The English aren’t villains just because they’re English, and the Japanese aren’t superior simply because they’re honorable.

Pursuing justice at all costs is what true honor entails. Of course, a Japanese developer openly portraying prejudice towards Japanese people isn’t a big stride in and of itself — especially when shows like Yakuza continue to struggle with representation — but it’s still a valuable point of view.

You’re never allowed to forget that this is how the rest of the world sees your heroes, yet as heavy as that may seem, Great Ace Attorney manages to balance the serious moments with the series’ trademark off-the-wall comedy.

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Great Ace always gets the jokes right, something even their predecessors couldn’t always accomplish. It’s all just a hair’s width away from being ideal in terms of timing, wording, word choice, and circumstance.

That’s due in large part to the indomitable Herlock Sholmes, whom I won’t reveal because, quite simply, he’s amazing. 

Great Outside of humor, Ace Attorney’s writing excels, and it’s one of the year’s best-localized games. Sholmes may steal the spotlight on a regular basis, but both games have a diverse array of interesting characters. 

Even small details like code-switching are taken into consideration when creating these characters and their world. When Naruhodo and Susato are alone or with other Japanese characters, they use Japanese honorifics for each other, but when non-Japanese characters are present, they employ English courtesy titles.

However, there is one little flaw in the writing: there is often too much of it in Great Ace Attorney.

It’s a problem that often plagues adventure games and visual novels, but the difficulty with Great Ace is when it occurs. Extra flavor and background are helpful while reviewing evidence or interrogating witnesses, but not when a case is rapidly approaching a conclusion. The games have a tendency of dragging out points that have already been established, and one or two of them, particularly the first, appear to linger on simply for the purpose of dragging on.

The Bottom Line in The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles

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Pros

  • Excellent tale and storyline.
  • One of the series’ most powerful casts of characters
  • Excellent utilization of the environment.
  • Changes to the standard formula that are much-welcomed
  • Writing of the highest caliber…

Cons

  • … it can go on for much too long at times

The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles outperforms its predecessors and, perhaps, foreshadows what is to come. It offers a more intimate and compelling collection of tales, refreshes the series’ well-established mechanics with just a few new features, and elevates the writing to new heights.

Sure, it has a proclivity for lingering over itself, but in exchange, you get a fantastic collection of experiences and narrative that is unlike anything other.

[Note: The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles was given by Capcom for this review.]

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