Review: The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles (Switch)

Turnabout success for this great port of two excellent Ace Attorney games!

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 09/10/2021 15:48 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
Editor's Choice
A
Superior
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Delightful story that will grip until the end; the Meiji setting adds an abundance of flavor and flair to the game in terms of setting and historical backdrop; wonderful visuals and animations; courtroom antics are funner than ever thanks to multiple witnesses now taking the stand; lots of great extras to enjoy; memorable soundtrack
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Connections between evidence and witness behavior can be elusive at times

I first learned about the Ace Attorney series from a classmate in college. He was importing Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney from Japan for his DS, which was still the new handheld on the block. I remember thinking, “what the heck is Ace Attorney?” and not caring all that much at the time. When I finally got my own DS, one aspect of the console that resulted in it becoming my favorite Nintendo platform was how experimental the games were. Having never played a visual novel before, when Ace Attorney finally arrived in localized form on the system I recalled my classmate’s interest in the game and bought a copy for myself. I was blown away—I’d never played anything like Phoenix Wright and it quickly propelled me into a phase where I wanted to try all sorts of new, different games.

This is why, for me, the Ace Attorney games are very special. I’ve played every installment in the series, and while some have enthralled me more than others, they’re always entertaining and well made. The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles surprised me, though. It isn’t just a solid entry into the series, it’s an exceptional one. The duo of games here—The Great Ace Attorney: Adventures and The Great Ace Attorney 2: Resolve—were both originally released on 3DS as Japanese exclusives. Fans pined for both to be localized into English, but alas, it was never meant to be. Flash forward a few years, however, and now both have been translated and upscaled for Switch. It was a bit of a wait, but it has been worth every minute to get these delightful prequels into the hands of Western fans.

The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is a prequel to the Ace Attorney series. The games are set during the Meiji era of Japan, that period of time in the late 19th century when Japan’s borders opened and the country began to venture out onto the world stage. It was during this period that Japan began to industrialize and adapt Western technology in order to maintain its own autonomy and avoid colonization. The writing team at Capcom clearly reveled in exploring this era of Japanese history. Everything from the set pieces to the garb to the politics are tinged with period-accurate references. Like previous Ace Attorney games, The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles isn’t trying to be authentic, but the effort this time around to root the proceedings in a facsimile of Japan’s past is a boon to the experience.

As is typically the case, The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles has investigation segments of gameplay and courtroom segments. The former sees the player looking for clues to flesh out their defense in court, while the latter involves listening to witness testimonials and pointing out contradictions. All of this involves a great deal of poking around lavishly detailed environments for clues, as well as engaging in multi-pronged conversations with numerous different characters. Lingering on the investigation portion of the game for moment, this is probably the height of the series in terms of art direction. While I love the pixel art of the original trilogy and still prefer it, that takes nothing away from how stunning The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles looks. Although these were originally 3DS games, the presentation here is detailed and rich. Throw in some clever animations and brilliant character designs, and it’s a true delight combing through each screen for clues and information.

Moving on to the courtroom portion of the adventure, The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles brings its gameplay hook to the forefront right away. Unlike prior installments, this time around multiple witnesses will take the stand simultaneously. Not only does this mean that there are multiple conversations to engage in, but keeping an eye on the behavior of each character as they interact with one another proves critical to solving cases. In fairness, it’s never all that hard to spot when characters are reacting to each other, but the real challenge is in sussing out the logic of how evidence and behavior correlate from moment to moment.

It’s in this regard that the Ace Attorney series sometimes runs into a bit of trouble. It’s not always clear how to connect the dots during a trial and avoid penalty. At the same time, the game has its usual forgiving save system in place that allows players to retread bits of each trial as needed, and the times when the path forward is unclear are very few and far between. Really, trying to put a finger on what doesn’t work in The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles doesn’t provide much to bellyache about. The soundtrack is stirring and memorable, the cast of characters is brimming with personality, and the writing is some of the best that Capcom has ever produced.

There’s also a lot of extra content to enjoy. DLC costumes are available, and there’s a bunch of unused material to observe, including music and scrapped voice acting. For those who like a peek behind the curtain, there’s some developer commentary to listen to. This is always a great resource for those who fancy taking a stab at game design, but it’s also very entertaining for those who wonder what all is involved in producing the games they play. Rounding out the package with animations and promotional materials to gawk at, and The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles should leave no fan wanting by the time the final curtain falls.

The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles isn’t just a reminder of why the series as a whole is beloved, but also a reaffirmation that video games can be capable of so much more as an entertainment medium. Straddling the line somewhere between book and interactive movie, The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles takes players through case after case packed with wonderful characters, stories, and clever brain teasers. Although adventure games/visual novels aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, if you’ve been looking to try one for the first time or give them another shot, this is the game. The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is a blast.

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