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Hands-On: Great Ace Attorney Chronicles captures the series’ sense of humour
Capcom’s courtroom series celebrates 20 years with this HD remaster
The Ace Attorney series celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, the original Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney having arrived on the GBA back in October 2001.
Although the games are essentially legal-themed visual novels, the series has succeeded where almost every other visual novel franchise has failed by managing to develop a loyal following in the west.
Because of this, almost all of the Ace Attorney games that have been released over the years have been localised for North American and European territories, with only a couple of exceptions.
Most notable of these exceptions are The Great Ace Attorney: Adventures and its sequel The Great Ace Attorney: Resolve, which were released on the 3DS in Japan in 2015 and 2017 respectively.
Set during the turn of the 20th century, The Great Ace Attorney titles put an interesting spin on the formula by putting players in a situation where modern investigative techniques like DNA evidence, security camera footage and the like are a long way off being invented.
As such, both titles were praised for breathing new life (well, old life we suppose) into a series that was starting to feel like it was just going through the motions. Unfortunately, they never made it outside of Japan at the time.
This will finally change on July 27 thanks to The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles, which remasters both titles and bundles them together in one package for the Switch, PS4 and PC.
We recently went hands-on with the game to see how it’s looking, and judging by what we’ve played, fans of the series should be happy when it’s out in a month’s time.
Given that it’s set 100 years before the events of the other Ace Attorney games, it should come as no surprise that The Great Ace Attorney features a new protagonist. This time you’re playing as Ryunosuke Naruhodo, a university student who just happens to be an ancestor of Phoenix Wright.
The game has no qualms about throwing you in at the deep end – in the first of the available cases, Ryunosuke himself is charged with murder, having been witnessed with a gun in his hand when an English university teacher was shot in a restaurant.
It’s up to Ryunosuke, along with his lawyer pal Kazuma Asogi, to prove his innocence through the usual Ace Attorney process of cross-examining witness testimonies.
This initial chapter plays much like previous Ace Attorney games, and is designed to introduce players to the lawyer ‘em up concept. By making the protagonist a greenhorn with no previous experience in being a defence attorney, the game essentially turns his learning process into a tutorial for newcomers.
“By making the protagonist a greenhorn with no previous experience in being a defence attorney, the game essentially turns his learning process into a tutorial for newcomers.”
Fans of the series may find the first case a bit of a slow burner, then, because they have to go through the usual rigmarole of learning what they already know: how to access the court record and examine evidence, how cross-examinations for and the like.
Once that’s out of the way and it properly gets going, though, the whole thing becomes classic Ace Attorney, with a bunch of entertainingly eccentric characters to meet and eventually grill.
These include military sergeant Iyesa Nosa (whose name is a play on “yes sir, no sir”), who tries to give evidence while also on childcare duties, antique store owner Kyurio Korekuta (“curio collector”) who talks in elaborate prose, a waiter called Hosonaga who may be more than he appears and the prosecutor Auchi, who’s an ancestor of Phoenix Wright’s prosecutor rival Winston Payne (what are the odds).
Naturally, given that these games are 95% plot we can’t really go into too much detail on the case itself, but you can expect the usual twists and red herrings you would usually get in an Ace Attorney case.
As in other games in the series, though, you’ll often feel like you’ve figured out the secret before the game does, which can lead to some slightly frustrating moments where you’re waiting for all the characters to catch up with you.
That said, the game will occasionally throw you a swerve that makes you realise that although you may have been partially right, you weren’t completely right and there’s more to this case than meets the eye.
The Ace Attorney games live and die by their localisation and we’re happy with what we’ve seen so far. The sense of humour here is the perfect balance of subtle and bizarre, and there are plenty of funny moments in the first case alone.
“The sense of humour here is the perfect balance of subtle and bizarre, and there are plenty of funny moments in the first case alone.”
Some of these are over-the-top (the way everyone falls over one of the female witnesses is laughably cringeworthy), while others are small but got a chuckle out of us (such as the way Ryunosuke slams his hands on the desk like the other lawyers but it doesn’t make a dramatic slamming noise, so he briefly glances down and looks confused before continuing).
When the dust settles, the gavel slams down and the case is solved a few hours down the line, it’s a satisfying way to begin the compilation. It’s far from the full offering at that point, though – as the game progresses a bunch of completely new features are introduced that break from the series’ tradition.
These include the presence of juries – which can make getting a verdict a more complicated matter than simply trying to convince the judge – and the Joint Reasoning sections, where you and an English detective named Herlock Sholmes (ahem) debate theories on certain witnesses.
With the full game still a month away from release, we naturally aren’t able to bring you our full opinion of the game yet. Once we get our hands on the finished version and have time to deliberate, though, we’ll get back to you with our unanimous verdict.
So far, though, things are looking good. Fans of the series in the west have been sentenced to five years without a new Ace Attorney adventure, but if what we’ve played so far is anything to go by, The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles should ensure that the series’ release back into the community will be a positive one.