Our Rating: 8/10
To begin, let us state unequivocally that this review contains no plot or spoilers. Also, if you’ve never played Ace Attorney before, don’t worry! It’s a long standalone game in which you don’t need to have played previous episodes.
We are nearing the end of the nineteenth century, a historical moment that is almost immediately justified; a time when neither technology nor the legal system had advanced legal procedures as they do now. Feudal Japan’s stylebook is less defined than Britain’s, despite London’s status as a global capital during the Victorian era. So, we’ll only be in Japan for a few days. We play Ryunosuke Naruhodo, ancestor of Phoenix Wright, with a group of aspiring lawyer students to learn about British methodology and absorb as much as possible for their respective professional purposes.
How could it be otherwise when, despite the short distance, everything happens? And, unlike previous installments, which featured some self-concluding cases with no weight in the main plot, this time we’re committed to a more orderly script and aware that those ten cases must be taken as a whole. That everything has meaning because of the sum of its parts.
It’s successful, too. In these two plays, Takumi’s team did not need to impress anyone. First and foremost, because while nothing said would have any bearing on the current saga, it did assist us in comprehending the reasons for the future. In a nutshell, it’s a prequel in the most literal sense of the word. Second, because a simple change in the setting would have been a huge letdown. And that is the visual novel’s greatest strength; the justification of its historical context, which is as thrilling as it is well written.
A story that is told over low heat
The historical period was the one thing that concerned us before beginning our tour with this charismatic character. It would have been ineffective to simply change the surroundings’ aesthetics and decorate them with references to Meiji period architecture and artistic trends. The dialogue lines are written with a specific mindset in mind. All of the characters live in that period, but they also think in that period; they relate as they did in the nineteenth century. They trust people without prejudices that we now take for granted. Ultimately, they fall into considerations that we have now overcome.
This mental state has a bidirectional effect. It affects both you and those who have to be in charge of questioning your word. The Meiji period and England’s Victorian-era spiced up trust and mistrust. To put it another way, all roads lead to the courtroom. It is there, on the “battlefield,” that the best moments of all the cases in both games are fought. The word takes on greater importance, and where The Great Ace Attorney’s true differentiating virtues are found.
Aspects of the Game
Interrogations and trials are the two main aspects of the game. They are in every other game in the series. Without a doubt, the most memorable moments take place in court. We have a jury of six members, each more eccentric and bizarre than the last. Many different points of view and ways of thinking are presented, which adds to the complexity in some cases; plot twists, surprise, and unpredictability are displayed to their best advantage. This legal practice was previously unheard of in the franchise. It is up to us to find inconsistencies in the accused’s speech, the prosecutor’s position, and the potential verdicts of the jury, whom we must persuade to trust a not guilty verdict.
They may disagree with one another at times, or they may favor one criterion over another. We’ll use this opportunity to point out another difference between The Great Ace Attorney and the works of Phoenix, Apollo, and others. We’ll be immersed in cases where we won’t know right away whether our client is guilty or not of the charges against him. That insecurity, palpable in the insecurity of this rookie aspiring lawyer, is forged through betrayals, surprises, and continuous learning, in which the figure of Susato Mikatoba, the assistant on this occasion, cannot be overlooked.
Maya Fey’s clone, on the other hand, is a far less compelling character than Athena Cykes (Dual Destinies and Spirit of Justice) or the aforementioned medium, which is a shame. Because his role as a supporting actor is more prominent than ever. It’s not that his lines of dialogue lack development; it’s simply a matter of the plot, as the cases always take center stage over the characters.
Living up to expectations
Does this imply that The Great Ace Attorney’s characters lack charisma? Not all of them, but if we compare them to the great references of the past, who set the bar extremely high and maintained an impeccably balanced plot and protagonists in the original trilogy, this may be the case with some of them.
Fortunately, because there are always nuances, we have prosecutors like Barok van Zieks who eat the screen. Others like the young Iris Wilson who take a few moments to remove her hat. When we consider the pivotal role played by Kazuma Asogi, Ryunosuke’s best friend, the cast of characters becomes complete, complex. and heterogeneous. However, not all are on the same level. This is how Herlock Sholmes, the detective who occasionally appears in both Adventures and Resolve, came to be.
His role in the game is crucial; in fact, he has a direct or indirect implication in several instances, but it is always justified. The problem is that his writing, in an attempt to set himself apart from the Japanese personalities on the team by defining himself as the most British, becomes tiresome.
He’s a flamboyant, occasionally impolite character who hasn’t lived up to our expectations. Of course, this judgment is entirely subjective. The reader, like the characters in any book, can identify with them in some way. And it’s still a novel, a detective novel in which we play a role in the solution. There will be times when we question our judgment and wonder whether the moral and unethical lines have been crossed.
Why the Great Ace Attorney is a video game and not a novel
All of this required, once again, a playable justification. It’s for a reason that The Great Ace Attorney is a video game rather than a series or a novel. Fortunately, the game’s nature as a video game is acknowledged through its investigation mechanics and two significant new features.
The Dance of Deduction, on the one hand. Sholmes’ deductions will be based on a specific logic path, which will not always lead to the most precise conclusion. As a result, Ryunosuke will make amends and the two of them will come to terms with reality. This time, more than in the first installments of both trilogies, the priority is the search for truth over logic.
It’s better interpreted, at the very least. Because forensic investigator groups lack technological support and clinical tools, they must take all available evidence and break it down as much as possible. We interview witnesses, look for clues, ask questions about the evidence, and draw conclusions based on our findings. The samurai’s katana is the word this time.
The trials also established the other major mechanical innovation: Summary Examination. There will be times when trials produce results that leave little room for hope. This time, the scales of justice may tip in favor of a guilty verdict, prompting us to question those present until we discover the incoherence that turns the situation around. There will be times when the level of tension will shake hands with the audacity of a Ryunosuke who grows in each case little by little. He’s progressing as a lawyer.
Some fans will have some disappointment to learn that for the sake of plot convenience, we have cases that deviate from the saga’s traditional structure. We’re talking about cases where there’s no trial and only an investigation, or cases where there’s no investigation at all (although the latter was already recurring).
Shu Takumi sets out on his own, cruising at a leisurely pace, and succeeds in most, but not all, of his attempts. For instance, Adventures’ third case is one of the five best in the entire saga, but the fourth case of this first work in the trilogy is one of the worst. In addition, in its early cases, Resolve lacks epic moments. It progresses from a lower to a higher level of intensity.
The end of The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles tenth case has raised some questions, although it is played wisely with fanservice, with the return of characters from the first installment, combined with greater development and protagonism of key characters in the adventure. Trials and Tribulations (the third installment of the original trilogy) ends with an unattainable reference.
However, the fact that the trilogy ended so well, as narrated from the beginning, leaves him wanting more of an ending than he is content to be remarkable. Overall, we enjoyed both video games and found the trip to be worthwhile. Believe us when we say that.
The Great Ace Attorney’s rhythm is another must. Some cases stand out from the rest, with a slow general onset and unusually long initial cases (forget those first cases of just an hour). It’s partly positive because the ten cases are important; however, there’s plenty of material to go around.
Lines of dialogue that fail miserably in their attempt to connect us with characters, ignoring the development of this fascinating world. This attempt to make up for things hasn’t convinced us, but it has resulted in some exhausting discussions that have slowed the progress of investigations that should have been lighter and more dynamic. There’s something magical missing. Again, these are feelings that arise as a result of learning about this author’s body of work.
It’s worth noting that The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles have extra content that adds to the depth of the cases. A total of eight short slice-of-life cases focused on the characters’ day-to-day lives; otherwise known as behind-the-scenes content. Capcom has made it easier for anyone who simply wants to enjoy the trip to do so, as if reading a book, with quality of life features like access to a conversation history, ideal for rereading dialogues; automatically save; a multitude of manual save files; or an accessibility option to only read the story, automating the resolution of puzzles and presentation of evidence.
An excellent localization job
The validity of artistic direction is very high. Even though these are five-year-old video games released on far less capable hardware than a PS4, Nintendo Switch, or PC, the character modeling has been faithfully recreated, with no loss of expressiveness or glitz. You take their word for it. The set design, color palette, and sensational soundtrack combine to create a house signature work, with efforts to connect a great story with memorable melodies. The remastering is, predictably, sloppy. It’s a shame you didn’t double down on key dialogue. We don’t include well-animated anime scenes.
Capcom could have put more effort into the production values, and its excellent localization work is sadly not crowned by a gem. One of the difficulties in adapting a work that is so deeply rooted in the culture from which it emerged is that the message may not reach as many people as it should due to a simple lack of comprehension. Idioms, set phrases, references to Japanese culture, or a particular way of thinking can be too difficult to adapt to other languages. Consider puzzles made entirely of kanji characters. The Great Ace Attorney is chock-full of unique elements that, thankfully, have been adapted in a way that goes beyond simple translation. This review must demonstrate the story’s lexical richness, ingenuity, and even space for irony.
For fans of the series, The Great Ace Attorney is a must-see. The task has two main parts. On the one hand, create two video games (ten in total) with an entirely new cast of characters, with whom we must form a bond from the ground up and from which evolution is expected.
On the other hand, to justify a historical context that posed fundamental challenges when it came to telling a story about mid-nineteenth-century courtroom dialectics. And it was accomplished. With a fantastically written story spanning ten cases, but with irregularities in the rhythm and an excess of text lines at times. Both games have a current, fresh feel to them, and they provide context for their inclusion in the canon. They’re high-quality visual novels with Shu Takumi demonstrating his storytelling prowess. So you’re in for a long journey!