Title: The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles
Release Date: July 27, 2021
Reviewed On: PS4
The insatiable yearning for the truth; that is Ace Attorney in a nutshell. Every entry of this long-running franchise approaches this philosophy in varying degrees. Still, I daresay that The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles contains 2 titles, The Great Ace Attorney Adventures and The Great Ace Attorney 2: Resolve, that both, effortlessly, manage to perform this task with a stellar unison of inviting characterization, thematic mastery, and perplexing cases that are simultaneously sensical and astonishing.
This package provides the impossible, an ideal duo of outings for those familiar with the Ace Attorney series and complete newcomers. Aside from a slight gameplay oddity or two, this collective adventure goes beyond simply being one of a kind and instead sets itself apart as worthy of substantial, well-deserved pedigree.
The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles focuses on protagonist Ryunosuke Naruhodo, a student of Imperial Yumei University and ancestor to the ever-prominent Phoenix Wright. He finds himself suddenly becoming a lawyer, a profession he never envisioned ever pursuing before certain events, and certain people lead him down that road, such as his best friend, Kazuma Asogi, a talented practitioner of the law. Following the introduction, Ryunosuke and his Judicial Assistant, Susato Mikotoba, arrive in the land of Great Britain, where they take on several unconventional cases with the help of the Great Detective Herlock Shlomes and his genius 10-year old roommate, Iris Wilson.
Ace Attorney fans will find themselves at home with most manners of progression. The gameplay is split into 2 general phases, investigation and court proceedings—the former consists of searching environments related to the case at hand and conversing with the parties involved.
The latter is the expected courtroom battles where lawyers and prosecutors duke it out. However, there are some intricacies to both of these umbrellas of gameplay, and they are beneficial in making this duology more distinct from other titles.
Investigations, for instance, introduces a mechanic called the Dance of Deduction or more commonly referred to as the Logic and Reasoning Spectacular. This spectacle comes into play when Herlock Shlomes enacts a chaotic series of deductions that usually result in erroneous conclusions while remaining in the ballpark of observational accuracy.
Ryunosuke redirects these results down their proper courses via the simple act of observation, basing conclusions on the subject’s poise, reactions, and stances relative to their current environment. These tasks are relatively self-explanatory as there are few options for these scenarios. The brief exchanges shared between Ryunosuke and his partner tends to spell out the relevancy or non-relevancy of the honed subject matter too.
For as straightforward as the Dances of Deduction tend to be, though, they provide a high degree of charm and banter for everyone involved. Rather than feeling like dry storyboard pieces, the personal conflicts within the cast and cases are never tossed to the side in favor of bland plot progression.
Additionally, unlike prior games where investigations can feel like slogs, each investigative process throughout these 2 titles never comes off as padding on the runtime. Instead, the process has a distinct lack of what would be considered to be conventional Ace Attorney investigative segments and instead forges its own path.
The sequel is certainly more conventional to the series with its gameplay loop and structure. Still, the bold steps taken by its predecessor blended with a cohesive character and story design to make it that much more enjoyable.
As for the Trials themselves, they are quintessential Ace Attorney but are arguably a unique implementation of the gameplay loop. Pressing witnesses during their testimonies returns, which, in essence, demands more information from the highlighted lines. Committing to this task for each suspect statement across every witness testimony is a habit players should grow accustomed to. Aside from expansion on priorly vague statements, there is the chance to receive updated evidence and testimony.
Unlike other entries, multiple witnesses often take the stand, which brings another mechanic, albeit a minor one. When pressing a witness for more information on a specific testimony segment, the other witness on the stand might react based on what is being said. Confronting these reactions leads to further trains of thought that aid in constructing the truth of the case. This also adds an unprecedented layer of depth to these characters, who would ordinarily be expected to be information depositories.
The major gimmick added to Trials for these 2 entries is the Summation Examination. During these select fixed instances, the Jurors’ patience will wear thin, and they will all conclude the defendant as the guilty party. Though, thanks to an obscure law that has rarely, if ever, seen utilization in Britain’s courtrooms, Ryunosuke can question the Jurors on their decisions and ultimately alter their minds to allow the Trial to continue.
Jurors add highly appreciated character exchanges in a similar vein to the Dances of Deduction. They are fairly simple to prevail against, as they require pitting two statements together that contradict each other, which is humorous and insightful. This ties into a facet The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles expertly wields, which is its historical context. It is omnipresent throughout every aspect of the game but is clearly in your face with the Jurors.
Racism is an undeniable part of history that, while still existing today, its presence even just a century ago was far less veiled. This reality is present with the Jurors’ remarks for their more inept reasonings. For example, one of the defendants happens to be a Japanese man, and his nationality and appearance are used as justifications for his supposed guilt. Issues of this nature being normalized across these 2 titles is ingenious, as it demonstrates a sincere showing of courage from the developers to authenticate the historical context. The setting was never a superficial skin to the experience, and it amplifies the immersive capabilities to extents never before seen in the franchise.
By taking place well in the past, these titles offer a fundamentally distinct ambiance that is willingly embraced. Several mentions and passing remarks are made to the world’s current technological advancements, impacting the courses of trials, such as forensic science not being available for investigators and attorneys to utilize. Once again, the way these games are cognizant of their context amplifies the courageous sense of identity they boast. It does not in any way feel shackled to what the series has formerly put out and stands on its own, making it approachable to newcomers.
The localization is superb and worth applauding for its clearly time-invested quality and the genuine accents and speech quirks present within the dialogue. Some players may find the abundance of accents needless and arduous to comprehend the messages put out, but I never found them inhibiting in any way once I gave them time. If anything, their presence added qualitative character individuality and cultural genuineness. Voice acting is present for select scenes as well, with the sequel having noticeably more of it. They are delivered quite cleanly, though I must say, Ryunosuke’s “Objection!” is far too polite for my tastes, for shame.
Ace Attorney is constantly identified in tandem with its assortment of excellent soundtracks, and The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles fortifies this reputation tenfold. Each track is powerful, to put it mildly; impactful and impressionable. In addition, an undeniable sense of whimsical darkness lurks throughout the soundtracks and is exemplified by the proximity to the finales or when key figures appear.
If the 10 brilliant Episodes spread throughout each title weren’t enough, there is a shockingly impressive degree of extra content players can dive into. For instance, there are the Escapades, which are slice-of-life episodes focusing on specified members of the cast. These entertaining inclusions are brief asides that flesh out the character relationships and their day-to-day more, alongside providing fleeting semblances of cohesion for where they take place.
The gallery is another notable inclusion. It contains artist comments for each work, which is genuinely moving. Seeing the general thought processes behind character designs alongside amusing anecdotes continually enhances the charm this package exhibits. English subbed videos of formerly Japanese exclusive promotion material featuring the characters are also available for viewing. A clear level of love and dedication poured into making this collection as definitive as possible, and it shows.
There is also the Auditorium, housing voice clips and the soundtracks, the Tailor, which outfits Ryunosuke, Susato, and Herlock with cosmetic alterations for exclusively the second title, and Accolades that act as in-game achievements. They also act as the trophies and achievements for PSN and the Steam version, respectively.
For players seeking to view the narratives play out without any input, there is an option for doing so. Dubbed “Reader Mode,” the game plays itself with all choices being made automatically. It can be turned on and off in the midst of gameplay and dialogue, so it can alternatively be used to progress past particularly confusing segments players find themselves stumped on. Activating it voids earned trophies/achievements for completing the Trials; however, a mistake I made when seeing how it worked near the start of the second game and forgetting to disable it in the menu.
I don’t advise using Reader Mode as the difficulty of comprehension never felt overwhelming, but this depends on what the player desires.
I truly harbor no vital complaints about these 2 experiences, though I have a slight critique regarding Trials. Whenever viewing testimonies, the Court Record, which acts as the hub for character profiles and evidence, is absent, with only the latter being viewable. This can be sidestepped since the Court Record can be viewed in conversation, such as in the middle of a Press. Granted, the only issue with this oddity is the lack of constant availability for viewing character profiles, which is rarely ever needed for piecing events together, especially given how ages and the like don’t really matter. Still, it is worth noting.
The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles brandishes its cultural and historical context alongside its thematic story cohesiveness in an elegantly refined and bold manner that ultimately results in an undeniably masterful duology. Whether you are a veteran Ace Attorney fan or completely new, this is the height of the franchise that is worth playing in its entirety.
After the staleness the series has been associated with from its latest entries, this long-awaited release is the mold-breaker that subverts the obvious. Without feeling self-righteously vigorous in the applications of its mysteries, nor abashed to safety, a delicate balance is kept, producing a substantially must-experience product.
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