The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles review: The game is afoot

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After four long years of waiting, I was excited to see Capcom finally release English versions of The Great Ace Attorney games.

The frustration of this vibrant and engaging prequel coming only to Japan has been felt for a while now and further compounded by western audiences being left high and dry without Ace Attorney games since 2017.

But now we get to see Capcom’s vision for the future of this courtroom drama series. The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles takes you back to 19th century Japan and Britain and introduces you to a somewhat familiar character.

The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles at CDKeys for $33.59

Making a good case

Let’s get the obvious out the way — this is a gorgeous game to look at.

From the fully realised anime cutscenes to the greater levels of character animation and 3D design in the gameplay scenes, every scene is dripping with detail in this unique universe. The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles blends Victorian Britain with Tokugawa-era Japan for a visual feast that is quite unlike anything you’ve seen before.

The graphics pair with a significant improvement to the soundtrack with an orchestral score that injects every moment with a certain energy and immersion to produce a feast for eyes and ears. My only gripe is  an ongoing plea to Capcom to give gamers the option to turn off the dialogue blip.

Nonetheless, this is easily forgiven in the face of an incredible story that grabs you by the scruff of the neck and pulls you into this fascinating world with more intriguing twists than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle could throw at you.

You are Ryunosuke Naruhodo, the ancestral Ace Attorney solving cases in both Japan and London with your team of sidekicks, including the hilariously named Herlock Sholmes. The goal is to deduce, investigate and take cases through a sped-up court system. It makes for a beautiful blend of Eastern and Western cultures with gripping moments and an interesting lore.

With that blend in mind, it’s also worth shining a light on the incredible translation efforts Capcom has undertaken to make this game accessible to a wider audience. Bringing Dai Gyakuten Saiban: Naruhodō Ryūnosuke no Bōken to an English market is not as easy as translating the text.

The Japanese version requires an understanding of history and culture, and there was a risk of losing some of the charm that made the Japanese version so popular.

Instead, the team rescued that charm in ways that are relevant to a western audience. You can read more about the lengths they went to in this fascinating PlayStation Blog piece.

A wealth of evidence

The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles gets you loads of content for your money — both games in this series (Adventures and Resolve) total to 10 cases to solve, a series of eight short stories named escapades, and loads of extras and behind-the-scenes content. Each case took me around 2-3 hours to complete, which makes this package an excellent value at $40 or £30.

However, regardless of the beautifully realised visuals and masterfully written storyline, the sheer amount of content in this bundle may turn some newcomers off who feel like they’re watching one long text-driven cutscene. But if you commit to the cases, you’re in for an intricate treat with some interesting themes.

Objection!

With that length comes a key question for Capcom: how are you going to fill the time? The Ace Attorney formula of moving an icon around a crime scene then interviewing people and throwing objections at witnesses gets a bit repetitive. So what new things were brought to the table?

It all comes down to channeling Sherlock Holmes with your deduction skills. You see, Capcom’s offshoot of the great detective has fun showing off his deductive skills, but he’s not as good as his official counterpart, you. It’s your job to look at bits of proof about a suspect and the scene around them to build their backstory.

Plus, you will be introduced to convincing an entire jury of someone’s crimes. Having to contend with five jurors over one judge does certainly add an interesting new wrinkle to the gameplay structure.

But for all the interesting elements that bring something new to the table, this is still an Ace Attorney game at its core — warts and all. The slow pace of watching the cases unfold entirely in text can get laborious at times, even with the autoplay letting the text scroll automatically so you’re not hammering the A or X button.

These new features clash with the old faithful gameplay tropes, especially in the first three cases, leading to you feeling smothered by meticulous tutorials with too much hand holding. This results in you missing out on the incredible story unfolding before you.

And the worst offender of Ace Attorney’s pacing problems resurfaces — the difficulty after these three cases of hand-holding tutorials shoots up significantly, which left me reaching for the strategy guide to remember one line a character said an hour ago in a conversation that hinted towards the true suspect.

Once you get in your flow and have your brain tuned to master detective levels, it’s a satisfying experience to solve the more tricky cases. Fortunately, Capcom has done a good job of balancing this formula throughout most of the game. Just be aware that you’ll need to bring your A-game from the fourth chapter onward.

Bottom line

The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles pulls double duty of being both a great prequel for newcomers and an excellent game for seasoned pros. You will love the vibrant settings and engaging cast of characters. Capcom has tuned the gameplay formula with the magic of deduction and better courtroom drama. And there are dozens of hours of gameplay, giving you real value for money.

The pacing can slip and the difficulty jumps quite considerably in the end stages, requiring levels of intellect and callback that would even make Sherlock blush, but these are easily forgiven in what is the best Ace Attorney game yet.

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