Do you love Victorian London, complete with horse-drawn carts, an untempered adoration of the Queen, and the Great British Empire? Well, do we have the games for you! Set in the age of unchecked imperialism, colonialism and other fun elements, we join defence attorney and ancestor of Phoenix Wright, Ryunosuke Naruhodo. He finds himself on a study trip to good ol’ Blighty to learn the legal systems of the country, but soon ends up embroiled in a sequence of increasingly desperate legal situations.
The biggest strength of the Ace Attorney games has always been the writing, and this remastered and localised duology does not disappoint. There’s a lot of comedy to be found here, and the writing is still sharp, referential and often hilarious. There’s also a lot of intrigue set up right from the first few cases that unfolds throughout the following chapters, and the pay off for the various mysteries in these two games feels far greater than most of the series with plenty of surprise twists along the way.
As with a lot of the games in the series, The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles opens with a day in court, and a day that should feel very familiar to veterans. You have a remarkably familiar prosecutor, a judge, a courtroom ally for the defence, and you. This plays out largely how you would expect, with witnesses being brought in to give testimonies about the crime in question and you being required to show evidence from the court record to expose inconsistencies.
This isn’t to say that there’s nothing new in these proceedings, as events will happen in this chapter that will be fundamentally important going forward. This case introduces the idea of multiple people on the witness stand at once, allowing you to look across to the other witnesses during the testimonies. While cross-examining these groups you need to watch for reactions from other characters on the witness stand to uncover further clues to aid you. However, the biggest changes come once you get to Great Britain.
Once in the UK, you’ll be dealing with a different legal system. The fundamentals of exposing inconsistencies remain, but with the twist that you have to convince a jury of your client’s innocence. Throughout the proceedings, the jury will put their opinions forward and hammer the counter in front of them sending a flame hurtling into scales behind them. If it falls too far on one side, the case ends.
The jury are fickle and will change their minds based on the information available, meaning that the balance is constantly shifting throughout each trial. Also, if you reach a point where the balance is almost entirely against you, you have the opportunity to interrogate the jury on their reasoning. Find inconsistencies with the facts of the case here, and you have another opportunity to turn the tables in your favour.
All of these newer elements combine with the core mechanics of the game to create a more frenetic feel to the courtroom battles than has been seen previously in the series. Even if they have the same linear paths through that the series has always had, things feel far more fluid. There’s still only one set of solutions, but this genuinely gives the impression of an intense fight every time.
We also have to praise the new prosecutor, van Zieks, who is coldly calculated, infinitely intimidating, and has their own set of mysteries around them that are a joy to uncover. Oh, and his penchant for throwing chalices of red wine into fire to make a point is peak character design. We won’t be taking questions on this.
When you’re not in the courtroom, you will be in investigation segments, where you uncover evidence to use in the trials and information about the current case. You do this by moving from place to place, examining the area with the magnifying glass, talking to characters and presenting them evidence to uncover as many clues as possible before jumping into the courtroom. It can be a little frustrating to work out the specific order you need to complete this investigation, but as long as you’re paying attention the next story point is generally clear.
By far the best addition to the game is the Great Deduction segments during investigations, where you and Ryunosuke go head-to-head with the oddly familiar Herlock Sholmes. The detective will make a series of deductions about the current situation you’re in, as a means of uncovering the truth, but there’s always a few problems with what he’s concluded. This leads to you taking these mostly correct deductions and looking around to find the correct solutions.
These, like the courtroom sections, have a wonderful back and forth to them that is just so satisfying to witness. Like other sections of the game, you only have a certain amount of strikes before you fail, but if you pay attention to the clues here, it’s difficult to mess it up. In fact, it’s a testament to the writing in these segments that not only are the Sholmes’ deductions (mostly) logical within the facts of the case, but your tweaks to fix them also make perfect sense.
It’s evident almost immediately how far this series has come in terms of visuals. All of the character designs are stunning, especially those of the main cast like Herlock. The locations have so many more little details in them than previous games in the series, and Victorian London is beautifully realised complete with some of the most British characters possible. Honestly, some of the people in this world as just shy of a Dickens cast sheet.
The sound effects are largely what you would expect, with all of the sounds of slamming desks and that instantly recognisable confirm sound present and accounted for, but the soundtrack excels in bringing a more period specific and classical slant to the series. Personal favourites of include the themes of both Herlock and Wilson – completely different in tone and yet perfectly portray the characters in question.
The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles has all the hallmarks of the Ace Attorney series, with excellent characters and brilliant writing through the duology’s ten cases, but there’s some clever flourishes that make the story and gameplay far more interesting and enjoyable. The only objection we have is that it took far too long for these excellent Victorian adventures to reach the West!