Sometimes the prequels feel superfluous, but at best, they feel like a masterstroke. The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is the latest.
As a fan of the main Ace Attorney series, I’ve always written off The Great Ace Attorney. A couple of spin-offs that were previously a Japan-only affair, I found myself inherently less interested in the concept of games disconnected from the main cast and narratives I’d fallen in love with on DS. That’s why I didn’t even yell too much when these releases were never located. Now that they have been, and I have played them, I can raise my hands in an emphatic mea culpa: I was completely wrong.
Chronicles of The Great Ace Attorney it’s interesting for all the reasons it’s different from the rest of the series as much as for all the reasons it’s similar, and in many ways it’s the differences that make it really exciting.
At their core, these are still brave adventure games with one foot in parody and the other in harsh but heartfelt storytelling, but also, these are games about the time they’re set in.
The idea is that Ryunosuke Naruhodo is apparently an ancestor of the current lawyer Phoenix Wright, and this tells his story, also in the law business, at the time when Japan began to open up to the world. As part of this upheaval, Naruhodo finds himself in Victorian England, with a legally distinct Herlock Sholmes from Sherlock Holmes (yes, really) helping him on his adventures.
Basically here is a change in tone and attitude that makes sense for the setting and the time period. Where the main Ace Attorney games are set in a facsimile of the real world, the historical setting in this pair of games gives the writers the opportunity to be surprisingly introspective about Japan’s relationship with burgeoning empires and the country’s role in the game. world both then and now. . There is also the opportunity to examine and critique British culture in the funny and slightly goofy way that you only get when it comes to Britain via Japan, which is generally charming.
The appearance of familiar figures is also interesting. Some are pastiches of actual historical figures, while others are versions of literary characters of the time, including various characters from other Holmes stories. Some of these lands are better than others, but it is nevertheless fascinating to see Ace Attorney’s proprietary charm, even in location, applied to figures we know from elsewhere.
Meanwhile, developers can also use the settings to their own advantage. The legal systems established in modern games were swapped out for a British-style system, and while it doesn’t change the flow of trials too much, it’s a refreshing adjustment that helps these games differentiate themselves.
Similarly, Herlock Sholmes uses all the deductive powers that he is known for in a new system that is analogous to some of the supernatural elements used to open cases in the other games. It works, and again it has its own energy and attitude that feels good for this pack.
In particular, the fact that Sholmes isn’t as good of a consulting detective feels more like a stroke of genius – the way you unravel the mysteries is by listening to his usually wildly incorrect hypothesis and then working to correct it, step by step. . Again, the energy is slightly different from previous games in a way that will be sublime for returning players, but also an improvement over predecessors that might appeal to newcomers – you often feel busier and more compromised in the middle of the case, even if the plot isn’t generally as strong as the original trilogy.
Being a spin-off somehow frees the series from some of its localization weaknesses established in the first titles of the series. In the West, it is known that these games have not been able to decide at all if they are set in the United States or Japan; the first game localized as if it were in America, while the later ones had elements that made it impossible to maintain that illusion. Here, the game is blatantly Japanese, and the characters from Japan have appropriate names and such. The clean break is also helpful in this regard.
However, my favorite character in the game is Naruhodo himself. His characterization is well-played, the best of the bunch in an already excellent location, and it’s hard not to cheer him on and fall in love with him the same way he did for Wright. It would be easy to play this cheap ‘ancestor’ thing and just make it Wright in a period costume, but it’s not. He’s his own character, and one that I really enjoyed spending time with.
In fact, I’ve enjoyed my entire time with The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles thus far. I haven’t completed it at the time of writing, I’m about a game and a half away in the two-game pack, but it’s already quietly creeping into the list of my favorite games of 2021. Going back to these types of games is like receive a warm and lovely hug. It’s different enough to regular Ace Attorney games to feel like something new, but also close enough that it ignites similar confusion in me, and I love it.