The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles – a return to the series

The Great Ace Attorney was originally released in Japan back in 2015 for the Nintendo 3DS. It was directed by Shu Takumi, who also directed the original GBA trilogy, as well as Apollo Justice on the DS. The mainline games would be directed by a new team after Apollo Justice, while Takumi moved to this spinoff. Suffice to say, this is already a great hype point if you’re a fan of the original trilogy.

However, for one reason or another, it was never localized, making it the second Ace Attorney game (at the time) to never make it outside of Japan. There’s a pretty solid fan translation that was completed in 2019, but nothing official.

But now, we finally have an official localization of the game, and it’s remastered! And, it also includes The Great Ace Attorney 2, which was also never localized and never even got a complete fan translation. Thus, this was the first game in several years that I purchased and started playing on day one.

This duology is a little bit like a soft reboot of the series. It’s not an actual reboot in the sense that the mainline series kept going, but rather it has all the traits of the mainline games, has the same director, but has a completely new cast of characters. The more I played it, the more I felt like this is actually a really solid entry point into the series because of that. I thought there would be more references to the mainline games, but it was actually mostly self contained.

I haven’t started the second game yet though, so these are my thoughts on The Great Ace Attorney 1.

Note: Ace Attorney is a heavily story driven game series, so there will be no story discussions/spoilers in this blog post.

I found the animations of The Great Ace Attorney to be really smooth and endearing (and sometimes annoying). I particularly noticed this because the 3D models of Dual Destinies (2013) on the 3DS felt pretty awkward. It seemed like they were using 3D models to emulate the 2D sprites rather than treating the 3D models as just 3D models. I took a short look at some scenes from the non-remastered The Great Ace Attorney (2015) and it looked quite good there too, but I think the remaster to Switch really polished it up.

As usual, the series keeps up its tradition of having interesting and quirky side characters. This game has all of the absurd and over the top designs and personalities you’d expect from an Ace Attorney game. The crazy designs are especially detailed and “extra” in this game too because of the higher quality graphics,

An Englishwoman from Case 1.
His outfit is plain, but his headband perpetually blows in the non-existent wind and he wears a katana in the courthouse.

I was definitely really hesitant about the new cast of characters, not because I thought that these guys would be bad, but because I have such a strong attachment to the characters in the original trilogy. I was pleasantly surprised. I still think the main character is just “okay”, but I really like all the other main characters.

I really like Susato, who is your main partner in the game. Basically she fulfills the role of Maya/Trucy/etc. but she’s actually a legal assistant instead of some random friend (no offence to Maya/etc.). She’s smart and insightful, and also feels more helpful due to the new quality of life additions such as a note in the location menu to signal that you should check certain locations again. I also just think she’s cute and I like her personality and endearing animations.

One big highlight of this game on the internet, the marketing material, and even from Takumi himself is “Herlock Sholmes”. Presumably they couldn’t get the rights to the Sherlock Holmes name or something? Or maybe this is just a classic Ace Attorney goofy pun name or something.

A locked room mystery, and a twist on The Adventure of the Speckled Band from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. All of the cases are named in the style of Sherlock Holmes stories.

Sholmes’ gameplay gimmick is also easily my favorite in this game. Basically the idea is that Sholmes is really good at making deductive observations (a la Holmes), but is terrible at actually arriving at the right conclusion, so you go in and correct them for him.

Personally, I wasn’t a huge fan of the jury system – the summation examination, which is the other major gameplay mechanic they added in. I found most, if not all, of the jurors to be unlikable and frustrating. 

In terms of overall gameplay and structure, this game is sort of a strange one for the series. Basically I’m referring to the fact that Case 1 was a trial only case, Case 2 was an investigation only case, and Case 3 was also trial only. 

Usually the first case is a trial only for the tutorial, but the second and third have a mixture of both. When I say both I mean they have the gameplay loop of investigate -> go to trial with what you found -> gain new information in court -> investigate some more -> back to trial.

The fact that case 2 was entirely me going around a ship for clues, and case 3 was entirely me in court, they both just felt like they dragged on forever. I don’t think the two cases are any longer than the second and third case of the other games, but it feels longer because there’s no breaks in between one form of gameplay and the other.

To be honest, I went through the game a lot slower than anticipated because of that. I was almost feeling burnt out after only case 3 because it just felt never ending. I thought case 4 would be “normal” but it ended up being one investigation part followed by one long trial day (or at least that’s how it felt). Case 5 was the same. I really wasn’t a fan of the pacing in this game.

All in all, The Great Ace Attorney is definitely not one of my favorites in the series, but I still really enjoyed it for what it was.

As a side note for the end of this post, there is a really amazing interview with one of the translators of the game. There’s some really interesting tidbits here about how she collected late 19th century dictionaries to only use words that existed in British English during that era, as well as how the Japanese characters will switch from Mr/Miss to -san when speaking in English vs Japanese. Highly recommend checking it out if that kind of stuff interests you at all.

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