The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles Preview: New evidence comes to light

The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is finally coming to the West. The package collects both The Great Ace Attorney: Adventures and The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles 2: Resolve. Both games made their debut in Japan on the Nintendo 3DS in 2015. Both games were ported to iOS and Android in 2017. Neither game ever launched outside Japan. Western Ace Attorney fans could only look on with envy. Loose fan translations made the rounds as the games found their way into online ROM hacking communities.

But none of that beats the real thing.

Law and Order: Meiji Era

For fans that haven’t heard of these games before, and there may well be a lot of you, The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles are spinoffs to the main Ace Attorney franchise. Set in the Meiji Era of the late 1800’s, it follows the travails of a young English student (and ancestor of Phoenix Wright) named Ryunosuke Naruhodo. The Meiji Era was a time concurrent with Great Britain’s Victorian Era. Japan’s long-held policy of closing itself off to the rest of the world had recently ended and it was enjoying new trade relations with Great Britain.

The result of this new trade partnership is tourism. British visitors are flocking to the strange new land of Nippon. What interests the Japanese are the Western systems and technologies the British bring with them. Among the systems the Japanese are adapting for themselves is the British legal system. When a British scholar is murdered on Japanese soil, Ryunosuke is wrongly fingered as the culprit. This one awful act, and the simple error that followed it, sets in motion a series of events that will radically alter Japanese justice forever.

The stakes in an Ace Attorney game have never been higher and this is literally the very first case.

Prepare your defence

The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles follows much the same formula as previous games. It plays out in the style of a Japanese visual novel game, which is to say it is a book you occasionally interact with. In the Ace Attorney series, your interactions are in the court room, picking apart witness testimony for inconsistencies and presenting evidence. It’s a game that relies on a lot of reading, but rewards those who can pay close attention throughout. The reward for strong comprehension and attention to detail is a sense of deep satisfaction as you tear the prosecution to shreds.

One point that jumps out right away here is the game’s translation. The Ace Attorney games rank among the best Western localisations ever made. Ace Attorney does what the English translations of Goscinny and Uderzo’s Asterix always did — altering obscure jokes and cultural references, but retaining the winking, punny spirit of the original. The Great Ace Attorney already appears to be succeeding here, with some laugh-out-loud jokes sprinkled throughout the three early game cases we spent time with. Not only are the jokes genuinely good, but the character work is also spot on with all the warmth and heart the series is known for shining through.

New evidence

The one area where previous Ace Attorney localisations fell down was in pretending the games weren’t set in Japan. The original Phoenix Wright trilogy doggedly pretends to be set in the US despite a litany of obvious Japanese locations and cultural touchstones. With diplomatic relations between Japan and Britain being core to the game’s plot, there was no hiding from it this time. The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is a Japanese adventure starring Japanese characters, even in its English localisation, and we love to see it.

One important change I noticed during my preview was the inclusion of a new Auto reader mode. This lets the game roll automatically from one dialogue box to another, meaning you don’t have to constantly press A to proceed. You can set a timer for how long a text box should remain onscreen once all its text is displayed so you have time to read it all. You can still access a History menu for a transcript of the entire conversation if you miss anything.

Put it on the big screen

The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles has such a gorgeous look. If you’ve spent years peering down at a 3DS while playing these games, you’ll be delighted to have it on your TV or larger Switch screen at last. Character models are simple but strikingly beautiful, evoking the anime style that is the series’ hallmark. Each new character you meet is crafted to sear themselves into your memory. From fashion to facial design, nervous tics and interstitial mannerisms, each one is meant to be studied and filed away in your memory.

Having this series on a lovely big screen so you can really appreciate all the subtle beauty of the artwork really made this preview for me. Complete and total treat. Short paragraph on this one, I know. But there are no corollaries to these observations. It’s just gold all the way down.

Final thoughts

From the time I’ve spent with this preview build, it’s clear that this is a smart port. It understands that the material within is already strong and seeks to present it as cleanly and clearly as possible. The Western localisation seems like yet another winner in a series full of them. Its new hero Ryunosuke makes the same instant impression as his future great grandson.

Court is back in session and fans should be very hype indeed.

Preview conducted on Nintendo Switch using an early preview build provided by the publisher.

The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles launches July 27, 2021.

David Smith

David Smith is the former games and technology editor at The AU Review. He has previously written for PC World Australia. You can find him on Twitter at @RhunWords.