No OBJECTIONS here – Ace Attorney is back, and it’s greater than ever!
I’m willing to bet you just heard that in your head. It’s quite impressive that a single word can become so closely associated with a particular videogame series, though that has been the case for almost 20 years. Ever since the very first appearance of the titular spiky-haired rookie lawyer in 2001, the word “OBJECTION!” almost always brings to mind an image of Phoenix Wright with an outstretched arm.
It wasn’t until a remake on the Nintendo DS in 2005 that the series first made its way to Western shores, gaining cult status thanks to its clever courtroom combat, plentiful puns, and colourful cast of characters. Ever since, there has been no denying the important role that Ace Attorney has played as an integral part of videogame subculture.
However, in 2015, the series took a big step backwards… in time!
A series once set in modern day
Japan America ( ramen burgers, anyone?) would instead change its setting drastically to 19th century Victorian-era London at the turn of the century. This was an era where modern day law was beginning to come to fruition; political ties between the East and the West were new-founded and unsteady. Of course, a new setting called for a new protagonist, a young man by the name of Ryunosuke Naruhodo, also known as The Great Ace Attorney.
This new direction for the series eluded players in the West for many years, having been available only in Japan since its launch on the 3DS. Thankfully, fans from all over the world finally have the opportunity to experience this new courtroom adventure for the very first time in The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and PC. This new release is technically a remaster and translation of the 3DS games, including both the original and its sequel in a single package and directed by the legendary Shu Takumi, creator of the original trilogy.
So now the debate: is the game great and worth the wait, or is it riddled with imperfections worthy of your objections? Well, court is now in session, so as a member of the gallery please sit quietly and observe as we begin the trial of The Great Ace Attorney: Adventures.
This is Ace Attorney but not as you know it – wind the clock back just over 100 years to the turn of the 19th century in Japan. Recent treaties formed between the Empire of Japan and the powerful force of Great Britain are built on unsteady ground, with the influence of England’s judicial system slowly affecting its allied countries. Slowly finding his feet in an advancing landscape is a young law student by the name of Kazuma Asogi, a valiant samurai of the law who in only his second year of study is widely recognised as a prodigy. Having earned a scholarship to study law abroad in Great Britain, Kazuma’s illustrious career awaits him on distant shores.
However, his closest friend and fellow student, Ryunosuke Naruhodo, has found himself in a difficult situation. Having been accused of the murder of a British scholar, Naruhodo has no choice but to defend himself in court with the aid of his close friend, Kazuma. The fate of this case will decide Kazuma’s future and even impact the newly-established relationship between these two great nations.
Fast forward two months and Naruhodo now finds himself living in the sprawling industrial metropolis of London, investigating mysteries as they unravel around him. After a chance encounter with a legendary detective by the name of Herlock Sholmes, the Lord Chief Justice of London tasks the young Japanese student with a murder case of his very own. A trial by fire against esteemed prosecutor, Barok van Zieks, known across the city as the Reaper of the Bailey. And so this young attorney’s journey begins.
Those familiar with the objection-flinging gameplay of Ace Attorney will feel right at home on the streets of London and within the great halls of its prestigious courtroom, The Old Bailey. This investigative visual novel is the exact style of game of its predecessors, and even after 20 years manages to deliver an experience as polished as a Londoner’s boot that’s been shined by a street cretin. Newcomers will have no trouble at all diving right into this standalone title, which is divided into three distinct styles of gameplay: Investigation, Deduction and Trials.
Investigation sequences are a key aspect of the game’s storytelling, as the player takes control of Ryunosuke Naruhodo prior to his courtroom appearances. Vital information must be obtained through several different means: closely analysing crime scenes, discussing events with witnesses and other key persons, and obtaining key evidence to be presented in court. This is most similar to a point & click game, where hovering over an area of interest will trigger a sequence of dialogue and further the investigation. Players must converse with a colourful cast of characters, some of whom are tight-lipped and unwilling to part with their valuable information. That is, until, you confront them with logic & reasoning spectacular!
Deduction is a new gameplay element introduced in The Great Ace Attorney, all thanks to the legendary detective Herlock Sholmes, who is famous for his series of investigative novels. Sadly, his wit does not match his fame, as he is prone to making numerous mistakes in his deductions. During these short sequences, the player watches Sholmes create theories as they fall apart around him. It is the task of Naruhodo to patch these theories back together to form a logical deduction. This is achieved through key observations, whereby the player must pay close attention to aspects of each character and their environment. These segments are incredibly amusing, and help to cleverly piece together each crime scene.
Trials, as most of you are aware, are the real meat and potatoes of an Ace Attorney game. These dramatised courtroom sequences are thrilling battles of wit where the player must face off head-to-head against a terrifying prosecutor who is armed to the teeth with evidence. Close attention must be paid to every line of dialogue and each character’s action, as every snippet of information can be used in defence. Five chances are given to Naruhodo as even the finest lawyers make mistakes; once these chances are exhausted, a guilty verdict is reached.
However, unlike most Ace Attorney games, this time the scales of justice may be tipped by members of the jury. This group of six individuals must be persuaded, as it is their verdict that decides the innocence or guilt of the accused. Evidence is carefully presented, witnesses cross-examined to reveal contradictions and unravel lies, and members of the jury even pitted against one-another. This is the most satisfying, nail-biting aspect of any Ace Attorney game, and is certainly still the case in this entry. Nothing can match the thrill of cleverly unravelling a testimony, solving the mystery of a key piece of evidence, and then flinging it in the face of the prosecution as “OBJECTION!” echoes throughout the courtroom.
Though its visual style is distinct, Ace Attorney has never been a series known for its ground-breaking or technically-impressive graphics. In fact, most of the visuals of each game focuses on the characters around which each case revolves. While the static backgrounds and courtrooms of London might appear simple and plain, the people you’ll encounter and work alongside are anything but! Each character is distinct, with particular comical attributes that make them easily noticeable and give away details about their underlying interests or background.
Stereotypes are heavily incorporated into the game’s character design. While it is true that racial stereotypes are often controversial, no series portrays them with better visual humour than Ace Attorney. Take for example the characters hailing from Japan, who have a distinct Eastern flare, sporting traditional dress like kimono or hakama and wield katana at their sides. In contrast, characters from the European regions are adorned with dapper suits, well-groomed moustaches, or might go about their daily business while wielding a cone of fish & chips instead.
There is, however, one important aspect of the Great Ace Attorney where its visuals truly are eye-catching: the animations. Where the series began with sprites and static animations, Great Ace Attorney has fully-animated characters from beginning to end to capture their unique personalities and ridiculous antics. And it’s not just pointing fingers and slamming on desks either! Some of the most amusing and impressive animations are those of the supporting cast, and help to emphasise their absurd character designs all while looping seamlessly.
Worth noting too that there are occasional animated cutscenes throughout the Adventure, which either appear in an anime style, or unfold like an animated Sherlock Holmes picture book. Each of these are stylish and a pleasure to watch, but are sadly few and far between.
Like the game’s visuals, its music too is divided between the East and the West, and at times even blends these vastly different cultures. For court cases that take place in Japan or characters with ties to the country, their themes often utilise traditional instruments like koto and shamisen, accompanied by the iconic rhythms of the taiko drum. Here’s an example of one of the most Japan-influenced songs in the game, the theme for a samurai of the courtroom.
These cultural differences in music are made even more obvious when Naruhodo is plunged into the midst of London, a bustling city at the forefront of global development. Instead of sounds of his familiar home, songs feature orchestras of emotive strings, twanging harpsichord, and melodic accordion. It’s a phenomenal soundtrack full of variety with style in every single track. I’d happily discuss the entire discography here, but instead here’s the one theme everyone wants to hear in an Ace Attorney game: the Objection theme!
Where the soundtrack truly shines though, the voiceovers are a slight disappointment. Although the player can easily swap between English/Japanese audio at any time, voiced cutscenes are rare. Most of the dialogue is presented as a series of beeps, which has been the case since the very first game in the series. Despite being tradition among Ace Attorney games, I can’t help but think this is outdated and would have loved to hear more voiced dialogue other than an interjection of “OBJECTION!” or “HOLD IT!” every now and then.
In addition to the five episodes available as part of the first game, players are also rewarded with a vast assortment of extra content which can be accessed at any time. This ranges from character concept art (with notes from the designers), to additional stories and court cases, a full audio library of music with notes on each song (and even songs that were unused in the final game), and even DLC outfits that can be used in the sequel. There are numerous hours of extra content here for fans to explore, which is a welcome addition and feels like perusing an interactive artbook.
Despite being played on a Nintendo console, there are also an array of achievements that players can unlock throughout progression of the game. These can be as simple as triggering certain optional dialogue scenes, or even completing a court case and coming out unscathed! Completionists out there may use this as motivation to play through each episode multiple times.
In case you haven’t realised already, I’m a bit of an Ace Attorney fan, having followed the series from its inception. That is why I can say with confidence that The Great Ace Attorney is undoubtedly one of the finest entries in this iconic series. Series veterans will be awash with nostalgia through every creative court case, especially thanks to the return of the brilliant mind of Shu Takumi, who is responsible for the creation of Phoenix Wright.
Despite being a new game in a pre-established series, newcomers will not at all feel out of place in the courtroom as this is an entirely standalone experience and can be enjoyed without any need to play previous games. Over the course of this 30+ hour journey, players will piece together a fascinating story, meet many memorable characters, and put their wit to the test in the name of justice. So TAKE THAT Nintendo Switch, HOLD IT, and get The Great Ace Attorney downloading post-haste. The game is afoot!
So, why should you play it?
- You’re a fan of previous Ace Attorney games.
- Murder and investigations are up your alley.
- Looking for a game with a great sense of humour? Look no further.
- Excellent presentation, setting, and memorable characters.
- Standalone experience that is welcoming to newcomers.
But why shouldn’t you play it?
- Very dialogue heavy. If you don’t like reading, you won’t like this.
- Requires constant thought and attention.
A review code on Nintendo Switch was provided for the purpose of this review.