With The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles, two entries in the series are finally being brought to the West. Capcom's courtroom visual novels are a real treat with their melodramatic legal battles, charming characters, and zany writing. While PlayStation users became acquainted with the franchise via the Phoenix Wright Trilogy, the upcoming duo takes you back in time, introducing a whole new cast at the turn of the 20th century.
It's a fresh start, in other words. During our time with early hands on access, we met Ryunosuke Naruhodo, protagonist of The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles and direct ancestor of the spiky-haired lawyer we all know and love. Set during the early 1900s, the game opens with Ryunosuke in hot water — accused of killing an English professor visiting his legal academy in Japan. This first case in the game has him defending himself as you're shown the ropes of the series' signature courtroom proceedings. With best friend Kazuma Asogi offering advice, you'll quickly figure out that this is a very familiar duo of games, albeit with some interesting gameplay additions.
Like other games in the series, The Great Ace Attorney duology employs a familiar structure. Each episode splits your time between investigating crime scenes and speaking with the people involved, and the courtroom, where you defend your client by finding inconsistencies in arguments and testimonies with conflicting evidence. It mostly plays out like a visual novel, but there are moments of greater agency, such as searching locations for clues or examining objects. Even though these games are never particularly challenging, the cycle remains satisfying and compelling. The characterful writing, intriguing mysteries, and larger-than-life personalities you encounter do a lot of work to keep you hooked, and that remains true here.
There are new features in both the investigation and courtroom phases of each episode, however, that prevent the game from being too similar. You'll encounter Herlock Sholmes (not a typo), a famed detective who will aid you in certain cases. During investigations, he might conduct a Dance of Deduction, in which he describes what he thinks happened and how. As you might expect, there are some flaws in his statements, and you need to go through what he said and set right any of his questionable conclusions.
In the English court of the Old Bailey, you not only have to contend with the prosecutor and their witnesses, but also the jury. Six impartial people listen to all the courtroom banter and decide whether the defendant is guilty or not. If they all settle on a guilty verdict, you'll need to do a Summation Examination. This sequence has you asking each juror why they think your client is guilty. After hearing their statements, you'll need to use their words against them to find holes in their logic. If one juror contradicts another, this can be used as ammunition to help get them back on your side.
Neither of these new features meaningfully alter the gameplay, but they do add some wrinkles to the usual ebb and flow of Ace Attorney. What better helps sell The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles as something new is the cast, the time period, the setting, and visual differences. Taking the formula to Victorian London enables some great new cases, and combined with 3D presentation, more animated characters, and some lovely 2D cutscenes, this feels very much like its own thing. Fans will see all the similarities, of course. As well as the tried and tested gameplay, the over-the-top nature of the franchise is still here — the jury sends flames into an enormous set of scales representing innocent vs. guilty, for instance. Basically, this is more of the same lovable legal nonsense, just with a refreshingly new (old?) context.
The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles comes to PlayStation 4 on 27th July. Are you looking forward to it? Present your evidence in the comments section below.