Back in July 2015, The Great Ace Attorney was released in Japan on the 3DS, published by Capcom, followed by a sequel in August 2017. Now, releasing internationally for the first time, Ace Attorney fans will have the opportunity to play both titles on the Nintendo Switch, PC, and PS4 in English packaged together as The Great Ace Attorney: Chronicles. The first has been titled The Great Ace Attorney: Adventures, whilst the second is The Great Ace Attorney 2: Resolve. Gamereactor was provided with early hands-on access to the Switch version of the game for preview purposes.
As a spin-off entry to the prolific series, The Great Ace Attorney: Chronicles is wholly unique, being set during Japan's Meiji period, or England's Victorian period, contrasting with other games in the series, set in a vague now. You play as an ancestor of series protagonist Phoenix Wright, Ryunosuke Naruhodo, a young lawyer who strikingly resembles his descendant in both appearance and behaviour. He's helped along the way by his assistant, Susato Mikotoba, his best friend and fellow lawyer Kazuma Asogi, and many more, including the coincidentally named Herlock Sholmes. Sound familiar?
Gameplay-wise, The Great Ace Attorney: Adventures (the first of the two titles included in Chronicles) is very similar to the main series and won't exactly be a new experience for series veterans, but I'll explain in brief anyway. The game is divided into two distinct sections: trials, set in the courtroom, and investigations, which are set outside of the courtroom. During trials you have to defend your client by finding contradictions in the testimonies of witnesses with evidence, eventually attempting to find your client innocent. During investigations, you wander around in a sort of point-and-click format to find evidence, talk to witnesses and other characters, and other things.
Compared to the main series, however, there are some distinct gameplay differences. In the early cases, we had the chance to play, examining evidence was far more prominent than it has ever been, and the player is encouraged to rotate and zoom in on specific parts of each piece, resulting in new revelations. In cases set in England, there is also a jury, which once fully decided in one direction - six individuals must all choose either guilty or not guilty - results in the trial ending. When on the cusp of a guilty verdict, Naruhudou gets the opportunity to question the jury's reasoning, giving the chance to allow the trial to continue in a way similar to the game's cross-examinations.
Having multiple witnesses on the stand at once also returns as a mechanic, originally present in the cross-over title Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. Whilst pressing one witness, another witness may react to what they say, allowing you to pursue this reaction to progress.
Finally, Joint Reasoning is a new mechanic present in investigations, in which Naruhoudou works with Sholmes to correct his reasoning, allowing for new paths to the truth to form.
Graphically, The Great Ace Attorney: Chronicles is exceptional, with the backgrounds during investigations being beautifully detailed, and the animations for each character being incredibly expressive and comical, fitting the game's tone perfectly. Some textures are a little rough around the edges, perhaps a characteristic of being a port of two 3DS titles.
The soundtrack so far fits perfectly, carrying the spirit of the Ace Attorney series whilst making the olden day setting clear, focusing on chamber music and live instrumentation. Music has always been one of the Ace Attorney series' strong points, and The Great Ace Attorney: Adventures isn't an exception to this.
To round off, talking a little about the cases themselves. As The Great Ace Attorney: Chronicles is an entirely story-based game, I'll neglect to go into specifics about each case, but it's worth noting the uniqueness of each scenario put forward so far, and the stakes presented in each case are the highest they've ever been. Unlike the other Ace Attorney spinoffs - the Investigations games and Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - an entirely new cast and setting is established, and this is done incredibly well.
The Great Ace Attorney: Chronicles releases on PC, Nintendo Switch, and PS4 on July 27th.