The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles preview: The great deduction

The classic "Objection!" in The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles

This Ace Attorney spinoff series shines in its clever twists and turnabouts

The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is only about a month away at this point, bringing two games over in a single collection to the U.S. It can feel a little different at times from the Phoenix Wright-led trial dramas some might normally associate with the Ace Attorney series, with a different protagonist, setting, and time period.

It’s in the smart new additions, as well as expansions of other ideas used in the series, that The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles stand out in its own right. We recently got some early hands-on access from Capcom, and I found myself really enjoying the ways in which this spinoff put twists on the usual Ace Attorney format I was accustomed to.

The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles follows Ryunosuke Naruhodo, a student who discovers a latent talent for observation and legal proceedings, and the judicial assistant Susato Mikotoba, the stern and dedicated back-up that keeps Ryunosuke going through tough times. The two go on a journey of studying and practicing law, taking them from Japan to Great Britain in the process.

A number of other supporting characters pop up, including Ryunosuke’s idealistic friend Kazuma, a legendary English prosecutor, and a legendary detective and the author that chronicles his work. We’ll get to that in a second. All of it takes place during the turn of the century, as new technological advances move civilization forward and the conventions of the old clash with the conveniences and intricacies of the new.

Mysteries in video games have to strike a delicate balance between leading a player in the right direction and challenging them to make deductions on their own. The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles doesn’t lack head-scratchers; there were a few times where I had to pause, take in what I knew—and didn’t know—and try to follow it through to a logical solution.

The Ace Attorney series has often challenged players to deduce and solve crimes from the stand, using a growing stockpile of evidence that twists and turns on itself. Investigations gain a new format of insight in the one and only great detective, Herlock Sholmes. (Yes, Herlock Sholmes, for copyright reasons.) When Sholmes makes one of his Great Deductions, he can oftentimes be a little off the mark, and it’s up to Ryunosuke to get him back on course. 

This commences the Dance of Deduction. It’s an entertainingly dramatic bit of gameplay where Ryunosuke and Sholmes dance around each other, striking poses and snapping their fingers to cast down spotlights that has a little bit of Ghost Trick‘s spirit in it. What it really adds is a feeling of making deductions in the present, while also giving the areas you’re investigating new perspectives and angles. Catching the way a character’s eyes dart towards something they’re trying to hide and then deducing what they’re really looking at, or spotting something they’re trying to subtly conceal on their person, leads to some great “a-ha” moments. And Sholmes is endearing as the well-meaning detective whose thoughts are easily led astray by a tangent, needing Ryunosuke to bring him back on course.

Trials feel more like the Ace Attorney mainline series, though with their own changes. Once the characters are in Great Britain, they must contend with a jury: six jurors sit in attendance, and can cast their vote—represented by a ball of fire—towards guilty or innocent as the trial progresses. If the balance reaches a unanimous guilty vote, it can initiate a Summation Examination.

Here, Ryunosuke can attempt to turn jurors’ incongruous statements on each other, in an effort to sway them to change their votes and continue the trial. Not only does it provide a new avenue for revelations or noticing odd holes in arguments, it’s also more opportunities for an underrated quality of the Ace Attorney series, its characters, to shine. Pitting the jurors against each other can result in minor squabbles and arguments, with some pretty fun results.

It’s also got a great look, and I seriously have to mention the music. The Ace Attorney series has always had great music, and as I wrote this preview, I still had some of the melodies floating through my mind as I was thinking back over it.

My overall feeling from my time with The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is that this is easily meeting the mark for what I’ve wanted out of a new Ace Attorney game. And yes, it’s not quite necessarily “new”—the two games collected in Chronicles have been out in Japan for a while—but it’s new to me, and to a lot of players who have only been following the official localizations of these games.

For them, it feels like there’s going to be a lot here to uncover, deduce, and logic their way through. I’m definitely interested to see how the full game turns out, and how these systems get their own twists and turnabouts throughout the course of the collection. But for now, suffice it to say, The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles left me eager to deduce some more details, solve more mysteries, and win more courtroom face-offs.

Eric Van Allen