The Great Ace Attorney 1 & 2 Review

Milo Shenn, Staff Writer

Originally released in 2014, with a sequel released 3 years later, The Great Ace Attorney Adventures and The Great Ace Attorney 2: Resolve have both finally been released outside of Japan in a compilation this summer. Being essentially two newly released games in a long-running series, many fans were already eager to purchase them. This review will remain spoiler-free for the two games until a specified section, which may contain spoilers for the first three games in the series.

Stepping into the shoes of Ryunosuke Naruhodo, a Japanese law student and ancestor of series protagonist Phoenix Wright, you begin a study trip to Victorian England. Throughout your trip, you pursue several cases in court, with the investigative help of great detective Herlock Sholmes, and uncover the true culprits while your defendant is declared innocent.  

The core gameplay loop of the series remains familiar, with minor changes. The games will still have you investigating and collecting evidence before using it to find contradictions in witness testimonies in the courtroom. Two of the three main changes to the general structure are found in the trial segments. Now, witness testimonies can allow for multiple witnesses to take the stand at once. It’s not uncommon for two or three to be present at once. This adds the ability to question a witness who is reacting to the testimony of another, often being necessary to progress the cross-examination. The second of these changes is the Summation Examination. Occasionally during a trial, the newly added jury will find the defendant guilty. To keep the trial going, you have to change the verdict of four out of six of the jurors. To do this, you have to change their minds by pitting the logic of different jurors against each other, which can lead to more interesting gameplay that leads to comparing statements with each other instead of evidence.

The third change to the formula is found in the investigation segments, where, once a case, you join Herlock Sholmes in a “Logic and Reasoning Spectacular”. One of these will typically start with Sholmes making a ridiculous assumption based on “evidence” before you correct him and deduce the actual truth. These take advantage of the 3D engine and strong animation to create memorable sequences.

Aside from the Logic and Reasoning Spectacular, the animation in the game is overall incredible. Everyone has much more additional character expressed through their animations. The breakdown of the culprits when they get finally cornered and are unable to lie their way out of the crime are even more satisfying with how dynamic they can be. The rest of the game’s presentation is incredible as well, with well-designed characters that are all memorable, and incredible music that all manages to feel completely period-appropriate.

The characters also deserve praise. As the protagonist, Ryunosuke Naruhodo manages to both serve as a unique character and vessel for the player. His judicial assistant, Susato Mikotoba, plays off him well and allows for funny exchanges between the two. Herlock Sholmes is a new and interesting take on a famous character, although he is the reason the game had yet to be sold outside of Japan until a few months ago due to legal issues, as is his adopted daughter, Iris. Barok van Zieks, a prosecutor and primary opponent in court for the player, is also a strong character with his own unique mannerisms. All the characters that appear as witnesses or defendants are likable as well, with some notable ones being acclaimed Japanese author Soseki Natsume and ambitious scientist Albert Harebrayne.

The following section will contain spoilers for the game, so to skip it click here.

Spoilers/Story Section

One thing that had stood out to me in the first game of the two was the simplicity of the cases. The exact events that transpire in them aren’t incredibly complex, being overall simple crimes consisting of a few main events, a far cry from some of the convoluted series of events in the mainline games. This instead puts more focus on the evidence and testimonies you have to dissect and find the truth in. What helps this is also that all the cases are a single day, as opposed to the up to three in the first game and two in the following ones, which makes the events feel more cohesive and creates a more constant flow of slowly uncovering the truth. Comparatively, the second game is more comparable to the mainline series, with body doubles and corpses being relocated akin to the flying bodies and staged versions of a crime. The second game also has multiple-day cases, which did make the cases feel like they dragged on somewhat, as the first day would often be fairly inconsequential. The one case that uses all its time well is the final one.

The case is initially simple and heavily incriminating for your defendant. He was found in a near-empty room with a police detective’s body holding a pistol after several witnesses heard a gunshot. However, you prove that the gunshot could’ve been faked and, after a cross-examination of more witnesses, show that the case has much more beneath the surface. The day ends with you proving that one of the witnesses who found the defendant disguised himself as the victim a day earlier to pretend to conduct an investigation, but was also himself disguised, his true identity being a man who has been reported as missing for the past two days. The second day continues with you following a few more leads until you eventually run out of options until you get in contact with Sholmes, who is already prepared for a spur-of-the-moment investigation. After catching a suspect who was about to leave the country, the trial for the day concludes. The next day involves catching him for his crime and uncovering the conspiracy behind it. The strongest part about this case, which is split into two chapters, is how it builds upon the main story throughout the two games. Every case, with the exception of one in the first game, holds some relevance to the overarching plot, even if it’s only a minor clue. This adds to creating a sense of cohesion throughout both games as if it’s all building up to a massive climax. Previous games in the series, while having some important details, all feel more like a collection of smaller stories with an overarching plot in the background. In The Great Ace Attorney, the overarching plot is brought to the forefront, leaving you to piece all the details together. However, one consequence this can have is making the second game feel like it relies too heavily on the first game, at least at the beginning. This works both ways, as the first game isn’t really a complete story either. Despite this, these issues faded with more progress in the second game, and the story made excellent use of both games.

One of the more interesting aspects of the game is how it portrays Victorian Britain. Early in the game, I felt that the depiction of Britain was off. What I later realized was that the main times this criticism was applicable was either before the characters had arrived in England or before they had spent much time there. You initially view it through the eyes of these characters who see it as great and incredible, since that’s what the vision of England that was shared across the world. When they experience it for themselves, its true nature becomes more apparent. Racism against the main characters is a common occurrence in the games, but it’s not the only structural issue of the times that is confronted. Corruption in the government and class issues are also somewhat prevalent in the two games. It manages to provide a sufficient critique of the era alongside the game’s main story


Final Review

Overall, the games are both strong experiences that work well together and individually. They manage to innovate on the rest of the series but still feel familiar to the main games. With strong characters and an excellent story, they both manage to provide a memorable experience, which is why I’d recommend the game to anyone with an interest in mysteries, the time period, or the rest of the series.