The Great Ace Attorney: Adventures | Developer: Capcom | Publisher: Capcom | Year: 2015
The Great Ace Attorney: Adventures is a well-written and beautifully presented visual novel which lacks the dramatic highs its famous series is known for.
The Great Ace Attorney: Adventures cover art featuring characters from the game.

The Great Ace Attorney: Adventures

After six mainline games and numerous spin-offs, players would be forgiven for thinking nothing new could be done with the Ace Attorney series. However, The Great Ace Attorney: Adventures rose to the challenge by reimagining the world of Phoenix Wright in a Victorian setting featuring new characters and a storyline too big for just one game.

When Capcom ported an English version of this former Nintendo 3DS exclusive to PC, they bundled in its sequel (The Great Ace Attorney: Resolve) to create a 70+ hour odyssey billed as The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles. My review is based on this version, although aside from some heavily compressed music — which is a shame considering how good the soundtrack is otherwise — this remains a snazzy package built on the same 3D engine Capcom created for Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies.

Don’t get me wrong: this is absolutely a barebones port. There are no graphics options, and even exiting the program is fiddly. But seeing as the main activity is reading, a lack of technical enhancement isn’t a big issue.

The Great Ace Attorney: Adventures occupies the first five chapters of this compilation. Players take on the role of Phoenix Wright’s ancestor, Ryunosuke Naruhodo. After tragedy strikes during his journey to England, protagonist Naruhodo team ups with his legal assistant, Susato Mikotoba, and a private investigator called Herlock Sholmes (really!), to navigate London’s courtrooms and defend several suspicious clients from a ruthless prosecutor.

The first case is a good introduction for players new to the Ace Attorney series. Naruhodo is a blank slate to begin with; he’s a budding defence lawyer with a lot to learn, and the game’s tutorials will help like-minded players get acquainted with pressing witnesses and presenting evidence. Veteran players will already be comfortable because the series formula remains largely untouched.

The writers take a cue from Professor Layton by appropriating as much “Britishness” as possible. The script is awash with Cockney slang, whether it’s characters calling out, “me old mucker” or pleading, “Ya gotta let us ‘ave a rabbit an’ pork ere guvnor!”

Even though the game isn’t voice acted, you get a genuine sense of these accents, exaggerated as they are, and it’s no different when characters hailing from other parts of the world start showing up as well. Colourful characters and a humorous script are happily enforced hallmarks:

“You put candles…on a cake?! Was it some kind of devil-worship?”

“Pray forgive the discourtesy of flinging the dregs of this hallowed nectar into the public gallery.”

“Please, I don’t rub shoulders with…with..death-bringers!”

Capcom didn’t shy away from writing English characters who are racist and classist either (although they do go overboard with this theme at times). Several effective callbacks and character traits take on a life of their own. Whether it’s Naruhodo’s apparent obsession with wardrobes, Susato and her impromptu Aikido moves, or Herlock Sholmes’ worrying quirk for part-time blackmail, the writing here feels closer to the core series than it has in other spin-offs.

While the first case starts off well, it ends prematurely and features a lot of material players have seen before. The Great Ace Attorney: Adventures has roughly 35 hours of content, and that’s not even counting some of the PC version’s bonus episodes. Yet even with all that time to work with, several cases have flat endings and unresolved story threads, presumably to be addressed in the sequel.

The second case is the weakest, and it’s here that the game starts to feel long and uneventful despite introducing a new deduction gimmick. Great deductions try to inject more drama into the investigation phase by getting players to identify anomalies in 3D scenes. They’re extremely basic though, and bring the pace to a standstill in almost every instance. Case 2 is also the only time where an Ace Attorney game cuts out the courtroom phase completely, which is a dumbfounding move to say the least. The deductions aren’t a terribly fresh concept, and they’re again governed by a pointless lives system, which is annoying because Capcom already solved that problem in Dual Destinies.

The jury system and multi-witness testimonies first seen in Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney are brought over to create dynamic courtroom scenes. That’s good. New mechanics are regularly introduced, with a DNA gimmick (shades of Discworld Noir) appearing in the final case, along with some of those “magic eye” puzzles that don’t seem to make sense without the stereoscopic functions of the Nintendo 3DS.

I’m not sure the deduction gimmick suits Ryu’s fresh-faced character, but he’s a fun guy to play as otherwise, even if he has (naturally) an overly similar attitude to Phoenix Wright. Susato is presented as a competent spirit, and Herlock Sholmes expresses himself in a way that feels authentic to the legendary character of fiction he’s based on, especially since he lifts some of Arthur Conan Doyle’s words near verbatim.

Even so, the Judge isn’t as funny this time around (for shame!), and seeing the same character getting accused of murder twice in a row also felt disappointingly unoriginal. The twists there were too similar to the “Turnabout Sisters” case from the original Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, only by having so blatant a reference, The Great Ace Attorney suffers the same criticisms of that older case whilst damaging its own identity in the process.

Ultimately though, the biggest problem is the uncharacteristic lack of dramatic high points. There aren’t any big crescendos where the drama reaches boiling point, and precious few instances of characters fraying at the edges in the face of calamity. The wider story doesn’t really tug at the heart strings; the conflict between heated rivals feels colder; and the revelations that might allow this tale to explode in a shower of catharsis after 30+ hours of reading, just don’t feel as thrilling as they could be.

The Great Ace Attorney: Adventures holds too much in reserve. Whether the sequel picks up the dangling threads and builds something better out of them, remains for me to see. But as good as the writing is, and as generally crisp as the presentation continues to be, this game’s ratio of enjoyment to time invested doesn’t cut it, and ends up being a rather elementary disappointment.