When the reader clicked open the link, they entered a luxurious courtroom where the jury, the prosecution and the defense were preparing themselves to start the biggest trial in their careers. The headlines didn’t lie. “Is this the great return of the Ace Attorney series?”. When the title dropped on July 27th 2021 on the Nintendo Switch and other platforms, the reviews started to come in. It’s a big departure from the previous entries in the series, and there is a split between the fans. So, two hobbyist reviewers and big fans of the series decided to battle it out in a courtroom and try to be able to answer the question once and for all. Is the game worth your time, dear readers, or is it not? Take a seat in the gallery and enjoy this duel in the courtroom, and feel free to let us know how we did and what you would bring to the table in this battle.
The judge rose to his podium while he slammed down his gavel. “The court is in session. Is the prosecution ready?” the judge spoke while looking in the direction of the cat-human hybrid sitting behind the prosecution bench. “Yes M’lord” the prosecution answered. Then the judge looked towards the defense and asked: “Are you ready consul of the defense?”. The defense, trying to hide his nerves, firmly pushed up his glasses and said: “Yes, my lord. The defense is ready.”
The atmosphere in the courtroom was tense. At one hand, you were surprised to see that these two fans stood face to face in this courtroom defending a game. You know that these two writers are good friends, and it’s not the first time they worked together. But now, it looked like they would eat each other raw to win this court battle. But, on the other hand, you were curious what arguments they would bring to the table. You were curious what their thoughts and opinions were about the game you were looking forward to. While you were lost in thought, you missed the judge asking the prosecution to give their opening statement.
“… so, The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is a combination of two games that left the Japanese shores for the first time this summer.” the prosecutor said, while raising a scroll. “The original versions got released on the Nintendo 3DS way back in the summer of 2015 and the sequel in the summer of 2017. At first, the developers had no intention of bringing this title to our western shores, so fans took it upon themselves to translate the title. But, to everybody’s surprise, this title got an official translation and all the additional content and behind the scenes material got translated into English and as you all know…” the prosecution continued.
You raised an eyebrow, since the way the prosecution was acting looked a lot like how the prosecutor in the trailer of the game was acting. The only thing you were missing was the pouring of wine. Maybe the writer for the prosecutor got a bit lazy and copied the game a bit too much, you thought. You crossed your fingers in the hope that you would see more of his personal style shine through instead of copying the game too much. It would do this trial so much better if it was unique and not copying the established series and formula, you concluded. But, then you got a bit annoyed that you missed the actual opening statement. Thankfully, you read the headlines of the papers, so you know what this trail is going to be about.
“Let’s start with the visual presentation”, the judge said. The attorney and the prosecution quickly agreed that the visual presentation is excellent in this game. “It’s a huge visual upgrade when you look at it from the 3DS games.” the attorney said. The prosecution somewhat agreed and said: “True, the attention to the details is exquisite. Yet, there were some moments when I felt some models looked off. Not polished enough when being brought over from the 3DS. There was even a puzzle that focused on 3D related technology that would have worked so much better on the 3DS. The fact that they didn’t implement something different or a solution for that… But, something that made me roll my eyes is how they reused the models for the jury. The excuse of ‘London is a big city, so you’ll find look-a-likes’ is okay, if it only happens once. It, sadly enough, happened more than once. Too much to count, to be frank.”
The attorney stepped in and said: “Those moments are few and far between. Besides, imagine the poor designers having to create 50 different character models and such to have unique juries. Let them reuse them, as long as there is variation, and it doesn’t get stale… they also justify it in most cases by having them literally be the same character and not just a lookalike. Ryunosuke even comments on it in one of the trials. So while I will allow that some may not like this choice, it was an intentional one on the part of the designers, and they did the work required to make it make sense in the fiction.”
The attorney paused for a brief second, took a breath, and continued, “… If we are talking about the visual presentation, let’s mention the animations as well. The cutscenes in this game are way better animated than the previous title. The background is less static. The character animations are A+. Multiple times, I found myself literally laughing out loud at some ways these characters behaved. They strongly convey the personality and attitude of the cast.”
A sigh was heard through the courtroom. Of course, the prosecution had an objection. “The cutscenes are less static, I’ll give you that. But, explain to me why there are so few unique locations in this game. We visit the same hospital room in at least 4 to 5 different cases. You have a point that it would cost too many resources to make something unique each and every time, but why do the characters always have to mention… ‘Oh, what a coincidence… that place.’?” The prosecution slammed on his desk and looked straight at the attorney. “Now, let’s talk about the animations. I’m sorry, but I found that some side characters had more memorable animations compared to the main characters. Take Gina for example, her emotions were way more clear when you read her dialogue compared to the ones of Sholmes for example. Honestly, a bit more variation in the animations would be welcome. Especially, you see the same animations during give or take 10 cases this time and not 5. And maybe a few more if you include the bonus content.”
There was a silence in the courtroom. You felt that both parties were making good points. Indeed, the game looked amazing with various memorable locations. The attention to detail and the little nods to the rest of the series can warm any fan’s heart. But, you can also understand the other side of the argument. At first, this game was split into two 3DS games, and having repeat locations and almost the same animations on repeat, well that could get a bit dull and repetitive indeed.
A hammer slammed down, courtesy of the judge. “Okay, I heard both your points, counsels. But a game is more than just visual presentation and animations. Let’s move on to sound, the audio of this game. Let’s talk about that. Counsel of the defense?”
Audio and Controls
You noticed the attorney smiling and when he started talking, you felt the joy and passion of his words. “I loved this soundtrack so much, but of course, Ace Attorney always knocks it out of the park when it comes to music. There were perhaps fewer songs that stood out to me as all-time favorites, but I found that this soundtrack creates a more evocative atmosphere compared to the other games. Having differences in instrumentation and style depending on which country the characters were in made a difference.” the attorney said.
The prosecutor squeezed the bridge of his nose and said: “Apart from a few tracks, I can’t agree more. There were a few tracks that didn’t hit the mark in my opinion. But, there is something that this game does that doesn’t sit a hundred percent right with me. Almost every character has his/her own theme. But, they like to use their own themes more during scenes instead of something that would fit the scene more. It made some scenes less memorable in my opinion. Then again, it did make the characters more memorable. So, make of the above point what you will.”
It was an interesting question. Should music in a game make a scene or a character more memorable? There was no real right answer for that question, you thought to yourself. And maybe that’s a question you should leave to game designers and producers instead of wondering it for yourself. While you were thinking about that question, you didn’t notice that both parties were talking about the sound effects in the game. You did hear the summary of it, thankfully.
“So, both parties agree that there is nothing wrong with the sound effects. Intriguing.” the judge said. “Let’s move on to the next section. Let’s talk about the various elements of the design.”
“The controls work pretty well. They are extremely responsive and made me feel in control of the whole series of events.” the attorney said. The prosecutor smirked, and you knew that it didn’t take long before a snide remark was going to come the attorney’s way. “Oh yeah? You are totally ignoring some frustrating things. Let’s talk first on when you go through the testimony of the witnesses, you don’t loop after the last statement to the first statement.”
The attorney shook his head and when he looked up to watch the prosecutor right in his eyes and remarked, “But that has an easy explanation. Just imagine being stuck at a certain point, and you skip the dialogue after the cross-examination where you get a hint to progress.” A sigh was heard. “Okay, I get what you are saying. But, think about this one. The original games were released on the 3DS. This version is on the Switch, where we have TWO additional buttons. One of these buttons could have been a sort of switch you could toggle for toggling between a loop or non-loop mode.”
There was no arguing with that. The prosecutor had a valid point there, but he wasn’t done yet talking about the controls. He rose a finger and said with a smile: “Oh, and one other thing. Let’s not forget that fast-forwarding in some scenes don’t even work correctly. The joint reasoning or the dance of deduction is slow when you have to repeat it when you made a few too many mistakes.”
A debate about some small, minor annoyances of the controls continued. You knew that finding the right balance between mechanics, controls and world-building is a difficult one to get perfectly right. There are always going to be things that work and don’t work. If flawless things existed, would they still be fun? From the controls, you heard the debating pair moving on to other things.
Replayability and Difficulty
“How about you get two games, including the DLC and bonus content, for the price of one? You get 70, if not close to 80 hours of content to enjoy. Isn’t that worth the price of admission by itself?” the attorney said.
“If only there was a demo for people on the edge to enjoy. That would make that deal even better. Yet, there are two things I want to touch upon. First, the DLC. You can use alternate costumes, but tell me… Why can you only use them in the second part of the game?” the prosecutor said with a slight annoyance in his voice. The attorney wanted to counterargue, but the prosecutor slammed his fist down and continued.
“Oh, and let’s not forget how everything is already unlocked from the start. Apart from a few things, you can start with the bonus material and totally spoil yourself with the spoiler warnings that could have been implemented a LOT better. Granted, all the bonus content is included, but honestly, after finishing the main game… I felt a bit burned out on the game and I haven’t touched the additional content at all.”
The defense attorney’s eyes were wide behind his glasses. The aggressive offense from the prosecution had left him somewhat stunned. He took a calming breath and spoke. “At least the game is somewhat replayable. I imagine it would be fun to revisit this game after you’ve seen the whole story and to recognize the moments of foreshadowing for what they really mean. Also, you can try to go for unlocking all of the achievements – called medals in this game,” he explained. “Oh, and the automated save system is a blessing. You can save essentially anywhere and if you mess up you lose almost no progress.”
“Those two are quite valid points,” the prosecution allowed. “Now, I think we are going to talk about the difficulty of this game now. Well, I have something to say about that. Something that couldn’t be avoided, with combining two games into one as a sort of collection, is that the first few cases in the 2nd half of the game are a bit on the easy side. Since, originally, you couldn’t be 100% certain if a player played the first game before the second. But, the game isn’t too challenging overall. The previous entries in the series were more difficult. That’s not to say that this game is a cakewalk, though. But, overall, this game felt easier compared to the previous games… But that might have to do with the fact I have been playing these games for years now. I actually found the leaps of logic in this game to be tougher than I remember some other games in the series being. In the second game in particular, I had a game over in every case due to moments where I thought the needed evidence was tricky to figure out.” After that long remark, the prosecutor paused.
He thought he had the attorney cornered. But, don’t ever underestimate somebody who is reviewing or talking about games for so long; a comeback can always happen.
“I’ll allow that following the logic of an Ace Attorney game can be challenging,” the defense began. “But there’s a place for it. For series veterans, the unique brain bending mechanic of pitting two jury members to each other is a welcome addition. Meanwhile, for those who don’t want to deal with the challenge element of the game, there is a story mode where you just watch through the game’s story without any gameplay mechanics slowing you down. So for players who find the challenge to be a barrier, there is a way to experience the story without the puzzles getting in the way.”
The judge was in awe, he didn’t have to interject nor lead the trail. Both parties were going from one topic to another and putting all their cards on the table. You knew, that’s because both parties have been analyzing games for several years, so they know what to watch out for. They chose to debate in this manner to talk about this game, they wanted to do something unique to review this game, and they were enjoying themselves quite a lot. Suddenly, you heard the hammer of the judge hit, and you looked up to him.
“Before you two ramble on and on about the game, let’s focus on the final two topics of this trial. These are gameplay and the story. Let’s start with the gameplay. Is this game fun to play?” the judge asked.
Gameplay and Story
This time, the attorney started with his argument: “I really liked the analysis sections and pitting the jury against each other. The summation examination mechanic is really solid and adds a lot to the trials. I also liked the Dance of Deduction mechanic for investigations, as it made a section of the game that I usually find to be kind of middling into something more interesting. Being able to examine most pieces of evidence is great and adds a layer of drama to the trials when you suddenly get something new and then a huge new clue comes from checking it out.”
And of course, as expected, the prosecutor wanted to say something as well. “I could start an argument that the game is somewhat repetitive. But, the game is for a certain audience. An audience that enjoyed the mystery novel gameplay. So, they won’t get too bored. And if they get bored, or burned out, they can take a break and come back to the game at a later time. I don’t have any counterarguments in the gameplay department. This game is easy to learn and if you have played previous entries in the series, it’s still enjoyable to play with the new mechanics and tricks it brings to the table.”
So, it’s time for the big one. The story. You didn’t want to miss this. Both parties agreed to keep this debate spoiler free, so you were curious how they were going to handle that. You heard the judge introduce and explain that fact, and both parties looked to each other, readying themselves for the most important topic of this whole debate.
After a small pause, the attorney started: “I really enjoyed Ryunosuke as a protagonist and the way in which this story is all about building his self-confidence and him finding his path through life. Susato is a wonderful assistant character, and I found myself cheering for her all the time during my playthrough. While Lord van Zieks being racist against the Japanese people really bugs me, it made it fun to get the upper hand against him during the trials, and he has a powerful, evocative design. Also, let’s not forget that this entry has various moments where things don’t always have the rose colored ending we would come to expect.”
The prosecutor agreed, but had to add a few things. “Yet, it sometimes falls in the same trap that all the previous entries started to fall in. I found some sections to be a bit predictable. But, I’m not going to go too in-depth about that since we agreed to keep this debate spoiler free. One thing I would have loved to see is more voice acting. The voice actors did an amazing job in the cutscenes to make their characters come to life. If only that was used more. Of course, it would be somewhat overkilled if the whole massive script was voice acted, but a bit more would be stunning. It would give more power to certain strong moments in the game.”
The attorney swiftly moved on and said: “It’s a breathtaking entry point for newcomers since it’s a totally new cast of characters. This has been my favorite storyline since Trials and Tribulations. The story is grounded and compelling, with lots of twists and turns throughout. Using two games to tell one big overarching story was a good move.”
The prosecutor cracked his whip loudly, causing the defense attorney to reflexively flinch. The entire courtroom was paying attention to him. “But, there are a few things that could have been handled better in terms of writing. First, if you don’t understand English too well, especially British English… A lot will go over your head with the dialect writing and no option to turn it off. But, props for writing the script in that way, though. Now, if only there were more Japanese jokes and such snuck in when a case played in Japan. Speaking of which, there is no investigation section in Japan. Which brings me to my next point. The structure of the game feels weird in places. The tutorial feels too long in the first game because of both the first and second chapters being tutorials (one for trials and one for investigations). The first game essentially only has two proper cases in it, and the trials are never broken up by investigation sections, so the investigations feel super long.”
He left a small pause to try and read the room. It looked like he wanted to say something, but he was unsure if he should mention it or not. You could read in his eyes that he has seen this dilemma before. Should he talk about something that might spoil the whole game before or should he leave it out since they agreed not to talk about spoilers in their debate?
So, you sat there looking at both parties argue. Each party had great points to bring to the table. You could totally understand where both parties were coming from. But, now it’s up to you, dear reader, to draw your own conclusion. Yes, the writers of this collab are taking that ‘easy’ way out. Now that you heard the negatives and the positives of the game, what do you think? Let us know in the comments down below, and maybe we shall ask you to be our next witness in this trail to answer the question in this trail once and for all.
Editorial note: the portrayals of the prosecution and defense represent the combined views of both NekoJonez and Adventure Rules, who each contributed pros and cons to the review.
Additional note from me, NekoJonez: Thank you so much Ian from Adventure Rules for working with me on this! Your art, advice, proof reading and advice made this collab come out the amazing way it did. Really check out his blog and his Twitter if you want to see more of his work. It’s amazing and worth checking out! Thanks buddy for this collab and thank you for all the support man!