The court date for the eighteenth door of the RPS Advent Calendar 2021 has arrived. Now listen, I know it's normal to get nervous before a big trial - it's only our sense of taste on the line, after all - but trust me, I've got the best and most experienced defence team lined up for this one and - wait, what's that? They've only been in training for three months? And they're not even properly qualified? Oh no, what have we done...
Rebecca: With apologies to my real-life loved ones, no one person has made me as consistently and uncomplicatedly happy this year as Ryunosuke Naruhodo, protagonist of The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles. In a year of ups and downs, it was somehow comforting to start up this game and see Ryunosuke's sweet, nervous face, and know that he was having a really rough go of it too. The lad's a walking disaster area, and I love him for it.
I knew from the outset that I was going to really enjoy The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles — after all, it's got Sherlock Holmes in it (sorry, Herlock Sholmes), and that's all I need from life. But I wasn't expecting this to become quite possibly my favourite Ace Attorney game yet. Prequels are funny things, and it can sometimes be hard to care about the protagonists when the ending is set in stone.
As you have no doubt already gathered from my adoring preamble, this is absolutely not the case here. The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles takes the art of prequel-ing to an extreme by pulling the action 120-ish years into the past - hence the presence of Sherlock Holmes. This is good for a couple of reasons: there's no barrier to entry for players who are brand new to Capcom's courtroom lawyer 'em up; while returning fans can enjoy adventures that are tangentially connected to the main series, without there being a lot of established lore that needs cramming in.
This setting justifies its connection to the other Ace Attorney games by making Ryunosuke an ancestor of undefined remove from main series protagonist Phoenix Wright (who's known as Ryuichi Naruhodo in the original Japanese). I will confess that I didn't come into The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles with many expectations of Ryunosuke one way or the other. This was because - incoming heresy alert - I don't generally find Phoenix to be the most interesting part of the Ace Attorney games, and Ryunosuke was initially portrayed more or less as Phoenix's identical relative, albeit with moderately better hair.
But, to my surprise, I found Ryunosuke a really easy character to get invested in. It started with how worried he looked during his first court appearance: a charmingly animated mess of trembling hands and nervously darting eyes. Granted, he was the defendant rather than the lawyer — a circumstance that was evidently as surprising to him as the protagonist as it was to me as the player. Ace Attorney leads inevitably end up on trial for a crime they didn't commit sooner or later, but they usually get at least a couple of chapters' worth of warm-up first.
But no, poor Ryunosuke gets thrown in at the deep end, and spends the rest of his 60-hour hero's journey (spread across two games, I might add) more or less running to stand still, as perhaps the only character in Ace Attorney history to be properly attuned to how little sense his world makes. The setting may be 1897 but that's the most 2021 mood I've seen captured in video game form, which alone qualifies it for GOTY status if you ask me.
Don't be fooled, though: unexpectedly relevant themes of existential bewilderment aside, this game is quite ludicrously cheerful. It's got that Agatha Christie vibe of "yes, there's been a murder, but we're here to have fun after all". The writing's hilarious, the whole production is gorgeous, and there are at least 200% more adorable kittens than the plot really calls for. The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles sets out to make you smile, and no matter what else I had on my mind, I can't think of a single time it didn't succeed.
Katharine: It still feels incredible to me that out of all the games Capcom's made over the years and the series that have come and gone never to be seen again (RIP Ghost Trick), it's their legal drama about a defence lawyer that's still going strong after 20 years. 20 years! That's a long time in video games land, but as The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles amply proves, there's still plenty of life left in the wider finger-pointing Wright dynasty, and I fully endorse Rebecca's assertion above that this is easily the one of the best Ace Attorney games yet.
Despite being set over 100 years in the past, this is the most modern-feeling Ace Attorney I've ever played. Its animations are gorgeous, the mysteries are absolute bangers, and Capcom's localisation team have absolutely 0utdone themselves on translating series creator Shu Takumi's script as well. The pun work (both written and visual) is exceptional, and I'm not going to lie, that wordplay is 95% of why I play Ace Attorney games in the first place.
It's also incredible to me that Capcom are still bundling this and the Ace Attorney Trilogy (which is a PC port of the HD versions of the first three AA games) together for just £40. That's incredible value for money for five of the best visual novels you'll ever play on PC, and just another £8 on top of what you'd pay for Chronicles anyway. It would be a crime not to get both if you're new to the series, and trust me, you don't want to be on the wrong end of this judge's hammer, no sir.
I rest my case.