“Change is coming, and we’re the ones driving it.”
This is the note that brings The Great Ace Attorney’s first case to a close, and “change” is exactly what this newly localized legal-dramedy is all about. I was given early hands-on access to The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles on PC, and after spending roughly four-and-a-half hours in its courtroom, I’m here to report my findings.
This first case, the only one I had time to finish, is packed to the brim with drama, intrigue and historical insight during what was, arguably, the most notable period of change in Japan’s history.
The Great Ace Attorney: Adventures, the first game in the duology, introduces us to a new historical setting, the Meiji period of Japan, as the concept of lawyers and courtrooms are first being introduced to the nation. It’s here that we take the reins as bright-eyed law student Ryunosuke Naruhodo, distant ancestor to series protagonist Phoenix Wright.
Across numerous games with multiple protagonists, through crossovers with Marvel, Street Fighter and Professor Layton, The Great Ace Attorney marks the series’ biggest shift to date, hitting ‘reset’ and pushing players into an unfamiliar period with a new cast and new rules.
It’s fitting, then, that all of these aesthetic and gameplay changes are framed within a story that addresses a rapidly changing political landscape. The historical context, in which Japan is forced to adapt to avoid assimilation into the British Empire, is smartly scaled-down and echoed through Ryunosuke’s struggle to adapt in a courtroom that wants him imprisoned. It’s in this smart incorporation of history that The Great Ace Attorney justifies its new setting – this is no gimmick, there are numerous reasons why this is the perfect era for an Ace Attorney game.
Key to the execution of this idea, at least for those of us who don’t speak Japanese, is in the localization. I’m happy to report that, so far, the adaptation to English is packed with charm and reads phenomenally. I can’t speak to its accuracy, since I haven’t played the original release, nor would I be able to understand it, but it’s clear that the localization staff have taken great care in adapting the intricate details of this first case to English.
These localizers don’t have it easy, either. Amidst the labyrinthine details of each case are some major hurdles, particularly those regarding the character of Herlock Sholmes. I’ve yet to meet this legally distinct detective, but part of the reason I’ll be sticking with the PC version is a lingering hope that his name can be corrected through mods.
Even still, the localization effort is commendable – especially considering just how wordy and culturally loaded this game is. Each of these characters are exceptionally well realised – with a particular standout being the hilariously annoying Auchi, an ancestor of the lovably obstinate tutorial prosecutor from previous games.
All in all, The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is set to be a long and twisting journey, and I look forward to seeing where this story takes me next. The way this first case weaves itself into political history has me hoping that future cases will be just as thoughtfully realised, but something so ambitious sounds nearly impossible to pull off.