The Great Ace Attorney - Review

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Mon Nov 23, 2020

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(Spoilers ahead!)

It has been a hot minute since my last “Ace Attorney” review has come out. I wanted to get this article out as soon as possible, but because of school, I couldn’t find the time to play this game. In case you missed the article where I mentioned why “Dai Gyakuten Saiban,” (“The Great Ace Attorney”) or simply “DGS,” won’t be localized any time soon, the answer is that there is no clear answer. Capcom has simply neglected to mention why this game failed to release outside of Japan, though many speculate that it is because of the copyright issues surrounding the Sherlock Holmes franchise. Thankfully “Scarlet Study,” a team of dedicated translators, took it upon themselves to not only translate the game’s text into English, but also the ingame graphics. “Scarlet Study” released two totally free patches for "DGS," one for Android devices, and the other for the Nintendo 3DS. Of course to legally use this patch, one must obtain a copy of "DGS" from either the Japanese Google Play Store or import a copy of the game from Japan. Because of this, most fans of “Ace Attorney” have neglected to play this game, outside of hardcore fans such as myself. 

"DGS" takes place in the early 1900s, with the main character that we play as being a college student named “Ryunosuke Naruhodo,” ancestor of Phoenix Wright (Naruhodo is localized in the main series as “Wright”). A third year college student, Naruhodo is by no means an attorney — that title goes to his best friend Kazuma Asogi — but after a series of tragedies, Naruhodo finds his life on a different path than he had intended — representing the Empire of Japan overseas as an exchange student in the Great British Empire.

Before I start the review, I do want to mention a few things. First, is the use of the word “Jap” in the game. Though the modern use of the word “Jap” is considered a derogatory and an ethnic slur, this was not the case prior to World War 2. As such, the characters in the game use the word “Jap” liberally to refer to both Naruhodo and his legal assistant Susato Mikotoba. Second off, though the word “Jap” isn’t meant to be used in a racist manner in the game, this does not stop the English characters in the game from referring to both Naruhodo and Mikotoba as “despicable vermin from the east” or other stuff along the lines of “the Japanese not being able to match the intellect of the English people.” This game does get racist at times, so be warned. 

Gameplay: This game is no different than any other “Ace Attorney” game in terms of its core mechanics. You still press witnesses, you still present evidence at the right time, and you still investigate for clues — all that good stuff. There are some major differences between this game and the mainline games however. There is a much bigger emphasis on inspeciting evidence in this game. Though it was introduced in the first “Ace Attorney” game, "DGS" has some vital evidence hidden amongst most evidence. This game makes it a habit to check your inventory pretty often for clues you may have missed. "DGS" also implements a unique cross examination. Oftentimes, you’ll have multiple witnesses up on the stand that you have to cross examine (up to four), and sometimes, the witness on the stand will give away a “tell” as they react to other witness statements, allowing you to press them for more information. Also, from the third case onward, you have to do a segment called a “closing argument.” In the British courts, the verdict is decided upon by six jurors, and if they all unanimously agree that the client is guilty, the defense attorney is able to exert their right to a closing argument in an attempt to flip the verdict back and continue the trial. The closing argument works exactly like a cross examination, however, your main priority is to find contradictions between the jurors' reasons for handing down a guilty verdict, and clash them together. On the investigation side of things, once Sherlock Holmes is introduced in the second chapter, you’ll frequently engage in his minigame — “The Great Deduction” — in which Holmes incorrectly deduces situations, and you fix them up for him. It’s not a bad minigame, but sometimes it feels like it drags on just a little too much. 

Sound: Wow oh WOW. This is, without a doubt, the best soundtrack in the series. The soundtrack of "DGS" takes on an orchestral approach to its music, much like “Dual Destinies” did, however unlike “Dual Destinies,” the music of “DGS” excludes the use of instruments such as electric guitars, like the ones that were present in Apollo Justice’s theme song, or the pursuit theme. This soundtrack perfectly matches the scenes in the game much better than previous soundtracks had done. The “Suspense” theme has the strings dynamically change in volume to instill a sense of anxiety and pressure, the two “Objection!” themes sound determined and triumphant, Asougi’s theme is hopeful and awesome, “The Court in Disarray” plays wonderfully to set a panicky tone in the trials, Sherlock Holmes’s theme perfectly encapsulates his persona and so much more. I could go on all day about each individual song! But the best, the absolute BEST song in this game is the pursuit theme. “Time for a Great Turnabout” is, in my opinion, the best pursuit theme in the series, beating out the all time classic of the first game. Everything about this song is perfect. The horns, the strings, the percussion - EVERYTHING! It’s so fast, so upbeat, so dominant and triumphant that it represents everything that a pursuit theme should be. This is THE theme that represents turning around a hopeless situation. The worst part about this song? It only plays four times in the entire game. Unlike previous games where the pursuit themes were used semi-liberally, this song is reserved for the moments that deserve it the most, but that only serves to make it more impactful. Destroying the prosecution and the jurors’ case little by little until you find that fatal contradiction to prove your client’s innocence has never felt so good in any “Ace Attorney” game. I don’t usually give out ratings for soundtracks, but this one deserves it. Even if you never play this game, at least do yourself a favor and listen to the music - you won’t be disappointed.

Soundtrack rating - 10/10 (Perfect)

Case 1 - The Adventure of The Great Departure

Accused of murdering Dr. John Watson — Sherlock Holmes’s legendary partner — Naruhodo finds himself in a hopeless situation. Since John Watson was a representative of the Empire of Great Britain, and because the Empire of Japan had recently opened its borders and wished to establish a great relationship with Britain, the government sanctioned a special trial for Naruhodo. Though Naruhodo’s best friend Asogi was willing to represent him at the trial, Naruhodo discovered that should he lose the trial, Asogi’s special exchange program in Britain would be cancelled. As such, Naruhodo makes the brash decision of representing himself in court. With no previous knowledge of the legal system, Naruhodo relies on Asogi, acting as his co-counsel, to help him out. Through pure determination and Asougi’s complete belief that Naruhodo is innocent, they destroy the prosecution’s case and secure a “not guilty” verdict. 

A great case to kick off the game. It has a pretty compelling mystery and helps set up the 1900s feel of the game. The technology is limited and finding fingerprints or ballistic markings are impossible, which means most of the case is centered around witness testimony and physical evidence. This case is also the longest tutorial case in the series - spanning three trial days. 

Case Rating - 8/10 (Very Good)   

Case 2 - The Adventure of The Unbreakable Speckled Band

Though Asogi was the only one to be sent to Britain, he secretly brings Naruhodo along with him to see the British Empire. However, just before they can arrive, Asogi is murdered in his room, and suspicion falls on Naruhodo, as he was not only a stowaway, but the only one in the room with him. 

This case introduces Susato Mikotoba, a young legal assistant that was assigned to Asogi as he travelled abroad. Initially despising Naruhodo, Naruhodo proves to Mikotoba that he could not have killed Asogi and begs her for help in clearing his name. She reluctantly agrees and allows him to investigate the crime scene, and the two embark on the first of many investigations. This case also introduces Sherlock Holmes. Known worldwide as “The Great Detective,” the eccentric Holmes deduces that Naruhodo could not have killed Asougi, and allows him permission to aid him in his deduction of the true culprit. 

This is the first case in the series that is investigation only (you can’t hold a trial on a ship after all), and while it certainly is shocking that Asogi died so quickly (much like Mia in the first game), the whole reasoning behind his death is pretty lackluster. As such, my interest in this case rapidly diminished and I was merely waiting for the chapter to be over. I will say though, I love Sherlock Holmes. He’s hilarious and his animations are entertaining.

Case Rating - 4/10 (Below Average)

Case 3 - The Adventure of The Runaway Room

Now this is where the game begins to pick up. Naruhodo and Mikotoba, now in London, head over to the Chief Justice’s office to explain the situation to him. And as Chief Justice Vortex begins to explain that they must be sent home as they have no exchange attorney, Naruhodo volunteers to take Asogi’s place. Vortex, skeptical, grants him one opportunity to prove his worth — take on the trial happening in two hour’s time, and secure a not guilty verdict. Naruhodo accepts the challenge and heads over to the courtroom lobby. There he meets up with a strange man named Cosney Megundal, a self-proclaimed wealthy celebrity of London, and also the defendant in the case. Though Megundal fails to explain properly the details of the case, Naruhodo understands that no matter what, he cannot lose, or else he will be sent back home. 

Before the trial, Naruhodo learned that no other defense attorney was willing to take the case. Confused, Naruhodo asks Megundal why he was defenseless, and Megundal explains that it’s because of the prosecutor, Barok Van Zieks. Van Zieks, nicknamed “The Death God of Old Bailey” (or in the case of the fan translation, the “Grim Reaper”), is a towering man, standing at six foot four and is by no means an easy prosecutor. What separates Van Zieks from the series’s other prosecutors and the reason he’s nicknamed “The Death God” is that every person that had been a defendant in the trials he’s prosecuted ends up dead, whether that be because he secures a guilty verdict and the defendant is then executed, or the defendant dies after being found not guilty. 

As the trial begins, Naruhodo learns that the case in question is a locked room murder. The defendant and the victim were both riding on the inside carriage of an Omnibus (an old, horse drawn carriage with seats on the interior and roof). The witnesses, who both were riding on the top, testified that they had looked down through the skylight and saw that the passenger was dead with a knife in his stomach. With such damning evidence from the get go, the jury unanimously decides that Megundal is guilty, but not before Mikotoba interjects and requests the right to a closing argument — a right that hadn’t been invoked in decades. Naruhodo successfully flips the jury’s opinion, and learns that there was another passenger hidden in the carriage — a young thief named Gina Lestrade. Megundal had discovered her hiding under his seat where mechanical tools are stored and dragged her out, but refused to involve her in the case. Left with no other option, Lestrade is summoned, but a smoke bomb erupts in the court, creating discord and panic. When the trial resumes, Lestrade testifies in favor of Megundal, however her testimony is brought into question as it conflicts with the testimony of the men sitting on the roof. As the evidence is re-examined, Naruhodo discovers that there is a bloodstain on two locations that were “missed.” With this new “evidence,” the testimony of the men on the roof becomes unreliable. Van Zieks, enraged, declares to the court that the evidence had been tampered with, as he and Scotland Yard (the police) thoroughly investigated the scene and reported no bloodstains of the sort. Since there’s no way to prove that the evidence had been tampered with, and because the evidence matches up with the testimonies of Lestrade and Megundal, the case is ruled inconclusive, and a “not guilty” verdict is handed down, much to the dismay of the witnesses on the roof, Van Zieks, and Naruhodo. As the acquittal of Megundal is announced, he chuckles to himself before breaking down into an uproarious, maniacal laughter. After the trial, Megundal tells Naruhodo that further investigation is required, and that the court bailiff’s ordered him to stay behind and help. As the chapter ends, the omnibus goes up in flames with Megundal trapped inside, and the “Death God” watching from afar. 

A very good case. The overall mystery extends behind a simple locked room murder, and with truth marred behind a multitude of lies and confusion, the game leaves you begging for answers.

Case Rating - 8/10 (Very Good)

Case 4 - The Adventure of the Clouded Kokoro

Impressed by his work in earning an acquittal for his defendant, Chief Justice Vortex assigns Naruhodo and Mikotoba to another case. A Japanese exchange student named Natsume Soseki (based on the real life Natsume Soseki, who is considered to be one of the greatest Japanese writers of modern history) was arrested on suspicion of stabbing a woman in the back with a knife. Naruhodo visits the panicked Soseki in jail and agrees to be his defense attorney. When Naruhodo approaches the crime scene, he meets with Scotland Yard lead detective Tobias Gregson, who fills him in with key information. Discovering from Gregson that Holmes was the one who led the police to Soseki, Naruhodo and Mikotoba visit Holmes’s flat to question him, but are greeted by Iris Watson, daughter of Dr. John Watson. Iris Watson is an inventor, M.D, and author of the “Sherlock Holmes” stories all at the young age of 10! Initially shocked by this revelation, Naruhodo quickly learns that Iris Watson is no ordinary child, and her perception and intelligence rivals that of Holmes. 

After the trial, it becomes clear that the case in hand is nothing more than a tragic accident, and Soseki was simply at the wrong place at the wrong time. Naruhodo successfully wins his second case and Soseki is declared not guilty. 

A good case overall. Nothing too mind blowing but entertaining all around.

Case Rating - 6/10 (Enjoyable)

Case 5 - The Adventure of The Unspeakable Story 

Two months after the conclusion of the previous case, Naruhodo gets caught up in another serious case. The owner of the pawnshop that Holmes frequents is found dead in his storeroom. Locked inside with him is an unconscious Lestrade, the witness from the Megundal case. As the crime was happening, Naruhodo was the first on the scene alongside Holmes and Mikotoba. Upon entering the pawnshop, one of the two intruders making his escape shot Holmes and fled. Although Naruhodo gave chase, he was unable to keep up and notified the police of the crime. 

Naruhdodo swears to defend Lestrade, and for the third time, goes up against prosecutor Van Zieks. As the trial goes on, Naruhodo discovers that the crime is interconnected with the Megundal case from two months ago. Though Mikotoba had to return home as her father had fallen ill, Naruhodo was left with the case files, and discovered that the pawnshop had been used to store items that were used in the Megundal case. Damning evidence pinning Megundal as the culprit was stored there, and although Megundal is dead, the events of the case are re-examined, and it was revealed that Lestrade was blackmailed into committing perjury by Megundal. The man who was killed in the omnibus was negotiating a deal with Megundal over a music disc. The disc, confiscated by Scotland Yard, turned out to be leaked government intel, information that the police could not afford to get out. Though the disc was played in court to listen to the contents, the sounds are indecipherable, until it is revealed that there was another disc hidden in the pawnshop that night. When combined on a specially designed music box stored at the pawnshop, the discs would relay a message in morse code. 

This case, though simple in premise, is a very good finale case. It’s not over the top like the finale case of “Dual Destinies” or “Spirit of Justice,” but the conspiracy between the culprits, the witnesses, and even Scotland Yard reveals that the truth extends beyond a simple murder, keeping the case exciting and interesting. 

A very fun and dramatic case. It’s also extremely long.

Case Rating - 8/10 (Very Good)

Overall Rating - 8/10

"DGS" was a very enjoyable game to play. Even if you’ve never played “Ace Attorney” before, this game is great as a standalone game, as no prior knowledge of the series is required to play this game. However, some of the criticism of this game online is that it feels “incomplete.” A lot of the plot points in this game don’t feel fully developed and that’s because it was intended to be completed in a sequel, which was only released in Japan in 2017. Currently, the team at Scarlet Study have been hard at work attempting to fully translate the game, but as of right now, only the first two chapters have been fully translated, with the third almost done. There is no estimated time for them to be done with the full game, however, it can be assumed that it will be complete within a few years, meaning that unless you can understand Japanese, you can’t finish off the storyline, which is unfortunate. Nevertheless, the animations, writing, and sound overall make for a very pleasant experience, and one that I could recommend to you. If you’re a big fan of “Ace Attorney,” you’ll love this game. 

That’s all for now folks! I don’t have enough time to finish and review the last two “Ace Attorney” games remaining before the semester ends, so I’ll get to them in the spring. ‘Till next time!

 

 

Appears in
2020 - Fall - Issue 10
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