Big Ace Lawyer Magazines is the kind of fascinating murder mystery that is perfect for a long vacation – it happens to be a video game. As a kind of preface Chronicles happens long before original Lawyer trilogy, with new characters and a much more grounded tone, but at the same time absorbing exploratory gameplay and twists and turns of the shock story that make it difficult. It’s the best of franchising in one long package.
The game – which is actually a collection of two titles previously launched in Japan – follows a defending lawyer named Ryunosuke Naruhodo in late 19th century Japan. Things start rough at once. In the first case, Naruhodo is forced to defend himself in court after being charged with murder. The second case is a shockingly unexpected death … which Naruhodo is also blamed for. Things don’t slow down from there. The story jumps from Meiji-era Japan to Victorian London, and there are many delightful twists and turns along the way.
If you have never played Lawyer game, they play a bit like a visual novel cross-crossing detective game. Scenes usually revolve around either a court appearance or a criminal investigation, so you spend most of your time searching for clues, questioning and reading witnesses, lots and lots of dialogue. It works because of the incredible writing – great localization – who jumps seamlessly from a silly serious heart to squeezing. Most importantly, there is the incredible feeling that arises from finding the right evidence or conflicting evidence that will explode the case open.
Everything applied to past games, and Chronicles improve the formula in a few ways. First, the cases actually feel more grounded, and less strange coincidences make it impossible to predict what will actually happen. Subsequent entries in the series went a little extreme in this regard, but Chronicles rewind things without getting rid of exaggerated characters and silly word clippings. Perhaps my favorite addition, though, is Herlock Sholmes, a detective who joins forces with Naruhodo. Like a real Sherlock, he’s talented at subtraction, but he’s also a bit of a fool who constantly makes mistakes that Naruhodo needs to correct. Just like in court, it’s really satisfying to find the right answers based on his erroneous findings, especially when he’s always so sure of himself.
Chronicles also introduces a few other new features that make it a little easier than previous entries. First, you can play 10 cases in any order, as if you were selecting episodes to play on Netflix. But there’s also a new “story” mode that essentially plays the game for you. It goes through the dialogue automatically and even selects the right certificate without you having to touch a single button. Given how long Chronicles is – probably takes at least 40 hours to play the whole thing – I found it nice to just sit and watch sometimes. It’s also handy when you’re not quite sure how to proceed, because getting stuck can really ruin the course of the game.
Mostly as an independent preface Chronicles is a good starting point for new players, but it can also be just the best Lawyer has to offer. It has shocking twists, lovable characters, and unparalleled joy that comes from solving a complex crime. And it has 10 obese figures that you can play through, it will keep you busy at least until the end of the summer.
Big Ace Lawyer Magazines is now available on Nintendo Switch, PS4 and Steam.