Phoenix Wright and the gang are back in the 6th main instalment into the Ace Attorney franchise. This time, the spikey-haired lawyer defends clients in a foreign land while Apollo Justice keeps the Wright Anything Agency performing back home. Fan favourites return, while some new faces take the stand. Does Spirit of Justice stand up to a well-established franchise, or does it flop like Prosecutor Payne’s toupee?
Spirit of Justice takes place after the last main entry in the series, Dual Destinies, and thus is not the best place for beginners to hop into the series. This is evident in the opening mission, or turnabout, as they’re known in the Ace Attorney series. Phoenix has just landed in the mysterious, far Eastern kingdom of Khura’in where the inhabitants have done away with defence attorneys in favour of séance visions from a “Pool of Souls”. This method allows the prosecution to see the final moments of the victim’s life, and as a result, determines the guilt of the accused. Naturally, wherever Phoenix Wright goes trouble is sure to follow. His tour guide, a young monk-in-training, called Ur’gaid is arrested fro stealing the sacred Founders Orb from the Tehm’pul Temple as well as murdering one of the temple guards in his wake.
Although the first trial in Ace Attorney games typically serves as a tutorial of sorts, I found ‘The Foreign Turnabout’ to be aimed more at returning players. With little explanations of how the returning mechanics worked while focusing on the new technics employed by the Khura’in courts. The intro to the game felt a little heavy worded, with a lot to get through but once Phoenix steps into the courtroom, things begin to flow much quicker. In true Ace Attorney fashion, the dialogue is full of terrible puns and outlandish character designs.
Characters old and new are all well written. Each has their own distinct personality which is easily distinguishable both in text and voice. Each testimony given adds the character’s own flair which despite the games repetitive style keeps each case refreshing and enjoyable. The switch between Phoenix and Apollo is also clearly apparent, making it obvious that you’re not just playing as a single character throughout the campaign. Prosecutor Payne even makes a resurgence. In a country without defence attornies, he has risen through the ranks and become a respected member of the court; toupee and all.
While the series has moved on in time, with a number of characters growing in age and wisdom. I can’t help but feel Phoenix’s character has taken a step back. Despite having a good decade or so experience on Apollo, I feel that Mr Justice is a more rounded character and frankly he better attorney; dedicated to his work while Phoenix often seems incapable at times during trials.
Spirit of Justice is set in two countries on opposite sides of the world. The far eastern kingdom of Khura’in as well as downtown Los Angeles. Naturally, the two cultures are vastly different having evolved independently of one another. This is clearly depicted in the visuals of the game in each section. Even the Judge has had an eastern-makeover to match the local style of Khura’in.
Many aspects from previous games of the series make a return. Each of the main character’s abilities helps during a case or investigation, such as Phoenix’s Magatama ability which unlocks any hidden truths a witness may be hiding to Apollo’s bracelet which tightens when a person becomes tense. The newest addition introduced in Spirit of Justice is the Divination Séance; a ceremony led by the Royal Priestess, Rayfa Padma Khura’in which shows the last moments of a victim’s life as well as sounds, smells and feelings. Using these players can point out contradictory sensations in a bid to help clear the accused. In addition, The investigation segments I found to be more accommodating and not needing pixel-perfect accuracy when searching for clues. A small relief, but a nice adjustment non-the-less. In addition, I found that hitting the game over, or ‘Guilty’ screen – which you’ll probably encounter a few times – now returns you to the beginning of the particular section you were in, rather than kicking you out to the title screen like in previous entries.
As with all Ace Attorney games, the soundtrack is inspiring. It matches the exhilarating highs of knocking an opponent off guard as well as the devastating lows of being defeated in a legal battle of wits. The music is perfectly paced for the game and offers a great backdrop for both the fictional country of Khura’in and the alternate version of Los Angeles. If anything, the soundtrack is one of my favourite aspects of the game.
While the Ace Attorney series is a tried and tested formula, I feel that Spirit of Justice takes it to a new level. The idea of defending the innocent in a new land that abhors defence attornies was a great step, though I feel the Divination Séancecould could be seen as a step too far towards the mystical. That’s not to say the mechanic in-game did not work, it did. And was a nice addition to the roster of previous abilities.
Through and through Spirit of Justice is a fantastic entry in the series; one that I can’t recommend enough to fans of the genre. It could possibly alienate new players due to the sheer number of already well establish characters and rich back story but for those who have taken the time to play through the series will appreciate the depth and quirks of each person. With five ‘turnaboutes’ to complete it definitely isn’t lacking in the gameplay area.