By Fabrice Stellaire / September 26th, 2016
|Title||Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice|
|Release Date||September 8, 2016|
|Genre||Adventure, Visual Novel|
|Age Rating||ESRB – Teen|
Fifteen years have passed since Phoenix Wright’s adventures started on the Game Boy Advance. Over the years, the series has evolved and witnessed the introduction of new protagonists, like Apollo Justice or Athena Cykes. Spirit of Justice, the latest installment in the series, can be considered as a bridge between the past and the present of the series, and introduces a bunch of novelties in gameplay and expands the universe of the game.
Spirit of Justice is the first game in the series that doesn’t completely take place in the US, since Phoenix Wright is now visiting the Kingdom of Khura’in. Those who have played the first three games may be a bit confused as the name sounds awfully similar to Kurain, the native village of Maya Fey, a spirit medium who could channel spirits and was a partner of Phoenix during the first three titles. Phoenix is in Khura’in to visit her, as she has been training in this country to improve her skills as a medium and become able to channel spirits at will. This new environment is refreshing and will lead Phoenix to face a rather hostile population, as people from Khura’in hate lawyers. Discovering the origin of this hate is part of the game, so I won’t go into too much detail about on the reasons behind this feud.
The first case of the game serves as an introduction to the mechanics of trials and will have you face Gaspen Payne, brother of Winston Payne, whom you originally encountered during the first trial of Dual Destinies. This trial introduces the major innovation of this opus, the Divination Séances, during which the teenage priestess, Rayfa, performs a dance that reveals the last memories of the victim. Rayfa, daughter of the Queen of Khura’in, has spiritual powers, a high opinion of herself and a deep contempt for lawyers. Once the ritual is performed, the images of the victim’s memories appear in the holy pool, as well of anything the victim experienced with their five senses – smell, taste, hearing, touch and sight.
The priestess then provides her insight — her interpretation of events — which is supposed to be absolute. The role of Phoenix will be to try and highlight discrepancies between Rayfa’s insights and the memories of the victim, in the same way he finds contradictions in witnesses’ testimonies during cross examinations. Divination séances play a major part in trials in Khura’in and add a bit of variety to the traditional mechanics of the game. The classic mechanics of the series have indeed been conserved, and a turnabout will generally follow the old pattern: a murder happens, an innocent person is accused, and you have to investigate during the first day in order to gather proof that will be used during the trial the day after.
I will now make a small digression to talk about the characters of the game. I wrote earlier that Spirit of Justice was a bridge between the past and the present of the series, and I will explain why. Not only does the series reintroduce Maya, who had been missing since Trials and Tribulations, and rookies like Apollo and Athena, but it also has a lot of references to previous games. You can play this game without having completed the previous entries, but only longtime fans will notice all the easter eggs to previous installments. I would really like to recommend that anyone playing Spirit of Justice gives Ace Attorney Trilogy, Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies a try. Let’s take, for example, Case 2 of the game. It revolves around Trucy Wright, the foster daughter of Phoenix. While you can solve this case without having played other games, having played Apollo Justice (the fourth game) will help to understand her background much more. Spirit of Justice pays a lot of tributes to its predecessors and will certainly please its longtime fans.
New players, meanwhile, will hopefully be attracted by the universe of the game, the mystic and exotic atmosphere of Khura’in and the numerous unforeseen developments that will keep happening. Proving how and why a witness is lying, discovering unexpected interpretations of events or using special powers of your lawyers (like Apollo’s bracelet, Athena’s Mood Matrix or Phoenix’s magatama) is always entertaining, and you will never feel bored. Apollo’s fans will also be pleased to learn more about the past of the character, which plays an important part in the story.
The art is very nice — very similar to Dual Destinies — and contributes to making the experience relaxing. The music is good, but I preferred some themes from Dual Destinies, especially the Pursuit theme, which was in my opinion better. On the technical side, there aren’t many issues to point out. I just noticed loading times were slightly longer than in Dual Destinies. This may be because the console is now six years old and the hardware is starting to become a bit dated. People who don’t understand English very well may feel a bit frustrated by the lack of localization. Ace Attorney games were translated into various languages for European countries, but, for some reason, Capcom stopped localizing them with Dual Destinies. I am guessing the reason was Capcom is trying to reduce costs, but, unfortunately, this decision took it away from markets that really wanted it.
Spirit of Justice is definitely a great opus for the series. It entertained me for 30 hours and I can say that for $29.99, my money was well spent. The stories are entertaining and well written, and the country of Khura’in gives a fresh breath to the experience. Whether you are an old fan or this is your first experience with the series, Spirit of Justice is definitely a must-have on 3DS.
Review copy purchased by the author
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