Ace Attorney: Spirit of Justice

There was a new Ace Attorney game released last month, and I finally got my hands on it about a week ago. The first thing to note about this latest title, Spirits of Justice, is the stunningly visual introduction, playing through as if you’re watching an actual anime. I’ve been playing the Phoenix Wright games from the beginning, as the law has always fascinated me, and I love a good puzzle game. The premise behind this series is very interesting, and it has developed nicely over the years. The 3DS’s use of 3D is executed well, and while there are notable changes to the new game when compared with the original trilogy for the Nintendo DS, this is still classic Phoenix Wright at its finest, with extensive investigation sequences and intense courtroom drama – and not to mention its frustratingly challenging difficulty level in later cases.

In Spirits of Justice, Phoenix has travelled to a faraway land, a whole world away from the courtrooms he’s used to gracing back home, where young partner Apollo Justice is holding the fort. The game opens with the superstar lawyer meeting Ahlbi Ur’gaid, a young monk-in-training at Tehm’pul Temple, at a local market. It’s clear from the off that we’re revisiting the common theme of spirit mediums and mystical powers, which is in keeping with the feel of the series and what Maya Fey, who consequently returns later in this adventure, brought to the table following the death of her older sister in game one.

Back to the story and following the introduction, your first chapter sees you, as usual, in court. If you can get past the fact that the judge looks almost exactly the same as the judge back home, and that prosecutor Payne has somehow found his way into the mysterious courtroom, you’ll see that things play out very differently in this country thanks to the Divination Seance. What’s more, the defendant doesn’t even have a lawyer. And that’s where you come in, with an almighty “Objection!” to get the ball rolling.

It’s always interesting to be introduced to new cases and new characters (Even the incredibly annoying Andistan’dhin, who speaks almost entirely in song), building on the overarching story of the series. Sure, I miss facing off against the elusive Miles Edgeworth, but that doesn’t make this chapter any less of a thrill – and he does still also make a triumphant return in some respects later on. The general flow of the trials is the same as ever, with your cross-examinations and court record evidence, making it easy to pick up. Not to mention the humour and the banter between attorney and judge is back, and back with a vengeance.

The main change in the courtroom is the addition of the Divination Seances to ordinary proceedings, but we see this in the first case, offering a neat introduction before the larger investigations begin. The only problem is, it can be quite tricky to get the hang of as it is more complex than the mystical elements visited in games gone by, and requires a lot of careful thinking. The old locks on the witness’s heart, for example, were less confusing in the beginning than the seance sequences in this installment are. Though thankfully, you do get more used to this in later cases.

As for the investigation elements, once again they follow a familiar structure – talking to people, examining clues and moving between different areas – and we get our first taste of this with an alternate set of equally familiar characters. Yes, Phoenix Wright isn’t the only focus of this new game, and it’s great to see attorneys Apollo Justice and Athena Cykes, magician Trucy Wright, and even detective Ema Skye again in their own adventures while Phoenix is away. Of course, this also means we get to keep using all their unique detective and court abilities too, as well as the new ones, adding even more layers to our strategy than ever. There is a purpose to it all when both tales collide too, and in my eyes there’s nothing better than seeing a good story gradually come together.

The simplicity of the older games is still genius, as are the original characters, but nothing can be bad about adding more depth to the series. This sixth game may have come a long way, but sometimes you need that. It shows that even though the concept has limited scope, it is still growing and evolving, and drawing you further into the lives of these memorable characters as their stories continue.

If you’ve never played a Phoenix Wright game, it would be an interesting stepping stone to investigate, especially as you can probably pick up the original trilogy at least pretty cheap now. You could just delve straight in at this latest point as it does give you a brief history of each of the characters, but part of what makes these games so special, aside from the unique concept, is the story and its development over the years. I definitely have no regrets about buying Spirit of Justice, and from what I’ve played of it so far, I doubt you would either. The Ace Attorney games may not be the most talked about or most popular, but they really deserve more credit.

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