Driven by data; ridden with liberty.
Ace Attorney: Spirit of Justice is the sixth entry in the main series of these visual novel adventures, published by Capcom for the Nintendo 3DS. Overall, it is the tenth canonical game in the Ace Attorney series. In Europe, Spirit of Justice is only available to download from the Nintendo eShop.
Set about one year after the events of Dual Destinies, the defense attorney Phoenix Wright travels to the Kingdom of Khura’in, a strongly religious nation where spirit channeling originates. Whilst on his way to meet his long-time friend and spirit medium Maya Fey (who has not been featured in the series since Trials and Tribulations), Wright gets caught up in a legal revolution.
Meanwhile, his understudies Apollo Justice and Athena Cykes watch over the Wright Anything Agency — set in Los Angeles in the localisation — in Wright’s absence. There is a wide returning cast, as Trucy Wright (Phoenix’s adopted daughter) and Ema Skye — now a forensic detective — play large roles in the story, alongside prosecutors Simon Blackquill and (the chief prosecutor) Miles Edgeworth, estranged friend Larry Butz and the channeling prodigy Pearl Fey.
The series introduces Nahyuta Sahdmadhi, a devout Khura’inese monk and international prosecutor, who seeks to lay souls to rest through trials, and the princess Rayfa Padma Khura’in.
Whilst the first three games in the Ace Attorney series did feature spirit channeling, the concept is central to the plot of Spirit of Justice. Indeed, the warped distortions in the Khura’inese legal system and the story’s occult nature may be divisive to players. However, the cases are genuinely imaginative, with The Magical Turnabout (the second episode, set at Trucy Wright’s magic show) being a particularly bright highlight.
Themes of parenthood, flawed justice and revolution come through strongly.
The game is divided into two phases: investigation and trials. In the former, the player investigates crime scenes and talking to witnesses, in order to build up a better picture of what actually happened. In the trial phase, you act as the defense attorney, defending your client by cross-examining witnesses to point out contradictions and achieve a verdict.
The major mechanics from previous titles return: Psyche Locks (where Wright points out contradictions to witnesses during an investigation), Perceiving (where Justice spots tells on untruthful witnesses), the Mood Matrix (where Cykes analyses witnesses to reveal better testimony), and revisualisation (where the lawyer mentally goes over the case to reveal the truth).
Spirit of Justice introduces Divination Séances, where the final moments of the victim are shown to the court, and the player find contradictions in Rayfa’s insights against the victim’s sensory perceptions.
The game does look stunning, with a continuation of animated cut-scenes, but some players may not be used to the point-and-click adventure style of gaming. The Divination Séances are sometimes less than intuitive, with players expected to click on empty space to proceed. The game was fun, but a greater variety in the investigation phase — with more puzzles, as in Professor Layton vs Ace Attorney — would have been better.
The music in Spirit of Justice is fantastic, with main composer Noriyuki Iwadare being joined by Toshihiko Horiyama and Masami Onodera.
Whilst the soundtrack for events in Khura’in are given an overtly mystic tone, the trial themes are among the best produced for the Ace Attorney series.
There is a new type of theme, entitled ‘The Basics of the Case’ in Spirit of Justice, which backs the prosecution’s opening arguments. It bears similarities to ‘Logic and Trick’ (the logic theme in the first Ace Attorney game), giving off senses of elucidation, mystery and threat.
The cross-examination theme — which backs the player going through the witness statements to spot contradictions — has a sharp string melody with a beautiful electronic piano counter-melody.
Whilst Spirit of Justice may share some weaknesses from earlier titles, I thoroughly recommend playing this game.