Review: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Spirit of Justice


Order in the afterlife

As far back as I can remember, I wanted to be a lawyer. Maybe it was The Firm, maybe it just called to me -- but that's not what ended up happening, despite earning my pre-law and philosophy degrees and prepping for the LSATs.

In High School, my AP history teacher told me about a defining moment in his life that led him away from something he thought was a calling. He went to seminary to become a priest, and before he "donned the cloth" (I love saying that), he looked in the mirror, and said to himself "celibacy?" After that he went back to school and became a teacher.

It sounds absurd, but that same thing kind of happened to me after getting married, albeit in a different wheelhouse. After talking to all of my law-bound friends about the long hours and all of the other "perks," I reconsidered. In that regard, I'll always wonder what might have been. But that's partially why video games are so great, because they give me the opportunity to dream and escape.

And since the Phoenix Wright series helps me cope with that, I'm extremely grateful.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Spirit of Justice (3DS)
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Released: September 8, 2016
MSRP: $29.99

Away from the comfortable courtroom you're probably used to if you've dabbled in a few Wright games before, Spirit of Justice whisks us away to the Kingdom of Khura'in, an indeterminate region in the east. Phoenix and crew are merely there to visit a friend, but they couldn't have picked a worse time as the country is currently dealing with a revolutionary uprising.

I think I actually like this setup the most of any Wright title. You have this awesome, high-stakes macro story playing out alongside of each case, with severe religions undertones that define the entire legal process. Defense attorneys are deemed useless, as priestesses can "commune with the dead" and watch the last moments of each victim -- it's all the evidence (they think) they need, Minority Report style. Naturally Phoenix steps in to fix the situation, even in light of a law that states that the defense must be punished alongside of the defendant should he lose (even if it's death). This leads to some hilarious dialogue, and as dark as the whole situation is, new characters that are worth listening to.

Spirit is also caked with lovely anime scenes with English voice acting (A-1, who animates the show, handles the games now) and updated character models. It's all so damn charming, and the multitude of emotions Phoenix himself emulates show you first-hand why he translates so well to a fighting game. His boyish enthusiasm and charm are undeniable, especially when juxtaposed to all of the new Khura'in residents, who are strange, but ultimately provide new perspectives that he's not used to.

Never played a Wright game before? That's fine. You can pick up on a few inferred relationships along the way. It's essentially an interactive visual novel, with players having the option to present specific bits of evidence at key moments (like showing a contradictory contract while highlighting a statement from a witness saying they weren't at a location at a certain time). The "Spirit" part is all-new though, and deals with even more testimony from the dead.

Yet, they can't actually speak for themselves, so you're just going to get jumbled feelings and phrases on the screen to decipher. It's another form of testimony but a unique process, and it'll take several cases to get used to. It's not a massive departure or something out of left field, but it melds well. And if you really want a more traditional setting, Wright's pal Apollo Justice has some antics in LA to follow.

I don't think you'll mind Khura'in at all, though. The cases are wackier, and the spiritual theme adds a whole new tint to everything. That, and the totalitarian backdrop that colors the story, citing Wright derogatorily as a "foreigner." Then you have the seances, the proud judge with an ornate gavel -- Spirit just changes so much it's lovely. Yet, it also returns to some missed fundamentals like the "five strike" system (read: you can't just present evidence over and over and hope to succeed), as well as a toned-down hint mechanic.

Capcom could just keep making these with different time periods in new regions and I'd keep playing them. As long as it employs a good writing crew and delivers satisfying scenarios, I'm in. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Spirit of Justice, you made this aspiring lawyer's day.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]

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Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Spirit of Justice reviewed by Chris Carter



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Chris Carter
Chris CarterReviews Director, Co-EIC   gamer profile

Chris has been enjoying Destructoid avidly since 2008. He finally decided to take the next step, make an account, and start blogging in January of 2009. Now, he's staff! ------------------- T... more + disclosures



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    Filed under... #3DS #Capcom #Phoenix Wright #reviews #Role-Playing Games #Top Stories



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