Phoenix Wright is a character that has earned his place in gaming, coming out of nowhere to be a unique character that has found his way into the expanded works of Capcom. Many may know him for his signature finger-pointing while shouting “Objection!”, but behind this rather simplistic lawyer is a standout series of games that take the visual novel genre and apply logical decision-making that shockingly make the Court of Law entertaining. Spirit of Justice is the next chapter in Wright’s story for the 3DS e-shop, as a digital only title.
In his newest entry, Phoenix Wright travels to the country of Khura’in, a place where lawyers are hated and trials are done through seance trials performed by the religious leader, Royal Priestess Rayfa. The stakes increase as this country employs a law that states the lawyer representing the client must take the same penalty decided, slowly weeding out lawyers from the Khura’in courtroom. Phoenix will try his best to defend his clients against all odds, even as these seances show the last moments of the person’s life, including what they smell and hear, making for some tough scenes to explain.
All of the nuances of this strange country are coupled with Apollo Justice left at the Wright Anything Agency with his own problems in the US, tackling an explosive case of his own.
How is Phoenix Wright’s latest entry overall? Let’s find out.
Before digging into the game, I have to admit that the Ace Attorney series is something I have no experience with. Phoenix Wright is a character I’ve always enjoyed in games like Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 and the memes that use his signature phrase can be quite funny. However, until this one, I’ve never played an Ace Attorney game, so many of the references to past games I won’t understand or appreciate. Consider this review perfect for those looking to get into the series, as my thoughts will be as if someone picked up Spirit of Justice on a whim with very little prior knowledge.
For starters, Spirit of Justice is a gorgeous game. The characters are expertly drawn, many sporting details that often become points in the cases. That and their quirks become unforgettable in the strangest of ways, believe me. Many times the game focuses on a single character in the frame, who has a slew of animations to make them seem more lively. Spirit of Justice also utilizes a combination of 2D styling of anime with the 3D cell-shading techniques similar to that used in Fire Emblem: Fates, which makes the characters vibrant and entertaining to watch. Coupled with these scenes are animated cutscenes, which have some of the best moments visually in the game, as usual in Japanese RPGs or the like.
Being that Spirit of Justice is a visual novel, the words spoken are an important component to the formula. Of course, the writing is nothing worth a Nobel Prize, but the dialogues between the cast have some excellently crafted moments with subtle hints to later be remembered. Players will have to keep a sharp eye out for clues to the full story of each case as they’ll be cross-examining testimonies from witnesses, pressing for more information, checking documents and other evidence, and finding discrepancies in the seances. Do all of this without making many mistakes will lead to victory!
This is where the Ace Attorney series seems to stand out as visual novels, which usually only have the player making decisions based on a few responses to dialogue. Spirit of Justice does have the traditional responses found in these sort of games, but there is also the need to further the case by using all of the aforementioned techniques. This makes the story far more engaging, as each line of dialogue could be that important detail to blow the case wide open.
I never thought I would enjoy being a lawyer, but Spirit of Justice definitely has me imagining that strange fantasy.
While the gameplay elements may be more hands-off than most action-based games, there is a lot to be had with Spirit of Justice. The game’s entire presentation is excellent, with some of the craziest twists I’ve seen in gaming that actually kept me on the edge of my seat, wanting to see what would happen to these characters next.
For those coming from a previous Ace Attorney, expect to see returning faces including Maya, Apollo Justice, Athena Cykes, and more as well as other references to the Ace Attorney legacy. Players will be able to examine situations in 3D environments as well utilize the Mood Matrix like what was seen in Dual Destinies. There is a bit more fantastical elements in Spirit of Justice than some of the other games as far as I can tell, but this does add new things to consider as the defense has to combat the “absolute truth” of the Royal Priestess’ seances.
Spirit of Justice is a great entry point, at least it has been for someone who knows the character’s archetype. Frankly, without the visual style and flair I could see the game being quite dull, yet all of the game’s elements combine together into a surprising experience. Few visual novel games carry as much excitement as Spirit of Justice; each detail revealed and rebutted got the adrenaline pumping, keeping me guessing and genuinely curious of the game’s plot. Much of the game’s plot I’ll leave for players to discover, as its a game best enjoyed without knowing the twists.
For those looking for a unique experience on the 3DS, pick up Spirit of Justice. It makes a lot of sense as a portable game, easy to save at any time to jump back in or just close the console when busy. Now, those of you who are into the series I probably don’t even have to mention, cause you’ve already pre-ordered it or imported the Japanese version. It is a shame that this is a digital only title, I would love to have the physical cartridge one day, but that’s the retro gaming enthusiast in me again.
Personally, I may have to take a look at Phoenix Wright’s humble beginnings. Time to go on a bit of a journey through gaming history.