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Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Spirit of Justice Review


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On 10/21/2016 at 12:00 PM by Casey Curran

Capcom’s strange, yet strangely compelling series returns.
RECOMMENDATION:

Fans of the series will enjoy the new additions and smart use of the 3DS’ boost in power over the original DS. Newcomers, however, be warned as if you are not familiar with the series, the amount of gameplay elements, characters, and plot points which return may overwhelm you.

“Well Mr. Wright, would you care to explain how the witness could been at the crime scene during this time?”

Answering this question will be tricky to handle, the only way through was guarded the whole time and I can’t see another way he could get to that mountain. Let’s look at my options: “He climbed up”, “He snuck in through the gate”, and “He fell from the sky.” Well climbing up seems like the most plausible….oh no he has a pretty airtight alibi on why that’s not possible. Okay, let’s see if he just snuck in through the gate, maybe I was just missing something -- nope. No way he could get through there either. I must be approaching this the wrong way, just need to figure out how. Maybe I’ll try “He fell from the sky” just for the hell of it and see if I can figure out….oh wait. I have evidence that fits in with this claim. I think this guy really did fall from the sky.

Yep, Spirit of Justice is an Ace Attorney game alright. Capcom’s strange, yet strangely compelling series returns for the player to once again assume the role of a lawyer. Not a lawyer who beats up bad guys or has super powers. A lawyer who gathers evidence to prove his client’s innocence by using it to point out contradictions in court. From there, it’s pointing out why the witness brought up a contradiction and what it means about the case until the truth is revealed at the very end.

While this sounds dull and mundane, it is actually a very engaging experience. Witnesses break down in fun, over the top ways with each contradiction, to the point where some suffer from mental breakdowns. New entries also bring about their own gameplay element such as observing body language to point out what in a statement a character has lied about. These gameplay elements are added to stories which allow its characters to evolve in plots which explore new themes and ideas.

Well, every character except Phoenix Wright that is. Which is not a bad thing by any means, he had four games dedicated to defining his character and at this point is fine now being the mentor to his employees Apollo Justice and Athena Cykes. Really, Phoenix’s name should not be in the title as Apollo is the real star of the show. The game lures fans in thinking that the focus will be on Phoenix’s revival with his former assistant Maya Fey. He receives the most playtime, by far the most development, and even finishes the game yelling, “Objection!” a role usually reserved for Phoenix.

As someone who has always seen Apollo as the weakest of the playable characters in the franchise, I can safely say Spirit of Justice completely changed my mind on him. The game smartly lets you play an entire case as him unknowing how important he is to the plot so you can get a feel for who he is in and out of the court. You see his morality, his logic, and his hilariously dry wit in action before a twist is revealed halfway through the game, which initially is only a minor detail, but over time makes him central to the plot at hand.

The game even offers Apollo a perfect rival with Prosecutor Nahyuta Sahdmadhi. While not my personal favorite rival in the series, he is nonetheless a great addition to the series, rarely losing his cool and fairly often finding some kind of hole in his opponent’s defense. He’s never afraid to tell anyone how he really feels either, as he offers hilarious one liners mocking the player characters with absurd metaphors and describing the torture that awaits criminals. While I do wish his motivation was as complex as some past Ace Attorney prosecutors, he’s everything a character in the series should be: Intimidating, cunning, and hilarious.

In fact, this is probably the funniest game in the entire franchise. The series has always told plenty of great jokes with a good number of running gags, yet the new game takes advantage of the 3DS’ new capabilities far more than past titles to allow its more fluid animation to provide a good source of visual humor. The old characters also bring some of their funniest material to the table alongside plenty of new great characters such as the goofy rebel Datz and egocentric buffoon Paul Atishon, whom may or may not be influenced by Donald Trump.

True to Ace Attorney form, Spirit of Justice does not throw goofiness into its plot simply to be funny, but revels in it to make a point. These goofy characters make the absurdity of the fictional nation Khura'in where half the game takes place seem plausible. Here, rather than host a trial, the princess of the land does a ceremony to see the victim’s last moments before death, which the verdict is based on. Any defense attorney who fails to prove this client meanwhile, is sentenced to the same punishment (more often than not, execution).

This is not only for plot either, as analyzing the video go point out contradictions creates a challenging yet fun new approach to the series. It’s hardly perfect, however, as the game combines watching a murder play out with a testimony, which can get too convoluted at times. There are instances where I knew that something is wrong with the testimony or vision, yet could not piece it fit in with the other side. I would try random pieces of testimony or point to random parts, which could get annoying. However, these instances were few and while I feel this is the most challenging game in the franchise, it stays fair throughout most of the game.

The first case presents the new culture very well, showing how it has created a hostile guilty until proven innocent mentality and brandishes lawyers as being just as evil as criminals for giving people the benefit of the doubt. It shows beyond any doubt how broken their law system is. Then the second case happens. The game slaps the player in the face by giving a case in America whom a network executive decides to bury to get the public on his side. People judge her before a verdict is declared and even take shots at Apollo for defending her. It draws parallels to ask the question of how much better we truly are, despite what our law says. It shows how a simple newscast can make people want to destroy

My only wish is that Spirit of Justice spent more time exploring this idea. Rather, its third and fifth acts dedicated to the Khura’in justice system, which are excellently done, but the fourth case is kind of just filler. It offers decent fanservice while giving Athena her own case, whose role in this game is pretty minor compared to Phoenix and Apollo. I wish there was another case paralleling the US legal system with Khura’in rather than just a random case about noodles. It’s still very fun, just a bit of wasted potential.

What really matters anyway is the final act. An Ace Attorney final case always makes or breaks the game and this is no exception. The amount of twists thrown at the player is absolutely ludicrous, yet all of them feel natural and integral to the plot. Despite how many plot points feel like shoddy writing at first glance, they eventually lead to perfectly logical explanations to why everything played out this particular way. Well, logical in the confines of the game’s logic at least.

Ace Attorney 6 surprised me. I expected nothing more than a serviceable entry in the franchise, but ended with one of the most satisfying games I have played in years.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:


All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.


These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.


This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.


Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.


Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.


A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.

Side By Side - DLC


Spirit of Justice offers three pieces of DLC: Phoenix Wright: Asinine Attorney priced at $3.99, Apollo Justice: Asinine Attorney priced at $3.99, and an extra episode "Turnabout Time Traveler" priced at $5.99. The first piece is incredibly short at under a half an hour, but more than makes up for it with how hilarious it is. I won't spoil what makes it so funny, but it does justify its price. Apollo's episode, however, does not hold up to the same scrutiny. It's hardly longer and not nearly as funny as the first game while only offering a little bit of fanservice.

"Turnabout Time Traveler" is recommended for huge AA fans only. The game draws on a lot of fanservice bringing back many old characters, but is a little too predictable. It's still funny and has great character moments, but without the usual strong mystery it feels a bit lacking.


 

Comments

Cary Woodham

10/21/2016 at 09:20 PM

Just a warning to anyone reading this comment, there may be some Phoenix Wright spoilers here and there.  But not for Casey, the reviewer.

I really enjoyed Spirit of Justice, but I enjoy all Ace Attorney games.  They play all the same, so I treat them like reading a book that you really like and want to find out what happens to the characters in the next novel.  

Spirit of Justice will go down in history for me as introducing a character that will probably make it on my Top Five Favorite Phoenix Wright Characters list.  Yup, right on up there with Dick Gumshoe and the Blue Badger.  And that would be Rayfa Padma Khura'in.  At first I thought she'd be annoying, but they gave her some real gradual character development that I thought was pretty cool.  

I had three problems with Spirit of Justice, though.  One is a problem I have with other games in the series, too.  It was painfully obvious who each of the culprits was in each case, which is understandable since it's been established that Columbo was one of the inspirations for the series, and in that TV show, the audience knows who the bad guy is, and watch to see how the characters come to the conclusion.  But in Phoenix Wright, since you know who did it usually, it's easy to put the cart before the horse and present information that won't work at that time, even though it makes sense.  And sometimes you have to think like the game's 'logic' which can be hard at times.  Spirit of Justice seemed especially bad at this, and making it obvious who the culprits were.  Only time I wasn't so sure was in the 4th case, because the culprit had pink hair and I have a soft spot for video game characters who have pink hair (like Ulala or Tomba).

Speaking of which, the next problem I had with the game was the 4th case.  That'll go down in history as one of my least favorite cases.  It felt like filler that had no relation to any of the other cases, and it wasn't much fun.  Plus, it was steeped so deep in Japanese culture that some of the clues were not as easy to understand.  Put in a witness with multiple personalities and you get one confusing situation.  I wouldn't have missed that case if it was omitted.

The last problem I had was it was download only.  I know, you'll have to drag me kicking and screaming into the digital age.  I'm sorry, I guess I'm just old.  It's just that this game is such a memory hog.  I wish we got a cartridge like Japan did.

I was mad at the first two DLC cases at first since they were so short, but they were funny and they also give you the option to download a 3DS theme afterwards, so that was cool.  I liked the big DLC case because it was like old times, bringing back Phoenix, Maya, Edgeworth, and Larry (all it needed was Gumshoe), but the DLC case from the last game, with the whales, was way better.

Phoenix Wright games are kind of the last bastion of Capcom games that I still play.  I used to play Capcom games all the time when they still made Mega Man titles as well as publishing unique games like Okami, Under The Skin, Ghost Trick, and Zack & Wiki.  But they don't do those things anymore, so Phoenix Wright is all I have left.

Too bad we may not get The Great Ace Attorney or its recently announced sequel.  Capcom says they'd like to bring them over here, but circumstances are keeping them from doing so (I think I know what they mean).  Miles Edgeworth 2 may be a lost cause by now.

Anyway, sorry for the long comment.  I don't really have anyone to discuss Phoenix Wright with anymore, so I had to let it all out here.  --Cary

Casey Curran Staff Writer

10/23/2016 at 11:41 AM

Rayfa was definitely a great character, she had a really good arc and was surprisingly funny with her outbursts. I thought it would get annoying quick, but they handled her well. My favorite new character was Datz though. I always love the goofy AA characters who don't realize how much they're annoying everyone and somehow find their way to accidentally meddle with each case in stupid ways.

I thought the culprit was pretty obvious in the second and fifth case (the first gave it away so didn't count), but the third and fourth caught me off guard, especially the third with how unconventional it was. The fourth case really did feel like they needed to give Athena something to do though and was too Japanese. Still, Blackquill returning was at least fun. Download only was disappointing too, but I'll take what I can get.

The main DLC case was fun, but still average by series standards. I knew from the beginning how they would explain the time travel and knew who the villain was the second I met him and guessed his motivation pretty well. I was pretty much there for Larry and Edgeworth who were at least both hilarious. Also speaking of Edgeworth, his rant on the Plumed Punisher was hilarious, always love when they bring up how much of a Steel Samurai fanboy he is.

I agree that this is the only thing Capcom really interests me now with though. I'm not a fan of the direction they went with recent Street Fighter and Resident Evil games and Monster Hunter is the only other franchise they consistently make games for. Their new IPs are lacking as well, can't really think of many they've done recently. This might be my favorite of their series ever though, even beating out Mega Man, Resident Evil, and Street Fighter.

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