As the weather gets cooler and our days grow shorter, it’s starting to become the perfect time to snuggle in with a video game or two. My summer in video games has been pretty solid with much of it occupied with Mass Effect: Andromeda, knocking out some additional video games in the span of a month, and completing Dual Destinies last month. Getting closer to being all caught up with the Ace Attorney series, it made sense to make my next video game challenge for September the last (but maybe not final) game of the series Spirit of Justice.
This latest entry of the Ace Attorney series takes place one year after the events of Dual Destinies and begins with everyone’s favorite spiky haired defense attorney traveling to the mystical kingdom of Khura’in to meet with his old friend and assistant Maya Fey, who is about to complete her two-year training in perfecting her spirit-channeling abilities. To help Phoenix Wright get around the new and unfamiliar country, he is greeted by part-time tour guide Ahlbi Ur’gaid, a young boy who is a monk-in-training. You may think because our ace attorney is on vacation he will finally get a break from the courtroom. Unfortunately, justice never takes a holiday. No sooner has Phoenix just stepped off the airplane, he finds himself needing to utilize his years of experience as a lawyer when Ahlbi suddenly finds himself accused of murder and theft at a sacred temple. But Phoenix signing on as Ahlbi’s defense attorney isn’t so simple when he quickly learns that the legal and justice system operates on a whole different plane of existence in Khura’in.
Playing through the first case of the game, The Foreign Turnabout, you’ll instantly feel like you’re playing a completely different game. Spirit of Justice has all the usual mechanics and gameplay of past Ace Attorney games, like presenting evidence or pressing for more details in a witness’s testimony, but it does play up the fish out of water vibe Phoenix is experiencing. The courtroom looks different, the music and text design in the game has a foreign feel, and of course the clothes everyone wears in Khura’in is vastly different from the polished suits Phoenix and his colleagues wear when he’s back home.
Every Ace Attorney game has often made it a point to introduce a new ability or feature to help in the process of getting to the bottom of the real truth and prove someone’s innocence. This installment of the game is no different. Before Phoenix’s arrival, Khura’in relies on a Divination Seance, performed by the crown princess and royal priestess Rayfa Padma Khura’in, to determine someone’s guilt. The Divination Seance presents the last memory the victim experienced just before their death. The ability to commune with the spirits of the dead is another way of providing new insight into a case or expose a contradiction in the witness’s testimony.
I’ve only managed to complete the first case so far, and I’m not sure how I feel about the seance ability. Mysticism in the Ace Attorney world is nothing new. The core Phoenix Wright games has Maya, who is a spirit medium, and Phoenix has used his Magatama on countless occasions to unlock Psych-Locks when he “sees” someone hiding the truth from him, whether it’s intentional or unintentional. I’ve been on board with the Magatama ability since Day 1 and it felt like a natural part of the games. I suppose adding seances as an important element of the court proceedings in Spirit of Justice is starting to become too much of a stretch. I know what you’re thinking. How could I say that the seances is overreaching when everything about the Ace Attorney series is already exaggerated, weird, and over-the-top? Again, I’m still on the fence about this new ability and I’ll need to play more of the game to decide if I like it or hate it. Right now, I’m just not sure what to feel about it. I’m also thinking that maybe the developers and writers are starting to run out of ideas on how to best enhance the gameplay in such a way that it feels fun, innovative, and a natural fit with all the other abilities we have accumulated in previous games. Or maybe what’s not making me warm up to the Divination Seances immediately is because I find Rayfa to be an annoying brat, and she’s key to conjuring the images in the water pool at the center of the courtroom. I’ll reserve my final opinion on this new feature (and Rayfa) when I reach the end of the game.
What I do like about the game so far is the stranger in a strange land theme and the new set of challenges Phoenix Wright is up against. How do you keep Phoenix Wright as the underdog you’ve been rooting for since the first Ace Attorney game, while displaying his years of knowledge and expertise as the fan favorite defense attorney? I think throwing Phoenix Wright in unfamiliar territory, like traveling to a new country with their own rules of how they do their legal proceedings, is the way to go. The game also presents Khura’in’s history of hate for lawyers as the overarching story players will be curious to discover. What or who started this hate for lawyers? Why is it considered a taboo profession to have in this country? The first case only gives you small glimpses of how it started, which gives you enough incentive to keep progressing the story further by playing the next case.
As you may have already figured out, I haven’t beaten Spirit of Justice this month. I already knew I wouldn’t finish this game in a month, which is why I’m making this another ongoing special edition video game challenge. I heard this particular Ace Attorney game is slightly longer than previous games, especially with the extra DLC case it has. I want to take my time with Spirit of Justice, and I’m determined to finish the entire Ace Attorney catalog of games that’s currently playable in North America. At least the next time Capcom announces a shiny new Phoenix Wright game, I’ll be all caught up and ready to play the next one.
Come back next month with more of my insights about the game!