[Review] Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice

https://vndb.org/v18267
JP title: 逆転裁判6

Honestly, Spirit of Justice should have just been called Apollo Justice 2. Because that’s really what it is. Putting that aside, though, this is actually a pretty solid addition to the franchise. At the very least, I found it to be a more enjoyable entry than the colossal disappointment that was Dual Destinies.

I went into this game with highly tempered expectations, primarily because, as I’ve stated above, I found Dual Destinies to be a major letdown. In fact, DD was the first time I actually dropped an Ace Attorney game halfway through because it was just that underwhelming – of course, I did go back to finish it later, but goddamn was it testing my patience. And I say that as someone who otherwise adores this series, even with all its blunders and weaker installments (*coughInvestigationscough*). Dual Destinies’ cases ranged from mediocre to outright terrible (I still can’t get over how awful 5-3 was), with its only highlight being the admittedly pretty badass twist during the final trial.

So I guess that gives you a general idea of my mentality when I first booted up Spirit of Justice. And then the tutorial case happened and… it was actually pretty nice! The first case was surprisingly lengthy for a tutorial, had some moderately interesting twist and turns, and introduced the game’s big new mechanic, the Divination Séances. Oh, and the Kingdom of Khura’in in general was far more appealing to me as a setting than… *sigh* …Los Angeles, the greatest city in these United States of America…

Ahem. So the basic setup is that Phoenix travels to Khura’in for a vacation or whatever, and inevitably ends up getting involved with a murder case. That’s good ol’ Phoenix for ya, people are just dropping like flies wherever he goes. Anyway, the thing about Khura’in is that they fucking hate lawyers with the fury of a thousand suns. False accusations and innocent men being found guilty are pretty much a daily occurrence due to the so-called Defense Culpability Act, a Khura’inese law stating that anyone who defends a criminal will be found just as guilty if they fail to prove their client’s innocence. In short, if the defendant is sentenced to death, their lawyer joins them on the gallows. Fun times. Meanwhile, Apollo and Athena stay back home in the US and solve cases on their own, so the narrative kinda switches back and forth between the two locales. I kinda feel like the whole three protagonists thing was a little too much and should probably not be forced in future installments, though.

So, about those Divination Séances. Basically, the cute priestess grill does a cute little dance in order to conjure up the last few seconds of the deceased’s memories, thus helping you piece together how they died. You look at the “footage”, compare it to the priestess’ statements, and point out contradictions. For the most part, I found this mechanic pretty fun, although there were a few occasions where things got sort of frustrating. At times, I knew exactly what the contradiction was, but I didn’t point it out the way the game wanted me to point it out, so… that was not so fun. Some may think the Séances are too far-fetched or whatever, but I mean, come on. This is already a franchise full of mediums and spirit channeling. Also, Phoenix has his magatama and Apollo walks around with a magic bracelet that serves as his supernatural bullshit detector. The Ace Attorney series thrives on being over-the-top, so I personally saw nothing wrong with the Séances… for the most part. At least it was fresh and interesting, and far more enjoyable as a game mechanic than Athena’s shitty Mood Matrix. Does the Mood Matrix let me watch an awesome 3D cutscene of a cute priestess girl doing a cute little dance?

No.

The answer is no.

I rest my case.

soj rayfa

By the way, let’s quickly address the whole Maya Fey situation, since her return was one of the big selling points of the game. Yes, this is indeed her long-awaited return after god knows how many years. And the ironic part is… she’s barely in the game. Really. When it was first revealed that Maya would be back, I thought it’d be her and Nick as assistant and lawyer, solving cases together just like in the old days. But no, she’s introduced and then quickly demoted to minor side character status who sometimes shows up but you kinda just forget she even exists. So just prepare yourself for that if you’re a big Maya fan. Her overall screen time in SoJ is not nearly as prominent as you might think. I’m honestly not that surprised by this, seeing how SoJ is already jam-packed with characters and the game is hell-bent on giving everyone their time in the spotlight (see: the Athena/Simon filler case), so there wouldn’t have been enough time for Maya stuff. On the other hand, they really could’ve given such a major character a better welcome back party, to say the least. The only exception to the above is the DLC case, where she and Phoenix do team up again, so I guess there’s that.

My favorite newcomer is probably Rayfa, the young and somewhat spoiled Khura’inese tsundere priestess whose interactions with Phoenix are pure gold. Her various facial expression and reactions never failed to crack me up. There’s also Armie, a witness who’s… well, I don’t wanna spoil it, so you’ll just have to see for yourself. Oh and Ema is great, but that’s hardly anything new. Trucy is also cute, probably even more so than before. Pearl, too. There are lots of cute grills in this game, now that I think about it.

On the other hand, SoJ’s new prosecutor, Nahyuta, is pretty awful. He mostly just spews his condescending bullshit at you throughout the majority of the trials, which gets old REAL fast. Wow, he called you a red pepper. How hilarious. Oh, my sides. I wanted to just slap his stupid smug face every time he called something “putrid” or told me to let it go and move on. Thankfully, there are cool male characters, too. Edgeworth is in the main game for a short while (plus he’s the opposing prosecutor for the DLC case), and Dhurke, the rebel leader, is also a pretty likable dude.

The “Most Development” award goes to Apollo, who’s pretty much the main protagonist this time around, if you consider the larger picture (he’s even the player-controlled lawyer of the final case, not Phoenix). So yeah, he actually gets a decent amount of backstory here. Like, stuff we’d never even heard of before. A lot of it feels like the writers just randomly pulled things outta their asses to suddenly make you care more about Apollo, lol. Still, it’s kinda explained why he never brought it up before, so I just rolled with it.

Also, I really wished the game would just lay the fuck off the constant flashbacks. I’m not a goldfish.

***

Person to Apollo: “I love ice cream. Its sweetness tingles my tongue like a tiny little marching band of miniature ice people having a frigid Mardi Gras in my mouth.”

Apollo, 2 minutes later: “Remember how she told me she loves ice cream because its sweetness tingles her tongue like a tiny little marching band of miniature ice people having a frigid Mardi Gras in her mouth?”

FLASHBACK TO 2 MINUTES AGO

Person to Apollo (everything is now sepia colored): “I love ice cream. Its sweetness tingles my tongue like a tiny little marching band of miniature ice people having a frigid Mardi Gras in my mouth.”

BACK TO THE PRESENT

Apollo. “See? She did say that!”

***

But if I remember correctly, this has always been a bit of a staple of the franchise, so whatever. It’s just a pet peeve of mine, really. And while we’re on the topic of pet peeves, I don’t get why the game felt the need to give the player these bullshit non-choices. Like, a number of times you’ll get some visual novel-esque options in the vein of “abandon the case or continue fighting?” and so on. You get the idea. And they impact absolutely jack shit. No matter what you choose, they both lead to the same outcome, with the only difference being one or two lines of text. So what’s the point? Was the team this desperate to try and add an extra layer of player agency to the game, even if it’s just a hollow illusion? Come on.
Minor things I liked about SoJ is how you’re once again able to investigate every single area, not just crime scenes, which was very much reminiscent of the original trilogy. I’d say it’s worth examining everything and shoving evidence into everyone’s faces in classic Ace Attorney fashion, because there are nuggets of entertaining banter pretty much everywhere you look. Hell, it’s one of the things I really like about the series due to the extra little tidbits of comedy and character development it provides. Which also means that you can actually rack up quite a hefty play time, provided you do what I did and examine everything/press every statement/present random evidence for extra dialogue, etc. I was already at 60+ hours by the time I reached the endgame of the final case, which is impressive – and that’s before I even started the extra DLC case.

In terms of difficulty, I felt the game was not as easy as DD, since I ended up getting stuck here and there (mostly during Séances), but it still has plenty of parts that are totally braindead-tier easy because the game essentially spells out the solution for you. Oh, and the Mood Matrix still fails to pose any sort of a challenge and remains just as silly as ever. You know there are problems when the Divination Séances, where they literally conjure up the memories of the dead with a magic ritual, are more believable than Athena going “A-ha! You weren’t just a little sad when the incident occurred! You were, in fact, very sad! That’s 40% more sadness than before! Care to explain that?” Bleh.

As for the cases, they’re all fairly solid, even the first one. The weakest of the bunch is Athena’s case, which serves as 100% filler and doesn’t have much to do with the rest of the game, but even that was an okay episode overall. Seeing Simon on the defense’s side for a change was kinda cool, too. On the other hand, if this case had not been in the game, I doubt I would’ve missed it, and I still don’t really care too much for Athena as a character. Case 2 is decently fun with a tricky solution, plus it also focuses on Trucy, and as we all know, Trucy is good. Case 3 was one of the better ones: it had a cool enough mystery and an emotional finale that highlighted why the Defense Culpability Act is a bunch of horseshit.

The first half of Case 5 deserves a special mention because it does something that no other Ace Attorney game has ever done before (the English launch trailer totally spoils this btw, so maybe don’t watch it lol). Much like DD, SoJ alo has a big “oh shit” twist in the final case, though to be perfectly honest, I did… sort of… see it coming. Or rather, it was something that crossed my mind at one point as the potential twist, in a “wouldn’t that be kinda cool” sort of way, and, well, it turned out to be the actual twist in the end. It is a pretty shocking reveal, but I think I prefer the one in DD, all in all. As for the last trial in general, it was… okay. Maybe it’s better if you really like Apollo, but for me, it wasn’t a hugely powerful finale. The final villain is kinda meh, too, and Nahyuta, like I said, is bland as hell, so the overall case didn’t have a huge impact on me. It had some surprises, while certain other plot points reeked of “been there, done that” syndrome, and there’s even a stupidly predictable twist thrown in there. But overall, I guess it was still an adequate enough conclusion to a story about a legal revolution and Apollo’s coming-of-age rite as a lawyer. It’s not really the best final case/trial in the series, but it’s not the worst, either.

The DLC episode, Turnabout Time Traveler, goes back to basics with Phoenix and Maya facing off against Edgeworth, much like in the first Ace Attorney. Seeing the usual back-and-forth between Phoenix and Edgeworth in court was certainly refreshing after the main game’s focus on Apollo and boring old Nahyuta. Overall, I thought the case was fine, albeit tremendously predictable.

Anyway, so complaints aside, I did enjoy Spirit of Justice for the most part. It’s a consistently solid title, with none of the cases being outright bad; it also never bored me to tears like Dual Destinies did, and the mysteries/investigations were actually fairly cool, not to mention all the interesting new characters added to the roster. Also, it might be just my mind playing tricks on me, but even the dialogue felt funnier/quirkier compared to DD. So in closing, I thought this game was a step in the right direction after the previous installment, and I’ll be looking forward to what they come up with for the next one. Hopefully a better prosecutor, for starters.

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3 thoughts on “[Review] Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice

  1. I for one loved it, especially the last case. It’s been a while since I felt actually emotionally invested in an Ace Attorney game, and Apollo’s coming of age story was a very much welcomed feature. Then again, I think I’m the only one in the world that really likes Apollo. I even think Apollo Justice is the best entry in the series.

    • Also, I think they should just have a fully new protagonist and ditch Phoenix. He had a whole trilogy for him and his story is done. He’s clearly just there for brand recognition.

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