REVIEW: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Spirit of Justice (3DS)
THE GIST: It's a hybrid visual novel / adventure game where you investigate crime scenes, cross-examine witnesses, and pound on desks dramatically to prove your clients innocent in the most convoluted murder schemes ever.
This is the sixth game in a very story-heavy series (not counting three spinoff titles and one crossover with Professor Layton), with arcs that span multiple games. So I'll tell you right off the bat that this is not a good place to get your feet wet. If you're at all interested in this but haven't played the earlier games yet, check out the Ace Attorney Trilogy on 3DS or iOS. Then play Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney. Then Dual Destinies.
Now that you've done that and you're continuing this article two months later, you should have an idea of what you're getting into here; you investigate crime scenes and chat with witnesses, then head to the courtroom and look for inconsistencies between witness testimony and the evidence. I won't talk much about the story since that's the main draw for these games, but here are a couple quick points to get you up to speed:
- Cases are split between Phoenix (who is in the country of Khura'in, where they fucking hate lawyers and give them the same sentence as their clients if they're found guilty) and his two junior associates, Apollo Justice and Athena Cykes (who are back home in "Los Angeles").
- Khura'in is super into the spirit channeling stuff familiar to you if you've played the original trilogy. The new gameplay tic this time around is the Séance Vision, where the court gets to witness the last moments of a victim's life through their own eyes and argue about what they actually saw.
- Athena is very much the Scrappy Doo of the Ace Attorney series. I am no longer mad at Capcom for cancelling Mega Man Legends 3, because I am mad at Capcom that Athena has not yet been hit by a bus.
- You do not get to call any animals to the stand.
COURT IS IN SESSION: This is the second game to be released in the series since its creator, Shu Takumi, moved on to other projects. While it still doesn't quiiiiite reach the highs of the original trilogy, I feel like the team is really hitting a good stride now. They're bringing in more characters from previous games and working on tying up some of the plot threads that were left dangling, so that's good.
Gameplay-wise, I feel like this is an improvement on what they had going with Dual Destinies, too. There's still some irritating hand-holding every now and then, and once or twice I worked something out about three steps before I was "supposed" to (resulting in some wasted OBJECTIONS!), but overall I got the feeling that the writers didn't assume I was quite as stupid as they did in Dual Destinies.
This is also the longest game in the series; my activity log has my total play time sitting at just below 50 hours (this includes a fairly lengthy extra DLC case not tied to the main plot), which seems kind of obscene for what's basically a text adventure game. Yet another reason that you should play the rest of the series first - if you do not know and love these characters, there is no way you're going to click through fifty hours’ worth of text windows.
Presentation is as great as ever. The characters and their many animations are memorable (the culprit in each case usually has a big transformation of sorts when you're onto them, it's pretty funny), and the music is as catchy as ever. The game looks great in 3D. You do still have to exit to the title screen to reload your save file, which is a drag during those times when you get desperate and just start blindly guessing which piece of evidence you need to present at which of the witness's statements. There's a hint system in place where, if you do this a few times, your assistant can point out which statement you should be looking at. It's helpful without outright telling you the correct answer, which is nice.
THE VERDICT: Fans of the series will probably find this to be a better game than Dual Destinies (which itself wasn't bad). As for the rest of you - if you think you might enjoy something super story-driven that requires a bit of thinking, I can't recommend the Ace Attorney games enough. But get the trilogy first.
SCORE: 4 courtroom shenanigans that would absolutely get you disbarred in real life out of 5
+ Presentation (visuals, animations, music, etc.)
+ Great, funny writing, per usual
+ Game doesn't always assume you're an idiot like Dual Destinies did
- Game still sometimes assumes you're an idiot
- No replay value
- Athena should fall into a volcano or something