This review took a lot longer to come out than I anticipated. What can I say? Visual novels take a long time to get through. But if you are still on the fence about the newest Ace Attorney, then perhaps my thoughts will help you make a decision. Do keep in mind however that this game is available for digital download only on the 3DS.
This is the 6th installment of the main Phoenix Wright series. The very first game Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is a fantastic game with great storytelling, larger than life characters, and climactic court battles. I love that game and would go so far as to say that it is in my list top ten favorite games of all time, despite playing it many years after its original release. I bought Spirit of Justice and played it pretty much whenever I had free time. So does this game stand up to how good the first game was?
To be blunt… No. And that’s not to say Spirit of Justice is a bad game. It really isn’t. But it suffers from a lot of avoidable things. We’ll discuss that later.
For those who are unfamiliar with how the games work, they are visual novels. There is a lot of story and if you hate reading pass on this game. I love reading, so I am a fan. Of course, there is more gameplay than you would expect out of a visual novel. You play as one of three lawyers at any point in the game. Phoenix Wright, Apollo Justice, and Athena Cykes. They each have their own personality and magic lawyer abilities. If you’ve played the games you know what I’m talking about. The game is divided into two distinct parts: an investigation phase and a trial phase.
In the investigation phase you must move around, talk to people, and point-and-click to find pieces of evidence to use in court. In the trial phase you shout “objection” at the top of your lungs when you find inconsistencies between witness testimony and evidence. Present the correct piece of evidence at the correct phrase and you will move the story along. If you present the wrong piece of evidence too many times you will lose and your client is guilty. So save often. Now let’s talk about the things in this entry specifically.
The story arc in this game centers on a revolution taking place in the Kingdom of Khura’in. And Phoenix Wright is at the heart of inciting this revolution. Defense attorneys are practically illegal. If their client is found guilty, then attorneys are also found guilty of abetting criminals and subjected to the same punishment. Predictably the punishment is almost always the death penalty. Upon Phoenix winning his first case, the revolution begins. It’s not as interesting as other story arcs. The idea of a revolution turns out to be a lot less exciting than it sounds. But it is passable.
The rival prosecutor for this game is Nahyuta Sadmadhi, a monk from the Kingdom of Khura’in. He’s here to remind us that prosecutors are still allowed to dish out physical pain to defense attorneys without receiving any punishment. As far as prosecutors go in the series he’s pretty average. Apollo and Sadmadhi have a relationship that is explored the further as you go in the game. It’s pretty similar to Phoenix and Edgeworth’s arc in the first game, so nothing about it felt new. In fact it felt a little lazy, but six games in I guess it can be hard to come up with new material. That’s still not an excuse to cut it any slack.
The game introduces a new mechanic, because they do that for every game in the series. This time it is the Divination Séance. It lets you see the final thing the victim experienced before death. It includes all five senses, and you must point out what is wrong with the interpretation. I was not a fan of this mechanic at all. During those phases, I got stuck a lot. Maybe I’m just not smart enough to figure it out or something, but my mind had trouble with these sections. Not to mention I feel like I could point out plenty wrong with the interpretation, but if that’s not what they want you to point out, then you are wrong. Deal with it. So yeah… In my opinion: unnecessary and kind of jarring.
I bought the game on launch and played through the first case that day. The first case is intended to be the player’s tutorial to get them in the groove and learn how to play. It is also usually short and simple. The first case in this game was far from it. It lasted hours and introduced the Divination Séance mechanic right off the bat. The case bogged me down with how long it was. It really didn’t need to last as long as it did, and rather than accomplished I felt worn out after completing it.
Personally I think all of the cases in the game dragged a bit much. Some of the court or investigation phases could’ve been broken into smaller chunks and it would be better. The last day in court took me several days to complete. Pretty anticlimactic too as I felt nothing upon finishing the game. Most of the Phoenix Wright games leave me wanting more, but I did not feel much upon completing this one. Everything was predictable. I felt a bit relieved that it was over. The DLC cases don’t interest me. I can’t give an opinion on those, but I have not heard great things.
In conclusion, I would not recommend this game to anyone who hasn’t played any other game in the series. There is a lot of information about the characters and backstory across the previous five games and a new player would feel out of the loop. If you are curious about the series play the original trilogy. Veterans of the series looking for a new one will enjoy it, as it gives even more background on the characters and some new, very likable characters. That being said, I actually think this is one of the weakest games in the series. I would say it is better than Apollo Justice (#4 in the series), but not as good as any of the other games.