Things aren’t looking so great for Phoenix Wright. As a stranger in an even stranger land, he soon finds himself embroiled in yet another courtroom conundrum. However, in the kingdom of Khura’in – a nation on the brink of revolt – the wheels of justice seem locked in reverse.
A boy monk, who offers himself up as the lawyer’s tour guide, is charged with treason just moments into the game. A sacred treasure has been stolen from the grand temple and a security guard found dead.
Naturally, Wright comes to the aid of his new companion, though much to the shock of those in attendance. You see, Khura’in is a pretty old fashioned place. Some gorgeous beauty spots for tourists, sure, but also a dogmatic justice system that defies any reasonable logic. It’s the kind of place that’s zealous with a capital Z, where religion and spiritualism are held above all else.
Instead of forensic teams and detectives, Khura’in relies on priests and mediums to dispense justice, guided by their mystic teachings. Thing is, they’re pretty trigger happy when it comes to laying on the pious wrath. So much so that Khura’in hasn’t seen a defence lawyer take the stand for twenty three years.
Lawyers aren’t exactly the most popular bunch yet here they’re actively detested and sometimes killed! There’s even a law which states that, if found guilty, a defence attorney will share the same punishment as the defendant. With Wright’s new monk friend in the dock for treason, there’s no prizes for guessing what that punishment might be.
It’s a surprisingly grim premise, though one that is met with the series’ usual tongue in cheek approach. Corrupt courts and bloody revolts don’t exactly make for knee-slapping comic material, yet Capcom has artfully circled around these real-world problems without causing offence.
Once again, Phoenix Wright serves as the player’s guide in this bizarre, sometimes parodic world. As ever, his reactions are pricelessly endearing as he stumbles from one legal landmine to the next. Meanwhile, characters from across the courtroom are completely bonkers, throwing a series of ridiculous obstacles for players to work their way around.
If you’re familiar with the series, then you’ll know the score here – Spirit of Justice even allows returning fans to skip large demonstrative portions of the game. That’s because, despite one or two new features, it’s largely the same Ace Attorney experience we’re used to.
Between copious amount of dialogue, you’ll need to gather clues, question suspects and investigate crime scenes before duking it out in court. Here, you’ll review everything you’ve learned about the case, using that knowledge to cross examine witnesses and ultimately unmask the real culprit.
Instead of scanning an endless wall of text, these segments are punctuated with occasional mini games – if you can call them that. Whether conducting a seance, dusting objects for prints, or analysing a character’s ‘tells’, Spirit of Justice avoids drowning players in a wash of words.
Simply gunning through the text and exhausting every possible dialogue option won’t always work, however. Court battles will often require focus, penalising mistakes while rewarding sound logic. As ever, there will be one or two conundrums that call for some trial and error, though most breakthroughs simply require a bit of brainwork.
Once again, the series looks stunning on Nintendo’s 3DS. Although the system’s 3D effects don’t add much, character models and environments look polished and vibrant, retaining that same level of charm we’ve come to expect.
In many ways Spirit of Justice can be likened to one of Capcom’s other recent flagships, Monster Hunter: Generations. Both hail from fantastic game series though neither are particularly ground-breaking. Instead, they’ve simply uprooted their tried and tested formulas, plonking them in a slightly different setting with new bells and whistles attached. Where other franchises are demonised for failing to constantly evolve, Ace Attorney is one that benefits from remaining untouched, propped up by lovable characters and some superb writing.
Version Tested: New Nintendo 3DS