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Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Spirit of Justice

Platform(s): Nintendo 3DS
Genre: Adventure
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Release Date: Sept. 8, 2016


3DS Preview - 'Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Spirit of Justice'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on June 29, 2016 @ 2:00 a.m. PDT

This narrative adventure stars beloved defense attorneys Phoenix Wright and Apollo Justice and sees the return of many familiar faces alongside some interesting new additions.

It's hard enough to be a defense attorney in the real world, where things are complex and confusing. In the world of Ace Attorney, it's an occupation that seems to be taken up only by the brave, the foolhardy or the gluttons for punishment — or, as is the case with Phoenix Wright, all three at once. The latest game in the series, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Spirit of Justice, brings us back to the Wright law offices as he and two protégées take on a series of cases that span the globe, from the oddly Japanese version of California to distant lands where the court systems are … a little different. We got a glimpse of this during a presentation at E3 2016.

A major part of Spirit of Justice revolves around the distant mountain nation of Khura'in, where people have a rich spiritual tradition. However, they also have what can kindly be described as a disaster of a legal system. Under Khura'inese law, if the defendant is found guilty, the defense attorney is given the same punishment as his defendant. The country also has a deep and mysterious hatred of defense attorneys. This has, understandably, led to a country where defense attorneys are basically nonexistent. Of course, Wright finds his way there because if there's one thing you can depend on in an Ace Attorney game, it's that he will be the underdog.

The first case in the game, which was used in the demo, focuses on Phoenix's tour guide, the delightfully punny Ahlbi Ur'gaid. (Say it aloud if it isn't instantly clear.) Ahlbi is accused of the theft of a valuable artifact and the murder of its guard. Since he's a poor kid alone in a country without defense attorneys, the trial and subsequent execution seem entirely inevitable — that is until Phoenix, who's unwilling and unable to see someone go undefended, steps up to the plate.

Part of the reason the trials are so difficult is due to the presence of séances. The head priestess of the country can literally show the last moments of a victim's life to the entire courtroom, which makes most crimes rather easy to detect. It isn't just the victim's last sight that is portrayed but rather every sense and emotion. This could be the rock-hard evidence needed to convict a criminal, but it also means that Phoenix's talent for bluffing his way through any situation has plenty of room to find inconsistencies. With a seemingly infallible system that can provide evidence of the moment of the murder, even Phoenix is going to be hard-pressed to figure out a solution.

It's an interesting twist. Previous Ace Attorney games have delved into the supernatural (and pseudo-supernatural, such as Athena's emotion-reading system), but rarely have you been on the opposite side of such decisive evidence. Usually, a member of the Fey family can give Phoenix a bit of supernatural help. Speaking of which, a number of classic Wright characters are confirmed to be making an appearance. Apollo Justice will once again take up the role of co-protagonist with Phoenix, while longtime series partner Maya Fey will finally return after an extremely extended absence.

What we saw of Spirit of Justice looks as charming, exciting and punny as ever. The basic mix of courtroom shenanigans and exploring for evidence has gone basically unchanged, and fans can look forward to the same silly characters and dramatic turnabouts in cases. Visually, it looks fantastic, following up on Dual Destinies with lovingly rendered 3-D cel-shaded models that absolutely bounce with life. It's hard to suppress a smile as Phoenix goes from utterly overwhelmed to perfectly confident in a single objection.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Spirit of Justice is shaping up to be an excellent addition to the franchise. The glimpses we got of the first case carried that same tantalizing mix of laugh-out-loud cheesy humor and tense courtroom drama that make the Ace Attorney series so beloved. Between the return of old favorites and the introduction of new challenges, there should be something for all Ace Attorney fans. Spirit of Justice comes exclusively to the Nintendo 3DS eShop in Sept. 2016.

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