Review: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney — Spirit of Justice (3DS)

Court is in session once again. Is Spirit of Justice another case worth taking?

By Anthony Pelone. Posted 09/08/2016 07:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Great story with thrills and twists; fair difficulty; graphics and model animation continues to stun; great humor;
Poison Mushroom for...
Divination Séances are a tad too complex; Americanized localization is more awkward than ever

Once again, court is in session with the latest Ace Attorney game, Spirit of Justice. Phoenix Wright and co. take on the law in a land away from home: the eastern Kingdom of Khura’in, home of the series’ Kurain Channeling Technique. Here, there are no lawyers: merely religious séances that communicate with the dead. The likes of Phoenix Wright, Apollo Justice, and Athena Cykes are all too eager to take down this imbalanced system, but it may come at a deadly cost…

Over the past decade, the Ace Attorney games have gained a passionate Western cult following thanks to their colorful characters and mind-bending cases, and Spirit of Justice builds upon these lovable traits with great success. As opposed to being a rehashed sequel, the new game follows in the footsteps of the previous 3DS entry, Dual Destinies, by further shaking up the courtroom: from the animated Divination Séances that capture a victim’s moment of death, to the fully 3D cutscenes accompanying 2D animated ones, the court drama remains as thrilling as ever.

And what thrills it provides, considering what lengths Spirit of Justice takes to contextually raise the stakes. Without getting too spoilerly, the risk of losing cases has never been higher for Wright and the gang, both at the homefront and from their visits to Khur’ain, the latter of which is none too kind to lawyers. But to achieve such dramatic effect, proper difficultly must be established.


Many had felt Dual Destinies was too easy, so efforts had been made to render Spirit of Justice a more brain-bending affair. Most of these  work well; for instance, not only do clues not feel nearly as telegraphed here, but investigation isn’t nearly as streamlined or controlled, so you’re free to investigate to your heart’s content. Meanwhile, the Divination Séances will put your cross-examination skills to the test, for players must juggle between the victim’s final memories, the last senses they experienced (expressed through words overlaying the séance water pool), and the contradictions that lie within. Needless to say, they’re easily the toughest head-scratchers of this adventure.

As fascinating as they are, though, I wonder if they’re a tad too complex. Often, I found myself correctly guessing the contradiction, but I constantly struggled in matching the faulty cross-examination statement with whatever was happening the departed’s vision (or vice-versa). Perhaps brainier fans might disagree, but I spent quite some time wondering what I was doing wrong.


Noriyuki Iwadare returns to compose the latest Ace Attorney adventure to a solid degree of success. While the overall soundtrack doesn’t reach his highs in Trials and Tribulations or Dual Destinies, the game’s overt Eastern setting demands a different sort of focus. Not that we didn’t have Eastern-inspired music in the series beforehand, but the Khura’in segments present the strongest expressions of these themes (particularly for the bombastic themes of the Defiant Dragons, as well as the vocal-filled séance summoning). Meanwhile, there’s not a rough patch to be found in any of the limited voice acting sequences, be they new characters or familiar faces.

Props must also be directed toward the story, which is a fun blend of nostalgia (the return of Maya Fey, alongside a slew of in-jokes and references), hilarity (a certain rebel from the Defiant Dragons comes to mind), and a dash of heartfelt drama– if the twists and turns of the third case don’t make your eyes bulge, you should at least grab some Kleenex for the tearjerker ending.

Meanwhile, whereas the overarching narrative of Dual Destinies focused on the past of newcomer Athena Cykes, Spirit of Justice delves ever deeper into the enigma that is Apollo Justice. Anyone still disappointed with his original introduction should, in the words of new prosecutor Nahyuta Sahdmadhi, “let go, and move on”– here, the character has finally come well into his own as a full-fledged attorney, facing the demons of his past in a way that very much echoes the first Ace Attorney. Could it perhaps be argued he’s the game’s true protagonist?


As expected, the localization quality serves the setting quite well, right down to the clever name puns (“Ahlbi Ur’gaid”) and humorous dialogue. Unfortunately, this also means you can expect familiar flaws in the form of typos (“So, what do mean, you can’t completely deny the charge?”) and rather awkward attempts at “Americanizing” the setting. If you thought Nine-Tales Vale in Dual Destinies challenged your suspension of disbelief, prepare to be thrown for a loop by a case surrounding the subject of rakugo, a Japanese form of theater. To its credit, the twists and turns involved remain for a compelling mystery, but some jokes were definitely lost in translation.

Regardless, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice is yet another worthy Ace Attorney successor. It’s ultimately not the series at its highest peak, but it’s hardly the nadir, and that it continues to feel this fresh in light of its flaws already has me hungry for the next turnabout. No objections here, Your Honor.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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