Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney − Spirit of Justice[a] is a visual novel adventure video game developed and published by Capcom, and the sixth main entry in the Ace Attorney series. The game was released for Nintendo 3DS in Japan in June 2016, and in North America and Europe the following September. Versions for iOS and Android were released a year later in September 2017.
|Japanese cover art featuring (from left to right) Phoenix, Maya, Apollo, and Nahyuta|
|Platform(s)||Nintendo 3DS, iOS, Android|
|Release||Nintendo 3DSJP: June 9, 2016WW: September 8, 2016iOS, AndroidWW: September 21, 2017|
|Genre(s)||Adventure, visual novel|
Spirit of Justice continues the investigation and courtroom gameplay of its predecessors, in which players take the role of the defense attorneys Phoenix Wright, Apollo Justice, and Athena Cykes, and try to defend their clients. Like previous games in the franchises, chapters are divided into two types of gameplay; investigations, where players gather information from people and search for evidence, and trials, where they must use evidence to find contradictions in witness testimonies. Investigations utilize the 3D navigation introduced in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney − Dual Destinies, allowing players to navigate environments from various angles. Along with returning gameplay elements, such as Psyche-Locks, Perceiving and the Mood Matrix, the game introduces Divination Séances, which show the final moments of a victim before their death. By paying close attention to the senses that appear in the séances, players must find contradictions in the insights given about them.
Setting and characters
See also: List of Ace Attorney characters
The story of Spirit of Justice is set roughly one year after its predecessor, Dual Destinies, and once again focuses on defense attorney Phoenix Wright and his two understudies Apollo Justice and Athena Cykes. While previous games in the series have been set in Los Angeles, California (Japan in the original Japanese releases), Spirit of Justice sees Phoenix travel to the fictional kingdom of Khura’in, a deeply religious nation in the far east where the art of spirit channeling originates. Roughly half the game’s episodes detail Phoenix’s activities in Khura’in, while the other half follow Apollo and Athena, who are left to watch over the Wright Anything Agency in Phoenix’s absence. The game features the reintroduction of Maya Fey, a spirit medium and Phoenix’s longtime friend and former assistant, who has not appeared in the main series in person since Trials and Tribulations. Other returning characters include Trucy Wright, a magician and Phoenix’s adopted daughter; Ema Skye, a former detective who has recently become a forensic investigator; Simon Blackquill, a prosecutor and former prison inmate who is friends with Athena; Pearl Fey, Maya’s younger cousin and fellow spirit medium; Miles Edgeworth, the district chief prosecutor and Phoenix’s friend and rival; and Larry Butz, an artist and Phoenix and Edgeworth’s childhood friend. New to the series are Rayfa Padma Khura’in, the princess and royal priestess of Khura’in, and Nahyuta Sahdmadhi, an international prosecutor and devout Khura’inese monk.
Phoenix travels to Khura’in to visit Maya, who is about to conclude a two-year period of ascetic training needed to perfect her spirit-channeling abilities and become master of Kurain Village. Upon arriving, Phoenix’s tour guide Ahlbi Ur’gaid is accused of stealing the Founder’s Orb relic and murdering a guard. During Ahlbi’s trial, Phoenix discovers that Khura’in is intensely prejudiced against defense attorneys. Under a law known as the Defense Culpability Act enacted 23 years prior, if a criminal is found guilty, anyone who defends or aids them will be given the same punishment. With the addition of the Divination Séance, a ritual showing a victim’s memories in their final moments before death, all trials in Khura’in since have led to guilty verdicts, with most defense attorneys having been executed. Despite the stakes of the DC Act and the supposed absolute truth of Rayfa’s Divination Séance, Phoenix successfully defends Ahlbi and proves him innocent, earning Khura’in’s first “not guilty” verdict since the Act’s introduction. He also learns of the Defiant Dragons, a rebel group fighting against the current legal system.
In Los Angeles, Apollo and Athena defend Trucy against prosecutor Nahyuta Sahdmadhi when she is accused of murdering a performer during her stage show. After reuniting with Maya, Phoenix must defend her when she is charged with murdering a high priest. During the case, Phoenix meets one of the Defiant Dragons, Datz Are’bal, who reveals that the group’s leader, Dhurke Sahdmadhi, is Nahyuta’s father and Apollo’s foster father. Meanwhile, Athena is requested to defend a soba shop owner accused of murdering a rakugo performer, aided by Blackquill during the trial.
Some time later, Apollo is approached by Dhurke, who asks for help locating the stolen Founder’s Orb. After coming up against Phoenix himself in a court battle over ownership of the orb, Apollo learns that Maya has been taken hostage to force Phoenix to win the orb for his client. Upon proving Dhurke’s ownership and revealing the secret behind the Founder’s Orb, the group return to Khura’in where Justice Minister Inga Karkhuul Khura’in, husband of Queen Ga’ran Sigatar Khura’in, is holding Maya hostage. However, when Dhurke goes in to make the exchange, he is accused of murdering Inga after he is found dead. With Queen Ga’ran acting as prosecutor, Phoenix and Apollo are tasked with proving Dhurke innocent of both Inga’s murder and the assassination of the previous queen, Ga’ran’s sister Amara, 23 years ago, which led to the creation of the DC Act. Along with learning that Amara survived the assassination attempt, Apollo discovers that Dhurke had already been killed by Inga a few days earlier, having been channeled by Maya to see his foster son one last time. Apollo also discovers that Nahyuta had been blackmailed by Ga’ran in order to protect Rayfa, who is revealed to be Nahyuta’s sister and Dhurke and Amara’s biological daughter.
With the ties of her father’s crime threatening to destroy Rayfa’s life, Apollo uses his final gift from Dhurke, a photo of his deceased biological father, Jove, to conduct a Divination Séance, proving that both Jove and Inga’s murders and Amara’s attempted assassination were caused by Ga’ran. As Ga’ran threatens to use her royal authority to execute Apollo and Phoenix on the spot, Apollo proves that Ga’ran has no claim to the throne, possessing no spiritual powers of her own, thus nullifying all the laws she had passed and ending her rule. As Rayfa is chosen to succeed her as the next queen, Apollo decides to stay in Khura’in to help Nahyuta rebuild the kingdom’s legal system. In a post-credits sequence, Phoenix gives Jove’s photo to Apollo’s mother, and affirms that the time has come to tell her children the truth.
An additional downloadable storyline set after the game’s events features Phoenix defending a woman who claims she was attacked just after her wedding, but traveled back in time and is now accused of killing her attacker. Meanwhile, Phoenix’s old friend Larry returns, claiming he is the woman’s fiancé. Two additional non-canon episodes were released as downloadable content under the name “Asinine Attorney”: In the first, Pearl must pretend to be Rayfa with Phoenix’s help to stall for time during a hostage situation; in the second, Apollo and Klavier Gavin help Rayfa find her ideal sightseeing destination in America before she must return to Khura’in.
Spirit of Justice was produced by Motohide Eshiro and co-directed by Takeshi Yamazaki and Takuro Fuse; Yamazaki was in charge of the game’s scenario, while Fuse directed the graphics and gameplay and was the game’s art director. The game’s music was composed principally by Noriyuki Iwadare, with additional tracks by Toshihiko Horiyama, who had previously composed the soundtrack for Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, and series newcomer Masami Onodera. Capcom mentioned the game for the first time in December 2013, at which point they had just begun working “full force” on a new game in the series and were thinking up ideas for it. When they announced the game for Japan and the West in September 2015, development was 30% finished. By the end of 2015, development was mostly finished, with the team working on polishing and adding finishing touches.
When developing the previous game in the series, Dual Destinies, Yamazaki had been the only director; after finishing its development, he had become exhausted and wanted to quit working on Ace Attorney. Eshiro had encouraged him to continue by taking him to a press conference in Taiwan and to San Diego Comic-Con International to meet the media and fans of the series; following this, Yamazaki felt renewed enthusiasm over the series, and wanted to work on a sixth Ace Attorney. Thinking Yamazaki’s exhaustion stemmed from too much directing responsibility, Eshiro decided to split directing responsibilities between Yamazaki and Fuse; he had at first considered having two equal directors working on the game, but decided against it out of fear that the development team would have difficulty with dealing with contradicting opinions from two directors working on the same aspects of the game.
The implementation of the new divination séance gameplay system was similar to that of the logic chess system in Ace Attorney Investigations 2. It was created to show the events of a crime from the victim’s point of view, and to have that character’s feelings be potentially important evidence. Initially, the developers had considered using ghosts or puppet possession for this, but they were rejected due to being too creepy and “out there”. The divination séance system was tweaked with improved hints in response to feedback from the Spirit of Justice demo at the Tokyo Game Show, where it was seen as being too difficult and taking too long to play. Other gameplay features being affected by fan feedback include the return of features from Dual Destinies that had been well-received, such as the backlog; adjustments to the difficulty, which had been perceived as low in Dual Destinies; and the hint system being possible to turn off. According to Eshiro and Yamazaki, character actions and movements were given a larger focus than in Dual Destinies, with Rayfa’s dancing animation given as an example of this. Returning characters from Dual Destinies were given new 3D models to make sure that the quality was higher and consistent with those of new characters. Like the previous title, Spirit of Justice features fully voiced anime cutscenes, this time animated by A-1 Pictures, who also produced the Ace Attorney anime series.
Yamazaki led a team of scenario writers, who worked to come up with an overall theme and setting for the game, aiming to come up with ideas that feel new and surprising, but that still build upon previous Ace Attorney games. They did this through brainstorming, where no one was allowed to shoot down others’ ideas, and also analyzed all previous games in the series to determine what defines the series and what makes it fun. They came up with the theme of “courtroom revolution”; Yamazaki described it as meaning “the oppressed and weak defeating the strong”, saying that it also is a kind of turnabout. After this, they decided on each individual episode’s overall story; Yamazaki decided on the general direction, after which adjustments and additions were done through discussions with other writers. There was one writer in charge of each episode, who each discussed and solidified the ideas for their episode with Yamazaki.
According to Yamazaki, they focused more on the game’s world than in previous games in the series. The decision to do this came from how, throughout the series, Phoenix has been in “a place that lacks enemies”, and from difficulties with developing the series further within the Japanese courtroom setting. Based on fan feedback, the development team gave Apollo Justice a larger presence than in Dual Destinies: they felt that Phoenix had been portrayed as the main character in Dual Destinies, with Apollo just being an important part of the plot, so they set Spirit of Justice in two different countries with one equal main character in each location. The character Rayfa was described by Yamazaki and Eshiro as a heroine, but also as an opponent to Phoenix; they thought that this approach, as opposed to having the heroine stand by the hero’s side, brought something new and fresh to the series.
The episode plans were reviewed and discussed thoroughly by the team; the discussions took a long time, with the staff often staying in the meeting room until late at night. Each episode’s main writer then wrote their episode; as the writers had different strengths, such as dialogue, mystery or comedy, the episodes were then discussed further, with changes done in response to feedback from the staff on the team. After the scenarios were finalized, visuals, music and sound effects were decided upon.
The game was released in Japan on June 9, 2016, and digitally through the Nintendo eShop in North America and Europe on September 8, 2016. Japanese first print copies of the game include two short non-canon bonus episodes featuring Phoenix and Apollo, along with three downloadable costumes. This content was later released in English markets; the costume set was released alongside the game and was free for the first week, while the first and second bonus episodes were released on September 15, 2016 and September 22, 2016 under the name “Asinine Attorney”, each one packaged with an additional 3DS menu theme. A limited edition containing a drama CD, a plush toy, a tote bag, and a visual poster card book, was also made available in Japan. A second costume set, based on Capcom’s Sengoku Basara series, was released in Japan on June 23.An additional episode, Turnabout Time Traveler (時を越える逆転, “Turnabout Across Time”), was released as downloadable content on June 30, 2016 in Japan, and was free to download until July 20, 2016; the episode was released in English on September 29, 2016. The game was later ported to mobile platforms, receiving a worldwide release for iOS and Android systems on September 21, 2017. The mobile releases allow for cases to be purchased individually or in a complete pack; the first costume set and “Turnabout Time Traveler” case were also released as downloadable content for the mobile versions.
Spirit of Justice received generally favorable reviews, according to the review aggregator Metacritic. It was the top selling video game in Japan during its debut week, with 196,831 copies sold. It dropped to second place during its second week, with an additional 25,288 copies sold, to sixth place in its third week, with 11,803 copies sold, and to tenth place in its fourth, with 7,543 copies sold. The sales matched Capcom’s expectations for the title.
Four reviewers at Famitsu—Yoshida, Ashida, Honma and Uchisawa—did a joint cross-review of the game. Ashida and Honma said that they liked how everything comes together in the game’s ending; Honma also liked seeing how characters such as Maya had grown up and changed, to the point of investigating everything just to see more dialogue. Uchisawa thought that some plot developments were too “out there”, and Ashida noted that the game’s occult feeling might be divisive. Ashida found the divination séance system to be a fresh addition to the gameplay, but also felt that it was “stretching it”; Uchisawa disagreed, finding the game to not feel fresh, but still thought that the game was fun.
IGN’s Tristan Ogilvie as well found the game to not bring anything new to the series, and criticized the Divination Seances, calling them “wishy-washy, and less far intuitive from the more logical cross-examination approaches”. He also lamented the investigation sections, calling them “merely point-and-click pixel hunts”, and wished they had more puzzles, as were present in the Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright game. He praised the over-the-top characters and engaging courtroom sequences, though, and the visual quality of the game.