Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Spirit of Justice
E3 Hands-On Preview
Mike Salbato Mike Salbato




Graphic Adventure


US 09/2016
Japan 06/09/2016

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The new Insight mode is interestingly complex.
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New character models, but same familiar facial expressions!
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A very different setting than we're used to.
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Sure kid, that's what they all say.
"The justice system in this kingdom works very differently than what we're used to."

Capcom's E3 2016 booth was one of the most heavily-themed of all companies. Each major game had a unique presence on the show floor: Resident Evil VII was showcased within a full-sized haunted house, the latest Monster Hunter area was themed like an airship, and Phoenix Wright was (once again) inside a makeshift courtroom setting, complete with a witness stand that was the perfect photo op:

E3 2016 - Capcom Phoenix Wright Booth

For a series that only makes its way to English-speaking territories in digital form now, Capcom certainly doesn't treat the games like second-class citizens. I mean, yes, there's a notable absence in our North American Phoenix Wright libraries, and one that the Capcom rep I talked to had "no comment" about... But that's a lament for another day.

So! Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney — Spirit of Justice is the sixth game in the Ace Attorney series, not counting side games and prequels (it's called Ace Attorney 6 in Japan), and it takes our titular hero to a wildly different setting than we're used to: the Kingdom of Khura'in. In the E3 demo, we — and Phoenix — learn that the justice system in this kingdom works very differently than what we're used to. Namely, the absence of defense attorneys! It turns out, in Khura'in, if a defendant is proven guilty, their attorney also shares in the ruling, so there's a lot on the line of a defense attorney loses a case.

Not to mention, with the Royal Priestess essentially deciding the fates of those in the courtroom, there doesn't seem to be much room for typical legal proceedings. Of course, in our demo, Phoenix is set to prove that the Priestess' visions are not infallible, and that there may yet be a chance for him to shine.

The demo introduced us quickly to this new land, and what the lack of attorneys and Priestess Rayfa's "séance trials" mean both in terms of story, and, importantly, gameplay. We first saw typical Phoenix Wright proceedings — opening banter, a familiar face at the prosecutor's stand, and a cross-examination of a witness. But all of this was deemed a waste of time by the court, as Rayfa already "knows" the hapless boy on the stand is guilty. Her unique ability allows her to divine the final moments of a victim before death, and she displays them for the court within the Pool of Souls.

In terms of gameplay, the Pool of Souls plays like a short video, with text overlays that describe what the victim sensed before death, be it things they saw, touched, smelled, or heard. During a typical cross-examination in the PW series, we're tasked with finding contradictions in a witness' statement by pressing for details or countering a claim with evidence. During these séance portions — a phase titled Insight — the goal is similar, but the methods differ. By scrubbing through the video and examining the senses and clues displayed, in conjunction with a series of statements on the lower 3DS screen, the goal is again to find a fault in the Priestess' vision. While on paper it's similar to what we expect from these games, the Insight portion requires a different mindset, so it is a welcome addition that should keep the trials interesting.

There's no doubt that helping Phoenix cast doubt upon the "infallible" visions of the Priestess will have heavy implications on the fish-out-of-water story being told here. I'm looking forward to seeing where the plot goes; From the outset, everything is stacked up against Phoenix Wright in Khura'in, so there's no shortage of obstacles to overcome.

The fascinating new setting and gameplay mechanics are joined by the ever-charming art style and characterization, so I definitely have no objections (come on, you knew I had to make this joke) to this game hitting our shores in September, a scant three months after its release in Japan.

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