Phoenix Wright and his apprentices, Apollo Justice and Athena Cykes, are back in the courtroom. From one “Objection!” to the next, unexpected surprises come to light. This time, though, the odds are stacked high against you. Taking place in a region that fears and detests lawyers, the crowd in the courtroom no longer cheers for your victory, but instead roots for your demise.
Exciting courtroom battles are a familiar sight for the series, and the gameplay formula in Spirit of Justice remains largely the same. Your time is still split between investigations and court trials. However, this new entry packs a punch of its own, with an exotic new setting and a gripping overarching storyline filled with political drama, a deceptive monarchy, and a land on the verge of revolution.
Set mostly in the Kingdom of Khura’in, Spirit of Justice tells the story of a society that views spirit channeling as an ultimate power. The justice system has all but abolished defense attorneys, and instead relies on divination séances, a ritual that unveils the victim’s last moments. These séances prompt a new minigame called Insight during trials, where you pinpoint inconsistencies surrounding the victim’s five senses leading up to their death.
In comparison to other minigames, such as returning ones like Apollo’s bracelet ability, psyche-locks, and Athena’s therapy sessions via the mood matrix, Insight is the most challenging. Depending on a keen attention to detail, Insight required me to turn my thinking around. For example, one puzzle is solved by finding what’s missing from the séance vision, rather than pinpointing a visible error.
Similar to Dual Destinies, if you get stuck, your assistant (either Maya or Athena) can offer consultation. This hint system can be activated after losing two lives in court, which is a helpful mechanic when you’re stuck.
Spirit of Justice’s most captivating quality is its overarching story about a corrupt justice system and the lives affected by it. In Khura’in, a law deters defense attorneys from entering the courtroom. This is because they will meet the same fate as the accused should their client be found guilty. In this entry, we see Phoenix Wright not just attempting to fight against the system, but also facing scenarios that test his faith in his clients.
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While familiar prosecutors return, they remain on the sidelines. Spirit of Justice instead introduces Nahyuta Sahdmadhi, a revered monk and prosecutor in the land of Khura’in. He’s a worthy opponent in court whose calm demeanor isn’t easily shaken. He has complexities to his personality that may not be obvious at first, making him more in-depth and more interesting than his predecessor, Simon Blackquill, in Dual Destinies.
This setup is complimented by a cast of quirky characters, and keeping your fingers crossed for a cameo of a beloved past character is part of the fun. Several familiar faces return, and it’s fascinating to see how they’ve grown since the previous entry. The new characters are also well implemented, having multiple layers to their personalities and battling hidden insecurities that are slowly revealed. Some of the best moments are when you meet a rebel leader seeking revolution, or when you attempt to better understand a surly princess who holds a grudge against you.
Certain cases are more substantial to the main storyline than others. The filler cases still add entertainment value of their own, such as uncovering the truth behind the death of a magician during a show, or finding the killer of an older man who performed Japanese Rakugo, a form of story-driven theatre.
Khura’in is a compelling setting, and Spirit of Justice does a good job of building a world rich with history and lore. Learning about the culture and what led to its corrupt legal system is both fascinating and riveting. While Spirit of Justice brings little novelty to the series and relies on a familiar gameplay system, it nonetheless offers a story full of intrigue and puzzles that are satisfying to solve.