It's quite the nostalgic experience, looking back on my time to-date with Phoenix Wright. The Ace Attorney series first hit the UK just over a decade ago. I was 14-years-old and, after reaching the end of the initial Ace Attorney game, had my future all planned out. I was going to be an American criminal justice attorney and bring the bad guys down! Yeah, that clearly never worked out, but it was an inspirational, exciting game and a concept I hadn't seen before, in that it was a visual novel adventure playing out before my very eyes. There's actually not a lot of 'traditional' gaming involved when it comes to Ace Attorney, but that doesn't mean it's any less of a videogame than some other big names.
Now, the series is back on this side of the pond with its new entry, Spirit of Justice, which brings an all-new mechanic to proceedings, challenging the player in ways they haven't done so before. Of course I couldn't resist seeing if the charm and personality I loved about the original trilogy of games was still alive, so I just had to get my hands on a copy. With much happiness, I can report that the witty writing, eccentric characters and beautiful storytelling and art are all still on fine form.
The new mechanic is an element of gameplay in the courtroom involving what's called Divination Séances. Something that sounds ridiculous to someone who isn't well-versed in the Ace Attorney world, but rolls like water off a duck's back to regular players.
In these séances, conducted by the young Priestess who rules over the fictional country you're visiting - Khura'in - you'll see apparent communications with the dead who allegedly attempt to show everybody in the court exactly what happened in their final moments. You'll find out information from each of their five senses, but it's your job to discover inconsistencies within the séance and testimony.
This adds a whole new layer to the job you're usually used to taking part in, but if you want to keep your head, you'll get well-versed in breaking down visions as quickly as possible! Khura'in isn't a country that takes kindly to defence attorneys, and in their courts they have an act which sees defence attorneys sentenced alongside their clients if the client is found to be guilty. The punishment? Usually, death. Life in prison if you're one of the lucky ones.
If you're new to the series, fear not. Spirit of Justice does an incredible job of being accessible. Whilst there is a lot in there for old-time fans of the series, this would be the perfect place for newbies to kick off their Ace Attorney gaming if they're unable to go back to the older titles in the series.
Japanese titles are often poorly translated when they make it to the UK and other English-speaking countries, but Ace Attorney isn't a series that falls into that trap. Each sentence makes perfect sense, though I have noticed a couple of mistakes - usually a missing word or two in a line of dialogue. Despite that, this doesn't take away from the gameplay.
Overall, Spirit of Justice is an incredible thrill of a game. It will maintain your attention for 10+ hours through its five 'episodes' (different cases), and all except for maybe the fourth are exhillirating rides. There are no objections here.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Spirit of Justice is available now on Nintendo 3DS.