E3 2016: Ace Attorney - Spirit of Justice puts an interesting spin on the formula
Sorry for the delay...the wheels of justice move slowly
Capcom had a good section dedicated to its upcoming 3DS releases at this year's E3, with both Monster Hunter Generations and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Spirit of Justice receiving somewhat extravagant displays. So shockingly extravagant it's taken me nearly two weeks to write about the latter. Sorry about that.
Styled like a mini-courtroom, the booth had several systems (with natty Phoenix Wright banded headphones) to try out a demo of the next instalment in the Ace Attorney series.
The taster was brief, and saw the titular Phoenix Wright defending a young boy named Ahlbi who appeared to be utterly and irredeemably guilty.
He's not guilty though, and - like in all Ace Attorney games - it's up to you to prove it. You do so by gathering evidence and then winning electric courtroom duels with the opposing prosecutor.
So how does Spirit of Justice differ?
The previous games were based in the real world (or as real as a world can be where the rules of law are often seen as rough guidelines rather than concrete regulations) but this new entry sees you face a trial in the spiritual and rather alien kingdom of Kjuara'in.
Ahlbi is native to this land, which causes a bit of an issue as he doesn't trust you - and neither does anyone in the courtroom in fact.
The odds have always been stacked against you in Ace Attorney games of course, and much of the fun comes from slowly unpicking a case that looked unwinnable - but here you're not just an underdog, but also an outsider.But this is still Ace Attorney right?
In terms of the game itself, it's comfortingly familiar for the most part. The first thing to note that this is the best looking title in the series so far, with the crisp 3D character models from Dual Destinies taken and improved upon with slicker animation.
Importantly they possess just as much character as the 2D sprites used in the older Ace Attorney titles - no mean feat. The new setting means that older characters - such as a new prosecutor in the form of Gaspen Payne - are given strange new looks too.
Only a brief courtroom section was playable, so that limits how much we can talk about in terms of gameplay. But we can say that this is Ace Attorney as you know it, despite the new environment.
The major new addition is your ability to see events leading up to the murder through the perspective of the victim, and thats all thanks to the fortune teller, Rafya.
You must then challenge contradictory moments in these visions using the evidence at your disposal. To do this, you both have to pay attention to the scene itself and the words floating around. These indicate the victim's thoughts - in the demo's case a 'boy’s voice' and 'song of ceremony.'
If this taster is anything to go by you have to be very precise when pinpointing a contradiction - so much so that my colleague (pictured above) gave up. The fact that the trailer for the game was blaring away in the background did also not help however.
Overall, this brief E3 demo suggested that Spirit of Justice will be another enjoyable entry in the series, thanks to a few interesting twists. My only reservation is that the new and very Eastern flavour might prove difficult to translate to the West.
Ace Attorney has always been a series with an off-kilter appeal here in the West, of course. But it'll take all of Capcom's localisation team's prowess to make sure that this game doesn't end up feeling like the black sheep of the Ace Attorney series to its European and American fans.