Every time I play through a Phoenix Wright game, I always feel like I’ve watched an enjoyable crime drama on TV. The constant back and forth in the courtroom between the prosecution and defense is always exciting despite the bland subject matter. Phoenix Wright: Spirit of Justice continues the series of the titular defense attorney with an ensemble of charismatic characters and crazy situations. The new cases in Spirit of Justice have some familiar territory, but the newest additions to this entry of the series may be a bit too outrageous for some.
I won’t spoil anything about the story, as that’s most of the fun when playing any Phoenix Wright game. Spirit of Justice takes Phoenix Wright away from his home and into the Kingdom of Khura’in, where defense attorneys are almost non-existent and cases are decided by Divination Séance ceremonies. From the very start of the first case and throughout the game, things happen fast and go into ridiculous territory rather quickly.
Unlike the previous games that had a lot of build up towards the twists and turns of the plot, Spirit of Justice doesn’t give many events time to simmer and let you absorb what is happening. After meeting a character for the first time, it felt like something immediately happened to change my outlook on them.
A lot of the story this time around focuses on spirituality and mysticism. This is something that’s always been part of the Phoenix Wright series in some capacity, but in a more subtle fashion. Here it becomes a focal point since the Kingdom of Khura’in is far behind the times compared to other countries, so the people depend on the Séance ceremonies to deliver criminals to justice.
There is a larger reason to why this is, but I won’t spoil it here. However, the over-emphasis on the spiritual elements for the cases seemed a bit much and out of place for the series. There’s also a subplot that stretches through each of the game’s episodes to tie them together, but it didn’t have the same impact on me compared to previous games in the series, which focused on a more personal story for Phoenix Wright.
Much of the gameplay in Spirit of Justice is similar to past Phoenix Wright games. It’s all about gathering evidence and spotting contradictions in the statements of witness testimonies. This is standard fair for the series, but Spirit of Justice introduces something new for better or worse. The Divination Séance plays on the mystical elements of the story by allowing you to see the last moments a victim experienced before they died. Using evidence and details in the vision, such as the victim’s five senses, you have to point out contradictions in the scenario.
This means identifying a certain sight, smell, or sound in the vision can lead to spotting a contradiction that blows the case out the water. This is a cool idea, but can sometimes be annoying and confusing when you have to be incredibly precise. Not being on the right frame of the vision or being mildly off in what you object to can lead to some quick Game Over screens, luckily the game restarts you back at the exact same spot beforehand.
Phoenix Wright: Spirit of Justice is not a bad game, but probably the weaker entry of the Phoenix Wright series as a whole. While its characters are silly and oozing with personality, Spirit of Justice suffers from going a bit too far with the mystical elements in the story. The Divination Séance is an interesting addition that works with the spiritual context of the plot, but a few annoying aspects keep them from being as exciting as other evidence gathering moments in the game. While it’s not one of Phoenix Wright’s best games, fans of the character may still want to check it out.
This review is based on a digital review code of of Phoenix Wright: Spirit of Justice for Nintendo 3DS, provided by Capcom.