Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice

Introduction

Apollo Justice, and by extension, the core Ace Attorney series, had gone five years without a sequel. When a follow-up was at last announced in 2012, it had a potential to alienate longtime fans. After all, this was going to be a sequel to what most fans considered the franchise’s nadir. Not only that, but an entirely new development team had taken over its production with no involvement from series creator Shu Takumi and they saw fit to introduce a new assistant as a replacement for a fan favorite. Director Takeshi Yamazaki, producer Motohide Eshiro, and their team had more than proven themselves capable with Prosecutor’s Path, but because it wasn’t localized, Western fans remained unaware of their talent. The sole entry they were exposed to was the original Ace Attorney Investigations. While enjoyed, fans didn’t have nearly as much reverence for it as they did the original trilogy. Thankfully, despite similar factors spelling the downfall of many venerable franchises, a majority of the risks taken by the duo paid off, and Dual Destinies was, by and large, embraced by the fandom.

With plenty of unresolved plot threads floating around, there was potential for a sequel. Unfortunately, shortly after finishing Dual Destinies, Mr. Yamazaki felt a crippling sense of exhaustion, expressing the desire to resign from developing any more Ace Attorney installments. Thinking quickly, Mr. Eshiro decided a trip to events attended by fans was in order. Together, they appeared at the San Diego Comic-Con International and held a press conference in Taiwan. Feeling the enthusiasm of his fans firsthand – both Western and Asian alike – Mr. Yamazaki decided to direct the series’ next installment, to be called Turnabout Trial 6 in its native homeland.

Believing that the cause behind Mr. Yamazaki’s exhaustion stemmed from being the sole director of Dual Destinies, he decided his coworker wasn’t going tackle this new project alone – enter Takuro Fuse. Mr. Fuse had cut his teeth with the Ace Attorney franchise when he replaced Tatsuro Iwamoto as the series’ primary art director. He was the one responsible for a majority of the character designs. He now found himself sharing the director’s along with Mr. Yamazaki.

The project now had two directors and a producer determined to see it through to the end. All they needed now was a theme. Dual Destinies had carried out the impressive task of simultaneously being a return to form while also taking the canon in intriguing, new directions. The only way they could possibly top such a feat was through brainstorming sessions. With nobody being allowed to veto anyone else’s ideas, they eventually settled on the theme of “courtroom revolution”. It was to be an Ace Attorney spin on a classic tale: “the oppressed and weak defeating the strong” in the words of Mr. Yamazaki.

During the development phase, the team agreed that with Phoenix Wright making his triumphant return to the courtroom, nobody could prove a match for him anymore in his normal setting. It is from this line of thinking that they decided to move him to a foreign country with a different court system. Not only that, but promotional materials made it clear supernatural elements, which had been absent from the series for the past three installments, were to return as well. This was alluded to in its English subtitle: Spirit of Justice. Responding to fan feedback, they also decided it would be appropriate to give Apollo Justice a larger role. Therefore, while Phoenix handled cases abroad, his apprentice was to resolve problems back home. How they went about conceiving episodes was a little different this time around. Each episode had a primary writer, and they were assigned based on their strengths. Some proved apt with dialogue while others had a penchant for lending their stories a sense of intrigue. The staff often stayed in the meeting room until nightfall.

After the usual fan and media speculation, Turnabout Trial 6 was released domestically in June of 2016. Four months later in September, the game saw its worldwide release under the name Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice. Though Dual Destinies was well-liked itself, several fans felt Spirit of Justice to be an improvement. In fact, shortly after its release, a particularly vocal group insisted that Spirit of Justice was the best game in the entire series. The original three games are seen as something of a sacred cow in certain subsets of the Ace Attorney fandom, yet even they found themselves admitting Spirit of Justice was a quality product. Were Mr. Yamazaki, Mr. Fuse, and Mr. Eshiro able to demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that Dual Destinies was not a mere happy accident?

Starting the Game

WARNING: This review will contain unmarked spoilers for Spirit of Justice and the series thus far.

There exists a country on the western edge of the Far East – the Kingdom of Khura’in. After a particularly long plane trip, seasoned defense attorney Phoenix Wright has arrived in Khura’in to visit Maya Fey, an old friend of his. He has arrived early out of concern for her, and decides to go sightseeing to pass the time.

As he takes photos, he is greeted by Ahlbi Ur’gaid, a nine-year-old tour guide and monk-in-training at Tehm’pul Temple. Though taken aback at his impromptu tour guide, Phoenix accompanies Ahlbi to the temple.

When they arrive, Ahlbi explains to Phoenix that the main attraction is a rite known as the Dance of Devotion, which is performed once in the morning and once in the afternoon. The bells suddenly chime, indicating that, sure enough, the rite is about to begin. Giving Phoenix a lyrics card, the two of them watch someone identified as “Her Benevolence” perform the dance.

However, the performance is interrupted when armed police officers descend upon the temple. They arrest Ahlbi on the charge of treason, and he is taken into custody.

Out of concern, Phoenix heads for the High Court of Khura’in to watch Ahlbi’s trial. He arrives just in time to declare the young boy guilty of a serious crime based off of something called a “Divination Séance”. The rite was performed by Rayfa Padma Khura’in, the royal priestess who performed the Dance of Devotion. Phoenix then suspects foul play when observing the defense’s bench only to realize nobody is there.

Before the judge can pass his sentence, Phoenix takes to the stand and demands to see Ahlbi’s attorney. The judge then explains to Phoenix that because of the Divination Séance, defense attorneys are unnecessary. Phoenix protests this, insisting on representing Ahlbi in court. To his surprise, the young boy discourages him from coming to his defense. The judge asks for the bailiff to remove the defense attorney from the court before the Chief Prosecutor, Gaspen Payne, expresses the desire to clash with Phoenix in court again. Rayfa agrees to Prosecutor Payne’s proposal, believing that it could prove amusing. She reveals it had been at least twenty years since a defense attorney had been present in the courtroom.

Prosecutor Payne’s opening statements then shed some light on this incident. Ahlbi has been charged with larceny and murder. The Founder’s Orb, a national treasure of Khura’in said to contain the Holy Mother’s soul, or mitamah, was stolen from the Tehm’pul Temple. In the treasure room, the police discovered the dead body of an armed security guard by the name of Paht Rohl. He was the one assigned to guard the treasure box containing the orb. The victim’s death came about due to cerebral contusion. Coupled with the large bloodstain on the treasure box, the investigation concluded it was the murder weapon. The judge moves to declare his verdict, but Phoenix protests again, wishing to cross-examine the defendant.

Writers in the Ace Attorney franchise have had to get creative when it comes to tutorial episodes. After all, any given installment can serve as somebody’s point of entry. This would necessitate the narrative explaining the mechanics in detail. Phoenix Wright, Trials and Tribulations, and Apollo Justice all cast new attorneys in the lead role, explaining why a mentor character would need to explain how courtroom proceedings work. Justice for All weakly justified this by having the first episode’s culprit render Phoenix a temporary amnesiac. How Spirit of Justice handles this task is quite clever. Because nobody has acted as a defense attorney for nearly two decades, Phoenix has to explain to the judge how cross-examinations work.

Despite being explained in a wildly different way, this mechanic is the same as it has always been. When a witness gives their testimony, it is subsequently divided into multiple smaller statements. Your goal is to find a contradiction between a witness’s testimony and the fact derived from the evidence in the court record. One may not exist right away. In set an event, you can press a statement to get further details. Depending on what happens during this elaboration, you could be asked to present a piece of evidence or a new statement will be added to the testimony. Once spotted, you must bring up the faulty statement and present the piece of evidence capable of shattering it. The witnesses you encounter have various reasons to lie. Whether such a conclusion is the result of factual inaccuracies, maliciously lying, or duress, they are all contested using the same method.

That Ahlbi would lie in his first testimony is quite a shock for seasoned Ace Attorney players. Phoenix had agreed to be his defense attorney, yet the young boy is already being uncooperative. In fact, he turns hostile, telling Phoenix he never would have offered him a tour had he known of his profession. What this bizarre development does is foreshadow this game’s driving conflict. After Prosecutor Payne presents a scroll that had been found near the victim’s body bearing Ahlbi’s fingerprints, Phoenix soon realizes his only chance at gaining a foothold in this case is to see the Divination Séance performed. It is at this moment the judge issues Phoenix a stern warning: he will suffer the consequences of the Defense Culpability Act if Ahlbi is found guilty.

The ordinance reads as follows: “In the name of Her Eminence, those who would support criminals will be deemed just as guilty”. In other words, if Ahlbi is declared guilty, Phoenix will serve the same sentence. As a result of this law, many defense attorneys have met with grisly fates over the years. While some merely served a long prison sentences, others were subjected to slavery. If the circumstances proved particularly unfortunate, they were executed alongside their clients. This is the real reason defense attorneys dare not take the stand in the courts of Khura’in. With two decades of this law in effect, the profession is all but extinct. If somebody is accused of a crime, the people just leave them to their fate. The accused, for their part, accept it regardless of their actual culpability.

The Ace Attorney series began as a satire lampooning the Japanese court system, which has an abnormally high conviction rate that exceeds 99%. This element shined through time and again when it became clear the law system in the Ace Attorney universe was blatantly biased against the defense and teeming with corrupt prosecutorial figures such as Manfred von Karma and Blaise Debeste. What Spirit of Justice does with the Defense Culpability Act is make that notoriously corrupt system seem downright amicable and transparent by comparison.

This situation also underscores what a despicable character Gaspen Payne truly is. The self-styled “Rookie Humiliator”, having been humiliated himself at the hands of Phoenix Wright, is now perfectly happy to see him handed a death sentence. Even worse, he’s willing to see a nine-year-old boy suffer the death penalty to accomplish this goal. It also shows that he doesn’t have the talent to back up his monstrous ego. The only reason he’s the Chief Prosecutor is because there are no defense attorneys, meaning he wins his cases without doing much of anything. When someone such as Phoenix shows up, he quickly crumbles.

Even knowing what will happen to him should he fail, Phoenix refuses to give up, and Rayfa performs the Divination Séance. This causes a pool at the center of the courtroom to show images of the victim’s final moments. She then interprets this vision in what is called her “Insights”. This act forms the basis of an important, new mechanic. These “Insights” are very similar to a witness’s testimony in that your overarching goal is to pick apart Rayfa’s interpretation of what she has just seen. From this vision, she concludes that Ahlbi murdered Rohl after the morning Dance of Devotion took place and the victim felt pain as he blacked out.

The key difference between these Insights and a standard testimony is that you cannot discredit them using evidence – at least not at first. Instead, what you must do is watch the vision carefully for any discrepancies in Rayfa’s conclusions. As the last few minutes of the victim’s life play out, words appear in midair. These words are color-coded to represent the five classic human senses: sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste. As exemplified in the above screenshot, the victim heard the Song of Ceremony and a boy’s voice and the smell of a nearby incense burner permeated the air right before he was killed. Just as the lights go out, the word “Pain” appears onscreen in red, bloodstained letters, indicating the moment of his fatal injury.

What you must do is highlight a part of the vision that doesn’t match up with the official interpretation. When you think you’ve found something odd, you must highlight the inaccuracy. When you act, the vision pauses and a cursor appears onscreen. The sense a given word is associated with appears next to the cursor, defaulting to sight when one the cursor doesn’t rest on one. From here, you can highlight the sensation that disproves the interpretation.

Phoenix notes the victim heard the Song of Ceremony despite the treasure room not being close to the main hallway. Rayfa responds that Rohl heard a practice session of the ceremony though the temple’s loudspeakers. After that, Phoenix points out the victim’s vision went black before he was fatally struck on the head, as demonstrated when the word “Pain” appears in complete darkness. Rayfa counters that there had been a blackout at the temple. Finally, with these new facts, Phoenix manages to come up with an entirely new, plausible interpretation when he notices the Dance of Devotion continuing after the blackout, meaning he couldn’t have heard it over the loudspeakers. Phoenix concludes Ahlbi had his hands raised because Rohl was threatening him at gunpoint.

It should be noted that nothing in these Divination Séances are lies; everything is an entirely accurate depiction of the deceased’s final moments. Your first attempts at interpreting them go to show how differently two opposing sides see the exact same vision. The court system had been completely dependent on these visions to prove the guilt of the accused, yet without defense attorneys to argue in the defendant’s favor, they see it as irrefutable proof when the reality is often much more complex. This is especially true when taking into account that the visions are from the victim’s limited perspective.

Inspired by Phoenix’s resolve, Ahlbi agrees to tell the truth about what happened. Prosecutor Payne believes the testimony that follows is enough to prove Ahlbi’s guilt until Phoenix raises the possibility of a third person at the crime scene who could have bludgeoned Rohl from behind. In response, Payne calls a decisive witness: the head monk of Tehm’pul Temple, Pees’lubn Andistan’dhin. Much like in “Turnabout Countdown”, it’s no secret that this individual is the true culprit, for the revelation is made in the episode’s introductory cutscene.

Though it’s easy to think of this episode as underwhelming for revealing the killer’s identity, I believe the opposite to be true. When I reviewed Dual Destinies, I remarked that between its culprit threatening to detonate a bomb and Gaspen Payne’s unpleasant personality, “Turnabout Countdown” did an excellent job raising the stakes, lending a sense of danger the series had never known before. It has nothing on this game’s first episode, “The Foreign Turnabout”. In addition to the standard horrible fate awaiting those declared guilty, Phoenix’s own life is on the line simply standing up for an innocent boy. In fact, by showing the killer’s identity right away, the player is even more incredulous that Ahlbi would refuse Phoenix’s help. They then discover why almost immediately when the Defense Culpability Act is formally explained to them.

The sheer tension in this case is demonstrated when things look particularly bad for Phoenix and he proceeds hold his head in his hands. This his standard “despair” animation, and it’s usually reserved for a select few instances in which things look their grimmest. This was the first time the animation ever appeared in an introductory episode. Thankfully, he’s able to pull through and expose Head Monk Andistan’dhin’s crime, though not without a few setbacks.

Within a span of a single episode, Khura’in has already proven itself a particularly intriguing setting. Occasionally, players got to see the defendants taken into custody before their ensuing trial, but they were nothing like Ahlbi’s arrest. Here, you see the police swarm the temple with their guns drawn pointing directly at the boy. Similarly, the bailiff at the courthouse is armed with an assault rifle. This makes it all the more impressive when Phoenix distracts him momentarily so he can sneak into Ahlbi’s trial. Between that and his willingness to risk a death sentence to acquit the young boy, and it’s hard to believe Phoenix was once a clueless college student who could have given Larry Butz a run for his money.

The ensuing “Not Guilty” verdict sends shockwaves throughout the country. Phoenix hopes that this trial will show the importance of defense attorneys – even in a land where Divination Séances exist. To his surprise, Ahlbi tells him to watch what he says and that he is starting to sound like a group of insurgents who call themselves the Defiant Dragons. Their conversation is interrupted by the sudden appearance of Justice Minister Inga Karkhuul Khura’in. The minister explains that everything Phoenix claimed in court was true. He disdainfully compliments Wright for achieving a “Not Guilty” verdict, but sternly warns him against meddling in Khura’in’s affairs any longer. The country is known abroad for being a peaceful place, but little does Phoenix know that by helping Ahlbi, he has caused the winds of change to stir.

Delving into the Experience

One of the more subtly disappointing aspects about Dual Destinies came about due to being focused on Phoenix Wright’s return to the courtroom. It gave fans what they wanted, but at the expense of being more of a sequel to Trials and Tribulations than Apollo Justice. Though Apollo did receive plenty of development in Dual Destinies, a majority of its lingering plot threads were dropped or not addressed in any way. This was especially evident in how Trucy Wright, the younger half-sister of Apollo and adopted daughter of Phoenix, played practically no role outside of becoming one of Aura Blackquill’s hostages in “Turnabout for Tomorrow”.

Furthermore, the only episode that completely unfolded from Apollo’s perspective was “The Monstrous Turnabout”. Though Dual Destinies succeeded in rallying the divided fanbase behind Apollo, said episode is typically considered its weakest. Fortunately, as soon as the second episode of Spirit of Justice is revealed – “The Magical Turnabout” – it becomes evident Mr. Eshiro’s team sought to expand upon these characters in ways not possible with Phoenix around.

As revealed in Apollo Justice, the parents and grandfather of Trucy Wright are all renowned magicians hailing from the Troupe Gramarye. Though their feats enraptured audiences everywhere, a high number of publicized scandals sounded the troupe’s death knell. As of the beginning of this episode the original members are missing, in jail, or dead. Even in the face of the troupe’s checkered past, Trucy is determined to become a star. She is currently set to make her debut at the Penrose Theater with a show entitled “Trucy in Gramarye-Land”.

Defense attorneys Apollo Justice and Athena Cykes are among those invited to a dress rehearsal. Excited about the show, she tells Apollo and Athena that she would be performing a never-before-seen trick from the Troupe’s repertoire. Despite this, she has her reservations due to the gravity entailed by carrying the Gramarye torch. This is compounded by the fact that a magician who traveled with the troupe thirteen years ago, “The Great Mr. Reus”, is slated to play the villain in the act.

Said act appears to go smoothly, culminating in Trucy thrusting a sword into a coffin containing Mr. Reus. When she opens the coffin, Mr. Reus falls out, lying motionlessly on the floor. She lets out a scream as several set pieces come crashing down. The audience, realizing this wasn’t part of the act, begins panicking. Apollo asks a staff member if she is alright, but is ejected along with Athena. The show is canceled and Athena suggests returning to the agency and wait for Trucy to call. There, a news report informs them that Mr. Reus had been killed as a result of a large stab wound and Trucy has been arrested for murder.

The primary episode to which I would compare “The Magical Turnabout” is “Turnabout Reclaimed”. “Turnabout Reclaimed” was particularly fascinating in that it hit several similar notes as the despised “Turnabout Big Top” and made a point to avoid falling into the same traps. “The Magical Turnabout”, on the other hand, distinctly parallels “Turnabout Serenade”, which is usually considered the worst episode in the series for those who don’t think “Turnabout Big Top” deserves the dubious honor. What both episodes have in common is that they come across as sly apologies for their problematic spiritual predecessors.

One of the most misbegotten plot points in “Turnabout Serenade” involved having to deduce how a magic trick was performed. What made this process especially ridiculous was the fact that the prosecutor, being a part of the act, knew full well how the trick worked. Even so, if Apollo didn’t find out for himself, his defendant would’ve been declared guilty. To make matters worse, when Apollo confronted one of the magicians responsible the trick, the latter responded with the classic standby of “a magician never reveals their secrets”. This ethos is much less defensible when an innocent’s life is on the line. The exact moment I knew the writers had learned from their predecessors’ mistakes occurred when Trucy tells Apollo exactly how her trick is done. Even better, she eventually performs and explains the trick in court as part of her testimony.

Not too long into Apollo’s investigation do you learn that Ema Skye has reprised her role as the primary homicide investigator. The fans’ reception to Ema is a little difficult to explain. She made her first appearance in “Rise from the Ashes”, the bonus episode included with the DS rerelease of Phoenix Wright. Although she replaced the fan-favorite Maya Fey, she proved to be a fairly popular character in her own right. When she returned nine years older in Apollo Justice, on the other hand, she was more divisive. As a teen, she expressed interest in becoming a forensics officer, but she failed her exams. She was hired as a detective at the local precinct, and she made her job dissatisfaction known. She often hit Apollo with the snacks she ate and was generally dismissive about everything. Coupled with Phoenix Wright having lost his badge, many fans were upset with the direction Shu Takumi took his characters. Worse still, her detached demeanor wasn’t nearly as endearing as Dick Gumshoe’s perpetual cluelessness. Her presence did allow the forensics mechanics showcased in “Rise from the Ashes” to return, but most fans were not impressed.

I do have to admit it was somewhat daring for the writers to go in such a radically different direction with her character, but it just didn’t work.

This is why it was particularly satisfying when seeing her for the first time in Spirit of Justice wearing an armband that clearly reads “FORENSICS”. As if there was any doubt left, she excitedly tells Apollo that she did indeed retake her exams and passed this time. This, in my opinion, is a significant reason why the newer Ace Attorney writing team was so successful. They took controversial developments firmly rooted in the canon and rather than pretending they never happened, they addressed them directly. In doing so, we get legitimate character development moments with satisfying payoffs for those invested. In this case, Ema has returned with a lot of the vigor she displayed in her teen years, but with a greater degree of maturity. Even better, her presence means forensics play a greater role in investigation phases than they did in Dual Destinies, giving them the dynamic quality they had in “Rise from the Ashes”.

With “The Foreign Turnabout”, Spirit of Justice took the series to uncharted territory – both in terms of setting and the sheer enormity of the stakes involved. Because of this, it simply wouldn’t do if “The Magical Turnabout” was a standard filler episode like “The Monstrous Turnabout”. Though Apollo doesn’t exactly put his life on the line, he quickly finds himself in quite a predicament. The producer for Take-2 TV, Roger Retinz, produces the contract Trucy had signed with the company. It states that if the show is cancelled for any reason, she is to pay the production company three million dollars. Naturally, the contract Trucy signed didn’t contain that clause, but it doesn’t matter – when Apollo and Athena return to the agency, they find it covered in repossession stickers.

There is hope for the future of the Wright Anything Agency. Upon explaining the situation to Phoenix over the phone, Apollo’s mentor notices that the liability for compensation will be nullified if they prove Trucy’s innocence. If “The Foreign Turnabout” signposted that the gloves were off, “The Magical Turnabout” warns players not to get complacent just because the Defense Culpability Act is not in effect. An insurmountable debt obviously isn’t as immediately life-threatening as a death sentence, but if Apollo fails in his mission, everything they’ve worked for will be forfeit and Trucy will go to prison.

Although he’s a villain for this one episode, I give the writers a lot of credit for making Roger Retinz so ruthless. He’s not as physically imposing as someone like Redd White or Furio Tigre, but his scheme is incredibly well-planned. When Apollo tells Retinz how he made Trucy inadvertently sign the offending contract, he tells him he can’t use it to prove it was forged. It’s even implied that he specifically waited for Phoenix to go on his journey so he could enact his plan. What I particularly like is how his motivation reveals more of the Troupe Gramarye’s history. It’s revealed that he is the real Mr. Reus. The one who perished during Trucy’s magic trick was a fan of Mr. Reus’s by the name of Manov Mistree.

Retinz had his fan killed to frame Trucy for the murder, sending her to prison for life. Thanks to his company’s influence, he could ensure his viewers would turn against Troupe Gramarye, discrediting them forever. He sought revenge on the troupe for expelling him thirteen years ago and erasing evidence of his existence. The touch I like about this development is how much it plays around with the established facts. “Turnabout Succession” revealed that three of the troupe’s members, Valant, Zak, and Magnifi, were terrible people in different ways. Magnifi had no qualms blackmailing his two acolytes, Zak nearly ruined the livelihood of the man caring for his biological daughter, and Valant manipulated his mentor’s death to make it seem like a murder in an attempt to frame his rival. From this, it’s easy to take Retinz’s side when he denounces the troupe.

At the same time, the reason Magnifi fired Retinz from the troupe to begin with is because the latter insisted on preforming even after sustaining a serious injury. As the repertoire of the Troupe Gramarye is known to be incredibly dangerous, it’s entirely reasonable that Magnifi would react in such a fashion. He would need his performers to be in peak physical condition; even a minor mistake could result in death. He didn’t even originally intend to let Retinz go; he only wanted him to sit out for a while. Only when he defied his orders did was Magnifi forced to make the fateful decision for his acolyte’s own safety.

Though Retinz is eventually exposed, he taunts Trucy for being unable to see past his deception, bragging that in the end, he defeated his former troupe by proving himself the superior magician. It’s a classic case of dramatic irony because Magnifi’s other grandchild happens to be Apollo Justice. Though it’s a fact to which neither of them are privy, it means even this minor victory is rendered hollow.

If “The Magical Turnabout” only expanded upon the background of the Troupe Gramarye, it would be a solid second episode, but it serves a purpose in the overarching plot as well. Now that the pusillanimous Gaspen Payne has been dealt with, “The Magical Turnabout” introduces players to this game’s primary prosecutor. Since ascending to the rank of Chief Prosecutor, Miles Edgeworth has been relentless in his quest to weed out the rampant corruption in the office – a lot of which was allowed to thrive thanks to his distant predecessor, Blaise Debeste. As evidenced by Gaspen Payne’s unceremonious exodus, Edgeworth has been quite successful in this regard. There is one slight problem, however – due to his reformations, the office is cripplingly shorthanded.

Enter Prosecutor Nahyuta Sahdmadhi. This man hails from the land of Khura’in and has agreed to oversee the trial of Trucy Wright. Interestingly, Apollo instantly recognizes the name, expressing disbelief that they are to meet in court. Ema describing him as a kind man becomes slightly ironic when Apollo faces off against him. As soon as he takes the bench, he stops at nothing to prove Trucy’s culpability. Though not as obviously intimidating as his direct predecessor, Simon Blackquill, Nahyuta makes up for it in how dogmatic he is in his attempts to achieve a guilty verdict. He tells Apollo that by defending a guilty person, he is only poisoning his soul. He would appear to be exactly the kind of prosecutor spawned from the blatantly corrupt Khura’inese court system – seeing defendants as the lowest of the low rather than possible victims of circumstance.

In a development eerily similar to one in “Turnabout Sisters”, Apollo gets a chance to speak with Nahyuta after winning the trial. To Athena’s shock, he comments that he has changed dramatically since they last met. When he asks the prosecutor if he forgot about him, the latter leaves the courthouse, telling him he has nothing to say. The previous game saw Apollo face off against the main prosecutor before Phoenix or Athena had the chance, and it seems appropriate how this time around, they apparently have a shared history – one that will come to light in the following episodes.

As if to prove the game wasn’t finished raising the stakes, the third episode “The Rite of Turnabout”, begins with a rather startling cutscene. A prison guard walks into a cell to question “Prisoner 201”. To the guard’s horror, the prisoner has escaped. Despite correctly treating this as a full-scale emergency, they are unable to locate the fugitive. Meanwhile, two rebels talk about someone named Datz being back on the streets and their impending victory. One is worried about a rebel hunter, though his friend assures him they wouldn’t be interested in them. This assertion is proven false seconds later when an individual in a masked costume brandishes a knife. The rebels’ screams ring out into the night.

Meanwhile, Phoenix Wright reflects on his past two weeks in Khura’in. He is glad he was able to prove Ahlbi’s innocence, though he could’ve gone without the near-death experience. Right now, he is eagerly awaiting his chance to meet up with Maya Fey, who is just about to finish her aesetic training. Ahlbi is particularly excited for an annual ritual called the Purification Rite. Maya is slated to appear in it guised as Lady Kee’ra – a figure from Khura’inese history. As Phoenix reads a guidebook on Khura’inese rites, the two of them arrive at the Plaza of Devotion, which is nestled in the mountains. Here, many devout followers brave the cold to kneel in prayer – sometimes for days at a time. To their surprises, a hooded, pious nun approaches them, saying that it had been a long time. Pulling down her hood, the nun reveals herself to be Maya Fey.

After the time skip in Apollo Justice, many important characters were dropped. This is mostly because Apollo Justice was intended as a standalone game. When executives requested Shu Takumi to include Phoenix Wright, the absence of the original trilogy’s characters was very noticeable. As such, Phoenix isn’t the only one delighted to see Maya, for this is notably her first appearance in the main series since Trails and Tribulations – originally released twelve years prior in 2004.

In light of the writers going in interesting directions with the established characters, Maya comes across as a tether to the past. Though slightly more mature than she was nine years prior, it becomes evident that she’s still herself. She remains every bit as enthusiastic about becoming a fully-fledged spirit medium, and her decidedly strange outlook on the world still plays well off of Phoenix’s more grounded personality. When it’s revealed later in the episode that Khura’in has a television program similar to The Steel Samurai dubbed The Plumed Punisher, she falls in love with the character instantly, hoping the two characters could face off against each other one day.

After bringing him up to speed, Maya invites Phoenix to bear witness to the Purification Rite. It’s the final phase of her two-year training toward mastering the Kurain Channeling Technique before she is to return home. Typically, the high priest’s wife dons the guise of Lady Kee’ra, but as a result of her pregnancy, Maya has agreed to take her place. The historical figure’s popularity has surged in recent history due to sightings by Khura’inese citizens, apparently hunting down several key members of the Defiant Dragons.

The sound of bells cues Maya to meet the high priest and begin the ritual. As it begins, Ahlbi notices Acolyte Puhray Zeh’lot in the front row of the devoted followers. He had apparently been praying since the crack of dawn. Abbot Tahrust Inmee and Maya stand before the followers, Ahlbi has Phoenix pray alongside them. Unfortunately, the strain on his back proves too much, and Phoenix blacks out before too long. Phoenix comes to the following day, awakening to a panicked Ahlbi. He bears terrible news: Maya Fey is being arrested.

Phoenix is shocked to find Detective Ema Skye on the scene, telling the arresting officer to handle Maya gently. She then informs Phoenix of what happened. Sometime after he passed out, Maya Fey and Tahrust Inmee entered the Inner Sanctum to continue the rite. As it drew to a close, the high priest was stabbed to death. It’s suspected that the murder weapon was the Warbaa’d Dagger used in the ritual, but the police were unable to find it. With Ema’s blessing, Phoenix ventures to the Inner Sanctum with the intent to prove Maya Fey innocent.

 

That Maya Fey is on trial for murder is the least surprising aspect of this case, as Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney demonstrated her perfect track record of being the usual suspect extended to crossovers as well. With this basic premise, “The Rite of Turnabout” appears to be a callback to “Reunion, and Turnabout”. A serious crime has been committed in a secluded, sacred area and Maya Fey is the primary suspect.

The investigation is notably much more somber this time around – especially when Phoenix speaks with Beh’leeb Inmee, the deceased’s widow. She has the quirk of holding her late husband’s portrait in front of her face as if to say what he would under those circumstances. Though it comes across as farcical when she somehow causes the portrait to switch expressions, you won’t find yourself laughing. Ace Attorney has never shied away from heavy topics such as speaking a victim’s surviving friends and family shortly after their demise. What sets this interaction apart is that it’s arguably the most realistic depiction of the grieving process. Consequently, it’s difficult to parse Beh’leeb’s personality because Phoenix only ever interacts with her after she has been deeply traumatized by her husband’s death.

It’s not all doom and gloom, however. During Phoenix’s investigation, he happens upon a bearded man who seems enthusiastic about something and speaks to the defense attorney as though they know each other. He then admits he doesn’t know who he is or what he’s supposed to be doing before walking off.

If the average player were not six games in, they would be forgiven for believing the case to be straightforward given all the facts presented to them. A criminal has escaped from jail and the high priest has been murdered. As it’s implied the escapee is a member of the Defiant Dragons, it’s easy to draw the conclusion that he murdered the high priest to cover his tracks and pinned the crime on Maya. Moreover, there is a strange, bearded man wandering around. Given the many people in the Ace Attorney universe capable of spinning an impressive web of lies, one could surmise the bearded man is the escaped criminal, who is named Datz if the opening cutscene is to be believed. When he is called as a witness by Prosecutor Sahdmadhi, an unwitting player is ready to tear his testimony apart and expose him as the true killer.

The hypothetical player would be caught off guard when the moment never occurs. Just when Phoenix deduces the man’s identity, he flees from the courtroom. To make matters worse, the rebel drops a piece of paper detailing his escape plan from prison. Said prison happens to be on the summit of the mountain in which the Inner Sanctum is nestled. Prosecutor Sahdmadhi concludes that, because Phoenix gave a convincing argument Tahrust Inmee was a rebel, the deceased and escapee were planning the prison break together. Phoenix’s insinuation that a third person killed the priest is shot down when Nahyuta tells him the figure they saw in the Divination Séance was actually a statue with the robes of Lady Kee’ra draped over it. The accused had used it as something for the victim to see before his death to create a deceptive vision. With the overwhelming evidence against her, the judge declares Maya Fey guilty. As per the Defense Culpability Act, Phoenix Wright is implicated with her.

In the original trilogy, this is when somebody would come bursting into the courtroom and deliver evidence to turn the case around. Again, that expectation is subverted when a bailiff runs into the courtroom with urgent news. The body of Acolyte Puhray Zeh’lot has been found at the Plaza of Devotion. The murder weapon is none other than the missing Warbaa’d Dagger, and they bear Maya’s fingerprints. Nahyuta immediately accuses Maya Fey of Zeh’lot’s murder and being the mysterious rebel hunter who dresses as Lady Kee’ra. He reasoning is that the vigilante was first sighted two years ago, which coincides with Maya’s arrival in Khura’in. The judge announces that Maya’s sentence is to be delayed to resolve this new charge, adjourning the court for the day.

Thus begins the second investigation phase. Though Phoenix has been allowed to investigate, the situation is quite dire; unless he can prove Maya innocent and reverse the charge, he is a dead man walking. Zeh’lot’s dead body was placed in a prayer position, allowing the culprit to hide it in plain sight. As Zeh’lot had been taken under the wing of the high priest, the meetings with Beh’leeb are even more morose given that two people close to her had lost their lives.

During this investigation, the rebel who escaped from the courtroom is sighted. Pheonix gives chase with the help of Ahlbi’s dog, Shah’do, and as he follows the dog down a manhole, he is prompty knock out cold. When he regains consciousness, he finds himself face-to-face with Datz Are’bal. The latter apologizes, believing Phoenix to have been a policeman. It is here that Phoenix learns of the Defiant Dragons and their goal. Their leader is Dhurke Sahdmadhi. He was once a renowned defense attorney and his former office is now being used as a rebel hideout.

One particular photo taken from twenty years ago grabs Phoenix’s attention. When the player sees it, they will understand why.

In the photo is Dhurke with his two sons – one biological and one adopted. Their names are Nahyuta Sahdmadhi and Apollo Justice. Expressing disbelief that Nahyuta could turn against the Defiant Dragons, Datz explains the prosecutor too used to be a rebel. In fact, he became a prosecutor with the intent of bringing down Queen Ga’ran Sigatar Khura’in’s regime from within. Sadly, he evidently lost his resolve and is now at the forefront of the regime’s activities.

After the rebel informs him of the secret hideout within the Inner Sanctum, Phoenix is ready for Maya’s second trial. Though the Divination Séance for Zeh’lot appears at first to ruin his case, Phoenix is eventually able to prove that he was killed in the hideout. His case hits a snag when he realizes the only other possibility is that the one who murdered Zeh’lot was the high priest himself. With the queen being too busy at the time, Maya reveals she too can channel spirits. The court is dubious that a foreigner would make such a claim. Rayfa proposes that Maya could be allowed to channel Abbot Inmee’s spirit under one condition: both she and Phoenix will be executed on the spot if she fails. The gallery is astonished when Tahrust Inmee appears before them. He is understandably confused at first, but is ready to give his testimony after the judge explains what has happened.

The ability to channel dead spirits is a concept that has existed in the Ace Attorney universe from the very first installment. This was demonstrated in Maya Fey’s debut episode, “Turnabout Sisters” wherein she channeled her older sister, Mia, shortly after her death. In a series driven intricate murder plots, a player would immediately see that ability as a means to completely break any semblance of difficulty these games may have presented. Why not simply ask the victims who murdered them? As the DL-6 Incident proved, things aren’t always that straightforward. Maya’s mother, Misty, channeled Gregory Edgeworth’s spirit only for him to claim an innocent man killed him. As he died while unconscious, he didn’t know the identity of his killer. Said defendant’s acquittal led to the Fey family being discredited, and it’s understandable why Maya would be hesitant to try it again.

If the DL-6 Incident resulted in the deceased producing a false claim due to an honest mistake, this channeling is somewhat reminiscent of Rashomon. That is to say, one would expect the murder victim to be entirely truthful in their testimony. After all, they have already lost their lives; they wouldn’t be any worse off by telling the truth, no matter how unflattering or damning it may be – yet that logical assertion is not realized. Tahrust proceeds to corroborate Nahyuta’s claim that Maya killed him and even has a solid alibi for the killing of Puhray Zeh’lot. Phoenix then realizes there is only other person whose presence is unaccounted for – Beh’leeb Inmee.

From here, Phoenix concludes that the true identity of Lady Kee’ra was none other than Puhray Zeh’lot himself. Theorizing that Beh’leeb is also a rebel, he claims Zeh’lot had attempted to murder her only for her to kill him in self-defense. Nahyuta eventually points out that if what Phoenix is saying is true, then Zeh’lot died before he had a chance to kill Tahrust, meaning his murder is still unsolved. It is here you realize just how much the writers toyed with the audience’s expectations, resulting in by far the most impactful Revisualization sequence the series had seen up until this point. All this time, Phoenix had been chasing a third person – a killer – who didn’t exist; Tahrust’s death was a suicide.

When this undeniable truth is presented to him, Tahrust desperately tries to salvage his case only for his wife to step in, saying the argument had already gone on long enough. She explains that she had been in the hideout during the rite’s preparatory feast to aid Datz’s escape. However, Zeh’lot was also in there to investigate it. Suddenly, he lunged at her, saying the Minister of Justice allowed him to kill rebels as an agent of the secret police with full protection from the law. The gallery is shocked to hear these orders came from Minister Inga himself. Even so, it raises the question of why there were no orders to investigate the rebel hunter.

Resigned to his fate, Tahrust admits the cover-up was entirely his doing. He intended to frame Maya for murder by having her hold the Warbaa’d Dagger during a rehearsal of the rite the night before. During the rite itself, he covered the statue with Lady Kee’ra’s robe and drugged Maya to render her unconscious. He then impaled himself on the statue before using the last of his strength to push himself backwards and take the robe off in one swift motion. This was done to manipulate the Divination Séance to make it appear as though Maya donned the robe and stabbed him to death.

Phoenix realizes another reason why Tahrust had to resort to this: the Defense Culpability Act. Without a lawyer, proving Beh’leeb’s killing of Zeh’lot would have been next to impossible – exacerbated by the fact the victim was commissioned by Minister Inga, who is not only a high-ranking official, but the queen’s husband. When Phoenix tells Tahrust he could have represented Beh’leeb in court, the latter admits that despite his affiliation with the Defiant Dragons, he had little faith in lawyers. The only other person Tahrust could’ve implicated in this case was himself. However, if he admitted to the murder, Beh’leeb would’ve come to his defense, condemning them both to death. This would have the particularly tragic outcome of killing their unborn child. Even if the court allowed Beh’leeb to give birth before her sentence, the child would be orphaned. Furthermore, Khura’inese culture believes strongly in the idea that children bear the sins of their parents. In such a scenario, the child of Tahrust and Beh’leeb would be doomed to the existence as a social pariah.

A reoccurring element of the episodes once Mr. Yamazaki and Mr. Eshiro began helming the series is taking basic plots of older episodes, putting their unique spin on them, and ending up with an improved version. This could be seen in how “Turnabout Reclaimed” and “The Magical Turnabout” seemed to redeem “Turnabout Big Top” and “Turnabout Serenade”. Under this interpretation, “The Rite of Turnabout” is far more daring; it takes an episode beloved by the fanbase and ironed out nearly all of its flaws. In other words, I posit that this episode is an improved version of “Bridge to the Turnabout”.

Yes, “Bridge to the Turnabout” is a good episode, but there’s no getting around that it the entire plot could’ve been avoided if its culprit, Godot, exercised any common sense. In the end, his ego got in the way and the people he agreed to protect were worse off because of his actions. While it was in character, and the writers didn’t try to have their cake and eat it by casting him in an unabashedly flattering light, that development nonetheless rendered him highly unsympathetic. “The Rite of Turnabout”, on the other hand, is far more tragic because it showcases horrifying impact of the Defense Culpability Act. This was a good person spurred into committing a base act of betrayal to protect the woman he loved and their unborn child from a horrible fate.

With Maya Fey’s innocence proven, it is time for Tahrust to return. Before he goes, he implores Phoenix not to let anyone else fall victim to the Defense Culpability Act. He and Beh’leeb then share some final words before Rayfa presents the latter with the Magatama of Parting. This artifact cuts the flow of spiritual power, thus terminating the channeling. Beh’leeb then tearfully bids her husband farewell as his soul departs once more.

In the lobby after the “Not Guilty” verdict is read and the previous “Guilty” one overturned, a loud smoke bomb goes off. As the bailiffs investigate, Beh’leeb enters the lobby and apologizes to Phoenix for what she and Tahrust put them through. She then removes off her mourning veil, draws the mark of Lady Kee’ra on her forehead using lipstick, and vows to pick up from where Tahrust left off. An enthusiastic Datz arrives to retrieve her, and Phoenix even catches a glimpse of Dhurke himself before the three of them escape.

To sum things up, “The Rite to Turnabout” starts off with a criminal escaping from jail. Not only is he not caught, he becomes a valuable, and highly amusing, ally. To make matters stranger, the two murders the game presents you with turn out to be a suicide and an act of self-defense respectively. This is on top of the fact that the one killed in self-defense was the episode’s real villain. Lastly, is the killer not arrested or even cross-examined. She instead joins the local resistance group and swears to do whatever she can to take down the corrupt regime. The sheer number of twists and turns this episode would’ve made it an excellent finale. It’s quite impressive considering there are only nine profiles in the court record. While “The Inherited Turnabout” may have been my favorite non-final episode overall, I firmly believed “The Rite to Turnabout” deserved that honor as far as the core series went. Considering their placement in their respective games, it’s nearly impossible to believe the “third-episode jinx” was ever a trend at all.

Those were my thoughts going into the game’s fourth episode, “Turnabout Storyteller”. As if on cue, I was presented with something that wouldn’t have felt out of place among the third episodes of the series’ first four entries. The Wright Anything Agency is hastily called to handle a murder case. With Phoenix and Apollo too busy to handle the trial, Athena Cykes sprints to the courthouse alone. There, she meets an old friend, Simon Blackquill. He introduces Athena to her client, Bucky Whet. Though heavily intoxicated, Bucky claims to be the fourth-generation head chef at Whet Soba. He had been arrested for the murder of Taifu Toneido, a master rakugo storyteller. As the two of them weren’t on good terms due to Taifu hiding the deed to Whet Soba, he is the prime suspect. Without a chance to conduct a formal investigation, Athena proceeds into the courtroom, standing opposite Prosecutor Sahdmadhi.

In all honesty, I wouldn’t consider this episode bad. I do like that we’re shown what happened to Simon Blackquill after the events of Dual Destinies. Things get especially interesting when, breaking the series’ tradition, he accompanies Athena as her co-counsel to help her through the case. It’s also amusing from a meta standpoint to watch the localization team attempt to explain why a prominent, traditional rakugo theater exists in the United States.

That said, this is by far the weakest episode in the game, and it highlights one of the few shortcomings the experience has. With Phoenix roaming the Kingdom of Khura’in and Apollo handling the cases back in the United States, it seemed as though the writers had no idea what to do with Athena’s character. The Mood Matrix returns, necessitating her presence for those sequences, but other than that, she barely gets a chance to contribute anything substantial. Part of this could be because her character was arguably fully explored in Dual Destinies. Even so, it’s a little disappointing that her only episode doesn’t even have an investigation phase, thus depriving her of a chance for her character to develop.

The episode itself doesn’t have any particularly memorable twists either. It is slightly interesting in how demonstrates the dangers of poor communication. I can also safely say I can’t recall the last time a criminal, fictional or otherwise, used noodle dough as a murder weapon. However, though “Turnabout Storyteller” may be the weakest episode in Spirit of Justice, I maintain it’s not nearly as bad as something like “Turnabout Serenade”. Even if you absolutely hate the episode with a passion, it is, at the very least, short, meaning you don’t have to suffer too much to return to the main plot.

Discussing the Ending

Historically, the Ace Attorney games were known for their solid final acts. Indeed, a major reason why I considered Apollo Justice the weakest installment in the franchise is because its own finale was very underwhelming. Punctuating this feeling was the final hour when the decisive piece of evidence is dismissed immediately only for the narrative to turn around and award the title character what amounted to a consolation victory. Other than that, Spirit of Justice had a lot to live up to with hard-hitting episodes such as “Turnabout Goodbyes”, “Rise from the Ashes”, “Farewell, My Turnabout”, and “The Grand Turnabout” preceding it.

With the innumerable plot threads waiting to be resolved, the writers would appear to have their work cut out for them going into the final episode, “Turnabout Revolution”. The episode begins with Dhurke Sahdmadhi interrupting a television broadcast. With Datz Are’bal standing by his side, he implores the people of Khura’in to help abolish the Defense Culpability Act, citing the countless lives ended in its wake. He also claims to have obtained the ultimate weapon: the Founder’s Orb, vowing to use it to dethrone the Ga’ran regime.

“A dragon never yields.”

Going into this episode for the first time, I assumed the rest of the game would be played from Phoenix’s perspective. Though he succeeded in meeting up with Maya, the simple fact that he was in Khura’in at the time the revolution began in earnest would make him a natural candidate. This is where you will learn the subtitle, Spirit of Justice, has two meanings. Obviously, it alludes to the game’s supernatural elements and how they’re used to find the truth. However, it’s also used in a more esoteric fashion, taking advantage of Apollo Justice’s localized name. Though Phoenix’s actions in Khura’in, sparked the flames of a revolution, he is about to make way for the game’s real protagonist.

The broadcast signal intrusion in Khura’in appears on the American morning news. Watching the report, Apollo Justice wonders what Dhurke is planning. This catches the attention of Trucy Wright, but before he can explain, the man himself appears before them to their shock. The leader of the Defiant Dragons is shocked that Apollo never mentioned his past to anyone. He introduces himself to Trucy, telling her that he is Apollo’s adopted father and Nahyuta’s biological one.

This exchange throws into question of why Apollo never mentioned any of this in any of the previous games. Outside the confines of the Ace Attorney universe, the obvious reason is because these elements didn’t exist before Spirit of Justice. Retconning an established character’s backstory to this degree is usually a recipe for disaster. While I do admit it’s strange that Apollo never told his friends about his past in Khura’in, the writers did offer a believable reason for why he didn’t. Apollo felt others wouldn’t believe that he had such a relationship with a controversial figure and assumed Dhurke forgot about him. Naturally, the rebellion leader denies this, explaining his status as a wanted fugitive made visiting Apollo impossible. Again, it’s a little jarring how Apollo had this entire dimension to his character that was never alluded to, but I do give credit to the writers for realizing it. They even have a little bit of fun with this moment by having Dhurke act like a parent despite not having seen Apollo in years.

As it turns out, Dhurke’s dramatic broadcast was a lie; they were not in possession of the Founder’s Orb. However, Datz tracked the orb to the nearby Kurain Village, discovering it to be in the possession of Archie Buff, an archaeologist who currently resides there. Nevertheless, Archie agreed to hand over the orb after he had finished studying it. There is a riddle associated with the orb and that great spiritual power shall be bestowed onto the one who can solve it. Before they leave, Dhurke hands Apollo a photo of his biological father, Jove Justice, who had died twenty-three years ago. Though Apollo is initially unmoved by the gift, having never known his father as a person, he accepts it after learning the lengths Dhurke went to in order to obtain it.

What I particularly like about Apollo’s visit to Kurain Village is how it introduces him to the series’ supernatural side. Phoenix and, by extension, the player had witnessed the power of a spirit medium as early as his second episode while Apollo is only now being cued into their existence. In a way, it reminds me of Metal Gear Solid 2 wherein an entirely new character is inducted into the series’ fantastical aspects that the player has already taken for granted.

Though technically an investigation phase, the acquisition of the Founder’s Orb feels like a section out of an adventure game rather than a typical Ace Attorney trial. Apollo and company learn that Dr. Buff tried to retrieve a book from one of his topmost shelves only to trigger an avalanche of falling books and sustain a fatal head injury. After searching the archeologist’s home, Apollo and Dhurke learn Dr. Buff hid the Founder’s Orb in a cave in the nearby Mt. Mitama. While exploring the caves, Dhurke admits to a personal reason for starting the revolution: to save Nahyuta. Recalling his prosecution of Trucy, Apollo remarks how much he changed from the cheerful, kind child he once knew. Underscoring the adventure game elements, the Founder’s Orb is in a puzzle box. Its solution isn’t painstakingly obvious either; you have employ a degree of lateral thinking to open it.

After escaping the cave, the triumphant atmosphere is interrupted by one Paul Atishon, an arrogant young man campaigning for a seat on the local council. He demands they turn over the valuable relic to him, claiming Dhurke and the Defiant Dragons stole it from him. As Apollo argues with him, Phoenix shows up. To their shock, he isn’t there to help him. Claiming Paul is an important client, he warns Apollo that if Dhurke refuses to hand over the orb, the matter will be decided in court.

Though this is the first time a civil trial has ever played out in an Ace Attorney game, amusingly resulting in Athena treating the term as a foreign concept, it is conducted exactly the same in gameplay terms as a criminal case. Despite this, it’s every bit as intense as a murder trial; after all, if Apollo loses, the Khura’inese revolution will have been crushed before it had a chance to accomplish anything. Though Apollo is undefeated, he has to defeat the Turnabout Terror himself to ensure the countless sacrifices weren’t in vain.

The last time Phoenix Wright represented an amoral client in court was in “Farewell, My Turnabout”. In that episode, Phoenix was blackmailed by the sociopathic Matt Engarde into achieving a “Not Guilty” verdict or else the assassin he hired would kill Maya. It doesn’t take much thought to realize he finds himself in a similar situation now. However, because you’re not playing as him this time around, the act is markedly more convincing. Maya has been kidnapped by Paul’s benefactor and only by winning a court case on his behalf will she remain unharmed. Fortunately, not only does Apollo discover that Paul murdered Dr. Buff, he deduces his mysterious benefactor needs Maya alive in order to channel the Holy Mother, whose face is depicted in a statuette hidden in the Founder’s Orb. This is important because a medium needs to know the deceased’s face and name to channel their spirit.

Paul is arrested and Phoenix thanks Apollo for getting him out of the would-be politician’s grasp. Things are far from over, for Paul’s benefactor calls Phoenix on his cell phone. Despite using a voice modulator, Dhurke identifies the individual as Inga Karkhuul Khura’in, and tells them that he doesn’t have Maya. The Justice Minister is flabbergasted momentarily, but assures them that, though Maya has indeed escaped, she wasn’t his only insurance. He issues an ultimatum: they are to meet him at Amara’s tomb by 3:00pm the next day. Miles Edgeworth, who had been investigating the kidnapping on Phoenix’ behalf arrives on the scene and agrees to charter a plane for everyone.

Incredulous at the circumstances bringing him back to Khura’in, Apollo follows Dhurke’s lead to Amara’s tomb. Queen Ga’ran Sigatar Khura’in arrives with a contingent of guards intent on apprehending the rogue minister. Dhurke convinces them to stand down, saying he needed to make a hostage exchange and that it would only take twenty minutes. Half of an hour passes with nobody exiting the tomb. The queen orders the guards to enter the tomb. Inside, they find Dhurke holding a knife standing above the lifeless body of Minister Inga. Maya is also in the tomb, but quickly passes out from exhaustion.

Meeting him at the detention center, Apollo vows to represent him in court. The leader of the rebellion faces a public execution as a result of being charged with two crimes. One is the murder of Minister Inga while the other was the assassination of Ga’ran’s predecessor, Amara Sigatar Khura’in. Twenty-three years ago, an arsonist set fire to the queen’s private residence. Being her husband, Dhurke had been placed on trial for the murder. He represented himself in court and won, but was falsely accused of forging evidence. Knowing that attempting to win the retrial would produce the same result, he fled the courtroom, hiding underground. Nahyuta arrives to take his own father into questioning. Apollo tries to reason with him, but he refuses to listen, seeing nothing wrong with prosecuting his father.

Before the trial, rebels storm the High Court of Khura’in before being removed by guards. Apollo and Phoenix realize that, because of the vague nature of the Defense Culpability Act, the fate of the entire revolution depends on the outcome of this trial. Skeptical of Nahyuta’s ability to prosecute given the circumstances, Queen Ga’ran herself takes to the bench, donning her old prosecutor garb.

Spirit of Justice takes an interesting approach with its main villain compared to Dual Destinies. Whereas the phantom’s existence is a well-guarded secret until the very end of the final episode, Ga’ran makes her first appearance roughly halfway through the game. Even before that moment, her presence could be felt the moment Phoenix stood up for Ahlbi and the Defense Culpability Act was invoked. Though she attempts to pass the ordinance off as a necessary countermeasure to punish the wicked, its negative effect on the citizens outweigh any good it may have accomplished. Indeed, the sheer despair Phoenix felt during his first case in Khura’in was only a prelude to the suicide of Tahrust Inmee, which would later be dubbed the DCA Tragedy.

It is appropriate, then, that once the player has fully comprehended how corrupt the justice system is, Ga’ran drops the pretenses and begins acting on her inherent malevolent nature. As a villain, Ga’ran could be described as a freakish fusion of Manfred von Karma and Morgan Fey. She reveals herself to be a highly amoral prosecutor who effortlessly manipulates the court in her favor. Due to being the country’s monarch, she goes one step further than Manfred by changing the country’s laws on the spot when things aren’t going her way. Meanwhile, like Morgan Fey, she was driven by jealousy due to having less spiritual power than her sister, Amara. In Ga’ran’s case, her situation prevented her from ascending to the throne, forcing her to orchestrate Amara’s downfall. Once Dhurke’s was forced to go into hiding, Ga’ran established the Defense Culpability Act to tighten her iron grip on the country.

By discrediting defense attorneys, prosecutors and the powers that be were given carte blanche to do as they desired. This was shown as early as the third chapter when Minister Inga is seen unflinchingly and remorselessly signing execution orders. The phantom played a pivotal role in many character’s backstories, but had limited screentime after his façade was cracked. Ga’ran’s influence is evident from the minute the game begins.

Because of this, that it turns out she’s the culprit behind the murder of Minister Inga and the incident from twenty-three years ago is unsurprising. As it turns out, Inga was planning a coup of his own, but Ga’ran killed him before he could effect his plan. What the game instead does is take an approach akin to “Turnabout Academy” by throwing an obvious suspect at you from the onset only to convince you beyond almost all reasonable doubt that she’s innocent. Specifically, she ostensibly has a solid alibi, assisting a neighboring nation’s king by challenging a spirit at the time the murder occurred. She was also outside the tomb in plain sight of Phoenix and Apollo during the hostage negotiation. Though the ultimate conclusion is fairly obvious, this does not mean “Turnabout Revolution” is anticlimactic – far from it. In fact, I would say this case is more akin to piecing together the aftermath of a political thriller than a murder mystery.

One thing I have admired about the Divination Séances is how much the idea is explored in the span of a single game. The first episode demonstrated what happens when people falsely believe the incident to be an open-and-shut case. The third shows what could potentially happen in a world where its citizens know full well the nature of these séances. Tahrust intentionally died in a way that the visions would be misinterpreted by the court. Finally, “Turnabout Revolution” shows what happens when the killer herself manipulates the vision.

As it turns out, the late Justice Minster suffered from a cognitive disorder known as a prosopagnosia. Those afflicted with the condition cannot distinguish faces; to them, even a person they see every day looks no different than a stranger off the streets. Indeed, when someone dressed in the clothes of Dhurke Sahdmadhi appears before him, his condition is reflected in the vision. Ga’ran knew that as long as she dressed in Dhurke’s clothes, her husband would fail to recognize her, allowing her to take such a bold risk with impunity. This idea was a brilliant masterstroke, marrying the séance’s fantastical nature with scientific knowledge.

Although most players are just waiting for the moment when Ga’ran’s alibi falls apart, it still has plenty of twists remaining. The first is that Queen Amara is still alive, having survived the burning of her residence. As a powerful spirit medium, she channeled Minister Inga to mislead Rayfa into believing he was still alive. However, Amara was never spotted at any point; when Ga’ran had her guards enter the tomb, the only ones present were Dhurke, Maya, and the deceased Inga. With a sense of dread, shared with the player as they present the correct evidence, Apollo realizes there is only one way she could have escaped the tomb unnoticed: by channeling another spirit.

This twist is not foreshadowed with any degree of subtlety; in fact, it’s almost to the point of it being a little too on-the-nose. It is effective, however, and the savvy players will be hoping beyond hope that it doesn’t turn out to be true. The first hint is that Dhurke was certain of Maya’s safety when Inga called Phoenix’s cell phone despite producing no evidence of his claim. Later, when speaking with Dhurke in the detention center, he mentions being gravely ill. Even when Apollo offers to work several more jobs to pay for the hospital bill, Dhurke tells him not to bother. Finally, during the case, one piece of evidence stands out: a large amount of blood belonging to Dhurke staining the floors of the tomb. With this, Apollo realizes the terrible truth Dhurke told him he would have to face: his adopted father is dead and had been the entire time he was in the United States.

Phoenix and Athena both had despairing animations, but Apollo notably lacked one throughout his previous two appearances. Because of that, watching the ordinarily boisterous attorney lose all hope is the biggest gut punch in the entire game.

Maya at last confesses to Apollo what happened. Dhurke came to rescue her from Minister Inga, but was caught before they could escape. The minister shot the revolution leader three times, but Dhurke successfully bluffed him into believing the bullets didn’t harm him. This scared Inga into fleeing the scene. As he was dying, he requested Maya to channel him so he could see his son one last time. Unable to bring himself to tell the truth, he had Maya keep his impending death a secret from Apollo.

In the midst of all of this, Nahyuta insists on testifying on Ga’ran’s behalf. I’m sure that the savviest Ace Attorney players likened him to Justine Courtney – it’s only a matter of time before he realizes the error of his ways and rejoins the Defiant Dragons. However, this is another instance in which the anticipated note is never struck. In fact, it seems downright suicidal that he would continue opposing Apollo. This is where you learn just what kind of twist awaits you with this character. He knew from the beginning he was in the wrong. His dogmatic stance on how courts should be run? His contempt for defense attorneys? Those over-the-top breakdowns when he lost a case? They were all an act.

He only helped Ga’ran when she revealed Rayfa is the daughter of Dhurke and Amara. If he did not comply, she would expose Rayfa’s secret. In the best-case scenario, she would be doomed to the life of a social pariah due to being the offspring of an infamous criminal. Realistically, she would be a target of political assassins who refused to acknowledge her as their queen. Therefore, Apollo realizes the only way he can save Nahyuta from Ga’ran’s clutches is by exposing her as the culprit behind the arson attack. He does this by having Rayfa perform a divination séance, using his secret weapon: the photo of his biological father. As it turns out, Jove Justice perished in the fire, and simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time, his son would prove who killed him twenty-three years later. Now knowing that Ga’ran deceived him all along, Nahyuta retracts his testimony and at last pledges his support for the revolution. The writers took their time with his redemption arc, but it is immensely satisfying when he takes off his glove, revealing a tattoo matching that of his father and declares, “A dragon never yields”.

Realizing she has been backed into a corner, Ga’ran signs a new law into existence: any threat against the crown is punishable by death. Admittedly, though I think Ga’ran is a solid villain, one aspect about her character I found rather appalling is her lack of pragmatism. This is somebody who can change the laws of the land on a whim; it raises the question of why she didn’t simply do something like this from the start and snuff out any hope the defense had of winning. The narrative does establish that her intelligence is outpaced by her hubris, but enjoying watching the defense squirm puts her in a bad way for no reason. I shudder to think what would’ve happened if she had the intelligence of the main antagonist of Prosecutor’s Path.

It’s almost impossible to dwell on this moment for too long when it’s followed up with the single greatest moment of Apollo’s career thus far: declaring Ga’ran has no claim to the throne while being held at gunpoint. Noticing she kept Amara alive this whole time, Apollo posits that Ga’ran has no spiritual power of her own, proving his case by giving her exactly what she wants: the Founder’s Orb.

As Khura’inese law states the ruler must have a deep connection to the spirit world, Ga’ran’s failed attempts to channel the Holy Mother expose her as the fraud she is, nullifying her laws in one fell swoop.

With the revolution finally dethroning a tyrant, Phoenix compliments Apollo on his work. Inexplicably, Trucy shows up to congratulate him, having stowed away in one of Edgeworth’s suitcases. With Rayfa ascending to the throne, Khura’in is about to enter a new age. Nahyuta asks Apollo to stay in Khura’in and help them repair the damage done to the legal system by the Ga’ran regime. After thinking it over, Apollo thanks Phoenix for all he has done, but informs him that he will be staying in Khura’in. He wants to pick up where Dhurke left off and pass Phoenix’s teachings onto a new generation of lawyers. Though there were a few bumps along the way, this is a fantastic ending – one I can say the writers earned.

Epilogue

Like Dual Destinies before it, Spirit of Justice had its share of downloadable content. Among these separate releases was a canonical bonus episode by the name of “Turnabout Time Traveler”. A few months have passed since Apollo’s departure from the Wright Anything Agency and Phoenix and Athena have been experiencing a dearth of clients. Suddenly, an old friend of Phoenix’s enters the office: Larry Butz. Accompanying him is a woman named Ellen Wyatt, with whom Larry claims is getting married. This clear falsehood is exposed for what it is seconds later when Ellen informs Phoenix of her plight. The dead body of Dumas Gloomsbury has been discovered in the reception hall of the Flying Chapel and Ellen is the prime suspect. Larry, being Larry, misinterpreted Ellen asking him to help her evade the police for a marriage proposal.

Ellen’s story has a particularly strange facet to it. After her wedding reception, she was attacked and nearly killed by the victim himself. At that exact moment, she made a wish on her pendant to go back in time. To her amazement, she had gone back to before her wedding reception started. There was one key difference, however. The man who tried to kill her was now dead. With no other leads to go on, she was arrested for the murder.

Compared to “Turnabout Reclaimed”, I felt “Turnabout Time Traveler” to be a little dry. The former played around with the series’ conventions to an astonishing degree whereas the latter is about as straightforward of a murder mystery as one can get. It even ends with the culprit turning out to be the butler, which, though not as common a trend as popular culture believed, comes across as unbelievably cliché being played straight.

This episode was doubtlessly an attempt to hark back to the original trilogy with its minimalistic setup. This is especially evident in how Maya Fey returns as Phoenix’s assistant, and prosecuting Ellen is none other than Miles Edgeworth.

And of course, it wouldn’t be a classic Ace Attorney episode without Larry Butz’s signature screwball antics.

To enforce this further, Athena’s Mood Matrix isn’t utilized because of a running joke involving her getting roped into being Trucy’s test subject. The plot isn’t bad for what it is, but it did remind me of why I didn’t particularly care for the Professor Layton crossover. One of the best things about the Ace Attorney series is watching the characters evolve over time. Though Phoenix still retains his development this time around, it’s still jarring to see the writers push gags and old character traits that had rightly abandoned by this point.

It even shares an uncanny similarity with the average Professor Layton installment in that there turns out to be a logical explanation for everything. It’s revealed that Ellen was saved by her fiancée, Sorin, and his family held the reception a second time. In reality, the time traveler to which the episode’s title refers is Sorin. Due to an automotive accident that occurred several months ago, Sorin’s sister was killed. He survived, but was afflicted with anterograde amnesia, preventing him from forming new memories. When he wakes up, as far as he knows, only a day has passed since the tragic accident. Therefore, in a sense, he constantly travels back in time to that day.

At the end of the day, “Turnabout Time Traveler” is decent episode – even if it never quite ascends to the same heights as the ones that precede it. I could see this being a third episode in one of the installments helmed by Shu Takumi in how it has almost no bearing on the overall plot, but with the main story resolved, it stands as a nice bonus for longtime fans.

Drawing a Conclusion

Pros:

  • Supernatural elements return
  • Khura’in is a fantastic setting
  • Excellent cast of characters
  • Great voice acting
  • Intricate overarching plot
  • Wonderful music
  • Masterfully experiments with series’ conventions
  • Ambitious presentation
  • Greater emphasis on puzzles
  • |Provides Apollo with much-needed backstory|
  • |Incredible finale|
Cons:

  • Athena’s character gets neglected
  • |Antagonist’s stupidity is rather shocking|
  • |Downloadable case is rather underwhelming|

If the past three entries annihilated the notion that the third episode of a given Ace Attorney game is destined to be the weakest, Spirit of Justice bucked another trend. Up until the release of this game, it was generally agreed that the odd-numbered installments were superior to the even-numbed ones. Phoenix Wright is the one that started it all and has the most recognizable soundtrack, Trials and Tribulations is a popular choice when fans debate over what should be considered the series’ pinnacle, and Dual Destinies was seen as a return to form after a long hiatus. Meanwhile, discounting its strong finale, Justice for All was wildly inconsistent in terms of quality and Apollo Justice is usually considered the series’ low point for its treasure trove of controversial decisions. Given that its predecessors didn’t provide it with tough competition, would be easy to declare Spirit of Justice the best even-numbered installment solely by virtue of not having an episode as bad as “Turnabout Big Top” or “Turnabout Serenade”. However, I propose that not only was Spirit of Justice the best even-numbered core installment at the time of its release, it reigned supreme over all of its predecessors.

Not content with creating a spinoff that eclipsed the entire Ace Attorney franchise, Takeshi Yamazaki and Motohide Eshiro along with Takuro Fuse and had to go and surpass Shu Takumi himself by creating what was the best installment in the core series as of 2016. To an even greater extent than any other game in the series, I got the sense the protagonists were having a definable impact on the world. Placing Phoenix Wright in the Kingdom of Khura’in, with its unique blend of traditional mysticism and modernization was exactly what the series needed to stay fresh. Meanwhile, by having Apollo Justice handle domestic cases, this game has more focus than Dual Destinies, allowing both characters’ arcs to progress organically without interfering with one another. If it stopped there, it would’ve been serviceable sequel, but the writers clearly set their sights higher. The end result is a game recognizable to anyone who has followed the series up until this point, yet goes in fascinating places with the canon – even succeeding in lending a greater degree of depth to old concepts. They sought to, and succeeded in, tinkering with the series’ basic conventions, and created something incredible in the process.

Final Score: 8/10

7 thoughts on “Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice

  1. I still have to beat the DLC case. I might need to get on that. Great write up man. Enjoyed it quite a lot. Cant wait to play more Ace Attorney soon. Curious what the Switch game will bring to the table.

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    • A lot of people say Trial and Tribulations is the best game in the series, but while it is good, I don’t think it has held up as well as the original and Spirit of Justice beats it handily. For that matter, I’d say Dual Destinies edges it out, though I have to admit that wasn’t my conclusion going into my review of that game. As it is, Spirit of Justice is my second favorite game in the series with my favorite being Prosecutor’s Path (the sequel to Ace Attorney Investigations).

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      • One of my favorite games from the series is the spin off with Professor Layton. I really loved that one. My all time favorite is, ehrm… ehrmm… I dunno. I have favorite moments in the series but I cant say my favorite game. Tbh, I felt mixed at the ending of both 3DS titles. I felt the ending of the DS games was stronger.

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        • It’s interesting you say that because I actually felt the 3DS installments did a much better job sticking the landing than the Game Boy Advance/DS ones – although I’m mostly talking in terms of story; I will admit presenting the decisive piece of evidence in the original trilogy had more of an impact. However, the newer team knows how to send its characters off, and in a story-heavy experience, that’s a very important skill to have. As I said, I feel this team has a better grasp on what does and doesn’t work than the classic team did. To wit, a lot of the same people behind the original four games created the crossover, and fresh off of Dual Destinies, it showed. As a result, I’d say I liked it more than Apollo Justice but not as much as Justice for All.

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  3. Spirit of Justice really was a great game. Definitely one of the best in the series.

    I get an odd feeling about it, though. That it could have been more. Like it has a lot of great parts, but they don’t work with each other, don’t build up off each other. Momentum is kind of compartmentalized. Like, they have that amazing intro case, build up a lot with that, then burn it off in a follow-up case that’s completely aside from everything else. They have moments like that all over. Build up something great, but take a different direction right afterwards so the momentum doesn’t carry.

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    • I myself would say Spirit of Justice falls short of Prosecutor’s Path for the reason you stated; it’s a little hit-or-miss when it comes to its momentum. I didn’t mind “The Magical Turnabout”, but “Turnabout Storyteller” contributed nothing to the plot – even if it was nice to see Simon Blackquill again. Prosecutor’s Path, on the other hand, does a magnificent job building on itself. There’s not a single bad or boring episode to be found and every character in that game had a clear purpose. That said, when this game remembers to be good, it’s incredible.

      Now that I think about it, Apollo has had a weird trajectory when it comes to episodes, hasn’t he? I’ve always liked his character, but it wasn’t until Spirit of Justice that he finally got a good episode – and it happens to be the best finale in the series thus far. Up until then, the episodes he was stuck were either A) irrelevant to the overarching plot, B) the worst in their respective games, or C) both.

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