Walk through a victim's memories in Ace Attorney 6

Divination Seances add a new source for clues to the Phoenix Wright formula.

Phoenix Wright and his gang of mystery solvers are back in Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Spirit of Justice, this time finding themselves in the mystical Kingdom of Khura’in in the Far East. This is a long way from home for Nick and his crew in more ways than one, with “Divination Seances” replacing typical trials and an inherent distrust of lawyers running strong throughout the nation. While the demo I played at E3 2016 doesn’t dive too much into why the people of Khura’in hold lawyers in such disdain, it does make one thing perfectly clear: Phoenix Wright has his work cut out for him.

Fair warning to those reading, I will be going into great detail about the demo including the solutions, so if you have any OBJECTION to spoilers I suggest that you HOLD IT right here.

The demo begins in familiar fashion with the judge of the Khura’inese court beginning proceedings of an upcoming trial. Here a young tour guide named Ahlbi Ur’gaid — pronounced “I’ll be your guide” and continuing Ace Attorney’s penchant for names that also delicious puns — has been accused of murdering Paht Rohl, a temple guard assigned to a priceless treasure called the Founder’s Orb, and stealing the heirloom from its container. Despite Ur’gaid’s rejections Phoenix Wright takes up the cause of defending the young monk-in-training, the judge agrees, and I’m off on another trial adventure.

The demo splits the trial into two parts: the familiar dialogue-based cross-examination style of previous Ace Attorney games, and the brand new Divination Seance. My opponent is Gaspen Payne, returning brother of series punching-bag Winston Payne, and performing the Seance is the Royal Priestess Rayfa, Before cross-examination begins I’m handed some evidence, including a box said to contain the missing Founder’s Orb and a black-and-white newspaper article said to contain the only public photos of the box in existence.

My young client pleads his case, talking about how he’s not allowed anywhere near the priceless treasure Rohl was supposed to guard and how he had never even seen it before outside of the newspaper article. As he talks he curiously notes the green butterfly on the box holding the missing Orb, and I know immediately something is fishy. The boy is clearly lying, as he couldn’t have known about the butterfly being green by the newspaper alone. Young Ahlbi had indeed been in the treasure’s presence, and I make sure to press him on it.

After my successful objection -- which of course is flipped against poor Phoenix -- the trial moves to the new Insight mechanic in Spirit of Justice via the Divination Seance. A small scene plays out in the Pool of Souls between the two benches, showing the last moments of the deceased guard through his own eyes. The accused stands over him, holding something above his head, before the screen goes black. During the scene words and phrases appear on the screen, and I’m told that these words represent sensations felt by some of Rohl’s five senses before he was killed. There’s “Incense” for smell, “Song of Ceremony” and “Boy’s Voice” for hearing, and finally “PAIN” for touch after the blackout as he is killed.

Rayfa then turns the vision into standard testimony, saying that the murder occurred after a morning ritual known as the Dance of Devotion. The victim’s vision was darkened after being struck, the blunt force trauma eventually leading to his death. By combining the word clues in the vision with Rayfa’s testimony I can find inconsistencies to exploit, and while they’re a bit tougher to sniff out than ordinary testimony I can still see the cracks in this facade.

First I emphasize that the Song of Ceremony is played during the Dance of Devotion, but the Song appears in Rohl’s hearing sense before he is killed. This signals that he was not present for the ritual on the morning of his death and that the timeline presented has a major contradiction. Rayfa is quick to turn this around, saying the victim instead heard a “practice run” and dismissing my objection. When I return to the vision I notice another error: Rayfa says that the victim’s vision is lost after he’s struck, but the word “PAIN” does not appear until after the screen goes dark. When I present this the priestess becomes indignant, stating her visions are never wrong and protesting heavily.

The judge begrudgingly acknowledges my find, saying that more investigation is required. Phoenix celebrates, saying “even if I have to fight every person in this country, I swear I’ll get Ahlbi acquitted of this crime…in the main game!” Just like that the demo ends and I’m left wanting more. Dang it, Capcom, just when I was getting some momentum you pull the rug out from under me.

This demo walks a fine line between classic Ace Attorney and brand new game, making sure to highlight both the old and new of what Capcom hopes will make Spirit of Justice a success, and I am pleased with both halves. I will still be in the shoes of the Ace Attorney Phoenix Wright, analyzing testimony, pressing witnesses for more information, and shouting OBJECTION when it's called for. However, those familiar methods will be intertwined with the interesting new Insight mechanic that allows me to analyze the very senses of the dead for clues. I’m very curious as to how this will be expanded upon in later cases, but it's a neat new way to approach how Phoenix and company can solve these mysteries.

This brief taste also sows some interesting story seeds: why does this kingdom despise lawyers so much? What can Phoenix Wright do to change the minds of these people? How will the Fey clan and its ties to the Khura’in inevitably fit into this game? I'll be mulling these questions over until I play the final product, and that's exactly what a game demo should make me do.

The only remaining element is the investigation portion of the game-- visiting crime scenes and gathering evidence outside of the court. I anticipate that section of the game will return, but we don’t yet know if or how this portion of the game may change. Perhaps the Insight ability used for the senses during a trial will allow Phoenix to uncover hidden clues as he searches, as I hope the new idea would not be limited to trials, but this or any other ideas remain to be seen.

Spirit of Justice is shaping up to be a worthy addition to the Ace Attorney name. The mysteries of the Kingdom of Khura’in already have me guessing, and the new Insight mechanic gives me a neat newway to figure them out. I’ll have no objections checking Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Spirit of Justice out when it launches on the Nintendo 3DS eShop in September.