Save State Adjourns the Ace Attorney Trilogy Collection With Spirit of Justice

Welcome back to Save State, where we’ve reached the end of the Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy. The final game in the trilogy, Spirit of Justice, is probably the largest departure in the series since Ace Attorney 4: Apollo Justice. Much of the game is set in a new country called Khura’in, which reveres spirit mediums and has their own set of laws regarding the use of mysticism in court. The country also strongly, fervently hates defense attorneys with a passion, sentencing them to death if their clients are found guilty. So… not a great vacation spot is what you can gather from that.

The new locations in Khura’in give a nice change of window dressing to the series, and while many locations look somewhat similar to the Japanifornia areas from the first trilogy, the new environments are suitably detailed, and you meet a whole host of new characters with different beliefs and perspectives. Of course, many of them hate you, but it’s easy to forgive them when they emote and are this well animated in Spirit of Justice. Investigation gimmicks like fingerprint dusting make a return as well, and the cases actually follow a reasonable chronological order which makes following along after days of not playing pretty simple.

The individual cases of Spirit of Justice are probably my favorites in the entirety of the Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy. Perhaps in part due to the game’s embrace of the supernatural more so than usual, the puzzles that get presented to the player to solve just seem more interesting than in the last couple of Ace Attorney titles. Mechanically, almost all of the cases in Spirit of Justice are sound, as both the pretrial and courtroom segments build off of one another in great ways, and you’re not stuck with too many gag witnesses who don’t push the plot forward at all.

The first case of Spirit of Justice is probably its simplest: The logic is easy to connect during the trial, but you have to spend a lot of time with the new characters of the country Khura’in who insult Phoenix constantly. This case is primarily set up the way it is to introduce the Defense Culpability Act, a legal ordinance that states a defense attorney is judged the same as their client should they lose, establishing that the stakes are higher than in previous games. The introduction of the divination seance as a game mechanic, a ritual that shows the last moments a person sees before they die, is an interesting spin on the spiritual mechanics previous Ace Attorney titles would usually only use outside the courtroom.

The second case, Magical Turnabout, features Apollo Justice and Athena Cykes defending Trucy, Apollo’s assistant from his very first game. This is the case that introduces the new prosecutor, Nahyuta, who is hinted at having a connection with Apollo in some way. Other than the fact that Nahyuta is insufferable, this is a case with a great villain, and a setting that would not have been out of place in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney.

The third case in Spirit of Justice, The Rite of Turnabout, is the best third case in the series. Many Ace Attorney titles have a problem with the third cases being a slog to get through that doesn’t connect with the overarching narrative or is outright bad and filled with moon logic (Turnabout Big Top, also from Justice for All). Spirit of Justice manages to clear all of these hurdles to give us an amazing reunion with a much-loved character, while also tying it into the main narrative of guerillas rebelling against a tyrannical government.

With the best third case in the series complete, you move to the fourth case, Turnabout Storyteller, which puts you in control of Athena Cykes once again. This is a strange case in that it has no investigation component whatsoever, which is unusual for a case this far into the game. This case is by no means poor and has a couple of interesting puzzles to figure out, but it is completely self-contained and has absolutely no ties to the plot of Spirit of Justice. So, Turnabout Storyteller isn’t a bad case, to the contrary it has some great logic and puzzles to solve, it’s just weirdly positioned and doesn’t further the overall narrative at all.

The fifth case of Spirit of Justice is the final non-DLC case of the game, and it is probably the strongest finale out of the entirety of the Apollo Justice Trilogy. The first half of the case is pretty weak, with Apollo and Phoenix working against one another in a civil trial over an item of spiritual significance to the country of Khura’in. The second part of this case, however, is a finale centered around Apollo that’s been sorely needed since Apollo Justice released on the Nintendo DS. The evidence and testimony in this case build upon themselves in a great way that leads to fun puzzles using the game’s logic.

The DLC case for Spirit of Justice takes place chronologically after the main story cases of the game, and it features a defendant who believes she time traveled. A lot of older characters from the original Ace Attorney Trilogy show up in this case, and it’s always great seeing old characters in new visuals while also solving an interesting crime. Turnabout Time Traveler isn’t better than the DLC case for Dual Destinies, but it stands up well enough that it’s pretty easy to say that Spirit of Justice doesn’t have any truly bad cases.

Spirit of Justice is a strange one, even for the Ace Attorney series. Generally speaking, in order for something to have believable stakes, the chance to lose has to be present somehow. Realistically, the ace attorneys have never really lost a case for any longer than a few moments of a plot beat, but due to the fact that losing a case means immediate death, this effectively eliminates any idea that losing is an option. Ace Attorney wouldn’t let Phoenix stay a hobo in order to focus on new protagonist Apollo Justice. How could anyone ever think the writers would let Phoenix die in some new country?

Of course, back when I originally played Spirit of Justice, I didn’t think too heavily about the sword of Damocles that was the Defense Culpability Act that results in the executions of defense attorneys who can’t acquit their clients, I just enjoyed the ride. The actual logic and investigation puzzles that the player has to solve are great, and while the Defense Culpability Act exists to raise stakes, most wouldn’t go into something like an Ace Attorney title thinking they’re going to lose the case (unless it’s Justice for All’s fourth case, which is probably my favorite case in terms of narrative in the whole series).

The cases, or rather, the puzzle boxes that serve Spirit of Justice’s gameplay, are all great. The narrative is where things get weird, though. Typically, the prosecutors are the best elements of the series, but Nahyuta’s penchant for repeating the same three insults for an entire game while also having a character arc that basically doesn’t exist until the final 30 minutes of the title, effectively cements Nahyuta as the worst prosecutor in the main series. There’s enough going on in Spirit of Justice’s story that having an opponent who is a condescending plank of wood until the final half hour is fine, but previous prosecutors all had a lot more going for them than Nahyuta does.

Spirit of Justice’s ending results in a revolution in the courtroom, so it’s plain to see that the title requires a lot from the player’s suspension of disbelief. It features a queen who literally writes new laws while arguing against you in court and threatens your protagonists with the electric chair should you not be able to win a case. The narrative is ridiculous and Apollo has basically become the Luke Skywalker of attorneys, but the cases themselves are designed incredibly well which makes Spirit of Justice a great time to play.

Each entry in the Apollo Justice Trilogy has some flaws, whether the issues stem from different writers handling different cases, or one of the new directors conflicting with the producer of the game. While there are flaws, it’s undeniable that both Dual Destinies and Spirit of Justice have incredible finales that make the titles worth investing your time. This may also be the case for Ace Attorney 4: Apollo Justice, as well, but I found its conclusion significantly less satisfying in comparison to the ones that proceeded it.

All in all, I enjoyed my time revisiting the Apollo Justice Trilogy, and have actually been able to look at these titles in a new light. Hopefully my information here was nebulous enough that it may interest you to take a look at these too- especially considering how the first Ace Attorney Trilogy and The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles go on sale quite regularly nowadays.

With that being said, however, I think it’s time to bring this entry of Save State to a close. Please exit the building in an orderly fashion, and do not leave behind any belongings as they will be fed to the backlog. Thank you.

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