Since its inception back in 2001, the Ace Attorney series have managed to pull together an impressive foundation of followers, even managing to help support the cost of localizing the game to the western market. Last week, Capcom put up the E3 demo on the Nintendo eShop for the upcoming title, ‘Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice’, alongside a short video to set up some backstory to the demo. It is advised that the video is watched before playing through the demo.

The Prologue video

The video sets up the main source of conflict for the game: The country of Khura’in is undergoing a civil uprising over a change in the legal system that removes the necessity for defense attorneys. Members of a rebellion, called the ‘Dragon’s Eye’, seek to break down the current legal system in order to bring back justice.

The scene quickly shifts tone to the usual Phoenix Wright wacky courtroom antics with the typical outlandish courtroom defense that fans have come to expect from the attorney. Alongside him, Apollo Justice and Athena Cykes makes a return appearance as his junior legal associates and give off their usual shtick, as well as Simon Blackquill as the opposing prosecutor. The scene then transitions back to the Khura’in region where a familiar character in the franchise returns to the series. With a quick preview of Maya’s training, the scene shifts once again to a court process in session, where the “Defense Culpability Act” is mentioned and is the cause of death for the defense attorney profession in the country.

Finally, the last sequence of the video shows Maya getting back in contact with Phoenix in order to invite him to visit. Unfortunately communication is severed as she gets kidnapped by the escaped rebel from earlier. After hearing a scream before the call goes dead, Phoenix decides to fly to Khura’in in order to come to Maya’s aid. This would then set up the circumstance surrounding the events of the free demo on the Nintendo 3DS eShop.

The Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice demo

Spirit of Justice, Ace Attorney

The story continues on the 3DS as players are thrown into a fairly short demo that showcases the new ‘Seance’ mechanic. The demo takes place during the first case ‘Foreign Tournabout’ and throws Phoenix into a defense case for his tour guide ‘Ahlbi Ur’gaid’ (geddit?) for larceny and murder. Naturally, the hero steps in to take to the defense stand. Unfortunately, Phoenix finds that his assistance is not wanted for an unknown reason as Ahlbi lashes out against him, and defense attorneys in general. The game then allows the player to solve the first puzzle with a straightforward contradiction in Ahlbi’s testimony. Afterwards, Rayfa Padma Kura’in, the country’s priestess steps into the courtroom to use her Divination Seance ability to definitively show Ahlbi’s guilt.

It is at this point where the Seance system is officially introduced and the mechanic is explained. Similarly to the way in which in the previous game, Athena Cykes has the ability to see ’emotions’, the Seance allows players to see the victim’s ‘senses’ in the final moment of their life. In this particular case, the smell of incense, the sight of the boy holding ‘something’, the sound of the Song of Ceremony and the boy’s voice, and finally the feeling of pain are seen. This interesting mechanic coincides with the ‘insight’ section of the game, which allows the player to point out discrepancies with the vision and what Rayfa claims based on what she sees. After blowing apart her insight, the demo ends on a cliff hanger.

The demo itself is quite clearly a small sampler of what the entire game is, which in its crux, is the main point of a demo. You have the a short cutscene showing the culprit of the first case, a courtroom scene, a tutorial on contradictions and the court records and the reintroduction of Prosecutor Payne, a familiar character from Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies. All standard Ace Attorney game features.

Rayfa Padma

Now, this demo serves to show off two main new features. One is most obviously the Seance system. In every game, there has been a new system introduced, which spiced up the gameplay either in court or during the investigation sequence. First it was Phoenix’s Magatama which broke through lies, next was Apollo’s bracelet which was able to hone in on ‘tells’, the last one was Athena’s ability to heal people with her emotional therapy. The Seance is an interesting new mechanic that definitely has potential. Since it seems like such a ‘matter-of-fact’ piece of evidence, it looks like it will become one of the most challenging systems to date for the franchise.

The Seance has two sections, the vision and the insight. For this example at least, the vision shows off the five senses that the victim experiences prior to dying. Using this, Rayfa provides her insight on what is being seen in the vision in as exact details as possible. Naturally, some mistakes could be made or some facts can be ignored out of ignorance, which is the case in the demo.

The second main feature demonstrated seems to be a more fluid 3D model animation. Prior to the Seance, Rayfa does a traditional Kura’in dance in order to invoke the spirit of the deceased to broadcast their dying memories. This sequence demonstrates the development team’s new driven desire to work on more complex 3D animations and to further move away from the traditional sprite-based graphics that were replaced in the 5th game. For what its worth, the dance scene is quite graceful and very fluid.

As mentioned previously, this demo was the exact same one from E3 earlier this year, but is now available to the public on the 3DS eShop. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice will be available on September 8th digitally exclusive on the 3DS eShop.