You might not be able to play Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Spirit of Justice until September 8th, but starting today, you can at least get a small sample of what this new game will hold thanks to a newly available playable demo. (But, like most 3DS demos, you can only play it 30 times, so you'd better make each one count.)
As with the demo for 2013's Dual Destinies, this quick preview of Spirit of Justice washes its hands almost entirely of context, and drops Phoenix into what's presumably the game's first trial after a few sentences of setup. (Thankfully, Capcom has uploaded SoJ's complete anime intro if you'd like to know how Phoenix ended up where he is.) In terms of the Ace Attorney experience, it's pretty much what you'd expect: While travelling in the foreign land of Khura'in, Phoenix's guide Ahlbi Ur'gaid is arrested for murder, leaving Phoenix as the only one skilled enough to clear his name. But Khura'in doesn't rely on juries to determine verdicts; instead, the royal priestess Princess Rayfa decides the fate of the accused.
The first part of SoJ's demo features the most basic kind of Ace Attorney gameplay: Listen to testimony, then point out contradictions using evidence in your Court Record. After this round of questioning, though, the demo dips into this new sequel's biggest feature: Divination Seances. After Princess Rayfa summons a vision of the victim's final moments, Phoenix is tasked with proving how the reality in front of him contradicts her summation of the event. This murder recap essentially offers the same basic Ace Attorney mechanics wrapped in a new package, but it does provide an interesting twist: As the vision plays out, words begin fading into being that represent what the victim's five senses were experiencing during these last few seconds of life. There's certainly a lot to think about outside of the visual element alone, and luckily, SoJ provides a smart interface that allows you to fast-forward, rewind, and pause visions in order to investigate their contents more closely.
Even if Spirit of Justice's demo amounts to a remarkably brief experience, the tiny preview of this new system's potential definitely has me excited for how it'll be used to make for some especially complicated cases. And it should be noted that Spirit of Justice definitely follows the trend of the 3DS-exclusive Ace Attorney installments by having some extremely attractive designs and animations. The courtroom on display has a real sense of space to it that's made especially evident when Princess Rafya begins an elaborate dance to summon a vision through her Divination Seance. Thinking about how long Ace Attorney relied on the same canned (albeit well-rendered) animations for so long, it's pretty impressive to see it come so far.
If this tiny taste of Ace Attorney: Spirit of Justice has you hungry for the full experience, you can purchase the full game from the Nintendo 3DS eShop on September 8. And stay tuned for our review, of course.