While Japanese fans of Capcom's Ace Attorney series got their fix with last year's unreleased-in-America Great Ace Attorney, we Americans have spent nearly three years without getting our anime courtroom action on with the spiky haired public defender—two years if you count Layton vs. Wright.
That will change on September 8, though, when Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Spirit of Justice heads exclusively to the 3DS eShop. As with 2013's Dual Destinies, this newest installment will be digital-only, which may come as a slight disappointment for those of you who prefer your games to take a physical form. But digital distribution seems to be the only way Capcom can afford to continue taking risks on this niche series, to the point where it's surprising the Ace Attorney games haven't yet ended up on Steam—if Danganronpa can find an audience on the PC, its inspiration surely can.
With Dual Destinies resetting the big changes 2008's Apollo Justice had for Ace Attorney, Spirit of Justice looks to be a very fan-friendly take on the series that still manages to work in some new courtroom mechanics—while including just about everything we've seen in past installments. Most notably, SoJ features the return of Phoenix's energetic assistant Maya Fey, who seemingly departed for good after the third entry in the original Ace Attorney trilogy. Ema Skye, the forensics-scientist-in-training from the first game's bonus DS chapter, is also making a return, which may make up for the ignoble fate she suffered in Apollo Justice. (Seriously, she got a pretty raw deal.)
While Ace Attorney isn't really interested in deviating from its reliable courtroom antics, Spirit of Justice mixes things up a bit by dropping Phoenix into a new land with new rules—much like in Layton vs. Wright. Along with the standard contradiction-spotting seen in past games, SoJ's new setting of Khura'in features a "Pool of Souls" in its justice system which displays the last few moments of a victim's life from their perspective. Shockingly, Phoenix and his team will have to determine how these reenactments clash with witness testimony throughout the course of this new adventure.
As with Dual Destinies, Ace Attorney creator Shu Takumi has taken less of a hands-on role, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing; the last two games he worked on, Layton vs. Wright and Great Ace Attorney, were apparently fraught with production problems, leading to some slightly disappointing results. In any case, the semi-respectable Japanese magazine Famitsu gave Spirit of Justice some pretty respectable scores when it debuted in Japan a few months ago, so Ace Attorney fans shouldn't have anything to worry about.