Siliconera recently spoke with Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice producer Motohide Eshiro and scenario director Takeshi Yamazaki about the game’s new setting, system, returning characters, using fan feedback, and more.
Maya Fey returns in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice. Maya is an important character in the series and it’s been a while for her return. Why did you want to bring her back in this game?
Motohide Eshiro, Producer: There were a lot of people who wanted to see her in the previous game, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies, so we decided to answer their desire by having Maya return in Spirit of Justice. However, we didn’t want to just have her return for no reason, so we made it so that Maya was training in the Kingdom of Khura’in, which ties her appearance to one of the key aspects of this game: spirit channeling and spiritual powers.
Spirit of Justice goes back to the five strikes instead of the lifebar introduced in the second Ace Attorney game. Why did you go back to this system?
Takeshi Yamazaki, Game and Scenario Director: The reason there was a lifebar to begin with in Ace Attorney: Justice For All was because the player could receive penalties for making mistakes during the Psyche-Lock segments of the Investigation sections.
In Dual Destinies, we removed the penalties from the Psyche-Lock segments. However, because our goal was to faithfully recreate the feel of the first four games on the Nintendo 3DS, we kept the gauge as part of the overall look. But because you would get a game over after five mistakes, it was not functionally necessary to keep it as a gauge anymore. Therefore, in keeping with the UI design concept for Spirit of Justice of giving each country its own unique look, we decided to go back to the five strikes style with magatama marks and attorney’s badges for Khura’in and the US respectively.
The water mirror mechanics in Spirit of Justice are interesting. Instead of looking at still evidence players are reviewing videos. What inspired this idea and how did you design cases to work with this new system?
TY: The Divination Séance came about because we wanted to create a new gameplay system that was heavily tied to spirit channeling – one of the key concepts to the story of Spirit of Justice. It also arose thanks to a common quip we’ve heard throughout the life of the series amongst fans. Namely, why doesn’t Maya just channel the victim? Then they’d have the name of the real culprit in no time. We thought that it would be interesting to tackle this taboo way of solving a mystery head on.
Creating cases that utilized this system was actually really tough. Up until now, the moment of the crime was always something we kept hidden from players until the very end, but with the Divination Séance, we had to show it up front at the beginning of the episode. In addition, we still had to create puzzles and mysteries for players to solve and situations for players to turn around until the very end. So, you see, the Divination Séance wasn’t just a high-pressure, life or death situation for Phoenix, but for us scenario writers, too.
Spirit of Justice takes place in a foreign land and there is more emphasis on the game’s Far East setting than in previous titles which take place in “Los Angeles.” What inspirations did you draw from when creating Khura’in?
TY: Around the time we decided that we were going to bring Maya back, we hit upon the idea to set the game someplace that would serve as the birthplace and the roots of the Kurain Channeling Technique and its accompanying beliefs – a sort of “head temple,” if you will. In order to create a fitting backdrop, we developed the Kingdom of Khura’in into a sacred land that incorporates a number of different cultural aspects from a variety of Asian countries. But this foreign country isn’t the only important locale in Spirit of Justice; there’s a very important story arc building back home around Apollo’s cases, too. Just what kind of cases will Apollo and Athena take on in their boss’s absence is something you’ll have to play to find out.
How did you create the new prosecutor in Spirit of Justice? Making enemies for Phoenix is tough because the player has to ultimately outwit them, but at the same time the enemy character has to seem more knowledgeable than the player otherwise the player doesn’t feel a challenge.
TY: You’re right, in that the rival prosecutors are always the toughest characters to create. Because they are characters that players wrestle with and defeat throughout the game, it’s very important that they be worthy opponents. To that end, we thought to make Nahyuta literally as strong as a god. By making him a monk from a foreign land, we were able to create a character with an air of mysticism and omnipotence. We had also wanted to do something different with him in contrast to the main prosecutor of Dual Destinies, Simon Blackquill. In Dual Destinies, Blackquill was dressed all in black and was meant to be an “evil prosecutor,” so this time, we went for a white-based color pallet with Nahyuta to create a “holy prosecutor” look.
One of the cases in the game has Phoenix Wright facing off against Apollo and Athena. What was it like writing this story?
TY: Phoenix and Apollo are the two main protagonists, and as such, it became apparent in the course of writing their stories that they would eventually have to face off against one another in order to bring the two arcs together into one climactic ending. I can’t wait for players to experience this dramatic story for themselves.
Spirit of Justice has some interesting callbacks such as Edgeworth returning as a rival in a DLC case. Which characters have fans said they want to see again and which characters would you like to bring back?
ME: There are so many characters I’d personally like to see return, so it’s hard for me to pick which ones should. That’s why I like to leave that up to the players and will work to bring back characters that are most in demand.
Eshiro-san, you have said fan feedback prompted the option to turning off hints and passionate fans energized the team to continue the Ace Attorney series. What fan feedback did you receive that surprised you the most?
ME: I don’t really want to call out any specific feedback as that would be rude to the other fans who have also expressed their feelings on the series, but there were a large number of core fans who felt that the previous game was too easy and that there weren’t enough places to freely investigate, so we worked hard to first and foremost address their critiques when we made this game.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice releases in North America and Europe on September 8, 2016 for Nintendo 3DS.