It’s no surprise that an Ace Attorney soundtrack is spooky, considering all the murder, lies, deceit, and ghosts in every game. But with the sixth main installment of the series featuring a story so heavy with ghosts, death, spiritual possession, political corruption, and a constant fear for your life, the composing team of Noriyuki Iwadare, Toshihiko Horiyama, and Masami Onodera had to raise their bone-chilling bar. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice is, by far, the spookiest soundtrack of the series yet.
The eeriness of the soundtrack is due to the new setting of the corrupt Kingdom of Khura’in and its legal system heavily influenced by communication with the dead. Spirit channeling is not unfamiliar to Phoenix’s career, but it carries a different weight in a court where a guilty verdict results in the death penalty for both defendant and lawyer. An essential piece of evidence in Khura’in’s court proceedings is the Divination Séance, where the victim’s last moments are revealed for all to see. Witnessing a gruesome murder first-hand is already terrifying; hearing the ominous “Divination Séance ~ Last Sights” alongside it… I had to turn on all the lights in the room!
The intensity of the totalitarian Kingdom of Khura’in elevates Ace Attorney’s usual dramatic flair even more. “Phoenix Wright ~ Objection! 2016” is so much more relieving and exciting to hear when you’ve narrowly escaped death. “Dhurke ~ A Dragon Never Yields”, the theme of Dhurke and his Rebels, is robust, bombastic, righteous. Melancholy songs like “Reminiscing ~ Farewell, Once Again” are that much more tear-jerking when you can’t save the life of a loved one. And believe me, you’ll be bawling by the end of your stay in this holy land.
As expected, this new country also invites new instruments to the Ace Attorney library. Khura’in culture seems to be a mixture of traditional Japanese culture with South Asian and Middle Eastern cultures. Taiko, koto, shamisen, and fue have been featured in previous Ace Attorney games, like in Mystic Maya’s home of Kurain Village and in Dual Destinies’ Nine-Tails Vale. But this is the first time these traditional Japanese instruments have been accompanied by chanting and sitars, as shown most obviously in “The Dance of Devotion.” The blend of instruments and cultures is divine.
The soundtrack of Spirit of Justice is unlike any other in the Ace Attorney series. From overall tone to specific techniques, it’s different, new, unique. But purists, don’t worry! The scoring is still our favorite Ace Attorney melodies and style. Iwadare, Horiyama, and Onodera do a fantastic job exploring new horizons while sticking true to home.