My Problems with IGN’s Spirit of Justice Review

Where have all the good reviews gone?

When I first read IGN’s relatively harsh review of Ace Attorney 6: Spirit of Justice, my heart sank a little. As a game I have been looking forward to since it was announced, and as an avid series fan, I wanted the score to be higher. I don’t know–maybe in my narcissistic bubble I just want everyone to love the game as much as me.

When I went to Metacritic, however, my disappointment shifted to relief….and then something more akin to rage. Turns out that Spirit of Justice is sitting pretty at a high 82 rating, and IGN’s review of the game was the lowest out there.

I took some time to meditate on my rage. Really let it percolate. Because as a fan, I know how I am. When I recommend something to someone, and they hate it, my first emotion is intense, world-burning hatred. But when I let it subside, I fall back down to the rationale human emotion of it’s their opinion, and they’re perfectly entitled to that, and not everything is for everyone.

So I gave it some time, and the anger did sort of melt away. But what was left was confusion. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I had some legitimate gripes with the review, and by extension, reviews as a whole.

I know the joke for years is that IGN has been horrible at….well, it would be faster to list what they do well. I think a third of that is troll fodder, another third is the expectations that come with being one of the largest entertainment websites out there, and the final third is IGN could handle a lot of their content better. My beef isn’t elusively with IGN; with that said, they really flubbed this review. Like “Too much water” 2.0.

“Hey IGN. F*** you.” – Actual Apollo Justice dialogue

The controls of this book suck

For one, they had some complaints about gameplay, saying it didn’t do a lot to innovate. We can talk about whether games in a series need to innovate with each installment or not, but the point here is why was gameplay such a crux of the review? Phoenix Wright, if readers don’t know, is a series more akin to visual novels. That’s like saying the gameplay in a Telltale game isn’t bad and then giving the game a negative review. The “gameplay” in those games is practically non-existent, and yet these games, for the most part, receive glowing reviews.

What bothers me about all of this is it seems like reviewers pick and choose what matters to them for a game, and there’s very little consistency. If you value story in a Phoenix Wright or Telltale game, why does baseline gameplay matter? But then again, on that token, why do Mario games–sharp gameplay with no story to speak of–get such high reviews? To some extent, yes, it’s up to the reviewer to decide which elements are the most important for each game, but it’s an inconsistent metric that leads to bias that may or may not be helpful to the audience they are trying to inform. For Mario games, clearly, the story should not be weighed as heavily. But conversely, the same weighted method should apply to Phoenix Wright…..right?

“The gameplay of this series sucks–how many times do I need to press buttons for dialogue?! 6.5 out of 10” – Actual IGN reviewer dialogue

More of the (excellent) same?

The second big complaint centered on the fact that the game didn’t do much to innovate the series. And that CAN be a valid criticism, but again, it seems to only be one when it matters. How many game franchises are on yearly iterations that boast no or close to no changes? Assassins Creed, Call of Duty, NBA 2K, and a handful of other series release iterations that are almost indistinguishable from each other, and yet most of these games consistently score 8s or higher — 1.5 higher than Phoenix Wright received.

Unsubstantiated opinions

Finally, IGN didn’t like the “mystical mumbo-jumbo,” without really clarifying their statement or what that actually means. If you ignore the fact that the series has possessed mysticism since game one, so why would that matter now, it also exposes the biggest problem with reviews these days — player bias. What does “mumbo jumbo” mean? Was it poorly executed? Badly written? Did the characters fall flat or fail to resonate? No, what we’re left with is essentially the reviewer saying that they didn’t enjoy an element of the game, on the merit of the element. How does that guide anyone reading it? What if I know I love the mysticism? How would that comment help me?
Hobo Phoenix's Objection
“No caption required.” – Actual Shaun dialogue

In review

Basically, what I’m saying is their review boiled down to “I didn’t like it,” helpful analysis be damned.

I guess this touches on what is my final point — IGN is a site with a stable of multiple reviewers that make up a large, influential site. This review, and all reviews, are the opinion of one person. One opinion dictates what the entire brand thinks about that game. Now, it’s unreasonable to think all reviewers should review every game — that’s insane and not at all sustainable — but would two opinions be so out of reach? Other reviewing outlets do that, like Gameinformer. If it’s not a priority for IGN, it probably should be–it’s proven that bad reviews hurt sales significantly, and bad sales kill chances of fans receiving future entries of the series they love. You know, the people that are more okay with all that mystic mumbo jumbo.

6 thoughts on “My Problems with IGN’s Spirit of Justice Review

  1. IGN, oh IGN. I have no idea what’s wrong with your reviews, If only you actually tried. If only you would explain why you don’t like this and that. If only you would stop giving games poor ratings because “2.0 i dun like it”.

    Makes you wonder what’s up with their members, huh? You’d expect a big-name video game review show to at least do a bit better that this.

  2. I didn’t read IGN’s review for Spirit of Justice, but I think when it comes to reviews in general, I don’t base my opinion on theirs. I read enough of their articles in the past to get a sense of bias on the reviewer’s part and not really getting anything substantial of why I should or shouldn’t play a particular game. I tend to read other game review sites that seem to have a proven track record of a balanced opinion about a game and explaining what they liked or didn’t like about it. When the reviews came in for Spirit of Justice, I saw how it got mostly glowing reviews so I wasn’t worried about the game being bad when I finally get around to playing it. I think reviews overall should serve as a guideline for what to expect from a game without it being the biggest factor in deciding for you if you should play or not. We really get to decide what our final decision is and people immediately formulating their opinion based on one review from a large and well-known website, like IGN, without reading other reviews to make an informed decision is really unwise. IGN’s word isn’t the gold standard.

  3. I haven’t read the review (actually, it has been quite a while since I last read one, now that I think about it) but you make great points about how shallow many reviews are nowadays.

    As someone who writes pretty big reviews, I am under the impression that the blame does not fall solely on the writers’ shoulders. Reviews have been getting smaller, and I assume many websites put a restriction on the number of words/paragraphs that a review can have, and there is only so much you can talk about when under a limit like that.

  4. I agree! Though my bigger beef is with some comments he made which make me question if he even played the whole game (or played it the right way). Within the review, he says that the third case is the longest at 6 hours long. First of all, the last case is definitely longer than that case. Secondly, wow, he must be really good to beat that case at 6 horus because it took me at least 8 or 9. Either way, there were things he said that sounded off. I don’t mind if someone doesn’t like a game when they review it and give good reasons. GameExplain’s review for this game is negative, yet I completely see how he came to that conclusion and even agree on some points. As far as the IGN review goes, I am not even sure where his assessment came from.

  5. I don’t trust big name sites when it comes to reviewing niche Japanese games. Blogs written by people who have a similar taste are a better choice for reviews.

  6. After reading this blog, I went and read IGN’s review just to see how bad it was, and boy was it pretty awful. There was no reason for ANYTHING he said. Why does it matter if the game takes place in another country? What about that is bad? WHO KNOWS, the reviewer doesn’t seem to want to explain anything and would rather just complain about it. And then I saw that nearly all of the Ace Attorney games are in the 7 range on the site and proceeded to throw any respect I had for IGN out the window.

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