Review written by Lucy Ingram
Capcom’s acclaimed Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney series has a lot to live up to with new instalment Dual Destinies, created exclusively for the 3DS. Considering it stands out as one of the most loved and talked about handheld game series, it had the danger of falling into the same pit of despair that Miles Edgeworth’s Ace Attorney Investigations seemed to plunge headfirst into.
Luckily, fans can breathe a sigh of relief now, as Dual Destinies has everything you could want from a new Phoenix Wright game, and is a worthy addition to anyone’s 3DS library as it’s designed specifically with the handheld in mind.
For gamers who have yet to experience this court-side story-driven series, Ace Attorney is a game where any plot point or twist revealed in a review or preview would be unbefitting of the writer. I can however reveal that Dual Destinies takes the ‘crazy’ to a whole new level, with cases involving demonic birds, a thief who steals shoes (and who bizarrely isn’t questioned about it), objects hidden away in magic panties and the most incredibly unconventional characters you’ll ever meet.
At first glance, the action unfolds in a similar manner to previous instalments. It is your job as the ‘good’ lawyer to defend the client, and like before, the gameplay alternates between investigating crime scenes for evidence and the courtroom where the trial itself takes place. Evidence gathering sessions are far more streamlined than in previous titles: partaking in a frustrating pixel hunt is no more, as this time the crime scenes are 3D rooms which have the ability to rotate and be investigated from a variety of angles.
Thankfully, the search for evidence has been simplified by the addition of a red circle that appears around the cursor whenever something is yet to be examined, which is then replaced by a check mark after doing so. This saves a lot of the faffing around that had to be endured previously, and makes for a much more enjoyable experience.
Dual Destinies takes every expectation you may have one step further. Phoenix Wright mostly takes a backseat in Dual Destinies as he takes on a mentor role, reminiscent of the dearly departed Mia Fey, while Prosecutor Miles Edgeworth has since been appointed as Chief Prosecutor, a deed that occurred shortly after the events of the Apollo Justice game. Don’t get me wrong, Phoenix Wright is still a playable character, but in this instance, for at least the first three cases most of the main focus is on newcomer Athena Cykes and Apollo ‘Chords of Steel’ Justice, while the prosecution seems to be the only turning point at each new chapter of the game.
In a way, it feels like the ‘kids’ have taken over, with both Apollo and Athena being the young, impulsive and pointy pair who majorly steal the spotlight. However, that’s not to say it isn’t pleasant to revisit some old faces, and discover some fascinating new personalities, such as the wonderful Detective Bobby Fulbright, who for some reason reminds me of a certain lawyer in television series Breaking Bad.
Being as it’s a Phoenix Wright game, it wouldn’t be the same if it didn’t include the use of an investigation-aiding special power. Since both Phoenix and Apollo are playable characters, both of their special abilities, the ability to see Psyche-Lockes and perceive visual ‘tells’, are available in this game. Apollo has use of a ‘magic bangle’ which allows him to detect when a witness is telling a lie or hiding something, and Phoenix Wright’s ‘Psyche-Lock’ ability, which has been used in previous games, makes a comeback.
Alongside this, newcomer Athena has a special ability of her own. One of the best new features in the game, it’s an interface that allows you to see a witness’s emotional state and point out the inconsistencies between their statements and how they are really feeling. Slightly puzzling is the lack of effect it has on the penalty system if an incorrect answer is made, and it gives the player the advantage of just repeatedly trying until hitting the correct outcome.
Another new aspect is the ability to consult Athena who can then use her power to pick out the contradicting statement from a witness testimony. This comes in handy if players are at a loose end but seems to dumb down the case and take away the challenge at the same time. Nonetheless, it’s an option only used if necessary, and can be ignored for the most part.
One additional feature that has not graced any Phoenix Wright game in the past is the high-quality 3D animated cutscenes and the inclusion of a full cast of voice actors, which is hugely prominent both in the court room and in the cutscenes themselves. Produced by animation studio Bones, these segments are perfectly played out, and only let down by some slightly underwhelming voice acting at times. It’s not so much that the acting isn’t likable, but more that some of the character’s voices take a hell of a lot of getting used to, considering newly appointed Chief Prosecutor Edgeworth sounds like he’s aged way beyond his years.
Despite its title namesake, Dual Destinies is not Phoenix’s story, it’s really Athena’s. Every plot-point in the game tends to revolve around her – and those that don’t revolve mainly around Apollo. Long-term fans expecting to see Phoenix’s character evolve and grow will be majorly disappointed, but Athena’s story is a good compromise, with layers upon layers of twists and turns that the series is known and loved for. It’s sad to see Phoenix become something of a non-character, but on the other hand, it’s nice to have Apollo take the lead once more.
The story in Dual Destinies is decent enough, with a whole host of great new characters, but doesn’t manage to reach the emotional heights of the first and third games in the series. Further still, the game fails to answer a lot of the series’ outstanding questions, namely regarding anything to do with Maya, Kay Faraday, Franziska Von Karma and Detective Gumshoe. That said, there’s no reason why a long-time fan of the series wouldn’t want to pick this one up, as despite the absence of some well-loved characters, there are some interesting new faces too.
I greatly applaud Capcom on the catchy in-game soundtrack that had me virtually humming alongside it at times. Each scene and scenario has a new arrangement of music or tune, and it’s very distinctive in its style. The sound-effects are punchy and manage to help accompany the dramatic tension-inducing tone that every Ace Attorney game has at its core. Likewise, the orchestral covers of the series traditional themes adds something special to the in-game drama.
On top of all this I couldn’t go without mentioning the gorgeous 3D courtroom – this wouldn’t be an Ace Attorney game without its unique cast of the most interesting heroes and villains one will ever lay eyes on. Capcom have done an exceptional job at breathing life into the characters, and it’s obvious that they have invested much time and effort into making each character to the highest detail and quality possible, from the arrogant body language of prosecutor Simon Blackquill, to the ludicrously outrageous actions of some of the accused.
One attribute I found quite intuitive was the ability to go into the court record and look over each case file to the point where it’s possible to see the various courses of action to be taken, as well as the option to glance over previous dialogue. The user interface is as pleasing as always, with the design looking more sleek than ever before.
Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies is a far cry from the disappointing Ace Attorney Investigations series, its flourishing confidence showing the game for the masterpiece it truly is. The game series has transitioned greatly, despite the absence of creator Shu Takumi being on board. The five cases of the game stand out as one of the most exciting Phoenix Wright games I have ever played, with the third case surprising me the most, delivering a bucketload of fantastic twist and turns at every corner.
Admittedly, some of the cases are slightly predictable in their outcome, but there were plenty of times where I thought to myself, “I never saw that one coming!” The plot is written brilliantly, and the dialogue as humorous and charming as I remember it being.
Fans of Ace Attorney will definitely want to get their hands on this one, and although it is accessible enough for newcomers to jump right in, I personally would advise anyone who is intrigued enough to play this to grab the original quartet of games on Nintendo DS, or at least the first three games that are available on iOS.