Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies
Release Date: July 25, 2013
Platforms: Nintendo 3DS, iOS, Android
Price: $29.99 USD on eshop
I fell in love with the Phoenix Wright series ever since I played the first entry way back on the DS days. With it’s hilarious writing and cast of over the top characters, there has never been a dull moment in the series. Playing a defense attorney in a visual novel style game was something I never thought I’d like, but Capcom pulls it off with such brilliance, I’ve always been coming back for more. With it’s fifth entry in the series, and debut on the 3DS, the series has come to life in other ways with the slight boost in horse power from the 3DS. I’ll tell you, it may not seem like a visual novel game could benefit, Phoenix Wright does. Here is my take.
In Phoenix Wright Dual Destinies, you play as several key members of Phoenix Wright’s “Wright Anything Agency”. First is the newly hired defense attorney, Athena Cykes. She is the new comer and rookie, and specializes in analytical psychology, and she is primarily brought in to assist Apollo Justice. However, once you get through the first case, which serves as the games tutorial, Athena Cykes has learned all the ground rules to being a defense attorney and from there takes the leads on some of remaining cases, with help of course. In addition to Athena, you also will play as the returning Apollo Justice, along with the star of it all, Phoenix Wright. This is a first for the series to allow you to assume the role of the three defense attorneys. This helps breath some fresh ideas into the mix, as each character brings unique personalities to the table along with each of their own back stories that reveal throughout the games progression.
This time from across the battlefield, she faces off against a convicted prosecutor, Simon Blackquill. Despite serving a murder sentence, he is called to serve as a prosecutor. That’s right folks, you’re opponent is a convicted criminal. Simon along with his pet hawk, Taka never make things easy in the courtroom. He is ruthless and takes total control of the courtroom from the start of the case. Along with his threatening demeanor, he even goes as far to deploy Taka on you when you inadvertently waste his precious time. There are some nice touches with his look and design. I personally love that he comes into the court room wearing big heavy shackles.
In addition to the main protagonists and antagonists, several other established characters from the series previous titles make returns. The famous judge continues to keep things in order in the courtrooms. As you play further, there are some other notable surprises along the way, which you simply just need to play through for yourself.
The game plays like any Phoenix Wright game before it both in and out of the courtroom. Outside the courtroom, you investigate prior to your case by talking to witnesses and gathering key pieces of evidence. Where the game truly shines however is in once the trial begins. You listen to witnesses testimonies, and reveal inconsistencies to ultimately earn you a not guilty verdict. What made the previous entries so memorable, and more or less remains unchanged, makes it’s way back here with a few notably upgrades. In addition to being able to press your witness or present evidence, the game now keeps track of all spoken dialogue in a little log at the bottom of the screen. With the touch of a button, you can re-read all of the spoken dialogue to see if there are important facts you missed, or simply re-read some of the great dialogue this game has to offer. As always, it’s still fun as ever to present some key evidence and yell OBJECTION!
Each character bring special abilities that can be utilized in the court room, or outside while investigating prior to the case. Athena Cykes has a special ability to sense subtle emotions from peoples voices. She uses her AI partner Widget, who hangs around her neck, to run a program called the Mood Matrix. The Mood Matrix shows the emotions of the witnesses being cross examined and allows you to pick out unexpected emotions. This plays out as a new and unique mechanic for the newcomer. While using the mood matrix, you can pin point unexpected emotions in a witnesses testimony. For example, they can say “I was happily jogging along”, while conveying a sad emotion. this is where Athena pin points this unexpected emotion and brings the noise level down until all these emotions are gone, resulting in a testimony void of any contradictions and false facts.
Other abilities like Apollo Justice’s bracelet make a return. His bracelet allows him to sense nervous twitches or behaviour from witnesses. Once in use, the bracelet allows him to zoom into witnesses while talking or giving a testimony. This gives you an up close and personal view of the witness. Once you identify the twitch or habit, you then present evidence to find the meaning of the habit to reveal the truth. Phoenix Wright’s well established Pyshce Locks are also makes several appearances. Using his Magatama, he is able to see locks presented as mental barriers that guards a witnesses secrets. By presenting evidence, he can break these locks, once again leading to the truth.
The main cast all bring something unique to the table. Between their distinct personalities, abilities and dialogue, there’s never a dull moment when playing any of them. The writing between each of them is executed very well, it’s hard not to chuckle and smile seeing them all interact and working as a team.
Other characters do great to add to the fun bag of quirky characters. There are characters that literally yell every word, which is punctuated with CAPITAL LETTERS. There are others who believe they are demons and literally act it out in front of you. Others convey their dialogue to you by typing through a portable computer. It’s all just so adorable and there is always sometime fresh and new around every corner.
Each of the characters and cases are written in an over the top manner. Despite how unbelievable some of these people and situations are, this is what makes Phoenix Wright work. The game is constantly throwing many twists and turns in your path, and always brings you some great new characters. You can’t help but laugh out loud by how ridiculous some of them really are. But that’s the charm of Phoenix Wright.
The visuals have taken a huge step up in the series. Gone are the 2D animations we were accustomed to on the 3DS. As great as those were, the new 3D visuals work wonders to bring the characters to life. Character models look flawless, and I’m not sure how they managed to pull this off on the 3DS. The animations are what really brings things together. I feel like I’m watching a very well animated cartoon. Facial animations are so well done, and it never gets old to see your foe break down in turmoil whenever you present the key evidence that brings down their case. The 3D effect works wonders here, as characters pop out in front of you, and depth is very apparent. This is one of the few games that also make text easy to read, along while having such depth in the 3D effect. I find many 3DS fails in this department. I almost always am playing with the 3D setting on max.
The game really makes each achievement very rewarding by blowing things out of proportion. This is where the visuals along with the sound track really make the exciting parts as good as they are. Being able to find the key piece of evidence, and present it to your witness always leads to them literally breaking down in front of the entire courtroom through some great animating. When Blackquill sees the shift, he also loses his composure. This is also highlighted by the shift in music and the sound effects which all indicate the shift in the momentum to your side. The same works the other way around, as you come to learn, with Blackquill’s resourcefulness, he can quickly muster up a quick come back, bringing down the moral of the defense team. It’s a great back and forth dynamic that just never gets old and it always exciting and fun to see.
The presentation has a new addition, which comes in the form of short anime cut scenes at the start and other places of trials. They feature full fledged voice acting. It’s not ground breaking by any means, but is a nice touch. It’s nice to see things like this, because it shows how much the creators really care about the characters and the stories to go out of their way and put in the effort to come up with fully drawn animations like this.
Early on, the cases to do a bit of time to get exciting, but once they do, there’s no turning back. I am always eager to find out the missing pieces of the case as they are always brought up during in-opportune times for our main cast. Always seeing the problems that are thrown in their way because of this and how they are able to overcome them is a joy to watch. The cases themselves are always creative as ever. You go from solving the mystery of who set of the bombs, to finding out the truth behind demon sightings. No idea is too ever absurd for Phoenix Wright games to handle.
Dual Destinies isn’t perfect, as there are a couple of minor annoyances that make their appearances. There are times during the cases where logic doesn’t seem to make perfect sense based on what you are being asked to prove. Some of the inconsistencies found although absurd, don’t make sense for a player to be able to figure out without any aid. In the context of the story, they work fine, but it’s just really hard to be able to figure it out sometimes. The only problem it causes is that you at times may end up presenting each piece of evidence to each statement until you strike gold. It’s not game breaking since it’s not too common, but it does happen and hampers progression a bit. The other small problem is in regards to pacing. Early on, things take a while to get interesting and excited. It’s only for a short duration so if you run into this, tough it out as it will get better.
However in the context of the writing and the story being told, none of this brings down the validity of each case and the truth behind them. As the cast thoroughly explains the truth behind everything, I am always sold on the ideas and am ultimately rewarded by the ending of each case. Coming to the end of each case always brings a satisfying climax. Being able to see the guilty party break down in front of the courtroom as they are left without any more tales to spin is so rewarding to watch. Again through the amazing animations and personalities of the characters, watching them break down in front of you in their absurd over the top fashion is almost like watching those bosses in Mega Man X slowly explode once you defeat them. It’s long and drawn out, and man does it make you feel good!
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies does well to carry the torch of this already established and beloved franchise. It continues the trend to deliver a fun story with twists and turns through it’s excellent and humorous writing. The inclusion of new characters as well as the surprise appearance from other more well known characters are also welcoming and helps keep the game in very familiar territory, but at the same time continues to explore new ground. Through the new found powers of the 3DS, the games over the top nature of each character is brought to life in ways new to the franchise which make this game a treat to look at. Despite some pacing issues early on and some case logic being hard to figure out, Dual Destinies is still able to sell you on every absurd idea and situation it throws at you, and keeps you eager to see what crazy situations the defense team need to fight through. If you are into interactive visual novel style games, I highly recommend Dual Destinies. It’s price may seem a bit high considering the age of this game, however it’s on sale often enough that you can snag it for a decent deal. As Phoenix Wright has defined so well in the past, it’s still as fun as ever to yell OBJECTION!