Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies review: Your honor, I have no objections
Mary-Anne Lee | On October 29, 2013 at 11:00 am
Phoenix Wright is a name that has gone down in pop culture. If you’re a gamer, you’ll at least have heard of — if not seen — the lawyer in his eponymous blue suit, and of course, his famous fingerpointing and saying: OBJECTION!
Still, whether you’ve tried a Gyakuten Saiban game before or not, Dual Destinies is quite possibly a game-changer for the Ace Attorney series.
The first Ace Attorney game starring Phoenix Wright to be published for the Nintendo 3DS, Dual Destinies picks up where Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney (Nintendo DS) left off. Phoenix Wright has regained his attorney badge and is once again a practicing lawyer. There’s even a nice little cutscene at the beginning re-introducing (or for some, introducing) players to him.
The Dual Destinies visual-novel-slash-adventure-game is no different from its predecessors. Playing as Phoenix or either of his proteges Athena Cykes and Apollo Justice, you search, sniff, and fumble your way through investigations and court proceedings. I say fumble because the game allows for, and even encourages that.
Though Dual Destinies deals with some very dark themes — you’re plunged into a murder case right at the beginning — it never takes itself too seriously. Character dialogue is well written and witty, and while it does come with frequent spelling errors, they don’t detract from what I’d call an extremely well done translation.
Dual Destinies plays on one defining aspect of an Ace Attorney game: it never perpetuates the stereotype that the legal system is a dry, grim arena. The court of law in the Dual Destinies game could very well be something out of an anime cartoon. Protagonists Wright, Cykes, and Justice are over the top, yet also very human. They fumble, gaffe, and say the most insipid of things at times, and have to deal with perps who lie, cheat, and generally treat the court in ways that would probably get them jailed for contempt in real life. It may not always be realistic, but it makes for great fun.
In fact, it’s hard to describe Dual Destinies as anything but fun. The latest iteration of the series polishes a game design honed through years of successful Ace Attorney games. Investigations are more intuitive. Use of the touchscreen is more integrated than ever. The user interface has been reworked for the better.
The game has also been reworked for a newer audience. It’s obvious where Capcom has made use of the Nintendo 3DS’s prowess. Character animations are more fluid than ever, and investigations can now make use of smaller details, such as a tic under a witness’s eye. With the new character models, Dual Destinies has a modern, polished sheen to it; and its gameplay aspects have been updated to match this.
Where Phoenix Wright used to make do with good old fashioned deduction, his disciples Apollo Justice and Athena Cykes reflect the world they’ve grown up in. Apollo – as you might know from the previous game – owns a bracelet that tightens whenever a lie is told by the person he’s speaking to. Athena embraces technology a bit more; she wears a necklace around her neck called Widget, which occasionally blurts out her thoughts, and which can also help her read and analyse witness testimonials, scanning them for emotional inconsistencies.
In spite of this gameplay aspect being new, its integration with the script of Dual Destinies is natural. You’re introduced to Athena and Apollo’s ‘powers’ without having to go out of the way to learn. This integration of a ‘tutorial’ happens through the game, but is so well done you hardly notice you’re learning. More often than not, you’ll be too busy thinking ‘Yes! Yet another weapon in my lawyerly arsenal.’
As digital-only games go, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies is value-for-money. It might be an English translation, but it’s also an English translation of a full game. The content you receive could very well see you playing for close to 30 hours before you finish. Completing a case-and-a-half has already taken me close to nine hours; with five cases – or Turnabouts, as they’re called – available, you can probably estimate your game time from there.
Dual Destinies does have one DLC episode, but that’s likely not translated for the English-speaking market yet, since the in-game link for DLC and extras features an empty eShop. According to the Ace Attorney Wikia, the DLC episode will take place in an aquarium, and is Phoenix Wright’s first solo case after regaining his attorney badge. Also he defends an Orca. That alone should sell it.
In all, Gyakuten Saiban 5 is quite the dramatic return for the game. It features the eponymous Phoenix Wright. It updates itself for a brand new audience. It embraces characters both new and old. But it also remembers what it is in the first place — a rollicking visual novel — and does that well, too.