Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies review
Judge: Now then, it’s time things got underway. We are here today to determine whether Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies is guilty or innocent of being totally awesome. Would the prosecution like to make an opening statement?
Adam: Of course, Your Honour. I just… give me a moment.
[Adam produces a small jar of Speculoos biscuit spread from beneath the bench and proceeds to dive in viciously with a spoon.]
Mmph, mrnow, I’m ready. Eating Speculoos in court is my thing. All prosecutors have to have a thing. This is mine. Cough. The prosecution asserts that Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies is indeed guilty of being totally badass, although not without some minor faults.
Judge: Very good, and the defense?
Bev: In what is no doubt a shocking twist, the defense agrees with the prosecution, Your Honour. Permit me to review the facts. Dual Destinies is the latest game in the Ace Attorney series, this time only available as a digital download for the Nintendo 3DS. It marks the return of the spiky-haired Phoenix Wright as a playable character, although returning character Apollo Justice and new attorney Athena Cykes join the fray too.
They are, in true Ace Attorney style, accompanied by a cast of kooky characters; this time around you can expect to see a prosecutor who is a convicted criminal, a fabulous personal assistant with his own makeup line and a bomb squad operator who lets his text-to-speech converter speak for him. None of them, as far as I’m aware, were obsessed with Speculoos.
Adam: OBJECTION! Your Honour, the prosecution moves that we drop the Speculoos thing and move on with the review proper.
The defense contends that the characters are the highlight of Dual Destinies, and she’s absolutely right. While Phoenix Wright is back as the centre of attention, you’ll spend equal amounts of time playing as each member of his agency. Fans put off by Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney‘s controversial handling of Phoenix Wright (heaping misfortune upon fans’ favourite player character while eschewing him for a new protagonist) will be pleased with the new system, which doesn’t shove new faces down our throats and allows a decent mix of the old and new.
The same can be said for the main storyline. There are the classic insane plans of the accused, and tense courtroom battles, but there’s also a lot of time skipping as you experience cases from the past and present. Of the game’s five cases, three of them are continuous, and while they’re not played in order, together form one huge mega-case.
Bev: (Hmm… Adam seems to be ashamed of his Speculoos consumption. No matter; it doesn’t seem important for now.)
The defense would like to raise the point that while the story overall is great, the ending smarts of an obvious sequel hook rather than tying up loose ends like most of the other games in the series. There are also sprinklings of unfortunate grammatical errors and some rather poor voice acting during the animated cutscenes. But hey, there’s no doubt that Dual Destinies looks great. One gets the sense that the Ace Attorney series finally has a proper budget, with cutscenes by anime powerhouse BONES and very fluid animations tied to the 3D character models. It’s amazing how a few extra frames of animation can breathe new life into characters gamers know and love, and they add an almost cinematic quality to otherwise ordinary moments.
Adam: Hold it! It would be remiss if we didn’t mention the gameplay at all, and there are some ups and downs here. On the plus side, classic Ace Attorney gameplay returns and is split into the traditional ‘investigation’ sections and the much more exciting ‘trial’ sections, which see you battling for your defendant in court. And with three player characters, you have access to three special abilities – Apollo’s bracelet, Athena’s widget and Wright’s magatama. Each allow you to pick up on special cues from a suspect, when they might be holding a secret, telling a lie or holding emotions which conflict with their story. However, you’re always very strictly prompted on when to use these abilities, and they aren’t utilised very often.
This strict guidance holds true for the rest of the game as well. Gone are the days when you’d be able to investigate any screen you visit. Now, you’re only allowed to investigate certain areas for clues, and even then only when prompted. The ability to rotate objects in your court record in 3D is gone, and clues come faster and much more frequently. In fact, a new journal feature in the court record directly tells you who you have to speak to, and what you need to do, at any given moment. This results in a streamlined experience which is gentler for Ace Attorney newcomers, but does feel more restrictive and less open for veteran defenders.
Bev: Indeed, the game does hold your hand a little too tightly, and overall it’s probably less difficult than most of the other games. There are, as is more or less expected from Ace Attorney games now, logical gaps, but these mostly stem from guessing where the game is going to take you and jumping the gun rather than any outright stupidity. It’s also a little disappointing to see the game didn’t make more use of the console’s 3D capabilities, such as for depth of field. But hey, we’re pretend lawyers, not fancy-pants game designers, so perhaps there was a good reason for that.
Overall however, Ace Attorney and Phoenix Wright are back with a good-natured vengeance, and Dual Destinies is an excellent addition to the series. The updated visuals and animations mark the dawn of a new age of Ace Attorney games and the interwoven cases prove compelling and keep you guessing, even if the ending is left somewhat deliberately open. But if that means Capcom will be making more games in the near future, I’m all for it. Does the prosecution agree that the game is not guilty of being terrible?
Adam: More like guilty of being awesome. Wait a minute, did we even argue at all during this. I don’t even. OK. I’ll do my freakout animation now.
[Adam drives his head through a cement block, instantly dying from the impact.]
Bev: Perhaps this is where Speculoos addiction leads?