Review: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies
It’s been far too long since he stood shouting assertions from the defense bench, but Phoenix Wright is finally back in a big way on the 3DS. The evidence of this triumphant return has been quite literally placed in PopBucket’s hands, and we’ve put on our best sleuthing caps to get to the bottom of the spiky lawyer’s latest, surrounded all the while by the wildly-dressed, over-expressive eccentrics we’ve come to know, expect and adore in Capcom’s evergreen evidence-’em-up.
Naturally, we’re going to leave spoilers out of the proceedings, but unless it’s not already obvious from the footage and imagery that’s been made available in the months leading to this game, the visual overhaul this series needed has been very stylishly accomplished. Environments and characters are fully rendered in three dimensions, although stylised in such a way as to seem traditionally hand-drawn, making for an immersive world befitting the juxtaposition of wild characters and sordid murders that Ace Attorney has always thrived on. These visual treats are supplemented by surprisingly frequent anime cutscenes at crucial plot points and although the voiceovers won’t be to everyone’s tastes, it’s a new angle to the franchise that adds a lot of depth.
Encompassing five cases, with a sixth to be made available as DLC, Dual Destinies kicks off shortly after the events of Apollo Justice, and is rife with references to past titles for long-time fans. That said, newcomers will find plenty to get their teeth into, and each episode combines to form a narrative more filled with twists than a knot of saucy noodles. Likewise, the wry humour and inner monologues, backed by several incredulous in-court reactions (yes, the judge is still a bewildered dolt), prove that the Ace Attorney charm remains in full swing although we noticed several typos or misspellings in the translated text that have unfortunately made the cut, at least in the review copy provided to us.
The game’s an eShop exclusive, although don’t be fooled, Dual Destinies is a comprehensive package. The two core mechanics of courtroom drama (replete with finger-pointing) and explorative investigation sequences remains the norm, and it’s just as chatty as the franchise ever has been. If you’re a gamer that always skips the cutscenes, you’d best give this a miss although you’re missing a treasure in so doing, as even beyond the mistakes we mentioned, the strength of the writing is as crucial, and as well delivered, as ever.
Dual Destinies has eased off the clutch when it comes to stringent punishment for errors. You can now save at any point and being kicked out of the courtroom no longer boots you to some far-flung checkpoint to wade through dialogue, but rather simply seals you out of the court and asks if you want to try again. Your plucky assistant Athena can also offer assistance after several incorrect guesses as a kind of in-game hint system. They’re nice touches that don’t give the game away, although the fact that the ‘Try Again’ system is in place does mean it’s essentially possible to bombard evidence at a puzzle when you get stuck. That said, the twists remain ingenious indeed and the attention to detail is intact. A simple throwaway sentence uttered by one character could prove vital in a later part of a given case.
Athena Cykes herself, the game’s mandatory hyper-perky female lead, is a psychological whizz-kid with a semi-intelligent computerised necklace gadget known as Widget. Using it reveals the emotional gameplay hinted at in countless Dual Destinies trailers, although in practice you’ll find it’s simply a gimmicky way of cross-examining with some nicer art thrown over the top. It’s fun, though feels new for newness’ sake however, we were pleased at the depth of characterisation Athena has been given. We don’t want to give anything away, but don’t let her exuberance fool you, as she’s just as complex as any other Ace Attorney character. Similarly, some key abilities from previous games in the series make a return. There has never been so many ways to crack a witness!
There’s a pleasing sense of character progression in this latest game in the series, with Phoenix himself demonstrating the sort of quiet confidence you’d expect of someone with as wild and successful a career as him. However, there are plenty of jokes at his expense, as well as everyone else’s. Plenty of old faces re-emerge to do legal battle, and they’re complemented by several new personas as well. There’s a good mix of new and old characters, although some old favourites seem mysteriously missing in action, not so much as alluded to.
Music-wise, plenty of series staple tunes are back, coupled with some jingles and themes for new locations and characters. As ever, there’s a strong Japanese theme in some investigations in spite of the game insisting that it takes place in the United States, which is no bad thing per se. Locations themselves, although fully rendered, are often still static backdrops. Although investigations boast of fully explorable rooms, these are only in effect in crucial areas, such as crime scenes. The interactivity is fun though, and in all investigations, the cursor handily displays a tick icon over areas or items you’ve already examined, preventing you from accidentally tapping them again and having to B-button your way through dialogue you’ve already read.
Little touches such as these, the save-anywhere feature and the revamped failure state system, among others, make for a game that seems to have moved with the times, proving that Dual Destinies and Ace Attorney at large still has a rightful place in the modern gamer’s collection. Whilst investigations can drag on, and are still not as fun as the trials, pacing is generally good — and the investigations themselves throw up one or two fun gameplay twists we won’t ruin for you.
The prosecutor’s an arrogant power-maniac with the judge in the palm of his hand, the odds and evidence are stacked against your witness, your junior business partner is a freakily-dressed cute chick with a quick temper and a vibrant personality, and you’re a lawyer in a brightly coloured suit with a funky haircut. However you cut it, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies repeats these core principles, the very roots of this fan-favoured franchise. Yet the improvements, to graphics, gameplay and overall presentation alike, make for a forward-thinking game sullied only by a few wildly out-there puzzles and some egregious spelling and grammar issues although we hope the latter are simply the result of us accessing non-final review code, perhaps.
Either way, the evidence is irrefutable. Phoenix Wright and his law firm are setting up shop in your Nintendo 3DS, and it’s only right that they should. This is a fantastic return to form for the spiky legal eagle, revamped, revitalised and with fully sterescopic pointing finger triumphantly bursting from the screen. It’s a good long game that’s been a good long time coming. PopBucket finds the new Ace Attorney resoundingly guilty of being bonkers, baffling, barmy and brilliant, and we hereby sentence it to life imprisonment in your 3DS eShop purchase history!
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies is available to buy now on the 3DS Nintendo eShop.
Version reviewed: 3DS