Developer: Capcom | Publisher: Capcom | Played On: 3DS | Price: $29.99 | ESRB: Mature [Violence, Blood, Suggestive Themes, Language]
One might think a video game about courtroom drama in which you’re defending seemingly helpless clients would make for a forgetful game. But throw in some absurdities like the prosecution lawyer being a convicted murderer, a witness who truly believes he is possessed by an ancient Japanese monster, a defense partner who can sense people’s emotions, and you’ve got a game that’s anything but boring. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies is the first game in the main series to be released since 2008 and features new stories, characters, gameplay mechanics, and visuals. Have the hiatus and improvements been enough to push Phoenix and company past the shortcomings of the previous games?
Court is now in session.
In Dual Destinies you take control of a trio of clever lawyers: series namesake Phoenix Wright, the familiar Apollo Justice, and newcomer Athena Cykes. Each has their own personality, quips, and more importantly a special ability that allows them to decipher certain aspects of a witness’ testimony. For example, Athena can use her computer and oddly her necklace to determine the witness’ emotions and conclude whether they’re telling the truth about a specific subject. These powers remove any semblance of realism out of the game but make for a much better experience because of it; seeing how Phoenix and company interact with the dozens of colorful characters is wonderful, especially since the story is the biggest draw in the game.
As with previous Phoenix Wright games you take on the role of a defense attorney determined to prove each client innocent no matter what the odds. No matter which of the three you play as during the game’s five chapters you complete the same tasks: uncover clues at the scene of the crime, talk to witnesses to build a case for your client, defend your client in court, and cross examine witnesses to find holes in their stories—which amounts to reading a lot of text. The entire game, sans a handful of beautifully animated full motion cutscenes, is told through text so you can go nearly thirty minutes without doing so much as pressing the A button to keep reading until you have to present a piece of evidence. This makes the game more of a visual novel as opposed to an actual game, but that’s what the series has always been, so to expect something different is silly.
As visual novels go this game does the genre justice. Dual Destinies may be lacking on the gameplay front but it definitely makes up for it with its storytelling; I found myself hanging on to every word a witness said, looking at every detail in each piece of evidence, and trying to connect the dots in my head before the characters themselves found out in the game. And when you get that, “Ah ha!” moment and realize that the witness on the stand is lying you understand what the game is all about.
Aside from the new cast, a couple of nice additions help to make this game stand out from its predecessors. A very helpful log of dialogue has been added, so you can easily go back and read past conversations. Additionally, a huge issue I had with other Phoenix Wright games was getting stuck at a location and not knowing where to go next; thankfully that has been addressed with the investigation memo, a checklist of everything that you need look into. For veterans of the series who have dealt with these annoyances, you’ll assuredly appreciate the improvements made.
While we’re on the topic of improvements, Dual Destinies takes advantage of the 3DS’ superior hardware and gives us full 3D models for Phoenix, Apollo, and everyone else; a first for the series! Initially I was saddened to see my beloved sprites removed but the new designs are very well done. When Phoenix is delivering his famous finger point when objecting, you actually see him raise his hand and point—a silly but still impressive change.
Before I rule completely in favor of Dual Destinies there are some missteps. Not every case is entertaining, so sometimes it is a drag to have to play through them. Personally I found the courtroom scenes to be the most exciting portion of each chapter and thought some of the investigation parts were boring. Another issue is even if you might know a specific piece of evidence contradicts what a witness is saying, unless you present that information at the precise moment you’re sure to be penalized by the judge. This problem has persisted throughout the entire series and continues to frustrate eight years later. If that wasn’t enough, I also saw a small amount of typos!
Dual Destinies is another great game in the Ace Attorney series and superb welcome back to Phoenix himself. The game isn’t going to win back anyone who was turned off by the game’s light gameplay and heavy storytelling, but for those of you interested in solving crimes, discovering evidence, and interacting with dozens of outlandish characters will find Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies to be a fun, entertaining game. If you like pointy hair and lots of pointing, all the better!
+ Entertaining storyline and characters
+ 3D visuals make it the best looking game in the series
— Game can drag during certain stretches
7.5 / 10