Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies review 
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James Lenoir
November 19, 2013 at 3:00 pm

I have to admit, I’m a huge fan of misdirection. I love it when a game (or a book or even a movie) starts off in one direction, lures you in, and while you’re confident that you have a fair understanding of its motives, it rattles your cage. It leaves you in a state of contemplation. It’s not as simple or as mundane as a lazy plot-twist, but rather the art of hiding deeper philosophical questions behind a façade of simplicity. Spec Ops: The Line hid a deeper message under the guise of “a military shooter,” and in similar fashion Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies takes on the legal profession.

The Dark Age of Law

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It’s easy to dismiss the latest Ace Attorney game as yet another wild and wacky Phoenix Wright courtroom adventure. After all, Dual Destinies comes with its fair share of silly (new and recurring) characters – set within an established and serialized world. But that would be a huge mistake. Aristotle once said that “The Law is Reason free from Passion”. It’s a powerful vindication of the legal profession; however Dual Destinies delves deeper into the reality of the Courts. One in which truth or the “pursuit of truth” becomes a casualty in a vicious game of one-upmanship. In other words, how far should you go to defend your client? Or how far should you go to prosecute a would-be felon? Or more vexing, how far will you go to defend a friend, a loved one or a family member? And would it be moral not to?

Denny Crane..? Harvey Specter? No… call me Phoenix Wright!

phoenix-wright-dual-destinies-screenshot-03Ace Attorney -Dual Destinies can easily be seen as a stand-alone title. You don’t have to know anything about the previous titles (or how all the various characters fit in). The game does a decent job at filling in the blanks on its own. However, the past is important. As much as Phoenix Wright would love to dispute it, the disastrous events at the end of Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney still haunts him, and the overall effect of his disbarment -during the last game- is undeniable. Fortunately, Phoenix has been re-admitted to the bar. He is joined by his partner, Apollo Justice and the newest addition to their law firm, the very capable Athena Cykes. Together, the trio makes it their business to defend those who have been wrongfully accused of dastardly crimes.

Objection your honour!

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There is definitely a familiarity with how Dual Destinies is presented. It sticks close to its roots, and the mechanics behind the game has barely changed since the first few titles. If you’ve never played an Ace Attorney game, a typical Ace Attorney game has the following general structure; a short introductory case, to familiarise yourself with some of the basic concepts (how to present evidence or how to perform a cross-examination etc.), and then longer cases that involve courtroom and investigative sequences. But the biggest shock for newcomers is the sheer amount of “text”. The best way to describe Ace Attorney is that it’s essentially an interactive novel. Even though, Dual Destinies features occasional and beautiful anime cut-scenes with audio, you’re still required to read the transcripts, discover contradictions and select the appropriate responses.

The investigative sections are reminiscent of old-school adventure games where you have to point-and-click to find evidence in a crime scene for your court case. Once you’ve searched through all the areas and spoken to all the witnesses, you proceed to the courtroom with a notebook filled with juicy material. I would like to point out though that the “investigative phase” has been streamlined (since Apollo Justice), and not necessarily for the better. There is linearity to the process that I wish could have been avoided, but on the other hand, there’s nothing worse than being forced to try to find a particular piece of “smoking gun” evidence.

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The courtroom is really where all the action is. It’s where the defence and the prosecution battle it out through cross-examinations – while objections spew forth, murmurings litter the gallery and a bearded judge bangs his gavel. It’s truly a battlefield and one where the prosecution even throws in a few personal jabs at Phoenix and his gang. Fortunately, Phoenix and co. have secret weapons to defend themselves or at least to carve through the tricky witness testimonies, in their pursuit for the truth. Newcomer, Athena Cykes is armed with a little robot called Widget that augments her impressive skills in analytical psychology. She’s able to read the emotions of witnesses, and through her ability is able to see whether a witness’ testimony match their emotional state. Apollo Justice on the other hand, makes use of his golden bracelet to narrow in on conflicting body language. A feat that’s presented in glorious slow-motion. Of course, the titular hero’s Psyche-Lock and Magatama charm make a welcomed return.

The Gift of the Gab!

One of the biggest surprises of Dual Destinies is that its story is probably the most cohesive of all the Ace Attorney games. There is a broader overarching tale being told, while the subsequent cases provide more insight into the mental workings of both Athena Cykes and her opponent, the mysterious prosecutor, Simon Blackquill. It’s through the humorous and dark interactions between these two characters that extremely hard and far-reaching legal issues are explored.

Legally Blonde?

While I have nothing but praise for Dual Destinies, there is one issue that I would like to raise. The convoluted plots may leave some scratching their heads, but my issue with the game lies more with its inflexibility in some parts. It’s a problem that it shares with previous titles as well. In other words, you have to present your case in a very specific way. Even though, you’ve figured it out. You know which piece of evidence is going to end it all. You have to follow the correct text prompts and present your evidence at specific times. I can understand the limitation, given that the game is structured to also allow for a “fun and zany” narrative, alongside your court battle, but sometimes you wish it was like how Elle Woods serendipitously unravelled the District Attorney’s case in Legally Blonde.

Closing Arguments

Dual Destinies delivers on all its promises. It’s a stunning example of how there’s still a place for non-conventional games. It also helps that Dual Destinies looks and sounds amazing. It’s a game that’s definitely benefiting from Capcom’s MT Framework Mobile engine. The 3D animations are without fault, and the game is complimented by appropriate and powerful anime sequences. It’s sad that the retail version is “download-only” because I would have loved to own a physical copy of this game and add it to my library of games.


  • Alien Emperor Trevor

    DENNY CRANE!

  • Gerhard Davids

    [Objection Intensifies]

  • RinceandShrubbery

    A courtroom game? WTF?

    • Umar Moe Moe

      You never heard of this series?

      • RinceandShrubbery

        Never actually.

        • Umar Moe Moe

          :O Sacrebleu….Phoenix Wright is a popular character in gaming. Few games that Capcom didn’t mess up

          • RinceandShrubbery

            I just don’t get it… A courtroom drama game? 0-O

          • Umar Moe Moe

            It’s an adventure-esque type game. Dude, I think I need to introduce you to the many unknown gaming wonders

          • RinceandShrubbery

            Cool, next time we meet up you can. Oh, wait, BOOM! Tehehehe

          • Umar Moe Moe

            LARDY HAR HAR!!! sniff…..

          • Jim Lenoir (Banana Jim)

            It’s surprisingly amazing – don’t let the courtroom drama fool you. Dual Destinies is a phenomenal title. I don’t just praise any old game, but when it puts a fire in my rocket, I need to praise it.

            http://img.gawkerassets.com/img/196on9evbh8wygif/ku-xlarge.gif

          • RinceandShrubbery

            Mmm, the nanarocket… Sounds dangerous!

  • Admiral Chief Duke

    I CALL DRAGONS DOGMA 4/10 DAFUQ

  • TiMsTeR1033

    *yawns*

    • Admiral Chief Duke

      Oi, put your hand in front of your mouth when you do that!

  • Umar Moe Moe

    I would shout OBJECTION!! but I have nothing to object about. Love the Series, fond of the Miles counterpart too. Man I want a 3DS now!!!!

  • Lourens Jordaan

    That Banana went off his meds.

    • RinceandShrubbery

      Was he ever on them I ask you!? I call ‘acting as Foxhound’ into evidence. I rest my case!

      • Spathi

        Maybe we got it all wrong. Maybe Foxhound is acting as James Lenior. James in turn acts as the Banana…? His life is kinda like Inception, only with more hats.

        • Jim Lenoir (Banana Jim)

          Oddly, That makes a lot of sense…. Now PRESENT YOUR EVIDENCE! (hahaha I love this game)

          • Spathi

            It depends who is taking the witness stand. Foxhound, Jim or the Banana. That way I’ll know how to phrase my question.

          • Lourens Jordaan

            Jim eats banana. Hound hunts fox. What did the fox do to the hound, which the hound did to Jim’s banana?

          • Spathi

            Now I’m even more confused…

        • Alien Emperor Trevor

          I thought the banana was a bot :/ This is all so confusing.

          • RinceandShrubbery

            I don’t know who you all are!

      • Jim Lenoir (Banana Jim)

        Objection your honour! The prosecution is badgering the witness!

        http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_mdge4vulpn1qa09fco1_500.gif

  • robbie_fowler22

    i bought my 3ds last week and am working through pokemon at the moment and this along with mario is on my radar… pity about my current backlog in my library…

    • http://www.twitter.com/WobblyOnion Exalted Overlord Geoffrey Tim

      New Legend of Zelda is amazing, a is Luigi’s manion 2

  • nonscpo

    You forgot to mention the part where Capcom screwed over there fans and refused to sell the copy physically. There are some games like “Senran Kagura Burst” that merit the digital release as there really is no way we could have gotten the game physically ,but Phoenix Wright isn’t one of them. I’m still boycotting this game until capcom releases the physical version

    • James

      Ugh, boycotting has more of a chance of hurting the localization for future games way more than helping the physical release of DD or future games. I wish people would buy the digital version so we get more AA, rather than them going ‘oh look, the sales figures are poor, let’s not bother with Ace Attorney in the west any more’ which is far more likely than them going ‘oh, we’re not making much money on DD, the obvious business decision is to spend more money on the game manufacturing it’.

      Thankfully DD has met sales expectations for Capcom meaning we may get more AA in the future, but no thanks to people like you.

      • nonscpo

        James let me break it down for you so that you can undestand. I love the AA franchise the reason I bought my 3DS was in anticipation of this game, I am a fan of this series but I am a consumer first and a fan second. I cannot overlook what Crapcom did here, they tried to force us to buy it their way or no way. As I stated above there are some franchises that can only be released digitally (i.e. Senran Kagura Burst) but Phoenix Wright is an established franchise that has seen a physical release already. What the boycotters were trying to do was to hurt Capcom finacially, yes you are right their is a stong chance that the poor sales figures might have negative consequences and future AA games would never be localized in the future. However by buying the game digitally (and capcom meeting their sale quota) all you guys have done is embolden CAPCOM to screw over their consumers further, what you guys have accomplished is seal the fate of future Physical releases (in case you havent noticed thats where the industry is trying to head). I know many of you guys ment well, but I cannot support a company that doesnt listen to their fan base.
        P.S. For anybody who enjoys the AA series or “Virtues last reward” franchise this february 2014 NISA is releasing Dangan Ronpa for the PS VITA it looks like a promising visual novel/murder mystery game, that will be released digitally AND physically. Im looking foward to support this games localization and supporting a company that supports its consumers and fan base…hopefully some of you will check this one out.

        • James

          No, I understand the point. But I’d rather get digital-only AA than no AA at all, and I think a lot of people shouldn’t actively hurt its chances at all just because they’re morally opposed to a digital release. Some of us are fine with digital releases (well, not fine, but not too bothered either), and the people who are boycotting are hurting the series overall, which potentially hurts us non-boycotters, not to mention your own chances at getting ANYTHING AA in the next few years.

          The way of showing Capcom you want a digital release is to have lots of people writing to Capcom, but also buying the digital release to financially support the team who made DD in the first place. Boycotting will do nothing but harm it, but basically you guys do it out of principle (which is a decent principle). But what’s the point in acting on principle if the effects of doing so are entirely negative?

          • nonscpo

            James I fully respect your opinion and I thank you for respecting mines, This will simply be one of those were will have to agree to disagree. To your last point on digital ownership Im not against digital releases just against digital only. As far as the Capcom letters, those were done by many fans and were still ignored. Im not jumping off the AA bandwagon yet ill just have to see what theyll do with future localizations. Besides next year we get to look foward to Proffessor Layton VS Phoenix wright game which is published by Level-5 (not capcom) so I really feel that their is a reason to be optimistic. In the meantime ill be buying a PS VITA in the next month or two anticipating NISA’s “Dangan Ronpa” coming out in February.

  • Mugelbub

    if i look at this post i think of this

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vFldBVWFgWo