Video Game Review from the Vault: Phoenix Wright: Dual Destinies

(Posted to my Facebook page on April 8, 2015)

So after finishing Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Dual Destinies, I’m ready to deliver my verdict.

Dual Destinies takes place one year after the events of Apollo Justice, and explains how we’re currently in the middle of the dark age of the law thanks in part to the trial where Phoenix lost his attorney’s badge eight years ago. In an attempt to end the age himself, Phoenix manages to get his badge back and reenters the legal world. Since the events of Apollo Justice, the Wright Anything Agency has gained a new lawyer: Athena Cykes, a law student that Mr. Wright met during a trip to Europe has recently obtained her badge and joined the team, using Analytic Psychology to help find the truth behind each case. Now Phoenix, Apollo, and Athena must work together to find the truth behind a seven-year old case that has resurfaced, and bring an end to this dark age, but cracks begin to show in the team as they slowly approach the dark truth at the center of it all…

This is the first Ace Attorney game to be featured on the 3DS, so a great deal has changed since Apollo Justice. As always, the background and characters are all very distinct and beautiful, but you’ll notice that the characters are all 3D models now, and pop quite well with the system’s 3D setting on. What’s really important here is that each character looks like they were drawn as a 2D picture first, and then animated with their 3D models. All the new characters look like they’d fit right in with the old cast, and even the environments that appear to be drawn two-dimensionally look excellent with the 3D setting on (Coming from someone who hates 3D!) I still wouldn’t recommend playing the game with that setting on other than in short bursts at more impressive moments, but it’s a great touch. Another change with the visuals is the introduction of anime-style cutscenes. This is a big change, but it hits perfectly. Most of the scenes are very short, but they can serve as hugely dramatic character introductions or case introductions. It was a great idea, and it makes me feel like I know these characters even better now.

The new characters… what can I say except that I love them? I remember saying that in Apollo Justice, most of the characters ranged from okay to forgettable to bad, but that just isn’t the case here. Simon Blackquill is this game’s prosecutor, and he serves as a not only intimidating, but downright challenging prosecutor who never gives up on getting a guilty verdict. On top of that, he’s a convicted felon and can make you feel some unease when you’re facing off with him. Not only a fascinating character, but a hell of a memorable one. Your detective is Bobby Fulbright. Compared to the uninteresting, bored, and useless Ema Skye, Bobby is full of energy, a bit of a ditz, but his sense of justice will have you fall in love with him. He’s a worthy successor to Dick Gumshoe and makes even the darkest of moment brighter. Of course the biggest new character is the new lawyer Athena Cykes. I can’t say much about her story without spoiling anything, but Athena is simply a blast. She’s full of energy and emotion, she compliments Phoenix and Apollo perfectly, and her sidekick Widget is also very fun. In a game that’s already very funny, she adds a lot of humor to situations herself, and can remind me somewhat of Mia Fey. Speaking of which, it’s also important to note that in addition to adding fantastic new characters, the game is sure to give credit to some of our favorite old characters. Apollo Justice threw away nearly every old character and tried to give us a new cast, and it fell flat. Here in Dual Destinies, we have appearances from Miles Edgeworth, Pearl Fey, and even some of the Apollo Justice characters: Trucy Wright and Klavier Gavin. It’s always important to give credit to what got you this far, and this mix of the old and the new really makes Dual Destinies work… and each of these new characters have a deep, involved backstory that slowly gets revealed through the cases, making them complex enough to love, and that includes the one-off characters you see in each case, who are each animated, written, and made beautifully.

I’ve posted some of the music from Dual Destinies, but it’s very well done. Remixes of old music and brand new tracks compliment the action perfectly and get you in the perfect mood for each scene.

The game manages to mix many of the old features with some new ones. You’ll still be doing court cases and investigations mostly the same, but some quality of life changes have been made to smooth out some of the more frustrating aspects of both of those. The save system was also greatly improved, allowing you to quickly and easily save the game mid-trial (Which makes it easier to save-scum, but since the penalty for failure is having to traipse back a lot of dialogue you’ve already read, it’s justified and very helpful, especially in the case of a brain fart) and even features two separate save files, which is a nice touch. The game combines the unique investigation/cross examine abilities of the two previous attorneys (Apollo’s Perceive ability and Phoenix’s Psyche-Lock ability) but also has Athena’s new Analytic Psychology to mix things up. What’s really surprising (Not in a good way), however, is that the developers didn’t add in the fully animated camera footage that we caught a glimpse of in the final case of the original Ace Attorney. That would have been perfect here, and was so enjoyable and fun to examine in Ace Attorney that giving up on it here is a huge disappointment (They use the Anime Cutscenes to a similar effect in the bonus trial, but not nearly to the same scale or detail). Additionally, there is a new “Revisualization” system in which the attorney you’re playing as reviews the facts in their head to come to a vital detail that can break the final barrier of a case. It’s really no more than a multiple choice quiz with no penalty for failure, but the way it’s presented and how it makes the player re-think details of the case to come about the conclusion with only some help from the game is what really makes it enjoyable. It’s strange, because this kind of gameplay (As is similar in all of the Ace Attorney games, where the gameplay is primarily just quiz questions about the plot so far) shouldn’t work in that it sounds really boring, but with the excellent plot, characters, atmosphere, music, animations, and everything else… it just works.

If I have a main complaint with the game, it’s the difficulty (Yeah, it always seems to come down to that, doesn’t it?). Not because it’s too difficult… but because it’s too easy. Investigations have been really dumbed down, and examining the environment for clues has been severely limited (As opposed to in the previous games, where you could examine in closer detail almost every piece of scenery in almost every background, which would give clues or at least humorous commentary from the characters). The cases themselves also seem pretty easy; I only found myself tripped up once or twice due to the game being somewhat unspecific at times. Still, it’s a minor complaint in what is still a fantastic addition to the series.

I should also mention that I played the bonus DLC trial, “Turnabout Reclaimed.” It’s really just another trial, but not in a bad way. It’s very well done, and about the quality I came to expect from the game, so if you’re willing to throw about $6 at the game for several more hours of Ace Attorney fun, I highly recommend it; it even comes with new cinematics and upon completion will unlock a new costume for Phoenix (One that he wore back in Trials and Tribulations). I should, however, warn you that if you plan on playing this DLC, purchase and play it BEFORE playing the final trial (Titled “Turnabout for Tomorrow”). I played the DLC after the final trial, and while it was still fun, chronologically, it takes place before that trial and if you’ve finished the game, you’ve learned a few details that, without wanting to spoil anything, make you look at a character or two in a different light that you probably shouldn’t be on your mind for the trial. It’s entirely up to you, but my advice is to play it right after completing the first trial (Turnabout Countdown). Like I said, it’s the same great writing and characters we’ve come to expect from these games, and any fan of the series will have fun with this bonus trial. There’s yet another DLC for a dollar, but it’s just an additional costume for each character, so you probably shouldn’t bother with that.

This game is just chock full of character, humor, and fantastic story. It looks great, sounds great, and most importantly feels great. This was a huge step for the Ace Attorney series. It took a lot of risks, but in the end, it paid off in the best way possible. It’s an adventure that’ll have you screaming…

OBJECTION!

I give Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Dual Destinies a 5 out of 5.

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