Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies Review

Publisher: Capcom Developer(s): Capcom Platform(s): Nintendo 3DS Release date(s): October 24, 2013 (NA, EU, eShop only) July 25, 2013 (JP) Player(s): 1 Genre: Visual Novel

Publisher: Capcom

Developer(s): Capcom

Platform(s): Nintendo 3DS

Release date(s):

October 24, 2013 (NA, EU, eShop only)

July 25, 2013 (JP)

Player(s): 1

Genre: Visual Novel

 Leaving off from the latest installment, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies continues at the proper conclusion: the Dark Age of the Law. After getting his badge back from taking the bar exam again, Phoenix Wright returns to take the defense stand. With two new lawyers at his firm, he becomes a more respectable figure in the law world, almost as much as if not more than his own mentors. Looking back at the previous installments really allows one to appreciate how much Phoenix has grown as a character, but newer elements take priority, and the fans are treated to new content while even newcomers can begin their entry to the series here.

But this game totally doesn't take place in Japan.

But this game totally doesn't take place in Japan.

While the previous games highlighted how one-sided the fictional court system is against attorneys, this new “Dark Age of the Law” is characterized by a distrust in the legal system, resulting from both the defense and prosecutors ignoring the truth in favor of victories. In order to keep up with the prosecution’s authority, attorneys forged their own evidence, favoring that the ends justifies the means to win their cases. Even though a prosecutor was convicted, when this proclamation of the worst time in legal history is caused by the defense, the bias against them is more emphasized.

The first two cases don’t hide who the real culprit of the crime is, as it’s revealed in their respect introductory cutscenes. However, both provide other sources of tension that keeps the player on their feet. In the first, the player is weary of how unstable the real culprit is, and must make their decisions based on what they perceive as a bluff or might be an actual threat. During the second case, the defendant is not necessarily the nicest person, and has a similar disposition as the antagonist from the first episode. Knowing beforehand who to get the authorities to throw the book at, but having these other elements of agitation creates suspense instead of hopelessness, which, without any build-up, would have been an awkward mood at the beginning of the game.

This is a courtroom not a courting room.

This is a courtroom not a courting room.

After the filler case, the third episode reminds the player of the initial Dark-Age-of-the- Law theme. Here, the symptoms of this Dark Age come to light, and because the real murderer isn’t told directly to the player, it’s their job to make the diagnosis. However, this is difficult to parse when other suspicious characters arrive on the scene, and until the player rules everyone out, knowing exactly how the crime played out will be key to solving the case. From then on, the episodes play out contiguously, no longer being stifled by filler, which had very little to contribute to the overall plot of the game.

The in media res from when the player started the game becomes apparent at this point, but is handled a bit clumsily due to the filler case. If the filler case had hinted at one of the game's later climaxes, it would have reconciled the long wait getting to the plot point of the game. It can be argued that the introduction a certain character might have set things in motion, but it doesn’t foreshadow anything. Nothing is forewarned until the beginning of the fourth case, which peters out in the end only to be picked up by the last segment.

And your apparently suspicious look is supposed to comfort us?

And your apparently suspicious look is supposed to comfort us?

In figuring out the last case, the deduction becomes much more mechanical, with the narrative giving into the game mechanics rather than complimenting them. With the empathic analysis portions of the games being heavily highlighted, they are given a supercharge in the final case, in which the player has to use everything they learned about it beforehand. With so much enrichment and priority given to this game mechanic, the plot has trouble keeping up, and falls behind. If the story was read as a book, it would seem like nonsense. As Ace Attorney is a visual novel, there is little room for excuse, but experiencing it with the video game aspects balances it out. Regardless, the denouement feels disjointed from the rest of the game, and could have been refined if the writing alluded to it.

Portrayal of 2D characters in the third dimension tends to wash out their expressions, but with the outlines and imitative cel-shading through shading the textures themselves, the 3D is taken advantage of by allowing a wide range of animations, especially those between two different characters. While the fade out effects when swapping between two different characters into view is jarring, what animations there are can be very entertaining just to watch, especially those that are over-the-top and exaggerative. There’s no reason to miss the pixel art graphics from previous entries.

Cons:

- Weak ending

- Obnoxious cultural references

 

Pros: 

+ Expressive character animations

+ Good soundtrack

+ Diverse characters

+ Variety of playable characters

+ Stunning plot twists

+ Efficient organization of tasks

+ Witty dialogue

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Dual Destinies aims to appeal to a wide variety of audiences: those who want to see something new, and fans who have been comfortable with seeing Phoenix take the defense stand. Both sides of old and new are perfectly balanced, but the story itself feels too safely written, and all the new elements were written formulaically. Regardless, the narrative is solid, and the presentation makes up for it. 

ReviewElliot Zeichner