BADGP Reviews: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies

 

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies (Capcom)

Released: October 24, 2013

December 5, 2013

Alex Linna & Brock Morgan

Review: >May Contain Objectionable Content<

So what, exactly, is the Ace Attorney series about, and why should I care?

Great question! And boy, do we have the answer! Check out this article by Alex for a wonderful summary of the series’ background and why it’s captured the hearts of so many of the BADGP crew: https://badgamingpodcast.wordpress.com/2013/10/17/making-a-case-for-phoenix-wright-the-appeal-of-the-ace-attorney-series/.

Did you read it? Seriously, we’ll wait.

Ok, if you read it, we hope you more fully understand what we’re getting into in this review. If you’re not willing to go read that right now, though, then here’s the short version: traditionally, you play as Phoenix Wright, ace defense attorney and head of the Wright Anything Agency (formerly, Wright & Co. Law Offices). With your partners and protégés, you take on clients and investigate their cases in the aims of clearing them of all charges (usually murder). There’s no first- or third-person shooting, no hacking and slashing, and no platforming action to be had here, but there is a veritable overabundance of witty writing, character development, and point-and-click-inspired gameplay. There’s a lot of dialogue, and not every case is a total winner, but when this series fires on all cylinders, it can offer some of the best gaming experiences around.

Ok, are we clear? Good. On to the discussion of Dual Destinies.  What does Dual Destinies do differently?

The defense is ready, indeed.

 What is Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies?

Dual Destinies is the latest entry in the Ace Attorney franchise (specifically, the fifth main-series game), and is a direct follow-up to Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney. Phoenix Wright, Apollo Justice, Trucy Wright, and newcomer Athena Cykes are back in the courtroom once again to defend their clients. Unfortunately, they find themselves dealing with the onset of the “dark age of the law” in which prosecutors make false charges to guarantee guilty verdicts and defense attorneys fabricate evidence to clear their clients at all costs. The Wright Anything Agency aims to bring this blight on the legal world to an end, all while facing down prosecutor-turned-convict Simon Blackquill, the latest in the series’ long tradition of quirky prosecutors that are more than what they initially may seem.

Returning are core series gameplay mechanics like Phoenix’s Magatama and Psyche-Locks and Apollo’s tell-identifying Bracelet, and new mechanics are introduced via Athena’s Widget device and the Mood Matrix technology contained within, which allows the team to identify discordant emotions that conflict with a witness’s testimony. Using these tools, you’ll defend clients, solve mysteries, and uncover long-held secrets, because, of course, that’s what the Wright Anything Agency does!

How Does it Look?

All previous Ace Attorney games had been made for the Game Boy Advance and the Nintendo DS, and they certainly looked fine, but, as Dual Destinies was made specifically for the 3DS, it’s easily the best looking entry in the series. The environments look great in 3D, and the introduction of fully voiced anime cutscenes adds a lot to the game, as they always look wonderful. The character models are fantastic, and the animations for each character look better than ever.

 

Simon Blackquill. The jail-bird prosecutor.

How Does it Sound?

As previously mentioned, Dual Destinies features a franchise first in adding voice acting.  This, though a nice touch, is a little strange, as it often is when you have been reading how a person speaks in your head for years and then you finally hear them speak.  Voiceovers are only in the anime-style cutscenes aside from the mandatory “Objection!” and “Hold It!” that are commonplace in the courtroom settings.  The soundtrack is solid, as are all games in the series, but Dual Destinies falls on the weaker end of the series when compared to the previous entries musical offerings.  It is by no means bad; here, have a listen for yourself:

Here is a medley and sampling of the delicious beats:

How Does it Play?

We’ve already covered how the Ace Attorney games have played in the past: Investigate, collect evidence, find contradictions, present evidence, be awesome, win the case. That largely doesn’t change in Dual Destinies, but it does add a few nifty new mechanics and sections that vary the moment-to-moment gameplay quite nicely. The first one worth mentioning is Athena Cykes’ new Mood Matrix tool. This interesting new application, accessed through Athena’s cybernetic companion Widget, allows the defense to examine a witness’s current testimony alongside a display of the emotions they’re feeling while delivering said lines of testimony. The implications of this, logically, is to derive contradictions from that testimony by matching certain phrases to emotions that someone shouldn’t normally feel at the time. One example from the game is similar to hearing a witness say “And then the roof collapsed on top of me!” while feeling joy. This is highly incongruous, and, thus, allows the defense to press the witness further as to why these emotions don’t quite add up.

Also new to the series is something that the game itself doesn’t name, but we’re calling the “Putting It All Together” sections. These usually come at the end of a case, and it takes the player inside the mind of the defense attorney as they pull together all the facts of the case and make that one, final revelation that can turn the case upside down in their favor. These sections consist of the character making a statement that finishes in one of three choices, selected by the player. At the end of these choices, the character, and the player, usually comes to some startling revelation that can turn even the most hopeless situation into one of hope and possible victory. These sections are notable not simply because they are new, but because they allow the player to come to the realizations more naturally, rather than forcing the player to pick the one piece of evidence that has to be presented to make a sometimes large leap in logic. As it now stands, the player can feel much more involved in these case-shattering moments that make the Ace Attorney games so enthralling to play.

With these two large additions, along with the fact that you now switch between characters frequently during the game, means that individual cases can feel very different from one another. Phoenix has his Magatama, which can break Psyche-Locks, Apollo has his tell-spotting bracelet, and Athena has Widget and the Mood Matrix. With all these characters rotating in and out, the gameplay in Dual Destinies feels more varied than any other game in the series.

Enter the Mood Matrix.

How Does it Compare?

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies has been a long time coming.  The new addition of the Mood Matrix and the constant switching of defense attorneys allowed for the game to remain as fresh and varied a game about cross-examinations and crime scene investigations can get.  Upon looking back at the storied franchise, Dual Destinies does okay.  It is not the best in the series, and also not the worst.  The new and improved visuals certainly do not hurt.  The presentation and menus are greatly improved to be more accessible and aesthetically pleasing, and there is now an option to view all the previous dialogue in a given chapter, which can really help during tricky cross-examinations. These were small, but valued, modifications.

There were a lot of cameos, but honestly, I would have liked more, or maybe just the characters I liked more (Trucy was underused).  It is a hard thing to complain about, but the series rests on its continuity and the strength of its stable of characters.  That being said, Dual Destinies is a great starting place for the series, whereas the first four should definitely be played in order.  Dual Destinies is less referential for better and worse.  Perhaps Dual Destinies greatest failing, however, is not addressing major issues and concerns brought up by the narrative in the previous game: Apollo Justice Ace Attorney.  The specific issues will not be raised here in the avoidance of major spolierage.         

The Recommendation

One could say that Dual Destinies starts with a bang, and ends with incredible strength.  It is part of the middle that leaves a little to be desired due to the tremendously high bar set by the previous entries in the series.  One might be asking oneself, “How does one review a game that is approximately 90% reading/non-interactive?” Well, you hopefully now have an idea, as you’ve just read a whole review doing just that! When it comes down to it, if we begin to question and strictly define what makes a game a game, then we stand to be at risk at limiting what our wonderful medium can truly offer.  Though the Ace Attorney series is half (maybe more than half) visual novel, and half courtroom simulator, they sure are fantastic ones, Dual Destinies included!      

Dual Destinies throws the phrase “the dark age of the law” around a lot during the course of its story. That dark age is something that feels very personal to the characters in the game, and they are all heavily involved in trying to bring that age to a swift end. Along the way, Dual Destinies invites the player to think quite a lot about how far lawyers should go in their pursuit of their own sense of justice, and it challenges exactly what justice should mean. What is more important, after all: the ends at which we arrive, or the means used to get there? Dual Destinies isn’t the first Ace Attorney game to present some interesting philosophical quandaries to the player, and, here at BADGamingPodcast, we sincerely hope it isn’t the last. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies is a great game, and we hope you’ll give it a try, regardless of whether it’s your first game in the series or the sixth.

Score:

Brock:   8.5          Alex: 8.0                    BAD: 8.3

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