Court’s Back In Session
It’s been awhile since Phoenix Wright graced a Nintendo handheld–a sabbatical of over five years to be precise. Even then, the ace attorney was not Phoenix himself, but Apollo Justice, another star defense attorney. Well, a new courtroom title was long overdue, and thankfully, the rekindling of the series is nothing short of the best entry yet. Not only does Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies bring back one of Capcom and Nintendo’s most iconic protagonists, but it is a huge stride in the technical department compared to prior titles.
After being wrongfully accused of murder and disbarred from practicing law, Phoenix is picking up the pieces and starting anew with his own law firm. With the help of his fiery assistant Athena Cykes and fan-favorite Apollo Justice, Phoenix is once again beckoned to court after the story begins with a bang–literally. A time bomb was detonated at the courthouse during a trial, with those in attendance barely making out before the explosion occurred. Juniper Woods, a spectator and friend of Athena, is being accused of planting the bomb, and our ace attorney must defend her innocence.
We are drawn right into the courtroom, where the intense action will feel very familiar to any who have played the previous games. The sequence consists of evidence being presented, and witnesses providing testimonies. You must then analyze the validity of each statement and expose any incongruities. This is accomplished by matching a piece of evidence or other clue that refutes the claim of the person on the stand. Choose wrong, however, and your “health” bar depletes, subjecting your client to a guilty verdict should the bar be completely drained. If there are no viable contradictions to the testimony, you can “Press” the witness for more information.
Athena brings with her a new feature to the game, called the Mood Matrix. This allows you to view the mood of the witness during each statement, be it happy, sad, angry, or surprised. Sometimes, a mood marker will feel out of place, which you can then “Pinpoint” to have the witness think harder about that particular subject. Success will alter the story, ultimately disclosing the “True Testimony.” Another small but handy addition to this game is the ability to view a conversation backlog, allowing you to sift through the dialogue and manually search for clues in the text.
Outside of the courtroom, there’s little deviation in the game mechanics from past titles when it comes to the investigative work. You’ll wander your stylus over crime scenes to uncover clues and evidence as well as question/interrogate witnesses, all of which are logged for convenient use back in the courtroom. However, Capcom has added a little more depth when it comes to combing the crime scenes. The camera can be panned around the locations to offer different vantage points, which allows for a thorough search of the area, usually resulting in the discovery of hidden clues.
Overall, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies plays more like an interactive novel than a video game. The A button will get a nice thumb grove from sifting through all the dialogue. However, this certainly isn’t a bad thing. Phoenix Wright games have always managed to successfully mingle quirky attitudes with grisly murders. The good guy/bad guy courtroom drama is a battle of words in the most literal sense possible. Every objection and piece of accusation-backing evidence strikes like a blow to the stomach of the attorney across the room. If you’ve followed the chronicles of Phoenix Wright up to this point, Dual Destinies does not disappoint. And the English localization team gets a big thumps up for their solid translation of the script.
Technically, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies is leaps and bounds ahead of previous entries. When you consider that most of the preceding games were initially released for the Game Boy Advance and then remade for the Nintendo DS, having this latest title built from the ground up for the 3DS gives it plenty of visual shine. The character animations are incredibly fluid, which gives a better portrayal of each character’s personality and current state of mind. However, they are stock animations, and being so smooth, it’s rather disillusioning to see them “snap” from one position to another with a new train of thought.
The 3D effect is also one of the most engrossing I have seen for the system. I’ll admit that I keep the slider turned off for most 3DS games, but it should absolutely be cranked to the max for Dual Destinies . Not only does it aid you during investigations of crime scenes, but also it gives the courtroom a grandeur that almost feels intimidating. It also gives a nice sense of distance between yourself, your assistant Athena, the opposing prosecutor, and the witnesses on the stand. Not to mention, Phoenix’s signature finger point, “Objection!” feels like it slaps you right in the face.
The audio is also much improved from past titles. The sound effects and vocals have all been completely redone, and everything sounds clean and adds punch to exclamation points. The various soundtracks have a familiarity with past orchestrations, just with a lot more fullness thanks to the increased clarity and higher fidelity of the 3DS. Another welcome inclusion is the fully voiced cutscenes, with Capcom actually hiring professional actors rather than simply using members of the development team as in the past.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies is an interesting juxtaposition between what’s been presented in the past and what advancements have been made. On one side, we have the same basic principles that have given the series its success: five lengthy cases filled with odd characters, odd behaviors, a grim series of events, and a simple mixture of investigative work and courtroom battles. And yet we have gorgeous new animations, new features for discovering the truth in court, and 3D environments to ply your forensic skills, none of which seem like forced additions. It’s nice to see our legal hero dust off his suit and return to the courtroom, and hopefully we’ll have more cases to win sooner rather than later.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.4 Graphics
I can’t say enough about how nice the character animations are… except when they jump back and forth to the neutral position. The 3D effect is worth cranking up for this game. 4.0 Control
It’s mostly spamming the A button, with a few touch-screen taps here and there. It’s as easy as it gets, but sometimes you’ll wish there was more work for your fingers. 4.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Voice-acted cutscenes and powerful effects that verbally pummel your opponents in the courtroom. The varied music is appropriate, though sometimes overpowers the scene. 4.2 Play Value
Like a good novel, each case is deep and filled with plot twists. If you loved the Phoenix Wright games of the past, you’ll feel right at home. 4.2 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend|
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid||2.5 – 2.9 = Average||3.5 – 3.9 = Good||4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy|
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor||3.0 – 3.4 = Fair||4.0 – 4.4 = Great||5.0 = The Best|