Published on October 25th, 2013 | by Michaela Buckley0
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies
Finally fans get to see the return of our beloved Phoenix Wright, the defence lawyer who featured in the first three games of the Ace Attorney series, who took a bit of a backseat with the DS instalment, Apollo Justice. It’s been a long wait for the latest Ace Attorney game, I have been highly anticipating this next release on the Nintendo 3DS, especially after I got to try out a 45 minute demo at Hyper Japan 2013 earlier this year.
The Ace Attorney series debuted in Japan on the Gameboy Advance back in 2001, but didn’t reach our shores until the remakes on DS were localised and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney was released in 2005. It was an unexpected success for Capcom, the conservative party of bullshit, and they decided that they would release the rest, Justice for All and Trials and Tribulations, with similar positive reception. The game is a typical visual novel styled Adventure game, set in two segments, the courtroom appearances and the investigations. After a change of protagonist, Apollo Justice was released on the DS set seven years after the events of Trials & Tribulations and Phoenix Wright has retired as a lawyer.
With Ace Attorney’s focus on the new crossover game with Level 5’s Professor Layton, I thought we wouldn’t be seeing more from my favourite lawyer, but then Gyakuten Saiban 5 (Turnabout Trial 5, the Japanese name of Ace Attorney) was announced. Unfortunately, the lacklustre sales of a spinoff Ace Attorney game and the refusal to release its sequel has meant that Capcom have essentially lost faith in the series in the west, so for the first time ever, Ace Attorney is going to be a digital release only here.
Dual Destinies sees Nick return to practising law after the events of Apollo Justice and has a new assistant lawyer to boot. Athena Cykes has recently passed the bar and is starting at Phoenix Wright’s law firm Wright Anything Agency. Apollo also features in the game, making a return to the Trials & Tribulations style of multiple protagonists. It has a number of new features to boast, apart from being in 3D, Athena brings her ‘Mood Matrix’ to the table which allows you to judge the emotions of a witness during their testimony. This is fairly similar to the also returning ability of Apollo’s from the previous game, slowing down time to ‘perceive’ the nervous sleights of characters, and like Athena’s, allows you to hone in on specific sentences during cross examinations.
With three characters to play as in the game, you’d be surprised to find that it hasn’t cramped the game’s style and pacing, you can’t change between them at will, each is assigned his/her own case, all of which are as airtight as usual and the new characters are just as exuberant and odd as before, the new features have given a fun change to the game mechanics, this mostly feels like a fresh update to slightly dated gameplay, but it comes with a risk of trivialising some of the important characters in the game. It’s a little ludicrous the amount of semi-supernatural occurrences with almost everyone having a gift of their own, perhaps the designers felt that the characters wouldn’t be interesting or serve the gameplay without special powers, but the game would have done nicely without the plot clutter.
Things have taken a darker turn in this instalment, with more sinister emotional conflicts with key characters as well as the cutscenes offering up a grimmer depiction of the murders involved. Courtroom sections feel much the same especially as there are no animated cutscenes, however the investigative sections are peppered with them as well as the enjoyable approach to the 3-Dimensional crime scenes which you can change your perspective of. You can also check notes in order to keep on track with progress. The criminals are just as guessable as ever though, but it’s still fun to see how each one manages to inevitably implicate themselves with their own testimony. It makes me wonder whether criminals in the Ace Attorney world wouldn’t just always get away with it if only they just didn’t testify! The translation has undergone a somewhat different tone than previously, with more colloquial terms and phrases being used, but ultimately works well.
Music has become less bit-inspired and more orchestral, much like the Miles Edgeworth Investigations series, it is somewhat less catchy possibly due to this, but it is interesting to hear new versions of older songs in the new format. Sound effects are much the same as in previous games, but the courtroom exclamations are now different as this game has some limited voice acting during cutscenes. The voice acting is not particularly great, but that’s not a bad thing as it fits the tone of the game. People sound different to how I expected and are pretty cheesy, the only negative is that there is now a bit of a Professor Layton-ey vibe about it.
The biggest departure is the presentation, the upgrade in the console and the 3D emphasis have allowed the series to make some relatively superficial adjustments in terms of visuals. Now there are semi-3D models in the stead of the old 2D sprites, which still retain the animé aesthetic. For those with the fortune of being able to experience 3D fully, it isn’t eye-popping as other titles on the 3DS, but as someone who is stereoscopically impaired, I thought that it was the closest I ever got to seeing 3D, so is therefore, good. The game looks good, even with nostalgic, retro goggles on, the animations are true to the original and everything feels consistent with other games in the series, the only issue being some between screen dissonance with some of the moving objects not looking quite so crisp on the upper screen.
Progressively a much more mature approach to Ace Attorney games, amusingly offset with the signature ridiculousness and endearing characters that we all love from the series, which isn’t showing any signs of slowing down; Dual Destinies does much to improve the mechanics and be more welcoming to newbies, while also giving fans the Phoenix Wright we deserve. Anyone who has followed thus far won’t be disappointed.
We can only hope Capcom does the right thing and gives us our currently untranslated Ace Attorney Investigations 2 we’ve been waiting for in the wake of this stunning and immersive adventure.