It was during the very early months of 2008 that I played my first Ace Attorney game and realised exactly what had been missing from my life: sunshine, and time spent outdoors. No, it was in fact Phoenix Wright, the slightly incompetent but very, very lucky young lawyer with hedgehog hair that pulled at my heartstrings and made me chuckle at the most inopportune moments. Since then I’ve been a huge fan of the series, and while it took a little while to warm up, the latest instalment did not disappoint.
In case you’re new to the series, the Ace Attorney games follow Phoenix Wright through his adventures in life as a lawyer, defending those who often have nowhere else to go. He has an uncanny knack for attracting people that look incredibly guilty, regardless of their actual involvement in the crime, and often you find yourself questioning whether or not your faith in your client is well placed – and sometimes it isn’t. No spoilers about how things go in Dual Destinies, but as usual the cases are filled with so many plot twists that it can be hard to keep things straight and just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, you’ll be thrown somewhere new. That said, if you get stuck, you probably shouldn’t be worried. Phoenix is stuck frequently, and he’s supposed to be the professional.
With our often unwilling hero comes a whole new cast of characters, with some surprise appearances from old friends along the way. In this instalment, more than the previous games in the series, I found it a little hard to warm up to the new additions, perhaps out of some lingering loyalty to the old Detective Gumshoe in particular, who in Dual Destinies is replaced by Detective Fulbright, a bundle of energy and undying optimism whose true love in life is justice. For the record, the main comment I have about this game is how strange I found it that he didn’t react to Apollo Justice, Phoenix’s apprentice attorney, given that his name is Justice. I kept waiting for him to give me information just because of the name, and… he didn’t. A minor spoiler, I know, but I don’t want to give anyone false hope that the moment is coming. It isn’t an implausible thing to be looking for, either – the Ace Attorney series is known for its puns.
I know I’m talking a lot about the characters, but they’re what really make these games great. Every one of them is almost a caricature, but they still manage to be deep, complicated beings with strong convictions and motives that logically form the people they ultimately are. The writing is superb and the story is always engaging, and though there are twists and turns all over the place you aren’t ultimately left with the feeling that things didn’t make sense. This logical flow as you solve the cases step by step encourages you to persist when you run into hurdles instead of just giving up, and things never really get too hard – nor do they feel too easy. There is a hint system to help you out if you get stuck and a notebook to remind you of your current task, but I personally didn’t really find that I used them – and I’m someone that gets frustrated and gives up quite easily.
The hint system aside, there are some additions to the gameplay that keep things exciting. Each of the cases in the game has two phases to it – investigation and trial. Investigation involves attempting to extract information from everyone that’s somehow involved with the crime through a series of dialogue exchanges, as well as the examination of different areas that are relevant to the case. You then take this information to trial, and it is there that you will try to put everything together and use what you’ve been told to expose inconsistencies in witness testimony. Each of Phoenix’s apprentices, Apollo and Athena (you’ll notice the themed names here) have their own special skill that they can use to help you find contradictions in witness statements, both during court and while you’re conducting your investigation. For Apollo, it’s a bracelet that essentially turns his body into a lie detector of sorts, honing in on the “tells” people exhibit when they lie, and for Athena, a student of “analytical psychology” (no, it’s not a real thing) it’s a high tech gadget that allows her to detect discord between people’s emotions and what they’re actually exhibiting. In a game where finding contradictions and exposing lies are key, you’ll see how these things can be very useful – and make for a slightly varied gaming experience.
The series has made a couple of leaps forward in its transition to the 3DS, with the addition of some amped up animations for each character, and for the first time, actual cutscenes. There aren’t that many of them, but it is worth noting that this is the first time Capcom has hired actual voice actors instead of just using their existing staff to occasional yell ‘objection’. Personally, I’m not such a fan of the voice actors they’ve chosen, and I think that they took more away from the polish of the game than what they added, but it is good to see that they’re trying to move forward with this kind of thing. As always, the soundtrack to the game is fitting, and there are some nice little sound effects to go with the new animations – most of the things they’ve added really do feel like a step up.
If you’ve never played one of the games before, there are some characters that might be wasted on you, but the only way I can recommend that you remedy that is for you to go back and play all the old games, and to promise that it would be worth it. If that’s not an option, you shouldn’t definitely pick this one up anyway. The ending is amazing, and these games really do have a charm that’s unlike any other, and that has to be seen to be understood. Plus, they’re kind of hilarious – especially if you like slightly awful puns and/or sassy prosecutors.
Select Start Media was provided with a review copy of Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies by Capcom.