Review: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies

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It’s tough to describe an Ace Attorney game to someone new to the franchise. It’s even tougher to make it sound fun, which is a real shame as each and every entry in the franchise has been an absolute joy.

Equal parts visual novel and adventure game with a liberal dose of soap opera/legal drama, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies lives up to the high standard set by the franchise. While it doesn’t do anything altogether new — excepting the new graphical upgrade — it’s a case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

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Dual Destinies follows the tried and true path of its predecessors with the game split into two halves. The investigation sections and the courtroom. During an episode — there are five in total — you’ll find yourself scouring several different locations for clues while talking to witnesses, suspects and the police to try and get your head around the case.

At crime scenes the game shifts into full on point-and-click mode. You’ll be tapping away at the 3DS touchscreen hoping to find that one elusive clue that can wrap up the case. It’s in the investigation sequences that you’ll meet Dual Destinies cast of oddball characters. It’s a strength of the series that so much whackiness is packed in, yet you can still empathise and enjoy the characters on a more real level. It’s helped by the fact that Phoenix and Apollo are both fairly grounded. They’re your in, in this crazy anime world.

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The other half of the game takes place in the courtroom. It’s here that Ace Attorney’s cross-examination comes into play. Using all of the evidence collected during the investigation phase and coupling it with contradictions in testimony, you’re able to reveal lies and hidden truths in a character’s statement. The delightful “OBJECTION!” catchphrase makes a welcome return and this time — thanks to being re-recorded — it sounds gorgeous.

Sometimes it does become quite difficult, even nigh on impossible, to figure out which piece of evidence can be used to reveal a contradiction and if you choose incorrectly the judge will penalise you. Lateral thinking is often required. What may seem like a perfectly logical and reasonable piece of evidence to use will not be the crucial piece the game and story demand. In these cases trial and error come into play and you may find yourself faced with a game over screen. Have no fear however, the punishment for a game over is simply a reload at your most recent point in the game. It may mean re-reading some dialogue ove again, but it’s much preferable than having to restart an entire sequence.

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There are some additional skills in the game used by Apollo Justice and newcomer Athena Cykes, however they are only ever able to be used at specific points during the story, and not whenever you please. Apollo’s skill returns from previous games. He uses the power of his magic bangle — that’s not a typo — to detect when a character has a nervous tic due to lying. By revealing the tic Apollo is able to draw out more information and get to the heart of truth.

Athena’s skill is similar and involves her abilities in psychoanalysis. By reading the emotions of a character during their testimony, Athena can use her Mood Matrix computer and determine if there are any anomalous emotions present during a testimony. For example, one character recalls almost being crushed by rubble, but Athena’s Mood Matrix determines that at the time the character recalls being happy. By confronting them with this evidence, the character will reveal additional information.

Both skills are interesting enough and help to break up the general procession of the game from point A to point B, but as they are both strictly controlled and only available when the story allows it, they’re little more than gimmicks. Fun, diversionary gimmicks, but gimmicks none the less.

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Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies will no doubt delight fans of the series. If you’ve never played any of the previous entrants Dual Destinies is a great place to start. The new 3D modelled characters, voice acted anime cutscenes and overall polish set it apart from it’s DS/iOS brethren.

If you’re a fan of visual novels, old school text based adventures or anime and Japanese subculture, you’d do well to check out Dual Destinies. It doesn’t re-invent the wheel, nor does it ever become an action packed thrill ride. It’s a slow burn that will challenge your mind and not your reflexes. And you know what, that’s ok. If for nothing else, give it a go because it’s a different experience. You never know, you might even have fun. I know I did.