REVIEW: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

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Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies | Apollo

Apollo’s transformation is one of the more interesting aspects of the story.

Of course, the vehicles that carry the story are the characters, so, how well does the cast perform? In this case, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. Our new leading lady, Athena, is a great addition to the cast. She’s cocky and excitable, having only recently become an attorney. Being new to the law game (in every sense), she’s also the character through whom players new to the franchise will learn the game’s basic mechanics as the more experienced lawyers explain how things work. Phoenix has gone through something of a rebirth (HAHAHA!) himself.  After spending his first three games as the bumbling new guy, he’s settling in well playing mentor to Apollo and Athena. Additionally, we’ve known for months that Apollo would go through some changes after seeing the new images of him. There’s a good reason for this change, and seeing how and why Apollo follows his own path in Dual Destinies is one of the more interesting developments in the story. Probably one of the biggest disappointments in regards to Apollo is that fans who may have been looking for some closure on revelations revealed in Apollo Justice will have to hope for another game, because they aren’t discussed at all here. While I do feel that new players owe it to themselves to play through the previous games, Dual Destinies does a fair job of summarizing returning characters so they aren’t completely lost when someone shows up.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies | Blackquill

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies | Athena

Well said, Athena.

On the other side of the courtroom, we have one Simon Blackquill occupying the prosecutor’s bench. I found this guy… tiresome. It’s pretty clear early on that this guy’s gimmick is swords and samurai culture. It didn’t take long before I was saying “Yeah, I get it, you’re a badass samurai, you can stop now.” Rather than evolving into a deeper character like prosecutors Edgeworth and Gavin of games past, Blackquill sits in my mind as a one-trick pony that I could take or leave, along the lines of Franziska Von Karma and Godot from the earlier Ace Attorney titles. Fortunately, acting as backup to Blackquill, we have the new detective, Bobby Fulbright. Proven to be a quite capable law enforcement officer, Fulbright may lack the lovable buffoonery of good ol’ Detective Gumshoe, but he’s still almost instantly endearing due to his over-inflated sense of justice. Plus, his theme is probably the catchiest in the game:

Speaking of music, I was a little disappointed to see just how much of the music was recycled from previous games. Aside from each character’s theme song usually playing when they show up in a scene, the “Cornered” themes used for Phoenix and Apollo are the same ones from Phoenix Wright: Trials and Tribulations and Apollo Justice, respectively. Having said that, however, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The Ace Attorney games have some pretty memorable tracks, and do a great job of setting the mood in their music. I just wish I could think of more memorable original tracks outside the one I showcased above.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies | Fulbright

Gotta love this guy.

Dual Destinies has done a few things to streamline the experience, and fix a few of the franchise’s shortfalls in the past. First of all, the investigation portions of the game have become far less tedious than they used to be. For one, players can now travel to any given location, no matter where they are. No more traveling from point A to point B to point C to point D only to realize that you forgot something back at point A. Also, when examining crime scenes, the cursor is now marked with a circle or a check mark to help players keep track of items that have been, and still need to be, checked. Finally, the game now features a Notebook tab, which is extremely helpful in keeping players on task, and reminding them of what needs to be done next to advance the story.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies | Pop Culture

The game contains plenty of pop culture references.

Does this make the game too easy? Maybe, but I’ve always loathed the investigation sections, and finally having a way to move them along as quickly as possible to reach the vastly more entertaining court portions is a boon in my eyes. Possibly the biggest improvement, however, is the saving feature. When saving the game, players are no longer forced to return to the title screen as they were in every game since the original Ace Attorney. This may not seem like a big deal to those unfamiliar with the series, but it’s such a huge deal to returning players who have wanted to save before presenting an unsure piece of evidence. Dual Destinies is also the first game in the franchise to receive an M rating from ESRB. I was skeptical at first, but I can now say that the rating certainly was warranted. There is a fair amount of blood– more than has been shown in previous games– and, without giving too much away, there is a particular scene in the game’s final case that, while not explicitly showing anything, creates a mental image of what would certainly be one of the goriest moments in the franchise’s history.

While it’s a highly entertaining experience for the 25 or so hours it takes to complete, one of Dual Destinies’ biggest weaknesses, and one that I still don’t know how they can really address, is the nearly non-existent replay value. The Ace Attorney games have always been extremely story-driven, dialogue-heavy and linear to a fault. While most of the games’ cases are unforgettable the first time you play them, it’s almost impossible to recapture that same excitement after you know who the true culprit of each case is. We already know of one downloadable case that was released for the game, and, hopefully, it’ll make it’s way to English versions, as well. Even so, this will likely only add a few more hours to the game before falling into the same category as all the cases before it. The best you can do is come back a year or two later, and hope that you’ve forgotten enough of the details to squeeze at least a little of the same enjoyment you had the first time around. I guess the same could be said about any great story, though. You’ll never be able to capture the same excitement and emotion that you experienced the first time, but you’ll always look back on it fondly, and appreciate it for the classic that it is.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies | Victory

Review Score


Game purchased by the reviewer

About Tyler Lubben

Tyler is a lifelong gamer, getting his start on the Intellivision when he was three years old. After receiving his English degree, he discovered all those jokes about getting a job in his field were true. As Head Editor with oprainfall, Tyler is able to bridge his two passions; playing and talking about video games at any given opportunity, and being a total grammar nazi the rest of the time.

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  • ArtIristic

    This game sounds great. I’ve never played any of the earlier Ace Attorney games, and this sounds like a great place to start. The only thing bugging me is, like you said, the replay value. If I ever find one at a sale or a used copy i’ll probably pick it.
    Great review too. I always feel more comfortable with a review if its done by fan, because they see all of the small details, I dunno. 😛

    • jonathanrp

      unless you live in Japan, you’re not going to be finding a copy of this secondhand. The game is an eshop exclusive in the west.

    • ArtIristic

      Completely forgot about that. I guess, if I ever got spare cash then.

    • jonathanrp

      it’s a great buy, so i’d recommend it.

    • Kotaro

      While this one is probably the most user-friendly (and overall the easiest) game in the series, it really isn’t a good place to start. There are so many returning characters, and callbacks and references to previous plot points that you really are better off playing the earlier games first. They’re all excellent though–albeit some (Trials and Tribulations) better than others (Apollo Justice).

  • Thanatos2k

    Anyone skipping this game because of the whole digital thing is intentionally depriving themselves of an amazingly fun game. Don’t let yourself suffer!

    • jonathanrp

      thank you! I’m sick of the people trying to whiteknight and claim that they’re nto going to buy it because it’s digital only

    • madmofo145

      I can guarantee this will be my little Christmas gift to myself come Christmas. I hope that true Phoenix fans will eventually all hop on board since the reason it’s going digital only is the other games not selling well enough, so if a boycott succeeded the most likely effect would be to ensure that we don’t even get localizations of potential future games.

    • Jonny Paul Larkin

      I think it’s because of Nintendo’s policy of not tying sales to accounts. If it were more like Steam then no one would mind, or at least not care as much. I think the 3DS still has that on-system basis, so I guess there is some validity in their worry.

      But as a guy who has 130+ games on Steam, I’m not one to talk. I’d buy it on the 3DS digitally anyway.

  • Kyle Emch

    I’ve only gotten a little ways into the second case, but I’m kinda disappointed with the investigation section. I guess I’m one of those people who enjoyed checking out the little details in the background just for the dialogue between Phoenix/Apollo and his assistant.

  • Zelpok

    I’m currently on the 4th case, and I completely agree with your review. The new graphics are amazing, and while some of the movements are stiff, I loved that they actually recreated them from the originals.

    Also, spot on with Blackquill. In the 3 cases I met him in court, he has undergone no growth, and his antics are so tiresome. Honestly, I’d rather have one of the Payne’s as the prosecutor. (I also disagree putting him in the same category as Godot.)