Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies Review

By Shawn Collier on December 19, 2013

When Capcom first localized the original Phoenix Wright game on the Nintendo DS, they didn't expect it to become the cult classic it's regarded as today. After the release of the first two "original" sequels, the publisher then continued with Apollo Justice, which brought some new elements to the table. However, it also served to alienate many of the longtime fans who felt newcomer Apollo wasn't up to snuff compared to the series mainstay Phoenix Wright. After a few years to reflect, Capcom is back with the fifth main entry in the series: Dual Destinies. Is it a rebirth of the series or another Apollo Justice?

Dual Destinies takes place a year after the events of Apollo Justice, which revealed that Phoenix Wright was set up when he lost his attorney's badge. Shortly before the game begins he re-obtains his badge and returns to the profession of law.However, due to what happened to him, a "dark age" of the law has settled in where both attorneys and prosecutors will resort to tricks, such as false evidence if it means they can secure their win. Phoenix Wright then makes it his mission to rid this from the courtroom.

In Apollo Justice, Phoenix was somewhat of a mentor for Apollo, so in Dual Destinies Apollo gets to fulfill this role via newcomer Athena Cykes. She's a prodigy from Europe who got her attorney's badge at the young age of 18 years old. With this implementation, the dynamic between the two redeems Apollo from his initial outing as his character is much more developed this time around.

Like previous Ace Attorney games, Dual Destinies is divided into five cases, each with two distinct phases: investigations and trials. The former involves talking to witnesses and bystanders while moving through different areas of the crime environment. Doing so either discovers new clues, opens new areas or updates older ones with new things to check. The goal of this mode is to gather enough objects and statements to put in the Court Record (a "backpack" of sorts for evidence in the game) for use against the opposing prosecutor in the trial phase.

The latter phase, however, is the real meat of the game. During each trial witnesses will take the stand and testify. After their initial testimony is finished, the player has the opportunity to press them for more information about their claims. Often times this leads to deeper levels of questioning as, for example, you tear away at a witness's fabricated statement to expose the lies they're hiding. This is where the evidence comes into play as often times evidence will be required, either by the witness or the prosecutor to move forward. There's occasions where the right evidence won't make sense until you actually use it making the process a guessing game, but for the most part if you're paying attention it's not too hard to deduce what to choose.

Apollo and Athena have their own unique abilities that can be used in the courtroom. Apollo's "perceive system" mechanic from Apollo Justice returns, which turns time into slow-motion when someone is lying. When using this, the top screen will be zoomed-in to allow the player to find a tell during a specific segment of their statement. This can be used to prove they're lying.

Athena's powers are based in psychology, as she can detect the discord in someone's voice, as well as when they have conflicting emotions. This can be done via her "Mood Matrix" system, which is powered by the robot named Widget worn on her neck. Four emotions appear when this system is used: happiness, sadness, shock and fear.

Sometimes you'll have two or three emotions at once, making it easy to figure out the wrong emotion. At other times however, you'll be needing to find a lack of emotion or something similar. This then goes back to a combination of text, imagery and emotions as well as the evidence you hold to figure out the missing emotion. It's a great expansion on Apollo's powers and is a welcome change to the Ace Attorney formula.

Like in the previous entries, making a bad judgment and choosing a wrong answer gives you a penalty, five of which cause you to lose the case entirely. One nice thing about Dual Destinies is that you can jump back to where you lost in the trial to try again. While you can save and exit back to the title screen to get around the penalty altogether, the system makes it easy enough to get back in without having to resort to that. And besides, the banter between the characters when a completely idiotic choice is chosen is worth the penalty anyway.

One issue, which has been a stickler in the series, is that the evidence and systems haven't been given more variety in their uses. There were a few times when a tell from a witness will make you want to use Apollo or Athena's powers or present a piece of evidence which would immediately thrown their testimony into question. The game, however, doesn't recognize this and makes you wait till the "right" time to employ it. Thus, players who pieced things together too early will have to essentially ignore the evidence until it becomes the right time to confront it. This isn't the norm, thankfully, but when it does occur it's a nuisance of sorts.

Graphically, Dual Destinies is a clear improvement over the 2D artwork found in the Nintendo DS releases. The developers modeled everything in 3D, but employed artistic tricks to make it appear like the Nintendo DS titles with 3D-ish motions being employed for the important stuff like "OBJECTION!" or when a character makes a movement on the stand. There's also a few times, such as during important statements, when the camera rotates around the courtroom in a 360 degree motion. All in all it feels like Phoenix Wright artistically, but isn't tied to the design choices that were implemented back during the original Game Boy Advance release.

Final Thoughts

While Phoenix Wright: Dual Destinies does tread some of the same ground as its predecessors, to a fault at times, the developers did a good job of bringing in new players while keeping the hardcore fans from feeling left out like they did with Apollo Justice. The new gameplay additions and the great chemistry between the characters makes for an entertaining tale and lays the ground for future Phoenix Wright titles in the future.

Apollo is redeemed.
The abilities of Apollo and Athena.
The graphical update is solid enough.
You still can't do things in the courtroom until the game is ready.
Sometimes the right evidence doesn't make sense.
The investigations can feel a little shallow.
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