Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies: As We Play

As we play offers the thought strands of the reviewer as they’re going through the game. This offers unique content for the reader so they can come to understand the conflicting feelings of the reviewer as they’re playing a game for the very first time.

All feedback on this concept is welcome.

Court is back in session

Court is now back in session for another new entry in Capcom’s long standing Ace Attorney series. The Ace Attorney video-games may not sell millions of copies, but they’re a perfect example of why something can still succeed thanks to its dedicated fans.

For the uninitiated, the concept behind each Ace Attorney game is to prove a client’s innocence. This is done by making use of evidence in court to eventually find out the truth. This applies to Capcom’s latest title in the series, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies.

One of the first new features that players will come across are the new fancy anime style cut scenes. These are presented in high quality and with voice – although it’s somewhat puzzling as to why there is no option for turning subtitles on.

For lawyers: New and Old

It’s a lot easier for newcomers to get acquainted with the series through these cut-scenes – since it’s more enjoyable to get into each case presented after viewing some of the events in motion.

The story is still one of the highlights of playing an Ace Attorney video-game. Even from the start, it’s easy to see that this is some of the best story lines in an Ace Attorney title, but also one that feels most relevant. It’s not the first Ace Attorney adventure that isn’t a port, yet it’s easier to relate to some of the jokes heard throughout each case.

This time around, not only did the shorter release gap between Japanese and English releases improve the script, it also feels like the translating process was done so that any any jokes or facts are easily understood.

Those who have played every Ace Attorney video-game should be familiar with any back story. But I still feel like some sort of video recap in the menu or even text would have been beneficial for those who are new to the series.

It’s nothing major, since the game tends to do short introductions for returning characters, but it just feels like there is still a lot of vital back story that new players are missing out on. Perhaps it’s the perfect chance for them to go back and play through all four(five English games with Miles Edgeworth spin off) previous titles since DS titles are compatible with 3DS hardware.

You’ll always remember your first case

Anyone that played the demo for Dual Destinies is in for a treat as the first case is completely different. For those new to the series, the concept of each case is to investigate different areas and question people. Players gather evidence/information then use this evidence to find contradictions in witness testimony and hopefully prove a client’s innocence.

The first case actually skips the investigation process and goes right to the courtroom action. It is a lot simpler to pinpoint contradictions in testimony with the aid of evidence. This is mostly due to improvements in the script(as already mentioned).

The whole interface has seen some minor improvements such as a track-pad that moves a pointer on the top screen via touch screen or analogue stick. This feature is used a few times whilst playing all cases and works really well. This makes the task of examining evidence closer a lot less painful.

There are a few jokes which will refer to past Ace Attorney video-games – such as one about incriminating evidence. It’s a fantastic way of pleasing fans that have supported the series for years.

The story itself is very interesting from the first case. Unusually, it’s not the typical short case where players are eased in. Instead, it asks new players if they want to go through some quick tutorials. Those that are familiar with game mechanics can just jump right in. It’s the best way of ensuring that different players can still get into the story.

In fact, as briefly mentioned, it feels like the logic that goes behind solving each mystery is superb. It feels natural to successfully figure out what is going on and even more when compared to previous instalments. If anything, the first case manages to set some rather high standards for the remainder of the story.

Those that are new may struggle and that is where the game’s decision to include a functional partner comes in handy. Presenting evidence incorrectly will result in losing a small segment from a green bar. The partner will highlight the statement that is incorrect, after getting it wrong a few times, but it’s still up to the player to submit the correct evidence.

It’s a fair way of helping players without making it too easy. It does get somewhat harder later on, but examining every nugget of info will make life a lot easier. If all fails, there is always the handy save feature to save at any point.

Fans of the series will no doubt enjoy the fact odd ball characters are making a return. Each character ties in with the absolutely mental story that he or she is part of. Just playing through the first case revealed an odd fella who tried to only speak via an electronic device attached to his wrist.

Getting to the bottom of things

Starting the first investigation phase will reveal some new changes that sure makes life easier. There is a new “Notes” tab that came in handy the moment it was found. Simple yet it made it a lot easier to keep track of current tasks during investigation phase. This was an issue that sometimes made it somewhat confusing to keep track of what to do in previous titles.

Exploring a crime scene now consists of moving around the area to see it from different views. Each section investigated is highlighted with a tick – which was a clever idea that meant not having to click every section repeatedly to get every bit of evidence.

Previous Ace Attorney games took place in bizarre locations. But this is on a whole new level. Just the sighting of wrestlers in animal masks in the second case should prove this point.

Interestingly enough, powers used in previous Ace Attorney games make a comeback. Not only that but they have been improved and are simpler to use.

Then you think you’ve seen everything until the game surprises you with witty narrative lines such as “First world problem”. It’s done in such a manner that use of such modern terms never feels out of place. It just makes it feel more relevant.

Any special powers used up to this point didn’t seem to carry any health bar penalties. It certainly made it less stressful.

It’s only the second case but it’s clear that Athena is a great addition. She is someone who is helpful and the player can rely on to come up with ways to get the truth.

Seems like the concept of no penalties for making wrong deductions during sections with special powers is incorrect. Some risk in Athena’s ability when presenting evidence that contradicts a point. Still, her ability is nothing short of impressive.

There has hardly been a moment up to case two where progress was hindered by getting lost. A new feature where the player reviews all evidence before cracking a case wide open is interesting. Such a simple yet effective feature. Brings focus back to the facts and what is needed to solve the case.

There are plenty of surprises that will bring a smile to fans. It’s vague but a necessary solution to ensure that anyone new or a fan of Ace Attorney can truly enjoy all the wonderful surprises in-store.

As mentioned, Athena’s Mood Matrix continues to be a fascinating idea when it is used again in the third case. It’s a lovely addition to the series that helps flesh out a witness’s testimony.

This is without question the wildest Ace Attorney yet. No spoilers, but it just seems to get better and better each time in terms of the story. It’s sarcastic at times and will most likely make players crack a smile on more than one occasion. The quality of the script can put the story in some AAA titles to shame.

It’s very difficult to find a video-game that is able to get away with a line like”That’s one abused laptop.”. This is most likely due to a strong cast of returning characters and new additions such as Athena.

There is no denying that it will get harder with each case, but it just makes it the better to expect a new challenge every time.

The idea of layered background works really well.. This new style makes good use of the 3D effects and characters have never looked this good before.

It gets progressively harder to guess killer before the grand finale in later cases. This is fantastic as it keeps players on the edge.

Analytical Psychology to the rescue

The mood matrix visuals really help immerse player in what is being shown. It’s all presented with the aid of subtle animations to help players. The whole point of the Mood Matrix is to find contradictions in the emotions that a witness is feeling when speaking each testimony line.

The investigation and trial phases worked really well and it’s difficult to ever feel lost. There were a few occasions during some of the trial phases where the logic behind contradictions felt somewhat far fetched. But it’s still an improvement on previous Ace Attorney games where it was possible to get stuck on a few occasions.

Whilst the return of old powers such as Apollo’s truth bracelet are welcome – it’s Athena’s ability that made for some memorable courtroom showdowns. In fact, her whole personality is a welcome addition to what is already a superb group of characters. The fact it’s more lenient when using powers makes the process enjoyable – specially since it gets rather tricky later into game.

Some of the voice in the anime cut-scenes can get a bit irritating. There’s also a couple of minor text issues found throughout. It’s a very small price to pay in return for getting what is undeniable one of the most interesting titles out this year.

High quality courtroom drama

This is not only a fascinating continuation in the series, but it’s also a triumph for Capcom who continue to improve one of their best series in recent years. It’s not without some minor flaws, such as getting confused on some rare occasions, but it will captivate players for many hours. The upcoming downloadable content case also seems promising as it might result in a more effective way of bridging the gap between Ace Attorney releases. Even the idea of a digital release might make this latest Ace Attorney the most popular yet.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies is the sort of reason that made Nintendo’s two screen hand-held an essential. It’s no exception here and there are certainly no objections raised when saying that this is a must play for 3DS owners.

PS: No laptops were abused in the making of this As We Play review.