Not familiar with the Ace Attorney series? Well, you can be somewhat forgiven as the games have never quite hit the same lofty heights in the West as over in Japan, where it began life on the Game Boy Advance under its local name of Gyakuten Saiban (which translates as 'Turnabout Trial' in literal terms). It was only when the first game was remade for Nintendo DS that Capcom finally gave it a shot over in the US, with a helping hand from Nintendo in Europe. Despite critical acclaim across the first three DS remakes of the GBA originals, as well as plaudits for the DS-specific fourth entry, Ace Attorney: Apollo Justice, sales still never hit dizzy heights, leaving the fate of the series' future here in the balance. Thankfully, in order to get the fifth title - the first on 3DS - out as quickly as possible, Capcom has decided the safest route is bringing Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies out as an eShop exclusive. Issues that fans may have with that aside, the pertinent point has to be whether or not this lives up to the series' heritage.
It has been four years since Apollo Justice hit retail, but in terms of in-game time passage, the events of the fifth main entry, Dual Destinies, take place a year later with Phoenix Wright ready to step back into the ring, earning his Attorney's badge once more after shaking off the cobwebs that had built up after being disbarred. A now far more mature Wright is still in charge of the Wright Anything Agency, which houses some oddball talent, in the form of Apollo Justice, his adopted daughter Trucy, and newcomer Athena Cykes. Together, though, they make an unstoppable force in the pursuit of justice in the midst of corruption in the judicial system.
Coming as part of the series norm, all manner of weird and wonderful characters, from the hilarious to downright kooky, and even ominous and intimidating, can be found in Dual Destinies. They all help to build up and deliver an extremely well-crafted set of scenarios that are just as gripping and fun-filled as previous games. With writer Shu Takumi side-tracked with the Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney collaboration with Level-5, just as he had a lesser role on Apollo Justice after stepping away to do Ghost Trick, there may be some concerns of the sturdiness of the text, but all avenues cleverly tied together with some very sharp wit injected into conversations to help keep it in-step with its predecessors.
The premise still revolves around turning around what seem like hopeless situations, defending those that are actually innocent, yet stuck in almost insurmountable quandaries. Everything is split into two sections: the first being an almost point-and-click-esque adventure where locations are scoured for clues and people are interrogated for key information, and the second being a courtroom-based setting.
With five cases to crack, each one lasting a few hours each, this is one meaty outing and can last even longer if players decided to explore every nook and cranny, going through every permutation of showing evidence and key items to those met along the way to the next court battle. Whilst that may sound like an arduous, and perhaps even tedious, route to go down, the script is full of such quirky humour that it really should not be missed out on. There are also times where, in the heat of court proceedings, certain snippets of peripheral conversation will actually be of benefit when attempting to deliver the correct statement or produce the right piece of evidence to find the contradiction in a witness' testimony (or should that be testiphony, as is often the case?).
There is a lot of familiarity whilst playing through Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies, which may lead some to grow bored at particular stages where the whole 'investigate-court' to and fro process feels too pedestrian. However, Capcom seemingly realised this may happen, and has tried to mix up the action as much as possible. Therefore, players can take control of various different leads during the cases - Phoenix, Apollo, Athena, and so on - and although it does not alter the way the game plays, their unique personalities and wacky traits are varied enough to make a strong impression.
On the gameplay front, though, each attorney has special techniques for squeezing information out of people - from Athena's 'Mood Matrix' that offers the ability to hear strain and oddities in people's voices, to Apollo's way of perceiving when lies are being told by analysing telltale signs that give the subject away, and even the classic 'Psyche Lock' where Phoenix must show evidence to break down a witness' stubbornness to reveal pertinent points - and despite some maybe believing them to be gimmicky, they certainly add an extra edge to the tense back and forth's between the defence team and overly harsh prosecution. There is also the welcomed addition of the 'Thought Route' that strongly resembles the 'Logic' system from Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth, whereby players work through a flowchart of sorts, tying together vital facts to conclude upon an oft-case-turning clue.
Some of the past irritations have also been removed. For instance, there were many times where not knowing where to go next was extremely frustrating, with each location having to be visited numerous times until one or two minor triggers had been achieved. Now, though, there is a 'notes' section that offers advice on where to head next. There are still some instances where one or two dead ends are reached, and resorting to showing all evidence in-hand to anyone may occur, but at least the frequency has been considerably reduced to a far more palatable amount. There is also the chance to read through all previous conversations in case something was zipped past too quickly by an accidental press of the action button. The same positive change process goes for the moments in court where the answer to a poser is rather obvious, but locating that key piece of evidence in the Court Record (the equivalent of a standard Inventory) can prove taxing, and with a penalty system imposed by the presiding Judge, far too many wrong turns result in an unwarranted 'Guilty' verdict being dished out due to unsatisfactory defence duties.
With streamlined gameplay, wonderful audio, the addition of some voiced scenes, a fantastic transition of the 2D art of old into an impressive 3D rendered form without losing its charm, as well as a simply hilarious script full of twists and turns to keep players guessing, Dual Destinies is a true gem that cannot be put down until completion. Get over that hurdle of it being a download-only game and grab this today!
Rather than a mere 'investigate, court battle, investigate…and so on' formula, Capcom has tried to ensure the gameplay is as varied as possible, keeping the core of the series, but fleshing it out with new interrogation techniques.
The Ace Attorney series is renowned for its highly characterised cast, with all sorts of wonderful reactions and hilarious mannerisms adding to the fun factor. Now, with this 3DS outing, the 2D artwork has been expertly rendered in polygonal form without losing any of the original charm, and the extra hardware power even comes into play by allowing for greater exploration in the investigation process. Throw in some animated cut-scenes and this is a masterpiece!
As with the visual stakes, Phoenix Wright and company have always played out their wacky antics over the background of some amazing compositions that somehow start off extremely understated, yet magically transform into tunes that lodge themselves in gamers' minds forever and a day. This time round there is also voice acting during the animated sequences that feels surprisingly natural, despite characters never being voiced before in-game.
With a whole host of past characters to interact with during the adventure, as well as some brilliant new cast members, all with a plethora of conversational avenues to explore, sifting through the entirety of the superb script is an absolute joy. Add in the download content available, with a costume pack to start with and a sixth episode - separate from the main story - coming in the near future, and once again the world has another Ace Attorney game on its hands.
Simply sublime work from Capcom! Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies takes the best elements from the previous four main entries, as well as a pinch of excellence from the Ace Attorney Investigations spin-off, and amalgamates everything into one extremely special package, complete with fresh ideas that alleviate any minor issues people may have had with the series in the past. It is onwards and upwards for Ace Attorney, with certainly no objections to be found anywhere, especially at the cut price of £19.99 on Nintendo 3DS eShop!
I'm really interested in trying out this series but a lack of a handy collection to catch up with the story is holding me back. I think they had something like that on iOS before but that's not an option for me.
Loved the first three games, haven't played Apollo or ME. Definitely want to get on this - Phoenix all the way! Cracking review Adam-san.
SirLink - have you considered the WiiWare versions?
Jorge - thanks Are you playing through AA5 now? I'd say AA4 is a must before doing AA5...AAI: ME is well written and the Logic system is great (glad they brought it across in some form for AA5).
Has anyone checked the eShop charts to see how this is performing?
I haven't played any since the first, but is still want to pick this up. I figured it wouldn't matter too much missing the others, I could get used to the characters, I think,
I haven't turned my DS off since I started it. I'm on the fourth turnabout - it's addictive, if yet better than previous ones. It does ramp up the length of the cases pretty quickly though. I'm really hoping two of my favorite characters turn up at some point too >.<
Bloody brilliant game and overall a worthy addition to the mainseries, especially coming from the team who did the (imo) sub-par Investigations.
I do have some criticisms in that the crime scenes sometimes feel more complicated-for-the-sake-of-complicated rather than the genius some of the previous games. And it sometimes feels like every moment in every case is a "just barely clinging" moment that previous games only used sometimes.. it makes it feel less desperate when it happens every few seconds y'know? Almost every objection is almost instantly 1-up'd, you never really feel like a smart lawyer despite playing as smart lawyers. It seemingly has but a fraction of the "ownage" moments that a lot of people loved about the previous games.
However noting that I've thought back and realised that it's a really appropriate way to tell a story about the dark age of the law. I think I'll be replaying this soon after the DLC case comes out in order to re-evaluate how things are told.
And despite those criticisms I thoroughly loved it from beginning to end and desperately want a 6th installment soon, if only because I think the new AA team are more likely to eventually match the quality of something like AA3 if they keep trying because they've already improved in leaps and bounds.
I downloaded the demo and liked it, but then I balked at the price for it; $30, which I checked, it looks like it's around the same price over there in Pounds. That felt like way too much for a digital download; about the same price as a physical copy would cost. I was expecting to to be closer to $15-20. Would you say it's worth it, though?
Would you say it's worth it, though?
As an Ace Attorney fan, I couldn't go wrong!