REVIEW: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies [3DS]

I think there’s something to be said about games where you are a working shlub. You aren’t trying to save a princess, you aren’t killing hordes of soldiers or (sigh) zombies, you are a guy who goes to work, every day, and does the best that he can at that job. They are quite refreshing and give you a nice insight into a career you would otherwise never experience. When I first bought a DS, all those years ago, I did so almost exclusively so that I could play the first Ace Attorney game, and frankly I’ve been jonesing for a fix for the last couple of years.

Dual Destinies is the fifth game in the main series about the day-to-day life of Phoenix Wright, who is a lawyer in what is the worst legal system in the world. He’s joined by Apollo Justice, protagonist from the last game and all ’round nice young man, and Athena Sykes, even younger upstart and empath.

Each of the protagonists have a fun little gimmick that sets them apart. Phoenix’s minigame is basically the same as the main game, Apollo looks for “tells” during lies and Athena gives computerised therapy sessions to determine contradictory emotions. Every character in the series is designed in such a way to make them unique and stand out in this very anime style world. The game looks stunning and the sound design (admittedly most often used to hear “Objection!” yelled by your current protagonist) fits really really well.

Storyline-wise, the game takes place in a particularly nasty legal period. Apparently, due to this being “The Dark Age of The Law” (quite a strong theme in this game actually), reasonable doubt is no longer a thing. The normal scenario plays out in much the same way every time. Your client has been accused of murder, you must investigate the crime scene, interview witnesses and gather evidence that leads to the real killer, and present it in a court of law.

Your “enemy” is a prosecutor, who will object and refute your claims with evidence of his own. Most of the game is spent trying to deduce what evidence to present where to unlock the truth of the situation. It plays a lot like the SCUMM point-and-click adventures of yore. Find the puzzle piece, use it on the puzzle.

Of course, being a point-and-click adventure means Dual Destinies has all of the tradeoffs that were inherent in that genre. You get a really compelling story filled with likable and frankly fascinating characters, but you have to deal with pixel hunts and the designer’s sometimes peculiar flavour of logic. Advancing the game requires presenting the right piece of evidence at the right statement and it isn’t always clear what you’re supposed to be doing. And this can be a problem when it’s literally the only gameplay element. The game is also quite text heavy. Voice samples are used sparingly so you’re going to be doing a lot of reading.

[img_big]center,11150,2013-05-13/capture_L_0008-00000_bmp_jpgcopy.jpg,Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies[/img_big]

It’s actually quite hard to review this as a game, because really, it isn’t a game. It’s more akin to a novel or movie that happens to have some interaction thrown in. Your characters certainly influence the story, but it doesn’t feel like YOU do. Events are going to play out in the same way every time you play, no matter how many times you try to do something different. This will, inevitably, limit replay value and therefore turn some people off.

But, if you’re at all like me and you have “comfort” movies and books that you watch and read all the time, just to feel better, this game might just fill a niche for you. The characters are dynamic and the plot, which really is the only meat here, is thoroughly entertaining. There are twists and turns that will either surprise you or make you feel smugly superior to your characters when you figure them out. There’s tension aplenty and enough laughs to keep most people going. If you’re looking for something a little different, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies is certainly worth checking out.

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