It's been a long three years since a new Ace Attorney game has been released in the United States, but the latest installment in the series has finally arrived. Phoenix Wright makes his grand return in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies, and he's never looked better than he does on Nintendo 3DS.
For those who are unfamiliar with the series, Ace Attorney is a text-based adventure game in which you investigate crime scenes and defend your client in court. While investigating, you are able to talk to people at the scene of the crime and examine 3D environments to find evidence. Then, you are brought to court where you must cross-examine witnesses and present evidence against false statements in order to prove your client is innocent. The story is told from the perspective of three different lawyers, as players are able to take control of Phoenix Wright, Apollo Justice or newcomer Athena Cykes, depending on the case.
While one may assume that a game based on being a lawyer would have a serious tone, Ace Attorney breaks that presumption with its ridiculous cast of characters, hilarious courtroom banter and abundance of puns. While it may be hard to take some of the puns in characters' names seriously (like bomb specialist Candice Arme), Dual Destinies finds a good balance for its humor within the game's well-written story. Dual Destinies' gripping plot is told through the game's five unique cases, which come to life with new addition of fully voiced anime cut scenes. Each case is full of surprising plot twists that will keep the player interested throughout its 30 hours of gameplay.
Although there are numerous callbacks to previous games in the series, Dual Destinies' story mostly stands on its own because it doesn't focus entirely on Phoenix Wright. Instead, the main focus of the game is Athena Cykes, who is introduced for the first time in this game. The game is also a lot more polished this time around, featuring a text log for previous conversations and a notebook that reminds you of your objectives while investigating. If you receive too many penalties in court, an optional suggestion button pops up to point you in the right direction during a cross-examination if you need help. These features, along with the focus on Athena Cykes, make Dual Destinies the perfect starting point for new players.
Each lawyer has their own unique special ability that adds variety to both investigations and court. Phoenix Wright holds a Magatama that lets him see a person's psyche-locks, which are mental barriers that prevent a person from revealing a secret. By presenting evidence, it is possible to break these psyche-locks and get a person to reveal their secret. Apollo Justice wears a bracelet that lets him perceive witnesses' nervous habits, which helps catch people when they are lying. Athena Cykes wears a necklace called Widget that allows her to view people's emotions when they are testifying. When an inconsistent feeling is found, witnesses reveal new testimony in a cross-examination accordingly. All of these abilities work very well together and help keep the game exciting for the player.
Unfortunately, the game suffers from a little too much hand holding. There are many instances when the game gives away what evidence to use in court without giving you a chance to figure it out on your own. The best part about Ace Attorney is figuring out how each murder occurred, and it feels very underwhelming when you aren't given an opportunity to think about it on your own. There are definitely times when the game challenges you and lets you deduce the correct course of action, but moments where it leads you to the answer dumb down the experience.
However, this doesn't entirely detract from what is a great game overall. Dual Destinies is still an incredible game, and its beautifully written storyline makes it one of the best entries in the series yet. Being the equivalent of a virtual novel, Dual Destinies may not be for everyone. However, those itching to solve mysteries with engrossing stories will fall in love with the game at first sight. Both new and old fans alike should have no objections to Dual Destinies.