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Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies review

If the cartridge fits, you have no choice but to acquit

With TV revivals all the rage, is it surprising to see Ace Attorney, that most TV-like of games, back on our (four-inch) screens? Every instalment is a season in an ongoing saga, built of solo episodes in a monster-of-the-week format and tied together with satisfying character arcs and knotty melodrama.

In each game's sneering prosecutor it even boasts a special guest star for viewers to discuss and rank against others (for the record, the correct order is: Edgeworth > Godot > Von Karma > Gavin).

Into this analogy waltzes Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies, a shock return for a show many presumed dead (Capcom appeared to give up on AA when Edgeworth's second game didn't make it to the west). TV teaches us to approach second chances with caution. For every brilliantly resurrected Futurama there's an Arrested Development season four stinking up the joint. Re-visited series are often victims of their previous success, crushed under the pressure of fan expectations.

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Dual Destinies avoids this pitfall by being ruthless with nostalgia. It raises pulses with Phoenix Wright's grand return, only to refocus on protégés Apollo Justice and newcomer Athena Cykes. Neither character takes the goofy sidekick role traditionally played by Maya or Trucy, giving the game a rhythm all of its own - two relatively straight-laced do-gooders dealing with the mad world around them. Rather than coming across as po-faced, referential restraint allows each case to bloom.

These are great cases, too. There's a fun riff on the older games' love of the supernatural that cleverly avoids the silliness of Wright's Kurain exploits by taking a right turn into the pro wrestling scene. The third case - so often a dumping ground for Ace Attorney filler - is conceptually one of the series' best, as our heroes head back to school and deal with a trial within a trial. All five cases are well constructed mysteries, neatly pacing their twists and managing to hide revelations even from our seasoned eyes.

Solemn Undertaking

They falter a little in tone. From the outset much is made of the action being set during 'the dark age of the law' in which public trust in the legal system is wavering after a series of scandals. Again, the theme marks Dual Destinies out as its own beast, but it's rather a dour creature. The flamboyant cravats of old have been replaced by bombed courtrooms, emotional therapy and a killer in the prosecutor's stand. We know it's a murder trial, but couldn't everyone lighten up?

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It's here that we sense a Shu Takumi-shaped hole in the game. The series' creator had a deft touch for balancing sordid acts of malice with gleeful buffoonery. His replacements may know how to stop hearts beating, but they don't know how to get ours feeling. It's noticeably less funny than previous iterations, relying more on 3D character animations to convey the big laughs than the writing itself. You certainly won't find the lyrics from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air hidden in witness testimony here.

That said, the character animations are pretty special. Returning faces survive the trip into 3D with their charm undiminished, while the more detailed animations inspire an even more hectic collection of crazies to deal with. Whether it's a hypochondriac suspect huffing on her medicinal herbs, or a highly strung student smashing pottery in a fit of emotional despair, each new oddball is packed with visual surprises. And that's without mentioning the scene stealing antics of prosecutor Blackquill's attack hawk.

The nuts and bolts remain largely unchanged. If anything, Capcom has stripped back the gimmickry. Instead of fingerprint-dusting and video analysis we get to fully explore crime scenes, shown in 3D dioramas not unlike Layton's 3DS world. These investigation portions - for our money, always the weaker half of the game - are mercifully streamlined, using visual cues to show when you've exhausted a location's clues and introducing a notebook to tell you exactly where to head next.

It's more linear, but why not? Ace Attorney's strengths lie in its characters and story and anything else is obfuscation that should be struck from the court record. It's arguable that Shu Takumi conjured dramatic drive through strength of writing alone; the new handlers take Wright's world in a new direction, but it's a suitably thrilling shift. As the story builds to its barmy crescendo, swapping the traditionally lengthy final case for a dense courtroom rush full of shocking reveals and pleasing cameos, you won't be thinking of the Wright of old, but of his exciting new direction. Capcom: it's time to commission season six.

Comments

18 comments so far...
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  1. WOLFENFTW Saturday 26th Oct 2013 at 09:13

    That's a pretty nice score. I'm thoroughly enjoying it so far (although I'm not too fond of the new voice clips, particularly Edgeworths). Game's lacking some humour I'll agree but so far it's funnier than Investigations.

  2. Gargravarr Saturday 26th Oct 2013 at 11:53

    If the cartridge fits, you have no choice but to acquit


    HOLD IT!

    The European and American releases of the game don't come on cartridges!

  3. ApolloJ Saturday 26th Oct 2013 at 21:20

    "It's here that we sense a Shu Takumi-shaped hole in the game. The series' creator had a deft touch for balancing sordid acts of malice with gleeful buffoonery. His replacements may know how to stop hearts beating, but they don't know how to get ours feeling. It's noticeably less funny than previous iterations, relying more on 3D character animations to convey the big laughs than the writing itself."

    I agree so much with this.

  4. ApolloJ Saturday 26th Oct 2013 at 21:33

    Great review, and fair!

    It would appear that the writing could've been better. It would seem the end justifies the means x10000 though. And it would seem the humor is largely bottlenecked by repetetive prephrasing. Now then, consider this a hint.

  5. Balladeer Sunday 27th Oct 2013 at 15:09

    Edgeworth > Godot > Von Karma > Gavin

    Damn right. Although I have to admit, I liked having a prosecutor who wasn't a really nasty piece of work for once. For the record, I'd put Blackquill dead centre, between Godot and Franzy.

    I'm not noticing a lack of humour so much, but the new voices really do bother me. Especially Athena's, and Gavin's (not German enough).

  6. CCCJJJ Monday 28th Oct 2013 at 10:50

    Loved all the previous Ace Attorney titles, but hate the idea of eShop downloads - with great patience I will wait for a physical copy to be released!

  7. MatthewONM Monday 28th Oct 2013 at 12:15

    Loved all the previous Ace Attorney titles, but hate the idea of eShop downloads - with great patience I will wait for a physical copy to be released!


    Hate to break it to you, but they aren't doing a physical copy. The only reason we're getting it in the west is because it's cheaper for Capcom to do an eShop release.

  8. imbusydoctorwho Monday 28th Oct 2013 at 12:27

    Will probably get this when I sort out my 3DS XL.

  9. EdDeRs1 Monday 28th Oct 2013 at 21:58

    If the cartridge fits, you have no choice but to acquit


    HOLD IT!

    The European and American releases of the game don't come on cartridges!


    OBJECTION!
    the primary release form of 3DS games is in cartridge form and the majority of this game's releases are cartridges (most of the purchases will come from Japan)! This means the Pun stands!

  10. tomutwit Tuesday 29th Oct 2013 at 20:36

    I object to this score!!

    90%. Best game I've played all year, including the new Tomb Raider.

  11. Toastie Saturday 2nd Nov 2013 at 12:08

    OBJECTION!

    What was wrong with Arrested Development S4? I really enjoyed it!

  12. Mateusz Mucha Sunday 3rd Nov 2013 at 15:21

    Ace Attorney has taken up most of my life for the past few days. SO GODDAMN ADDICTING!!!!! :shock:

  13. Owz_The_Future Monday 4th Nov 2013 at 14:04

    Arrested Development season 4 wasn't that bad...

  14. GavONM Monday 4th Nov 2013 at 15:50

    The jokes were so bad in Arrested Development season 4, I had to check the credits for Matthew Castle's name!

  15. olrodlegacy Tuesday 5th Nov 2013 at 13:43


    OBJECTION!
    the primary release form of 3DS games is in cartridge form and the majority of this game's releases are cartridges (most of the purchases will come from Japan)! This means the Pun stands!

    HOLD IT!
    This is a review of the UK version of the game. Case Closed, Verdict: GUILTY

  16. DragonflyShadows Monday 11th Nov 2013 at 16:37

    If the cartridge fits, you have no choice but to acquit


    HOLD IT!

    The European and American releases of the game don't come on cartridges!


    OBJECTION!
    the primary release form of 3DS games is in cartridge form and the majority of this game's releases are cartridges (most of the purchases will come from Japan)! This means the Pun stands!


    TAKE THAT!
    http://www.court-records.net/evidence/magatama2.png

    I know you're hiding what you really know about the results and here's my evidence...
    TAKE THAT!
    http://www.court-records.net/evidence/letter.png

    It's a list of all the places that will be able to buy it and as you can see... Japan is one the smallest!

  17. EdDeRs1 Monday 25th Nov 2013 at 13:58

    HOLD IT!

    The European and American releases of the game don't come on cartridges!

    OBJECTION!
    the primary release form of 3DS games is in cartridge form and the majority of this game's releases are cartridges (most of the purchases will come from Japan)! This means the Pun stands!
    TAKE THAT!
    http://www.court-records.net/evidence/magatama2.png

    I know you're hiding what you really know about the results and here's my evidence...
    TAKE THAT!
    http://www.court-records.net/evidence/letter.png

    It's a list of all the places that will be able to buy it and as you can see... Japan is one the smallest!
    OBJECTION!
    Spirit Channeling artifacts and mumbo jumbo has no place in a court of Law! I call for that statement to be struck from the record!

    however on a serious note does anyone know how to get this? I can't find a download card anywhere so I have no idea how to get it

  18. PikachuKJ Wednesday 27th Nov 2013 at 14:54

    however on a serious note does anyone know how to get this? I can't find a download card anywhere so I have no idea how to get it

    You have to download it from the nintendo 3ds e-shop directly. You click on the game and then on the purchase. You can then buy it with a credit or debit card or with a nintendo e-shop card. Hope this helps.

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