There are two series I’m currently addicted to: Game of Thrones and Ace Attorney (Gyakuten Saiban in Japanese). As only one of these series is Japanese, and I’m very overdue in writing a review, I’m going to tell you what’s so fantastic about the latest instalment of the Ace Attorney video game series – Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies.
I’m going to assume you’ve played or at least heard of the other Ace Attorney video games (for the Nintendo DS) but I’ll quickly recap for everyone’s sake. I could say that the series is about lawyers but this sounds almost boring and doesn’t really do it justice, so instead I’ll tell you that you play a lawyer who has to solve the most ridiculous kinds of crimes, investigates crime scenes, can see the secrets hidden away in people’s hearts and finds the truth! If you like series with that ‘oooo!’ factor, like Sherlock or The Killing, this series is fantastic and has infinite replay value. It uses the Nintendo DS touch screen better than most games and is one of the best ‘click and point’ series out there.
Let’s quickly recap the complete DS series so far, which will take us nicely to our latest game which came out in October 2013. Yes, I know this review is late!
2001: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney makes its way to the GameBoy Advance (GBA) in Japan. You play the role of Phoenix Wright, a rookie lawyer who shouts ‘Objection!’ a lot.
2002: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice for All is released for the GBA.
2004: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations is released on the GBA, thus completing the Phoenix Wright trilogy.
2005: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is adapted for the Nintendo DS and gets an English translation.
2006/7: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice for All is adapted for the Nintendo DS and gets an English translation.
2007: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations is adapted for the Nintendo DS and gets an English translation.
2007/8: Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney is released in both Japan and the west, and follows the story of Phoenix Wright’s successor, Apollo Justice
2009/10: Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth, which follows the adventures of Phoenix Wright’s rival, prosecutor Miles Edgeworth
2011: Gyakuten Kenji 2, the sequel to Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth, is released in Japan but Capcom does not translate it. Fans like Sophie are very sad…
2012: A spin-off game Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is released in Japan. Capcom finally confirms it will get an English translation in 2014.
October 2013: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies is released simultaneously in Japanese and English for the Nintendo 3DS as a downloadable game.
OK, so why was that timeline important? 1) It shows how far back this video game series dates in Japan. 2) It’s a subtle way of telling you to go and play all the other games if you haven’t already. 3) It demonstrates how long fans waited for a new Ace Attorney game, which came out on the 3DS. With that out of the way, we can now look at whether this game stands up to its predecessors and whether it translates well for the 3DS.
The answer to both of these questions is ‘yes’. This is my favourite ever Nintendo video game series and, in my mind, it blows the more well-known ones like ‘Pokemon’ right out of the water. Dual Destinies revived the series and gave fans something new to talk about and, even better, despite being a “sequel” can be appreciated by people who haven’t played any of the games before because it has its own story and lots of new characters.
It’s hard to go into the plot without giving much away, although I will say that it’s very suspenseful and there are mysteries abound. There are four cases in the main story, plus a bonus one at the end where you have to defend an orca whale in court (yes, you read that right), and each case is its own mini story. There’s always a murder, an investigation, finding and presenting of evidence, cross-examination of witnesses and the quest for that ‘not guilty verdict’. You do find out what links all of the cases but I’ll let you do that yourselves. All I will say is that it will keep you up playing until 3am in the morning and literally make you scream with shock as much as that latest BBC Sherlock episode did.
Dual Destinies is set in the ‘dark age of the law’, filled with false charges and fabricated evidence, and stars Phoenix Wright as the main protagonist, along with Apollo Justice and a new partner, Athena Cykes. There are five cases in this game (one of which you have to download separately for £3.99 on the Nintendo store, but I promise it’s worth it) and the player rotates around the roles of our three main characters. Phoenix and Apollo are familiar faces for fans but Athena is the odd one out. Who is this weird ginger 18 year old pretending to be a lawyer? How can you even be a lawyer at 18? It doesn’t matter because Athena is fantastic and sassy, and pulls some of the best faces in the game. Apollo is much improved from the last game he was in; imagine the whole Doctor Who regeneration thing and not being happy about David Tennant becoming Matt Smith. It’s pretty much like that, although we get more time to know and love Apollo aka ‘Polly’. Phoenix Wright is the god of lawyer-ing. My only complaint about the game is probably that I wanted to play as him more. Apollo and Athena make a great duo but Phoenix Wright is Phoenix Wright.
There are some familiar faces in the series although most of them are brand new, which is why this game will be enjoyed by old and new fans alike. The main prosecutor, aka your villain, in this game is Simon Blackquill, a convicted murder who looks rather like a samurai and is scary as hell. It’s the dark age of the law, so that apparently validates murderers prosecuting other murderers. In the previous games, we’ve had a fantastic collection of prosecutors from Miles Edgeworth to coffee-swilling Godot to rock star Klavier Gavin, so there’s a lot of competition for that ‘top prosecutor’ spot, so how does Simon hold up? Extremely well, according to the fans’ consensus. I’ll always have a special soft spot for fellow posh tea-drinker Edgeworth, but Simon’s fantastic in his own right. With prosecutors come detectives, and this is where we meet our other main recurring character, Bobby Fulbright, a flashy, scatter-brained proprietor of justice! Fans of the series will be sad that good old Detective Dick Gumshoe isn’t in town any more but we must move on with the times, and Bobby fills his shoes well. Oh, good news, ‘the judge’ is still around and as silly as ever.
Dual Destinies uses the elements we know and love from the series; the cross-examinations, Phoenix’s Psyche Lock ability which allows him to see when people are guarding secrets and Apollo’s bracelet which allows him to detect a witness’ slightest movements which indicate they’re lying. New to this game is Athena’s Mood Matrix ability, which allows her to read people’s emotions and draw their true testimonies from their subconsciousness. It’s all quite Inception-y but my actual lawyer friends tell me law is not quite so glamorous.
As a 3DS game, there’s a lot more for players to explore. Crime scenes can be examined in panoramic view and the anime cut scenes are well worth turning the 3D effect on for. There is a downside to the whole ‘examination’ method, though, which is that you can no longer click on pointless evidence! I played this game mostly in 2D because 3D does terrible things to my eyes but it is worth flipping on the 3D effect every so often.
I’m a big fan of film and video game soundtracks and Dual Destinies has an amazing OST. A lot of the previous tunes have been modernised, giving the game that hint of nostalgia, and there are lots of new songs too. Top marks go to Simon Blackquill’s theme for that smooth clarinet and the latest remix of the ‘Pursuit’ theme, which I listen to on repeat.
I only just learned today that Capcom announced that the Dual Destinies team, including director Takeshi Yamazaki, was working “full force” on the next Ace Attorney game, but did not mention if it would be a main series title, a third Investigations game, or a new spin-off. It was also revealed that Shu Takumi was working on a new game that would be announced in 2014, but they did not reveal whether or not it was related to Ace Attorney. Let’s hope it is!
One final thing to mention about this game before I wrap up this very long review is the amazing translation team at Capcom, who deserve gold medals for their work. This is the first game in the series that has proper dialogue in its cut scenes and, overall, it’s very good, even by the standards of someone who watches too much Japanese films in their original language. There are plenty of pop culture references in there, including Sailor Moon, Fifty Shades of Grey and Shark-nado, and you really got the sense that they enjoyed messing around with the game as much as the fans enjoyed playing it.
Needless to say, Dual Destinies is absolutely fantastic and the ending literally had me reeling. It was a perfect instalment to a long-running video game series for loyal fans but that doesn’t mean it’s simply flogging a dead horse and relying on old gags. There are lots of new characters, features and things to do so I can only give this game a well-earned 10/10!
Image credits: nintendo, joystiq, brokencartidge, gamegrin, game-saga