I lost count of how many times the phrase “The Dark Age of the Law” had appeared in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies. Maybe I’m mistaken, but hasn’t the system in Capcom’s beloved adventure series always been quirky and broken?

People get arrested on a whim. Trials end in a mandatory guilty verdict if a case extends beyond three days. Suspects get sent to prison through hearsay and circumstantial evidence. Even prosecutors throw defendants in the slammer after the real culprit has already been sniffed out. False charges and faked evidence run rampant through the courtrooms. It’s an absolute nightmare.

Seems like not much has changed despite the game’s entire fictional population not realizing the inept system before. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies champions its protagonist as a do-gooder coming out of early retirement to save the broken law system.

From the Ashes…

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Phoenix Wright returns to the defense podium for the first time in eight years, and with him joins a ridiculous cast of goofballs, familiar faces and newcomers alike. The team’s penchant for simple character design and hilarious dialogue hasn’t slipped one bit.

The spunky lady lawyer Athena Sykes. The rambunctious rookie finally coming into his own, Apollo Justice. The bald and bearded judge who never seems to age. The new and abusive Prosecutor Blackquill who might be hiding more than his evil exterior seems to suggest. And of course, the rest of the circus freak witnesses.

Capcom’s series has always taken the minimalist route with easy character designs. Each have about ten animations at most, and with the simple resources at hand, it can make pure character magic. Some of the most memorable characters of the last decade of gaming come from the court halls of Ace Attorney, and while Dual Destinies comes up a little short, there is never a truly dull moment when its players are talking.

If you can’t fall in love with the cast of Dual Destinies, even the villains, then it might be time to check your pulse.

Much like the localizations team’s penchant for snappy dialogue, the writers also haven’t lost their ability to force you into making some serious suspensions of disbelief and jumps in logic. The puzzles behind some of these new cases might leave even the most dedicated of fans scratching their heads, wondering what idiot could have pulled that twist from left field.

Complaining about confusing logic in an Ace Attorney game, though, is like complaining about loud music at a rock concert. Half the fun of the series is juxtaposing the insanity of it all next to our real-life law system and suddenly realizing that maybe we don’t have it so bad.

The other half of the fun is feeling like a genius in a never ending battle of wits with Capcom’s development team, and then being rewarded with the characters looking like total dopes once you trip them up in mind trap.

So What’s New?

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The strange part about this review is that it could easily be the review for any Ace Attorney game. Not too much has changed, and not too much really has to. It’s a proven formula that would lose its charm and identity if it tried something else.

Let’s focus on the differences, scarce as they may be.

The graphics have gotten a complete overhaul, changing the sprites of the original games into fully animated 3D models presented on a 2D surface. The result doesn’t affect the lightning fast editing made famous in earlier games, and looks really nice once you get over the difference of sprites in the previous five games.

In fact, I would say it makes the older games harder to go back to. I entered not thinking the new look would grow on me, and I was wrong.

Capcom has also interjected new anime cutscenes for the more dramatic moments, but the cheap animation and awkward voice acting don’t do the overall package much justice. It would be hard to replicate a rocket lift-off using only illustrations, text boxes, and talking character faces, but if any team could get it done, it would be Capcom’s Phoenix Wright team.

Whisper of the Heart

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The team newcomer, Athena Sykes, has a new way of pulling information from witnesses. Her “analytical psychology” allows her to uncover memories that have been scrambled by emotions. Her gizmo necklace can read the human heart and establish what the character is feeling with certain phrases of their testimony.

The goal is to find the emotion, or lacking emotion, that doesn’t fit the character’s overall behavior.

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It’s a clever mechanic which will really force you to intimately know each person called to the stand, but at the same time, it often leads to some of those extreme jumps in logic which can be quite infuriating.

And of course, there is the real reason you play Phoenix Wright games, the story. Five cases, five ludicrous paths to the truth, and a left field twist ending that will leave many demanding more. No worries, because a sequel is in the planning stages.

I won’t spoil anything, but it falls in line with the rest of the series. One case might seem a little slower and weaker than the others, but as an overall package, they work in tandem.

The DLC case is no slouch either, but listening to tutorials explain the mechanics over again after already beating the game gets old really fast. Take my advice and beat the DLC case before the fifth and final case or that twist ending could spoil it a little bit.

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No Objections

Rating

7.5
If you are a fan of Ace Attorney, then this will be perfect for you.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies

That’s all there is to it. If you are a fan of Ace Attorney, then this will be perfect for you.

The emotional highs and lows of the plot don’t quite match those found in the first and third games, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from reuniting for more cases with gaming’s most iconic defense lawyer.

The title is selling as a download only on the Nintendo 3DS’ eShop.

Disclaimer: We purchased Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies through the Nintendo eShop with our own funds and played the game and DLC to completion before writing this review.