Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies review

  • Fantastic characters and storytelling
  • Brilliant transition to 3D
  • Yelling “Objection!” into the mic
  • An unfortunate number of typos
  • Removal of some past features
  • Occasionally questionable logic

It sure feels good to have Phoenix Wright back in the courtroom. Not that there was anything wrong with the last two Ace Attorney games--Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney and Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth--in which Phoenix wasn’t the lead character, but they just didn’t have the same magic as the original Ace Attorney trilogy. Fortunately, after a six-year absence, the blue-suited, spiky-haired lawyer has returned to the spotlight in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies, and he’s brought with him all the drama, humor, excitement, and almost intangible sense of satisfaction that has made the Ace Attorney franchise a beloved cult sensation.

At its core, Ace Attorney is all about compelling mysteries, intriguing characters, sharp writing, and unique play mechanics, and Dual Destinies delivers across the board. From the opening case, the story hits you with strange occurrences, interesting settings, and twists and turns that keep you guessing even when you already know who the culprit is. Despite the primarily self-contained nature of the game’s five episodes, overarching plot threads intertwine to tell a thoroughly rewarding story. Sure, things get bizarre and the limits of your suspension of disbelief will get pushed to the max (especially in the third and fifth episodes), but the narrative contains so much exuberant energy it hardly matters. And unlike Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, Dual Destinies manages to nail the series’ trademark lighthearted tone.

"He’s brought with him all the drama, humor, excitement, and almost intangible sense of satisfaction that has made the Ace Attorney franchise a beloved cult sensation."

As always, the main gameplay hook--listening to witness testimonies, identifying contradictions, and revealing lies by presenting evidence--is incredibly fulfilling, especially when you opt to do so by yelling “Objection!” into the 3DS’s microphone. Like in previous Ace Attorney games, some of the logic is debatable, but such instances are rare, and nearly every victory feels earned. More importantly, though, this time there’s more to the fast-paced, text-driven, back-and-forth courtroom battles than physical evidence; you also get to psychoanalyze characters with the new Mood Matrix. Identifying contradictory emotions adds some nice diversity to the proceedings, but because you can only use the ability at predetermined spots and you’re not penalized for wrong guesses, it ultimately feels more like a plot device than an essential gameplay tool. Similarly, the fun Psyche-Lock and Perceive systems from past games have returned, and while their inclusion is appreciated, limited presence leaves them severely underutilized.

When you’re not bluffing your way through court, you’ll be searching for clues in visual novel-style investigation scenes. Compared to past Ace Attorney games, these segments have been notably streamlined; navigation is easier, point-and-click exploration is limited to a few specific areas, and a new “notes” feature ensures that you’ll never be stumped by what to do next. Though hardcore fans may consider the investigations to be dumbed down, they will certainly appreciate the new 3D environments. When you have the opportunity to dig through a scene for evidence, you’ll get to check it out from multiple angles, which provides a deeper experience in more ways than one.

Speaking of 3D, the new polygonal character models look fantastic. Not only are they every bit as detailed and expressive as their 2D counterparts, but they’re now far more animated; little touches such a characters playing with their hair, fiddling with an earring, or, um, fleeing the courtroom in a panic really bring the world to life. In addition, beautiful anime-style cutscenes punctuate the adventure; though the English voiceovers probably won’t appeal to everybody, it’s clear that when it comes to production values Capcom didn’t hold back.

"Navigation is easier, point-and-click exploration is limited to a few specific areas, and a new “notes” feature ensures that you’ll never be stumped by what to do next."

As for the characters themselves, the creators have delivered another memorable group of truth-seekers and rogues. An older, wiser Phoenix Wright fills the role of mentor/seasoned veteran perfectly, and the returning Apollo Justice is a much more mature and sympathetic character this time around. Newcomer Athena Cykes is a stellar addition to the main cast, and her charming mix of inexperience and youthful determination make her a welcome presence in any scene. Her role as a playable character--rather than an assistant like Maya and Trucy were in previous games--is also appreciated. The Dual Destinies subtitle is actually rather misleading; all three main characters have their own story arcs and chances to shine, as does the contradictory new villain, prosecutor-turned-murderer Simon Blackquill.

The cast is fleshed out with an engaging, quirky group of would-be suspects, ranging from a student journalist who hides in a cardboard box (cue the Metal Gear Solid references) to a pro-wrestling mayor (a la Mike Haggar) to a delusional director of a space-exploration program. Brash new lead detective Bobby Fulbright entertains as well, although he pales in comparison to previous investigators Dick Gumshoe and Ema Skye. But for most Ace Attorney enthusiasts, the real treat will be getting reacquainted with returning supporting characters, including rockin’ prosecutor Klavier Gavin, an almost-all-grown-up Pearl Fey, and Phoenix’s always-suave rival Miles Edgeworth.

If you’re not already a fan, though, you have nothing to worry about. Dual Destinies is the series’ most user-friendly entry yet, offering conveniences such as a conversation log (so you can look for dialogue details you may have missed), a consultation feature (which offers optional hints if you make too many mistakes during trials), and a chapter select that allows you to easily replay completed scenes. The game also does a great job executing important aspects that players often take for granted, such as an intuitively designed user interface that accommodates both traditional and touch-screen controls.

"Dual Destinies lacks some of the cool play mechanics from past Ace Attorney game."

It’s too bad, however, that Dual Destinies lacks some of the cool play mechanics from past Ace Attorney games--specifically touch-screen fingerprint analysis and the ability to examine evidence in 3D at will; the former is especially odd because fingerprinting becomes a focal point on a couple of occasions. Even more unfortunate is the number of typos that have crept into the text. On the whole, the writing is superb, with great characterization and several genuinely funny laugh-out-loud moments, but nothing breaks the immersion faster than a glaring typo, even if such things seem unavoidable in a game with so much verbiage.

But don’t let that stop you from enjoying this otherwise polished graphic-text adventure. Dual Destinies proves that vanquishing foes with truth and justice can be just as exciting as using a gun or a sword, and that even the most unusual subject matter can lead to fun, compelling entertainment. And don’t be concerned about the M-rating (there’s very little, ahem, objectionable content) or think that this is any less of an experience just because it’s an eShop exclusive; in fact, it’s arguably the biggest Ace Attorney game yet. Phoenix Wright is known for uncovering facts and exposing secrets, but there’s no mystery here: Dual Destinies is an excellent title that’s well worth your attention.

More Info

Release date: Oct 24 2013 - 3DS (US)
Available Platforms: 3DS
Genre: Adventure
Published by: Capcom
Developed by: Capcom
Franchise: Ace Attorney
ESRB Rating:
Mature: Blood, Language, Suggestive Themes, Violence
Chris Hoffman

Former senior editor of Nintendo Power, current editor at Mac|Life. Fan of RPGs, Mega Man, The Legend of Zelda, Ace Attorney, and Japanese gaming in general. The last survivor of Lithone.

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  • BladedFalcon - October 28, 2013 10:56 p.m.

    Just finished the game. I'd say this is definitely the right score! Although the reasons as to why kinda differ from the ones mentioned here for me. To me, the new 3D Models work just fine for the NEW characters, but returning characters kinda feel far less expressive than with their 2D sprite counterparts, specially Trucy and Edgeworth, for some reason. And they certainly didn't take advantage of them being 3D that much anyway, since the shots and angles used are always the same. The other flaw I'd have is that while the story is certainly good overall, i feel some of the twists, settings and characters have been seen before in the series already, specially with the second and the last case. Oh, and the ending was solid... but kinda fizzled out compared to the intensity of the finals cases of the first 3 ace attorney games. Though at least it doesn't insult your intelligence like the Apollo Justice's last case did. Overall, I'd say this is the 3rd best game in the series, with the first game and trials and tribulations still being better though.
  • shawksta - October 24, 2013 9:46 a.m.

    I noticed Chris's icon is Apollo's "WAT" face when you leave your mouse on the article for a second Great review you brilliant bastard
  • winner2 - October 24, 2013 8:35 a.m.

    Hm, maybe I'll jump into the series with this
  • Big_Bad_Bob - October 24, 2013 8:34 a.m.

    Nice read, thanks!
  • kIngdOn95 - October 24, 2013 8:28 a.m.

    Why is this game rated M??? I thought all Ace Attorney games were kid friendly?
  • shawksta - October 24, 2013 9:05 a.m.

    They never were kid friendly, they were all Rated Teen and has its share of blood. So either it got rougher or the ESRB got more sensitive to be Rated M
  • Chris Hoffman - October 24, 2013 9:16 a.m.

    The M rating seems to be due to the depiction of blood. You don't see any violence or anyone actually bleeding, but there is blood. I've played a lot of games with a lot worse that only got a T rating. I'm sure the ESRB is just following an established guideline, but the M seems way off base to me. Putting this in the same category as something like GTAV is insane. If I had a 12-year-old kid, I'd have no problems with them playing this game.
  • Hobogonigal - October 24, 2013 9:28 a.m.

    Haha, only PG here in Australia :)
  • Shinn - October 24, 2013 7:59 a.m.

    I was going to pick this up, but it's 50 USD for New Zealand. That's a little too heavy on the regional price gouge for my tastes. Hopefully it goes on sale at some point.
  • Swedish_Chef - October 24, 2013 7:56 a.m.

    I wish I could play this but I can't because I'm too busy with work right now and when I do finally get time I don't want to risk buying it since Nintendo doesn't have a unified account system. ... ;_;
  • Hobogonigal - October 24, 2013 7:28 a.m.

    Completely forgot that this was being released today! Yipee! Absolutely love the series and the fact that they have somewhat streamlined the investigation sections is actually a positive for me, found it kind of annoying having to run about with little clue what to do, and then finding out I should have tapped a partly visible book case or something. Going to try and download it right now :D
  • BladedFalcon - October 24, 2013 5:29 a.m.

    *Grins* This review makes me so happy! :3 Not just because of the score, or the fact that it's good. But because it sounds exactly what the fans of what makes Phoenix Wright awesome were asking for. Frankly, the only thing that it needed to succeed in my mind is to have good characters and story, the fact that it does and better than expected, is fantastic. Everything else is utterly secondary in this series. I mean, it's nice that it has sweet 3D graphics, but again, graphics have never been the reason i've loved the games. And even the cons listed here feel unimportant: The questionable logic has, for better or worse, ALWAYS been a part of the series, in every single entry. The features that have been removed were utterly superficial at best anyway, so who cares? And the typos are a legit problem... but eh, as long as you can still understand what it's being said, it might even add extra chuckles to what is already intended to be a comic game for a good chunk of it. So yeah.... I?m very under the heavy spell of pokemon Y right now, but I still can't wait to give this game a spin :D
  • BladedFalcon - October 24, 2013 5:40 a.m.

    ...Yet it's not available for me to buy in the E-shop just yet, apparently >_>; I'm confused, wasn't it supposed to be available today? has anyone else been able to buy it yet? or is this just a problem with Mexico? ._. (Which would be WEIRD, because every game I've bought in the E-shop so far has been available in Mexico at the same time it has been anywhere else.)
  • Hobogonigal - October 24, 2013 7:38 a.m.

    Don't know if you're still having problems but it is available for me in Australia. Maybe it is a Mexico thing or it could be available to buy after a certain local time? All I know is that it is downloading on my 3DS right now! (sorry haha)
  • BladedFalcon - October 24, 2013 9:55 a.m.

    No worries! got it now as well ^^
  • Vonter - October 24, 2013 8:52 a.m.

    You're mexican too? *Checks 3DS* Yeah it isn't on sale on mine either. Maybe it'll be tomorrow.
  • BladedFalcon - October 24, 2013 9:53 a.m.

    Nope! checked again, it's available for us now as well ^^ already downloaded it (: And yessir! Tarascan pride represent!
  • shawksta - October 24, 2013 9:07 a.m.

    Agree entirely, i expected a regular average review with an average score since Ace Attorney is a "More of the same" type of series but this review "And others for that matter" say that its gotten the magic that certain past games were missing and i cant wait. I was hoping for a midnight release yesterday but it wasnt available till today in the morning, but i havent added credits :P
  • Cyberninja - October 24, 2013 5:18 a.m.

    Well I set my free $30 aside for this a long time ago so I am ready.
  • Swedish_Chef - October 24, 2013 1:04 a.m.

    INB4 shawkska