Hold It! Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Dual Destinies Review

Kooky Courtroom Antics Return in First 3DS Installment of Series

Image © Capcom

Lawyers typically get a bad rap. After all, when you only poll higher than car salesmen and members of U.S. Congress, then you’re pretty much close to rock bottom in terms of public perception. That isn’t the case, however, with the Ace Attorney series, which features the most likeable cast of lawyers to ever grace video games. From protagonists such as Phoenix Wright, Miles Edgeworth and Apollo Justice to legal adversaries such as Franziska von Karma and Godot, the lawyers in the Ace Attorney series are as enjoyable as they are, uh, eccentric.

Now another new lawyer enters the fray as the series returns after more than five years in “Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Dual Destinies.” After ceding the spotlight to Miles Edgeworth and Apollo Justice in the last few games, Phoenix Wright returns with a new addition to his crack staff of legal misfits. That would be Athena Cykes, a promising young lawyer with a mysterious skill and equally mysterious past. Just as Phoenix can break down witness testimony with his “Psyche-Lock” ability while Apollo can do the same with his “Perceive System,” Athena has her own unique ability that allows her to read people’s emotions. Combined with her “Mood Matrix” analyzer, Athena can use her powers to spot inconsistencies and contradictions in court testimony. This adds another layer of gameplay to the Ace Attorney formula, which is based on gathering statements and evidence from crime scenes and using those to present your case in court.

The gameplay will be largely familiar to series veterans though the latest installment adds a few twists to the mix. One is its improved presentation and animation. As the first true Ace Attorney game for the Nintendo 3DS, Dual Destinies sports an excellent 3D effect, which combined with the new art and animations makes this the best-looking Ace Attorney game to date.

The soundtrack also does a great job in setting up the mood for the game and should please series fans.

A solid cast remains a strength of the series, thanks to a good mix of oddball features and hilarious animation. From one character’s habit of practically snorting the flowers on her hair to a certain dandy’s penchant for answering cellphones strapped to her shoulders, it’s obvious that the game’s developers had a lot of fun putting together their kooky cast of characters yet again. Add a script that liberally throws in plenty of slapstick moments to otherwise serious events and you’ve got the Ace Attorney formula that fans know and love. It certainly helps that the localization team did a solid job in translating the game to English complete with puns as well as inside jokes that should be noticeable to gamers.

Just as Dual Destinies serves up many of the same qualities that fans love about the Ace Attorney series, however, it also suffers from the same setbacks. At the top of the list is its lack of replayability. Finishing the game unlocks art and movies but nothing else to freshen the main adventure and make it worth immediately experiencing once again. Gameplay is also quite linear.

There were times when I guessed what evidence was crucial in breaking the case but I still had to go through the preset motions of the case before being able to present it. The fact that witnesses can commit perjury multiple times and still be treated as sources of valid testimony also seems a bit jarring.

Then again, the Ace Attorney series is always about making highly preposterous scenarios work in a thoroughly entertaining fashion and Dual Destinies doesn’t disappoint in that respect. If you enjoyed previous games in the series or games such as Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask (or simply need a change of pace from Pokemon X and Y), then you should have no objection in trying out Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Dual Destinies for the Nintendo 3DS.

Final rating: 4 stars out of 5

UPDATE: Not so fast! Are you looking to relive the Ace Attorney story in cartoon form? A Japanese anime for "Gyakuten Saiban: Sono Shinjitsu Igi Ari" is scheduled for the 2016 spring anime season! The story centers around the beginning of Phoenix Wright's career as a legal turnabout master and should be viewable via Crunchyroll. If you're a fan of the series, then you'll likely have no objection, pun so totally intended.

| Official Game Site | Japanese Anime Site |

Jason Hidalgo is About.com’s Portable Electronics expert. Yes, he is easily amused. Follow him on Twitter @jasonhidalgo and be amused, too. For more about portable games and apps, make sure to check out our Portable Gaming Hub.