Group Review: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies

Editor’s note: This is the last “lost review” from a few years ago. Remember, we did an entire hourlong podcast episode about Spirit of Justice, so consider 1,700 words light work in comparison.

THE GOOD

Michelle:  As a massive fan of the Ace Attorney franchise, I had insanely high expectations for this installment. Fortunately, I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest. The characterization in this particular game rivals Trials and Tribulations, and I think T&T has some of the best writing in any game–ever. Okay, maybe I’m being a bit hyperbolic, but the reason why I love these games is that they’re immersive and completely focused on developing character and character relationships.

This game gave additional characterization to familiar characters (Apollo, I’m looking at you) and introduced wonderfully charming new characters. One of the best new characters was someone we never actually meet because he’s the victim of a case, but the way his back story weaves into another character’s is fantastic and shows how masterful the franchise’s writing truly is.

And, as always, I adored the tiny pop culture references hidden in the text.

Michaela: Being overseas in a house full of family members that I couldn’t communicate with meant I had a lot of free time on my hands. Dual Destinies saved my sanity during the trip with its memorable characters, writing, and soundtrack. I totally agree with Michelle in regards to the new character she mentioned (so sad but so well done); the fact that a character that you never met can have so much impact on you is indicative of the great writing and characterization. The plot was great, each case was fun, all of the characters get a fair chance to shine, and the final case was pretty intense and surprising. Also, the gameplay has been cleaned up immensely, which helped my time management so much. Never again do I have to wander around wondering what to do because Apollo’s notes were always there to guide me every step of the way!

Shaun: The story and character writing were some of the strongest in the series for me, and that’s why I play these games. Somehow, a series about attorneys has turned into one of the most epic gaming sagas of all time. This game, in particular, possesses one of the most crazy conspiracy twists I’ve seen to this point.

Unlike previous games in the series, in Dual Destinies, rather than being a lawyer fighting injustice, you really get the sense that you’re a team of lawyers basically preventing the law armageddon. It’s like the Avengers of Judisprudence, and each character is satisfying and fun to play as, complete with their own strange nuances, mannerisms, and awesome theme music.

I loved how we continued to incorporate and actually got to play as Apollo, because I was worried he’d be one and done with his own game. The new character, Athena, was a strong addition as well, and her ability to read emotions through voice was a fun new feature in the courtroom. The interactions between these three was the true crux of the game, and it very rarely disappointed.

This series is all about out-thinking the prosecution based on the evidence in your disposal and slip ups in witnesses’ testimony, and one of the cool new mechanics they implemented was a

And finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the music. Ace Attorney games consistently deliver a great soundtrack, often blending the old with the new, and Dual Destinies is no exception. In particular, Apollo’s new objection theme makes me feel like I want to punch every defendant in their lying faces, which is exactly what you want from your defense attorney.

Chris: The game’s new investigation mechanics, like being able to scroll through past dialogue and an on-screen notification of which places you’ve already checked for clues, make a HUGE difference to me. I know some folks felt like this was a step back, like it was hand-holding, but it was completely optional. As thorough as I am, there were times in the earlier games where I would overlook one small piece of information or a dialogue option, and then I’d be stuck wandering around aimlessly and wondering what in the hell I’d missed. No longer.

Anyway, this game is a ton of fun. It gives us a significant upgrade on the graphics, the soundtrack has a great blend of old and new, and you get plenty of bang for your buck with five pretty intense cases. The final two cases are essentially one giant one, and it’ll grip you from start to finish.

THE BAD

Chris:  I’m sure some people are upset that this game isn’t all Phoenix Wright, all the time. Those people probably also disliked the Apollo Justice game (although I’d argue that it actually has most of Phoenix’s best moments). To me, I’ve already adjusted to the new status quo — this is the Ace Attorney series, not the Phoenix Wright series. If you’re a hardcore PW fan, though, the fact that he’s only lead attorney on two of the five cases (plus the DLC) may turn you away, although you’re missing out.

Shaun: No mention of Franziska. At all. Are you f***ing joking me right now? How am I supposed to pair her and Phoenix together if she’s MIA the whole damn game?

My only beef is that none of the cases truly stood out to me as ground breaking. While every case in this game was solid, none were truly a masterpiece, and not one managed to near the heights of some of my favorite cases throughout the series. It’s a minor gripe to have when every case is solid and enjoyable, but I found myself disappointed that I never found that truly game changing moment that blew me away.

Michelle: As a grammar fiend, I couldn’t help but notice that there were more typos and grammatical errors in this game than in any of other four games, which was a bit bothersome.

In addition, I wasn’t completely sold on a friendship between two new characters: Juniper Woods and Athena Cykes. The game spent at least two full cases trying to establish and develop their friendship (because it crops up a number of times throughout the game), but it missed the mark for me. Because this game is mainly about friendship, I was expecting something a little more dynamic between the two of them. I’d argue that it’s the only “canon” character relationship that I don’t particularly buy in the entire Ace Attorney series.

Lastly, I was expecting a cameo at the very least from one of our most beloved characters (I won’t say who, but you all know who she is if you’ve played any of the games), but she never appears. I was disappoint.

Michaela: There was a surprising amount of typos in this game, a lot more than I remember the previous games having. Most of the time it wasn’t a huge deal, but there were some that were really noticeable and made me wonder where the editor was. After beating it, I was rather disappointed that there wasn’t one more case where Apollo was the lead. In fact, I would have been totally okay with Apollo being the lead character. On one hand, it’s nice that Phoenix is back in the courtroom, but on the other hand, Apollo never really had an opportunity to prove himself (like Chris said, a lot of Phoenix’s cool moments were also showcased in the 4th game, so Apollo was sort of the pawn to his goals). Not to say that Apollo hasn’t proven himself in Dual Destinies, as it has singlehandedly made him a more likeable character to me, but I would have loved playing as him and seeing his growth even more.

OVERALL

Shaun: As an extension of my “negative,” this becomes a really hard game to judge. Gameplay-wise, no other game in the series comes close; every aspect is streamlined, and it’s going to be hard to go back to the confusing, unintuitive, laborious nature of some of the previous titles. With that said, I found the narrative to be very solid, but failing to reach some of the heights of previous entries. If Trials and Tribulations (PW 3) was The Dark Knight of Ace Attorney, then Dual Destinies is The Dark Knight Rises. Extremely enjoyable, and good in every way, but it just can’t quite reach the same level as its predecessor. 4 out of 5

Chris: It’s nice to see that Phoenix Wright continues to find enough success in America that Capcom keeps bringing the franchise over. Sure, it’s a little troubling that we didn’t get a hard copy of this, but if that’s what it takes to keep things financially viable, so be it. The fifth entry in the series introduces some new characters and expands on a few favorites, while tightening up some core game mechanics along the way. I’d agree with Shaun that I don’t think any individual case from this game is quite as good as some stellar ones from earlier in the series, but there’s still a lot of fun to be had here. Your mileage with Dual Destinies will depend on your love of the Phoenix Wright series — if you like the “Gotcha!” moments, the humor, the translation errors and the absurdity, you’ll feel right at home. 4 out of 5.

Michaela: It’s a great inclusion in the franchise and was really entertaining and enjoyable. The gameplay is slick, the writing is well-done, and the characters have distinct strengths and weaknesses. But compared to its predecessors, the cases aren’t nearly as complex or insane, though that’s not to say they aren’t still good. It’s a great game that I look forward to playing again, but it doesn’t quite compare to the older games. 4 out of 5.

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