Driven by data; ridden with liberty.
All rise: Ace Attorney returns in the fifth game in the series on the 3DS, Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies, and is as brilliant as ever. The visual novel features an updated art style, rendering each character with beautiful 3D effects. The storyline of Dual Destinies centres upon five law cases of the Wright Anything Agency, where the player variously controls returning attorney Phoenix Wright, his protégé Apollo Justice and new legal apprentice and analytical psychologist Athena Cykes. Through each case, the Dark Age of the Law looms; partially brought on by the events of 2008 DS game Ace Attorney: Apollo Justice.
The game is split into investigation and court phases. During investigations, the player hunts for clues and talks to witnesses. The investigations are really polished, feeling intuitive. There are on-screen ‘ticks’ to indicate you have exhaustively looked at a location; a ‘Notes’ section lists what tasks need to be accomplished, so there’s no getting lost. The trials are similarly upgraded, with new scanning shots of the courtroom, with each day of the trial beginning with the court doors opening to ‘All Rise: Court is now in session’. The player looks through witness testimonies, using evidence to highlight contradictions. The main joy of this series is the story, discovering not only who committed a crime, and why, but also how they did it. Every trial – called turnabouts in the Japanese version – features shocking twists. The criminal’s breakdowns are now even more elaborate and funny.
Athena Cykes is a fresh law graduate, and her background is hinted upon throughout each case, becoming pertinent later in the game. Cykes introduces the ‘Mood Matrix’, allowing the player to select when a witness’s emotion appears to conflict with their statements. The game treats psychology with as much levity as laws and legal proceedings, so there’s no need to buy a textbook. Each lawyer has these special abilities, so Cykes has analytical psychology – strangely not used outside the courtroom – whilst Wright uses the mystical Magatama to ‘unlock’ secrets by presenting evidence, and Justice can ‘perceive’ nervous tells. There is a fantastic new mechanic called the Thought Route, which is used by the three lawyers, that helps summarise the cases. It would not look out of place on flashy crime dramas like the BBC’s Sherlock. Dual Destines has these wonderful, but short, anime sequences. Whilst I usually don’t use the 3D effect, these animations gave great temptation to slide it up.
There are new characters too: Simon Blackquill is the new prosecutor, using his hawk Taka to intimate his opponents, along with amazingly upbeat detective Bobby Fulbright, and Cykes’ friend Juniper Woods makes multiple appearances. Every character is quirky, and generates very funny dialogue with the main protagonists. Noriiyuki Iwadare’s soundtrack perfectly fits the game’s overall feel, especially with a triumphantly refined version of the Ace Attorney 3 ‘Objection’ theme.
Whilst it was disappointing that this game could only be downloaded, Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies is definitely worth the trials and tribulations of the Nintendo eShop.