The Ace Attorney series of games has always been held in high regard. With the quirky sprite art characters and somewhat clever courtroom puzzles, the series grabbed gamers from all backgrounds. Some played for the almost point-and-click style of gameplay, some for the courtroom battles but all agree that these games are well made games. But after four games in the Ace Attorney series, can the 5th instalment carry on the trend?
Leading with the main feature, Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies is on the 3DS and as such, now has most of the game rendered in 3D. Just like Pokémon X and Y, this change to 3D is much appreciated as it brings the characters to life in a big way. The over the top animations and downright strange hair and facial features are all the more striking in 3D and leave more of a lasting impression because of it. This lets you get more into interacting with the people you meet in game as you just will want to see what crazy stuff they will do next.
In full 3D, these objections are very hard hitting!
The 3D also helps the gameplay somewhat as well. In the original titles it could be annoying to have to try and find evidence or point out subtle movement due to the sprite on sprite design. Here however things are clearer and more obvious thus allowing long investigation sequences to progress faster as well as more smoothly as they have a tendency to drag on.
Another big addition to the game is the animated cut scenes that play at specific points throughout the game. These are amazing quality and are even fully voice acted to boot. They really help setup events, drive points home or even raise the tension in dire situations and they do it with a stylish and smooth animation style which is a real treat to the eyes. No matter what you are doing while playing, you will want to stop and just watch them (even if some characters voices can grate).
There may be to few but these anime scenes are awesome!
Let’s make something clear though, this is an adventure game, an investigation/courtroom adventure game no less, so there will be walls of text for you to read. This has been a frequent occurrence in the Ace Attorney series and has been known to be big turn off for players and this game is no exception. However, the 5th instalment recognises this and allows you to speed through the text if you so wish from the get go. Not to mention you now have access to a notebook that is only a few touches away from revealing your next objective to you as well as more helpful partners who always can give some handy advice on where you need to be and what you need to do.
The games true strength lies in the courtroom engagements. The tension mixed with the exciting cross examinations make you want to always press on to figure out what is going on so you can save your client. Each attorney you play as has a special skill they can use to determine the truth. These skills change and add another dynamic to the gameplay; Phoenix, like before, can see the locked secrets of a person’s heart, Apollo can notice a lying individual’s “tells” and the new character Athena can use her software to determine the exact emotions people have while talking. With the combination of these skills, the courtroom has never been so eventful and interesting to experience.
Also courtroom bird attacks are frequent.
While the characters are fun, have unique skills and present more varying scenarios, there is very little of Phoenix Wright in this Phoenix Wright titled game. Don’t misunderstand, Athena is a nice addition and Apollo is just as cool as he ever was but this game was supposed to be the return of the turnabout attorney himself but instead he is used for only around half of the game. This is because the games story is based around Athena; it is her character that becomes developed. Even Apollo gets more actual story additions that Mr Wright does. In a way this is a bad thing, Phoenix is a beloved character and many wanted to experience his glorious comeback. However, Athena’s narrative and overall storyline is actually very extensive and filled with twists and turns that fans of the series have grown to love. So the story is there, it’s just not who you would expect it to be about.
But while this narrative does a good job, it pushes out some other characters that could have had some more time in the limelight. Not even if it was just for some basic closure. Detective Gumshoe, Maya, Von Karma and more are unseen and while some characters like Trucy and Pearl Fay do appear they are little more than just your assistance to a scene or two. Again, it’s not a massively big deal but fans of this long running series will be screaming for answers and new players will just end up wondering who the heck these random people are.
Where have you been? What has happened? Very little is answered.
One last thing to mention is the games logic (so to speak). Obviously you play a lawyer who has to present evidence to back up/refute statements but sometimes the timing and relevance can be a little off. An example is during the game you need to prove that the defendant couldn’t have done the crime due to her being somewhere else in the building at the time of the murder. My brain instantly went to a photo showing her in a different location at the time of the murder but this was deemed incorrect. I in fact had to point to a floor plan, the reason for which was then explained to me. How was I supposed to know that? This also applies to basic knowledge of the judicial system. At one point during a trial, a witness just out of the blue changed their statement, TWICE, and each time it was accepted as pure fact which was very jarring and off. This may seem like an over the top analysis but this games rating is 16+ and most gamers of this age should have at least a basic understanding of how courts work to know this is iffy.