Game Reviews

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies

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Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies

Remember when Jonathan Creek used to be good? Alan Davies and Caroline Quentin would solve the most baffling, brain-bending cases, and you'd simply allow yourself to be swept along in all the whimsy.

Nowadays, whenever they put out a Creek special it turns out to be rubbish, devoid of any of the mystery and wonder that characterised the series to its peak.

We've waited five years for ace attorney Phoenix Wright to return, but his comeback feels a lot like a Jonathan Creek Christmas special - it's definitely Phoenix Wright, but it's missing that certain something that made the series so great in the first place.

The Wright stuff

From the moment you boot up Dual Destinies it's obvious that you're home again. Everything in this latest title is near-identical to the rest of the series, for better or for worse.

You play a string of defence lawyers, all working out of Phoenix's law agency, as you deal with five different murder cases and attempt to find the truth by examining evidence and completing puzzles.

One half of the game is spent hunting around crime scenes, looking for evidence, talking to witnesses, and generally getting a feel for the case.

The other half sees you in the courtroom, locking horns with prosecutors who are baying for blood. By picking apart testimonies from witnesses you can establish the truth and get your clients off the hook.

There are some neat 3D character models for the first time in a Phoenix Wright game, as well as anime-style cutscenes, but otherwise this is your average Phoenix Wright title through and through.

Wright on time

Keeping in line with other Ace Attorney titles, Dual Destinies is a massive game, clocking in at over 20 hours of play.

And it comes with plenty of ridiculous stories, as you'd expect, with numerous messed up twists and turns along the way that seemingly come out of nowhere.

Capcom has attempted to streamline the experience this time around. There's a Notes area where you can check what the heck you're meant to be doing next, and when you're searching crime scenes a tick will signal that you've already examined something.

But while Dual Destinies has the makings of another great Phoenix Wright game, it misses the mark consistently, offering up one of the least-memorable experiences in the series to date.

Just not Wright

None of the stories in Dual Destinies is very memorable, and I found myself drifting off while playing, simply because I wasn't hooked by any of the bloody tales.

Meanwhile, the new characters aren't particularly engaging. New defence attorney Athena Cykes, for example, is your bog-standard ditsy spirit, with a pretty dull power that centres around emotions.

By the end of each case, I was struggling to care at all about who was murdered and why - and given that the story is Phoenix Wright's main selling point, this can't be a good thing.

It doesn't help that, for a good portion of the game, you're not even controlling Phoenix - rather, he is only the main character in some cases, and you're actually giving directions to Athena and Apollo for around half of the game.

Another joke based around the word Wright

There are issues concerning the game's underlying mechanics too.

Plenty of times you're forced into a situation where you're holding evidence that could blow the case apart, but you're made to deal with other less-important facets of the case first.

Then there's the issue with the penalty points. In past Ace Attorney games, if you chose the wrong options and wore the penalty bar down to zero, you were thrown back to the start of the day. This was annoying and unfriendly, but at least it made you really think about your choices.

To "fix" this, Capcom has done away with punishment entirely. When your bar wears down to nothing in Dual Destinies, it says "Game Over" - but then you're put right back at the spot you were up to, with a full penalty bar again.

This means there is no element of risk and reward, and when you're stuck you can simply just try every piece of evidence until you find the right one. It boggles the mind that Capcom hasn't implemented a ranking system, so that those players who manage to get through a case without "losing" gain a higher rank than those who see "Game Over" a couple of times.

Phoenix Wright fans are going to buy Dual Destinies regardless of its flaws. It's not a bad game by any means, but it's not the one we were hoping for either. Newcomers to the franchise will want to pick up the earlier titles rather than starting here.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies

Dual Destinies is disappointing. In general it's more of the same Phoenix Wright we've come to know and love, but the stories and characters are horribly weak
Mike Rose
Mike Rose
An expert in the indie games scene, Mike comes to Pocket Gamer as our handheld gaming correspondent. He is the author of 250 Indie Games You Must Play.