Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies Review

Protection from those painful truths.

In the dark age of the law, truth has no place within the confines of a courtroom. Reality is nothing more than an unreliable recollection of events by a flawed person. How can we trust memories that are tempered by emotions, undermined by biases, and torn apart by baseless assumptions? Truth and lies are much closer than people would want to believe, and to pretend otherwise is disingenuous. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies explores the twisted path of the judicial system. When the end is the only thing that matters, the means you use to arrive at that point isn't important. Or is it? The moral quagmire of the law is a difficult road to navigate and Dual Destinies weaves a clever analysis of this fascinating process.

Apollo Justice has sworn to protect those wrongly accused of heinous crimes, but an attorney has only so much power to right injustices. When one of his friends is accused of murdering another, his duty to seek justice goes much further than a mere courtroom could allow. Such dramatic events are interspersed with comedic jabs so you're never burdened by these lofty themes. Cutting insults hurled at the buffoonish judge by prisoner-turned-lawyer Simon Blackquill inject levity within the heated debates, and spirited newcomer Athena Cykes displays an energetic naivete while she deconstructs the emotions of those who take the stand. Dual Destinies expertly balances two narrative extremes, using off-the-wall dialogue at key moments to keep the mood light even when the characters are grappling with their own limitations.

Meet Athena Cykes, a woman who turns her back on floating spaghetti.

Practicing law within the Phoenix Wright universe requires a cleverness better suited to authors of courtroom drama than to actual barristers. While scouring a crime scene, you may find a trinket seemingly unrelated to the facts of a murder, but you tuck it in your inventory without question, in case its importance becomes known during the court proceedings. Pretrial investigations push you from one disorderly scene to another, and you interview potential witnesses to slowly piece together what actually happened. Such activities are performed by rote because there's little variance in what's expected of you. A checklist chronicles exactly what you must accomplish before the next event is triggered, so although the occasional eureka moments stamp exclamation points onto your actions, you're so rarely asked to think beyond the basics that you're left going through the motions until court is in session.

Off-the-wall dialogue at key moments keeps the mood light even when the characters are grappling with their own limitations.

Apollo seeks justice no matter what the cost.

Verbal sparring within the courtroom rises above the pleasant predictability of the investigative process. Witnesses provide testimony tinged with contradictions, so you must scour your evidence to find the piece that proves they're lying. Following the breadcrumb trails of lies to an ultimate truth gives weight to every objection you utter. Although the committed crimes are incredibly complex in how they were performed, there's an underlying plausibility that makes it easy to accept the outcomes. From motivations to opportunities to the method for covering up his or her actions, the perpetrator's thought process is eventually unraveled and displayed in detail. To succeed within the stressful back-and-forth swings is to discover the very essence of truth, and the game masterfully urges you onward to unearth the secrets that lie hidden deep below the surface.

Trust is often the only thing that keeps Phoenix Wright and his colleagues afloat when odds seem stacked against them. The bonds of friendship run so deep that even when every piece of evidence is screaming that the defendant's hands are covered in red, the unwavering belief in his or her innocence keeps the attorneys pushing to explain how the crime actually transpired. And though such loyalty is admirable, it creates situations that border closely on the dangerous adage "the end justifies the means." This phrase is uttered by those who have ushered in the dark age of the law, ignoring truth for the greater good, and though Phoenix strongly disagrees with that theory, he is forced to use creative means to avoid guilty verdicts. Concocting questionable alternate theories eventually brings Phoenix to the truth, but he tears down the wall separating fact from fiction to come to those conclusions.

The game masterfully urges you onward to unearth the secrets that lie hidden deep below the surface.

Because of the dance both the defense and prosecution must perform, Dual Destinies presents both sides of the coin in the the ongoing discussion about achieving justice while working within a flawed judicial system. As much as Phoenix's team members deny the benefits of lying to further their goals, they are guilty of the same actions, so you understand why someone would twist facts for their own purpose. It's fascinating to see these scenes play out. A witness may lie because he's covering up his own despicable actions, trying to hide that he is really guilty of a murder most foul. But other times, lies surface only to protect a loved one. Would you testify if you knew your words could send your friend to prison? Dual Destinies shows just how scary the truth can be, so you sympathize with those who turn their backs on it.

Phoenix Wright is never wrong! Well, never is a strong word. Rarely?

There are times when someone changes reality to fit their own needs, but those aren't the only lies that exist in Dual Destinies. Words are empty to Athena Cykes. As a trained psychoanalyst, she knows that people can say whatever rushes into their heads, but their emotions are unfiltered. When Athena discovers discord, she analyzes the emotions of whoever is on the witness stand to figure out what he or she refuses to say out loud. Why would someone be happy when a ceiling crumbles upon them? Or sad when they don a cloak adorned with shining constellations? This simple mechanic reverberates beyond the courtroom proceeding. I started to think about my own emotions that surface when I wish they would stay hidden. Even when lying would make my life so much easier, the truth still finds a way out, and I realized while calling out witnesses on their contradictory feelings just how pointless it is to hide from who you are.

Dual Destinies dives deep within the psyches of those involved in crimes--from the attorneys to the perpetrators and everyone else associated with the events--and such ruminations give you a better understanding of human motivations. The manner in which you investigate and argue is unchanged from previous iterations, and the exaggerated personalities of the characters hit the same notes as before, which does lessen the mysterious appeal of a courtroom drama. However, Dual Destines is more than just another retread. Themes of friendship and trust make you appreciate the depth of relationships, and the omnipresent question of the necessity of truth provides a compelling backdrop. Phoenix Wright's return to the courtroom brings with it an impressive blend of comedic sensibilities and philosophical examinations that make you question how any judicial system can determine guilt when the relationships people have with the truth are so complicated.

The Good
Interesting exploration of the nature of truth
Discovering the motive of the culprit is empowering
Smart writing expertly balances thoughtful and silly
The Bad
n/a
8
Great
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Tom has been enamored with the legal system since Colonel Jessup argued that Lieutenant Kaffee couldn't handle the truth. A veteran of the Phoenix Wright franchise, Tom contends that the last case in Trials and Tribulations is the best writing ever seen in a video game.

Discussion

89 comments
Gvaz
Gvaz

Only thing wrong with this game is it's too short.

CoquiNegro
CoquiNegro

Is it possible that Gamespot could remove the good and bad section? It seems pointless when half of their reviews don't even mention anything bad to them.

norabbitnofun
norabbitnofun

Thanks for pointing this game out!

As a long-term series player, I was wondering how much I should expect to like the game. I ended up more frustrated than usual with the previous entry vecause of the amount of trail-and-error that was needed to land a proper "objection!" logic.

Also reading about a young lawyer accompanied by a candid lady makes me think that this is extremely close o the first entry of the series. Replace maga- mega- whatever the mystic thing was called when you removed locks, and you get the same thing, right?

I wish the series introduced more variety in terms of game mechanics. It is nice to object and show logic to solve puzzles, but I often find it too restrictive to have only one course of throught authorized. (Sometimes in previous entries I objected, the game told me there was no logic, but I wanted to object to the game's handling of my objection because what I wanted to say made sense.)

It would be great to have a more flexible game engine (like what scribblenaut introduced?)

kingtrax
kingtrax

Anyone successfully defend OS Jimpson yet?

kerc_chaos
kerc_chaos

Would be great on Android/iOS I'd grab it in a heartbeat.

Mamba219
Mamba219

Hi Tom, not sure if you'll read this, but I wanted to ask you a question.

When reviewing games like this that are heavily story-based and have limited gameplay to speak of, what is your policy? I ask because I've finished the game. I've also played the other games in the series extensively, and I would say that gameplay-wise, this one is the best. It uses smart techniques during the Investigation phases that seriously cut down on feeling lost, you'll never miss a clue in a crime scene, it only lets you examine areas that have things of relevance, gives you a checklist, etc. This cut down on frustration, but also made those parts far more linear. Good or bad? For this type of game, I'd say definitely good.

But we both know the writing and the story are the real cruxes here, and I thought the writing in this one was also top-notch, right up there with the first game if falling a little short of the third. There were no "filler" cases here, which has been a real sticking point for the series: each case was interesting and served to advance the central theme of the game. The twists and turns were great, if not as great as the highlights of some of the earlier games, yet the cases were more consistently interesting. How do you rate that?

I'm asking because this seems like it'd be a super-difficult game to review, given that certain people will just never like these types of games because they don't like reading, and there is very little gameplay to speak of. Yet, these games offer something no other gaming franchise does, and for what they are they are exceptional. I'm an enormous fan of the series - I buy the games day 1 and take off from school/work in order to beat them. No other games get me to act this way.

Anyway, I hope you read this and are able to give me your thoughts. Thanks in advance.


abHS4L88
abHS4L88

I really want to start this series (as I love games that challenge my deductive skills) but I'm not sure if I should start with this game or with the first entry. 

advocacy
advocacy

Gamespot editorial policy: when in doubt, rate an 8.

Squirrelatwar
Squirrelatwar

Hey Tom, great review. I was wondering how necessary it is to have played the previous games in this series to understand the plot, can I go straight to this or would that ruin the experience?

hazamatoxin
hazamatoxin

Solid, From this review, it seems like a great game, seriously screw review scores,some people(not all) should actually read the review, before hating on it otherwise you have no context.

Noj_Leakim
Noj_Leakim

Interesting seeing a game with no marks in the negative column get an 8. Regardless a pretty good review. I wouldve given it something around a 9 but I LOVE Ace Attorney games. Though I have to wonder why did you use all the alternate DLC costumes as screenshots though?

Klagmar1
Klagmar1

Beautifully written review. 8 seems a little low for no faults being listed, but it's still within the realm of reason. Excellent job!

alenth
alenth

hahahaha another 8.


Nice job Eightspot.

GhoX
GhoX

Bad: "n/a"

Perhaps review scores really shouldn't exist. This is a good review, and if I read it I do understand the game's many merits. Yet nothing in the review could explain why the game is scored an 8. It'd cause a lot less confusion if a number is never there.

amdreallyfast
amdreallyfast

Consider looking into tips on simplifying your writing style.  For example this review could be summarized, if I am reading this correctly, as "Good game, this".

Diegoctba
Diegoctba

I'm a lawyer, and it's sad to see a game about us not doing so well by critics. People really hate us.

Kaz32
Kaz32

I've been waiting a whole day to download this game. Its the 24th here in Australia and this game wasn't on the 3DS online store. Finally I am able to download it at midnight, and well, its Phoenix Wright all right, but the graphic, ohh man, it looks freaking awesome. Never have I seen a 3D anime character model looks so good like in this game. My mind is blown away at how well the art style works. Now I'm at the first case laughing at the smart witty dialogue. I'm going to enjoy this!

Bulzeeb3088
Bulzeeb3088

Finished Case 1, and so far I'm very pleased. The Notebook feature is a nice addition I wish I had during those past Investigative scenes where it felt like I did everything I could do but still couldn't progress.

Legolas_Katarn
Legolas_Katarn

Nothing under the bad. Yay, I get to scroll down to see comment after comment wondering why the game isn't a 10 if it is perfect.

Fryboy101
Fryboy101

Downloading as I'm reading this review 

EPaul
EPaul

Wish there was a physical release in the NA region

hotdiddykong
hotdiddykong

Great review tom, especially since Gamespot gave everything after the first ace attorney a 7.5, great to know Dual Destinies holds up.

freedom01
freedom01 moderator

hmm where's the bad?

abHS4L88
abHS4L88

@Gvaz  

Took me nearly 30 hours to beat the game, that's pretty lengthy to me and I've yet to tackle the DLC case.

SnappySnake
SnappySnake

@abHS4L88 You might want to start from the beginning. This game as lot of things you might not understand if you did not play the past entries.

Mamba219
Mamba219

@Squirrelatwar Each game is more or less self-contained, you can play this one without playing the earlier ones. There are characters that recur and references to earlier events, but the real draw here are the individual cases and the overarching story. You'll be fine.

TomMcShea
TomMcShea moderator

@Noj_Leakim The screenshots were all provided by Capcom so I didn't have the ability to capture them.

JamesHetfield89
JamesHetfield89

@Diegoctba  If you read this review and came to the conclusion that the game isn't well received by the critic, you are not a very good lawyer...

swyg
swyg

@Legolas_Katarn It's not just about flaws, it's about how much the game excels as well.

vectordream
vectordream

@EPaul Same here. I am interested in this game but I prefer a physical copy especially on the 3DS.

abHS4L88
abHS4L88

@SnappySnake

So I finally started it from the first entry and I'm having a blast so far :D Can't wait to catch up so I can play this entry! 

abHS4L88
abHS4L88

@SnappySnake

Thank you! I can only track down the first entry so far which is good since it's the first one :D

hotdiddykong
hotdiddykong

@TomMcShea @R4gn4r0k @hotdiddykong  

True enough your right, and now Dual Destinies starts fresh following some details from Apollo but still being its own, im excited to go through it to see how Apollo has grown in character since then :D

TomMcShea
TomMcShea moderator

@R4gn4r0k @TomMcShea @hotdiddykong It would be kind of impossible. One of the reason T&T is so incredible is how it ties the events of the first two games together. I'd have to play through the entire trilogy again... That's a lot of objections!

TomMcShea
TomMcShea moderator

@polostation @Arkhalipso @freedom01 But there are only three Good entries. It should have gotten a 3!

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies More Info

  • First Released
    • 3DS
    • iPhone/iPod
    Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies sees the return of courtroom hero Phoenix Wright some eight years since his last appearance in the courts.
    8.9
    Average User RatingOut of 29 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies
    Developed by:
    Capcom
    Published by:
    Capcom
    Genres:
    Adventure
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature
    All Platforms
    Blood, Language, Suggestive Themes, Violence