Much like its titular defense lawyer signature tactic, the Ace Attorney series has always been prone to a last minute turnabout.
Spin-offs, dream collaborations, and big screen debuts have kept Phoenix Wright a household name in Japan for the past five years while hopes waned in the West that it was case closed for Capcom’s courtroom drama.
But like a turnabout straight out of the game, Dual Destinies, the fifth installment in the Ace Attorney series, returns to the stand a little aged but still gunning for justice.
From courtroom bombings to high school dramas that fill this five case text-filled tale, Dual Destinies is quick to call upon the series beloved hallmarks. Ritualistic murders unravel over hours as eccentric characters are probed for their hole-riddled alibis and light-hearted investigations concluded with exhilarating bouts in court.
It’s not without a few additional quirks to the system. In addition to Apollo Justice’s ability to perceive tells in a defendant’s subtle movements, Wright’s latest protégé Athena Cykes can use her talking necklace Widget providing her a means of analysing a defendant’s emotions as they pour through statements via a Mood Matrix. Additionally, logic trees allow players to piece together a sound case before landing the final blow. These new features spice up proceedings but too often feel like padding to a game that’s already laden with text and light on gameplay.
As always, the Ace Attorney series relied predominantly on its bizarre narratives and charming cast. New faces introduced this time around include the aforementioned Athena Cykes completing the defense attorney trio as well as rival prosecutor and convicted murderer Simon Blackquill and the dimwitted Gumshoe replacement, Detective Full Bright. Old friends drop by to help out from time to time with more than a few nods to the series’ past scattered throughout.
It’s the new facelift however that’s likely to please long-standing fans. Wright’s 3DS debut has been carefully overhauled with 3D character models and some cringe-worthy voice acting and animated cut-scenes. It looks better where it matters that as exaggerated animations and striking poses look even more convincing with the 3D slider cranked up.
The soundtrack has also been given some stellar treatment with many memorable themes spruced up with full orchestra making each turnabout more awe-inspiring than the last.
While some might turn their nose up at Capcom’s decision to go digital-only with Dual Destinies, it’s actually one of the best decisions the publisher has made in years. It’s limited western appeal and niche gameplay, Dual Destinies arrives as the genuine article, a Japanese specialty wonderfully translated for just a handful of Capcom’s usual market reach.
It’s not the strongest entry in the series but Dual Destinies strong production values breathe new life to its signature moments and its mad yarns are just as bold.