It’s been a while since Phoenix Wright last stepped into a courtroom. Trials And Tribulations being the last time back in 2008. Since then we’ve had Apollo Justice take charge for the fourth instalment before anti-hero prosecutor Miles Edgeworth got his own spin-off series. Now set eight years after his last court appearance, Phoenix Wright is back in what is best described as, quite literally, an explosive return.
What the Phoenix Wright series has always done best is tell a fascinating story, with twists and turns, which more often than not leaves the player unsure as to where the story goes next. Dual Destines carries on this tradition. Starting with a courtroom bombing, you’re thrown headlong back into the action with Phoenix Wright and his new addition to the team, Athena Cykes.
It’s a start that brought back memories of previous games, and Dual Destinies while sticking close to the formula does bring new elements to the table. Cross-examinations and presenting evidence are still the crux of each courtroom scene. And the return of psych-locks and Apollo’s bracelet do make a return from previous games. The newest gameplay addition comes in the form of Athena and her necklace Widget. Athena having the ability to read people’s emotions. During certain sections you’re able to activate Widget, this then showing four different emotions (joy, fear, shock and anger). By following the witness’ testimony you can figure out if any emotion they’re feeling contradicts what they’re saying. There really is no better feeling than finally finding a contradiction in someone’s statement and with one shout of “Objection!” you’ve finally gotten to the truth. Only now the finger pointing is in 3D.
This is not just due to the 3DS hardware, but also the characters. Gone are the paper like characters that adorned previous games and in place are fully 3D models. Not just that but all the best Phoenix Wright animations from games gone by are here, now with proper 3D movement and they look glorious. This new technological advance also plays a part in the investigation phase of each case. Now you have the ability to move around each investigation area. It’s not free moving as such, they’re still fixed on perspectives, but you’re able to now look at each scene from different angles.
A complaint with the previous Phoenix Wright games is the ability to miss a certain thing to help the story progress. Many times becoming stuck because you didn’t check a small corner of a room or failed to present the most inconsequential evidence to a character. Dual Destinies alleviates that by now explicitly telling you when everything has been checked and offering hints when a piece of evidence needs to be shown. Some would say this takes away part of the difficulty; our view is that takes away a lot of the unneeded frustration. Once in the courtroom however and it’s a different story. Characters will offer subtle hints, but other than that you’re on your own. And with a life bar in place, making too many mistakes and it’s over for the defendant.
What has always been a staple of the series is the excellent translation and characters. Dual Destinies doesn’t disappoint as the writing is as witty as ever, with a dash of risqué humour thrown in for good measure. Constant references to Trucy’s “magic panties” and prosecutors complementing witnesses on “their fine box” makes us think this was translated with tongue planted firmly in cheek. Or maybe it’s in part thanks to our childish sense of humour. Nevertheless, each of the five cases found in Dual Destinies are filled with a colourful cast and have stories that are suitably bonkers and outlandish, yet when it all comes together each story seems weirdly plausible. And none of which would anyone see coming. You may figure out the killer right off the bat, but their methods are always indecipherable till the very end.
While the third in the series Trials and Tribulations remains the high point in the Phoenix Wright saga, Dual Destinies comes up as a very close second. Managing to wash out the bad taste the Edgeworth spin-off left, this is an incredible return to form for the series. With each case being as intriguing as the last it’s a game that is hard to put down till you’ve reached the games dramatic conclusion.