Capcom’s Phoenix Wright videogame franchise is something of an oddity in the modern videogame industry. There is an audience clamouring for more from the affable hero of justice, and yet little faith that any new release would receive the support required to convince retailers to promote it as a full price release. The modern industry is very different to that when Phoenix Wright made its debut however, and it’s now entirely possible to cut out that middle man and serve content direct to your eager audience.
Of course, this is exactly what Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies is doing: launching exclusively on the Nintendo 3DS via the Nintendo eShop. The unique brand of self-referential humour and intentionally stuttering gameplay design has won Phoenix Wright thousands of fans and those most keen to adopt this new release are likely to sit in the camp keen for digitally distributed content also. Not only does Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies present an opportunity for Capcom to experiment with their distribution channels but also to deliver a product that fans have been asking for; two birds with one stone.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies makes no hesitations in relating directly to this knowing audience. There are efforts made to ease new players into this eccentric world of odd characters thrown together in a faux law society, but these are minimal. Many of the jokes and references are aimed at knowledgeable Phoenix Wright fans, and not being part of this exclusive club will leave you ill equipped for much of the opening case. Thankfully the gameplay mechanics are reintroduced with more consistency.
It’s telling that the default option is to skip the tutorials, but for the uneducated Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies does a good job of explaining each of it’s mechanics at length. Not just the ‘how’ but also the ‘why’ and the potential resulting effect are laid bare to ensure that the player is not without all the information they need to succeed. The first instance of this is in the Cross Examination mechanic, wherein the player has the opportunity to examine a witness’ testimony at their own pace, comparing it to all the objects that have thus far been submitted into evidence. Upon finding an inconsistency they are able to address the witness, or simply push for further information in the hope of opening a door to new information. It’s here that not only does Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies reveal its true depth, with many possible paths that can be walked in the lengthier testimonies, but also where the newest addition to the starring cast makes her presence known.
Athena Cykes has been working with Phoenix Wright for six months. She’s still a little green, but eager to make a name for herself. And this she does thanks to her unique ability to assess the mood of a witness. Information from the testimony is compared to the culmination of four emotional states in the ‘Mood Matrix’ and any contradictions can be pressed for further information. For example, a witness showing signs of happiness at a traumatic event is not necessarily the expected collation.
Outside of the courtroom drama Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies builds the story of its characters through idle time adventures. Inevitably becoming more than just pastimes, these sequences are the second leg of the infamous Phoenix Wright gameplay. Here players collect evidence through talking to characters and exploring areas, slowly building a case before presenting their findings in the court. The crimes that are committed are more personal when they are built in such a fashion, resulting in greater attachment despite there being less importance placed upon them than that of the main thread in the videogame.
From a technical standpoint Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies ticks all the right boxes. Its animation is slick and character design is easily likeable. Its use of stereoscopic 3D is charming – never once necessary but certainly enhancing atmosphere – and the bright colours employed by the videogame offer a stark contrast to the blood spill that occurs at its most violent moments. The voice acting is also of a high standard throughout, though the sudden changes between spoken word and reams of text could be seen as jarring for those not already familiar with the series.
While Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies is ultimately more of the same, it’s no less endearing than its predecessors. It is a videogame that has been built for a knowing audience and in that respect Capcom have been wise to restrict it to a digital-only release, thus lowering the barrier needed for success. And it’s to be successful that Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies most certainly deserves, as it’s a videogame that confidently stands apart from the crowd as a welcome change of pace to the typical genre fodder that fills most retail software libraries.