Phoenix Wright Dual Destinies (Available exclusively on Nintendo 3DS eShop)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Adventure/Visual Novel
Release Date: October 24th, 2013
Parent Talk: Phoenix Wright is rated M for Mature because of mature themes—it’s a murder mystery, after all. There are some scenes of killing and splattering of blood, but the level of violence in this game is significantly different than something like Grand Theft Auto or Saints Row. The rating is deceptive, because if anything, the dialog and scenario are actually appropriate for younger audiences, and the game could have easily gotten away with a T rating.
Plays Like: The previous games in the Phoenix Wright series; that is, a point-and-click style adventure game or visual novel. Most of the game consists of reading. You read story scenes, watch cutscenes, analyze witness testimony, and then find contradictions by presenting the appropriate evidence at the right time.
Review Basis: Completed all cases.
Phoenix Wright games are basically “visual novels.” It’s a nebulous genre term at best, so if you’re not familiar with it, here’s what you’re in for: you read witness testimony and present evidence when you read something that you think is contradictory. Most of the game is reading. There is a lot of story text and dialog. You are able to move around and collect evidence in certain scenes, much akin to a point-and-click style adventure game, but you don’t really change the flow of the story nor do different scenarios. Yet, the series is loved by many because of its tightly-wounded narratives, memorable characters, and great music. It’s basically a courtroom drama and murder mystery.
The Great: A dramatic story. Phoenix Wright is all about the dramatic turnabouts. Heck, the original Japanese title for the series is “Turnabout Courtroom” (Gyakuten Saiban 逆転裁判). This game exemplifies that spirit perfectly. All of the games in the series have jaw-dropping moments of ridiculous drama and the games have done an excellent job of straddling the line between comedy and tragedy. It’s arguably the most consistently good series that Capcom has created, or any company for that matter. Each game in the series stands well on its own, with tightly wound narratives that are incredibly fun to unravel. Dual Destinies has one of the most engaging stories of the series, weaving in nods to the past games and establishing new characters and plot threads in expert fashion. Newcomer Athena has a genuinely intriguing backstory and this game’s finale really brought me back to the original title’s landmark DL-6 case. Do yourself a favor: do not read walkthroughs on how to solve the cases and do not spoil the last case for yourself. I almost dropped my 3DS in shock when I got to the end!
+ Excellent characters, both old and new. Phoenix Wright is one of Capcom’s best characters, in my opinion. He’s eminently likable because of his awkward charms, so it’s great to see him back in full force (though to be fair, he was still a major presence in Apollo Justice). Speaking of Apollo, he also gets a major role in this game, making this feel like a true sequel, one that honors what the fourth game set out to do. Some past characters come back to make you feel nostalgic, and the new characters fit in quite well with the series cast. Simon Blackquill may remind many of prosecutors Von Karma or Godot from the original games, and Athena has quickly become a fan-favorite because of her excellent character design and well-written dialog. She’s a strong-headed young woman with a strong sense of justice. Even when the game comes off as cliché, it still manages to be sincere and genuine.
+ Perfect transition from 2D to 3D. Capturing Phoenix Wright in 3D is a tall order. The games are so well-known for the somewhat choppy sprite-based graphics of the original and it would be a shame to sacrifice the game’s visual flair. However, Capcom managed to capture the essence of Phoenix Wright’s look exceedingly well in this game. The characters are all spot on and the witness breakdowns are just as memorable as ever. It’s unfortunate that the iOS version of the games didn’t go this route, because it looks magnificent, and even better in 3D. The added depth works well in the visually busy courtroom. I played through the entire game in 3D because I couldn’t get enough of looking at it.
+ An excellent soundtrack. Phoenix Wright games are typically known for the dramatic turnabouts, but what really makes those moments stand out is the music. When you start to go on the offensive and point out holes in the witness testimony, the game sets the stage perfectly with great songs. My personal favorite tracks are this game’s version of “Announcing the Truth” and “Running Wild ~ Mood Matrix.”
+ The Mood Matrix, Apollo’s super eyesight, and Phoenix’s Psyche Locks. During most of the game, you have to present the correct evidence at the right time to point out holes in witness testimony—that much is a given. But the series also has other gimmicks that make things interesting, and this game incorporates a lot of them. Phoenix has his magatama, a mystical item given to him by the Fey family, which allows him to see the “locks” around a person’s heart. In short, he can know when someone is keeping a secret. Apollo, on the other hand, has a bracelet on his wrist that reacts when someone lies. Then, using his hyper-sensitive eyesight, he can spot the small twitches and quirks that witnesses have when they lie. Athena uses a device and her knowledge of Analytical Psychology to basically walk the witness through their testimony, identifying how they are feeling and calming them down enough to divulge more details. It makes the courtroom scenes more interesting and fun. The Mood Matrix system starts simply, but becomes more interesting in later cases when you have more challenging witnesses.
+/-It’s a linear game. This is complaint that I always see plastered on Phoenix Wright reviews, so I debated on pointing it out at all, but figured that I may as well. It’s somewhat pointless to complain about this in a visual novel type game, especially because the entire premise is to go through the story. To me, it’s like complaining that a book is linear. It simply comes with the territory. Nevertheless, if you don’t like a game that you can’t change the direction of, this may not be for you. Phoenix Wright isn’t about diverging plotlines or multiple scenarios; nor is it a game that you really play through multiple times in a row. Most of the enjoyment comes from seeing plot revelations unfold for the first time and figuring things out on your own.
-Not much use of the touch screen or other features, aside from menus. In the bonus case of Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney, you got to use various forensic tools with Emma Skye (and later in Apollo Justice). It was a neat way of exploiting some of the DS’s touch features, so I was hoping that we would see more of that in Dual Destinies. While the menus and interface has been significantly improved, there isn’t much forensic analysis in this game. You do have to “select” the right areas for certain pieces of evidence, but I do miss checking for fingerprints, testing for blood, etc. This is a minor nitpick at best though.
-Only minor cameos from certain characters and others don’t make an appearance. I wanted to see more of the cast! Where’s Franziska von Karma?!
-If you’re not a longtime fan, you won’t get as much out of the story. It’s still easy to play and enjoy, but there are many subtle nods to the previous games. There aren’t any strongly overt ties to the past games, so you can still jump in to this knowing simply that Phoenix and Apollo know each other from long ago and both are defense lawyers. You don’t need to know about how Phoenix defended his rival Miles Edgeworth in a landmark case in the first game, but it does help you understand the significance when he arrives in this game. It helps you understand why he’s indebted to Phoenix. The narrative weaves in a lot of references to the previous games and that significantly increases your enjoyment.
Dual Destinies is not to be missed. It’s an excellent game through-and-through and continues the series tradition quite admirably. It reaffirms my belief that Phoenix Wright is Capcom’s most consistently great series, because each game can stand on its own as an excellent adventure. If you absolutely cannot stand reading in games and you don’t like a game that doesn’t offer replay value, it may not be for you, but if you’re interested in playing something different from the mainstream and something with a great story, you should definitely get this. And parents, don’t let the M-for-mature rating fool you; this game is easily appropriate for teens to play. Download this one whenever you can!