Phoenix Wright: Dual Destinies starts with a bang – literally – when a bomb that was part of the evidence presented in a trial suddenly arms itself and explodes. Despite a hasty evacuation, when the dust clears a body is found in the rubble. Was the explosion accidental or on purpose? In the fifth game in the acclaimed Ace Attorney series to be released outside of Japan, and the first to have 3D graphics, defense lawyer Phoenix Wright is joined by Apollo Justice and rookie Athena Cykes. Playing as each of these different attorneys in turn, players will travel back and forth through time to learn more about not just the bombing, but also how Phoenix returned to the courtroom and how Athena and Apollo first met. It's great to have Phoenix back with new characters on board, though you’ll soon discover that when you start with an explosion, it's hard to keep the momentum going quite that strongly after that.
The five original cases (plus one downloadable extra case) offer a variety of settings, both in terms of crime scenes and in the temporal sense. The first case takes place in the courtroom that’s destroyed in the intro, in which a childhood friend of Athena's is accused of setting off the bomb. The other cases take place in different time periods and don't follow chronological order. One details Phoenix's first case following his hiatus, and of course there’s a re-enactment of the trial that led to the courtroom bombing. With such diverse locations as a Space Center, a Japanese village and a law school to visit outside, there is plenty of variety in the scenery.
The story starts out a bit dull and slow-paced, especially after the spectacular opening drama, but after two cases it picks up more than enough speed and depth to make Dual Destinies another worthwhile entry in the series. An additional case, “Turnabout Reclaimed”, can be bought separately as DLC. This case takes us to an aquarium, and the client is a killer whale accused of killing its trainer. Since the killer whale obviously can't talk or come to the courtroom, this is one of the more interesting cases, as well as displaying the most gorgeous looking backgrounds and animations.
Phoenix is now a mentor with his own agency, called Wright Anything, consisting of Phoenix himself, Apollo Justice, Phoenix's adopted daughter Trucy (a wannabe magician), and a new, fresh-out-of-law-school rookie attorney, Athena Cykes. Athena’s specialty is analytical psychology, and she can attune herself to the emotions in someone's heart with the aid of her pendant, the Mood Matrix. The three attorneys are different enough from each other to keep things fresh, yet they work well together, often aiding each other in court. A couple of other new characters include a defense attorney who has been convicted of murder and is still in shackles, and a police officer who is eager to help in the name of justice. Each case also has its own set of weird suspects and witnesses, such as a bomb expert called Ted Tonate, and a journalist hiding inside a huge cardboard box.
A recurring theme in all of the cases is the so-called Dark Age of the Law. Time and time again, Phoenix and his companions run into attorneys, judges and witnesses that live by the adage that 'The end justifies all means.' It appears that truth no longer has a place in the courtroom. Evidence may be fabricated, memories can be biased, and witnesses bribed or manipulated, so the only thing that counts is the end result: the verdict. A law school even teaches their students in this manner. Fortunately for us, Phoenix is determined to bring back the 'olden' days of justice, and the cases in Dual Destinies follow the familiar pattern of investigating/exploring and speaking to witnesses, presenting evidence and pressing contradictory statements during cross-examinations in court. The ultimate goal is to prove your client's innocence while the prosecution does their best to prove them guilty.
Every time you think you've found the crucial turning point, the prosecution comes up with new statements and revelations that make the experience feel energetic and keep the story interesting. It’s business as usual for those who have played the earlier games, but you need no knowledge of previous instalments. In fact, what happened to the judicial system in Apollo Justice’s own spin-off game seems to have never happened here. The forensics system (in the form of animated diagrams) and the ability to view objects up close and from all angles are gone, but during investigations you can now turn the room around with the arrows provided so you can look at it from different perspectives, which sometimes reveals new evidence that was previously hidden behind some furniture. The exploration part still only ends when you've clicked on everything relevant though, plus it's limited to the crime scenes so you can no longer examine everywhere at will.
An issue that all the Ace Attorney games share – Dual Destinies being no exception – is that sometimes you as the player know exactly what is needed to prove something vital in the case, but the game won't let you use that evidence or statement just yet. Instead, it forces you to follow a very linear path of dealing with some minor details first. This can be frustrating when you have the evidence to turn the case upside down and want to get on with it, such as spotting something very incriminating in a crime scene photo but the witness only wants to talk about something completely different.Continued on the next page...