Phoenix Wright : Dual Destinies – Objections… IN 3D!
Welcome back, this week I’ll be covering a game that I have been looking forward to for a very long time. In fact I’ve been looking forward to it so much that I did a retrospective on the entire series- which you should go read if you haven’t already. The Gyakuten Saiban series is one that I enjoy a lot and heartily recommend to those who own a DS- however it has been many years since one has been released in Western territories, with the last one being Apollo Justice in 2008, which left some fans of the series with misgivings as it focused on Apollo rather than Phoenix Wright and also felt slightly soulless. Dual Destinies which was released last month is a return to form for the series and below I’ll try and cover the major changes and story (without spoilers) and suggest why you should try it.
ALL RISE- COURT IS NOW IN SESSION
Dual Destinies is the first Gyakuten Saiban on the 3DS and so the most obvious changes can be seen in the way it looks compared to the original series, which was released for the Gameboy Advance. The series retains the anime style character designs, but these are now 3D models rather than the 2D images previously used. To veterans of the series this can be a little jarring at first, however it doesn’t take too long to adjust and the 3D models are as expressive and detailed as the 2D images used before. The other major graphical addition is the anime cut-scenes similar to those used in Persona 3 and 4. These are really well animated and take the place of the opening static image cut-scenes from the original trilogy. These cut-scenes have also convinced me that a Phoenix Wright anime is possible similar to Persona 4: The Animation and the upcoming Persona 3: The Movie. The voice acting is also very good considering the, often poor, dubs that English speaking viewers of anime receive. These cut-scenes also help to give the game a slightly darker tone than the original games which feels fitting considering the change in narrative direction.
The gameplay remains similar to the original games and comes in two forms. As a defence lawyer you have to use logic to spot contradictions in witness testimonies and then present evidence to force them to reveal more details that form a narrative that finishes with the true culprit being discovered. Discovering and pointing out these contradictions remains as rewarding as ever and the new ability to look back through past dialogue allows the player to spot contradictions faster and removes the frustration of accidently skipping through crucial dialogue. The other half of the gameplay are the investigation sections. During these sections you question potential witnesses and examine crime scenes to try and discover evidence that will be crucial in the trial sections. Dual Destinies improves on these sections by adding the ability to freely move between locations rather than having to go through two or three areas to get to the one you need. Another improvement is the addition of the casebook which lists the aims and objectives of the investigation and helps the investigation sections flow better; it also allows players to quickly find out what they need to do next if they have been away from the game for some time. Another minor new feature is the ability to choose which chapter you want to start from in each case. This data is auto-saved and allows players to quickly enter into the game if they have lost their save due to a corrupted save or the battery dying.
The final set of features are linked to the three individual characters that make up the Wright Anything Agency: Phoenix Wright, Apollo Justice and newcomer, Athena Cykes. Phoenix Wright’s Magatama makes a return, during investigation sections Phoenix will be able to tell when witnesses are lying and will be able to present evidence in order to force them to tell the truth. Apollo Justice has the Habit system which allows him to see minute movements during witness testimony when witnesses are lying and to use this to get them to tell the truth. Athena Cykes, the newest member of the team uses analytical psychology to analyse witnesses’ feelings and pinpoint emotions that contradict what they are saying. This mechanic is quite fun to use and is not as frustrating to use as the Habit mechanic. It also gives you a new way to find contradictions and it as rewarding to use as presenting evidence. The final new feature is what I like to deem, “The Ultimate Migraine Turnabout Technique”. The screen zooms in on your characters head and you then review the case in order to link together facts which eventually show who the culprit is. These sections are very similar to the chapter endings in Hotel Dusk and are quite fun although this mechanic is used sparsely. With the nitty gritty of mechanics dealt with I’ll move on to look at the story and characters which is where the game really shines.
What does it mean to be Wright or wrong?
The Gyakuten Saiban series has some incredibly good story telling in a medium that so often lacks complex stories and Dual Destinies is not an exception. The game follows the story of Phoenix Wright who has returned to the bar after losing his attorney badge between Trials and Tribulations and Apollo Justice. This version of Phoenix feels much more in control however the game is still filled with humorous moments. Phoenix is joined by Apollo Justice a trainee lawyer who was received badly in Gyakuten Saiban 4, being criticised for his flat character. This has been dealt with in Dual Destinies, with Apollo’s character being developed a great deal to the state where he is a likeable replacement for Phoenix. The final main cast member is Athena Cykes. Athena is the youngest member of the team and adept at analytical psychology due to being incredibly empathic. She is a good example of a strongly written character who develops as much, if not more so than Apollo, during the story. The addition of analytical psychology allows the game to cover topics such a mental health disorders, in a gentle and adult manner and adds to the growing number of difficult subjects that the Gyakuten Saiban series has covered.
The introductory case involves a bombing at the courthouse and features Phoenix and Athena. A fairly simple case it is used to introduce new players to the game as well as to give veterans a chance to try out the new mechanics. The second case revolves around a murder in a small village. This case uses a lot of Japanese cultural references such as the Yokai and the Nine-Tailed Fox and so it may be an idea to look at Wikipedia if the references are leaving you behind. This case introduces Simon Blackquill the new prosecutor. The prosecutors in the Gyakuten Saiban series are usually well written and Blackquill is no exception. A convict in prison charged with murder, he is allowed to prosecute due to his exceptional ability to get results. A very dark character with some excellent lines who is even more memorable due to fact that he does not simply Object, but instead uses Silence when under pressure. His story is covered in depth in the later cases and he is a firm contender for best prosecutor just being piped by Godot from Trials and Tribulations.
The third case takes place in a law school and is used to introduce some recognisable faces from Apollo Justice as well as giving some background to the “Dark Age of the Law”, a recent occurrence caused by the convictions of both Phoenix Wright and Simon Blackquill which caused to media to turn on the Justice system resulting in lawyers taking bribes and using false evidence to get the results that the public want. A scenario that feels incredibly plausible in today’s media driven climate and one that the game does its best to handle in an adult manner. This case is follow by the fourth case which, like previous Gyakuten Saiban games is used to set the scene for the final case, this time it is based around the murder of an astronaut. The final case also revolves around the murder of an astronaut and resolves all the major points covered during the story so far. It features the introduction of a very memorable villain and the reintroduction of some recognisable faces. Whilst not as emotional as the ending to Trials and Tribulations it is certainly memorable and marks a return to the high standards seen in the original Phoenix Wright trilogy.
Verily, I say, Ergo…
With the story and mechanics covered I’d like to finish up by looking at some of the additional features surrounding the game. The first feature is the soundtrack. The Gyakuten Saiban soundtracks have always been incredibly strong but were limited by the Gameboy Advance. This soundtrack is full of memorable pieces including an orchestrated version of the Objection theme from Gyakuten Saiban 1 and Simon Blackquill’s theme, which helps emphasise how threatening the new prosecutor is. The next major factor is that Dual Destinies is digital download only at the price of £20. For a genre that receives little press in Western territories this is a good thing and may herald a change in how games of this type are sold. For a new game £20 is a reasonable price especially for the longest game in the series. The digital download also solves how frustrating it could be to try and find a copy of the game. My personal feeling toward digital downloads is that they offer a chance for more niche games to be available to a wider audience such as Gyakuten Saiban and it is a trend that I would like to see continue as long as copies cost less than physical editions and feature some type of consumer protection, such as profile-linking to protect consumers in the case of a lost console or SD card.
The game will also feature DLC cases at the cost of $6 each with the first of these, involving the defence of a killer whale, being released on Thursday 21st December. I may give this a quick review as part of a DLC round-up coming soon (also including Enter the Dominatrix, Clash in the Clouds and Burial at Sea). Finally I’d like to add to the Phoenix Wright retrospective by saying that the original trilogy have recently been released on the IOS app store for iPad and iPhone offering readers without a DS a chance to play these games in glorious HD. They are well worth a look at and if you like them enough then Dual Destinies is a faithful continuation of the series.
So there we have it Gyakuten Saiban 5 (Dual Destinies) a welcome addition to a brilliant franchise. It returns with the excellent story telling seen in previous games which are enhanced by the improved visuals and the introduction of new mechanics. It still suffers from the issues seen in previous games with little replayability and the odd frustrating jump in logic. Despite these flaws however the game differs from many on the market by showing the player a world, not down the sights of a gun, but through an enquiring mind, something that is much more relatable to and offers a unique enjoyable experience. This is the Masked Gentleman bidding you adieu, join me next time where I will be looking at Diablo 3 for the Xbox 360. I look forward to seeing you then and remember, if you truly feel that someone is doing something you disagree with don’t be afraid to give them a heartfelt…
The pictures used in this review do not belong to me and come from Google images, all rights belong to their respective owners.