Katie Pryor
Assoc. Arts & Culture Editor

The fifth “Ace Attorney” game, “Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies” opens with a bombing in a courtroom, and the game only becomes more intense from there.

“Ace Attorney” is a visual novel of a game series developed by Capcom that centers around the trials and tribulations of being a lawyer. If “Law and Order” were made into a video game, given plenty of quirky characters and humor, and had an anime art style, it would be “Ace Attorney.” That formula has worked for the series, as it has developed a loyal cult following over the years. With the last game, “Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney,” being six years old, the much-anticipated fifth game in the series ,and the first to be on the Nintendo 3DS, “Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies,” has finally arrived.

This game sees the return of the lovably laid back defense attorney Phoenix Wright, the main character from the first three “Ace Attorney” games, and his sarcastic protégé, Apollo Justice, the main character from the fourth “Ace Attorney” game. For the most part, this game stays true to the previous games in the “Ace Attorney” series. In each of the five cases of the game, you’re assigned a client that you have to defend in court. You investigate the crime scene, collect evidence and interview witnesses of the crime. Then, you face off against prosecutors in court, where you must find contradictions in testimonies and present vital evidence at the right time, and find the real criminal in order to get your client a “not guilty” verdict.

Phoenix Wright and Apollo Justice return in the new “Ace Attorney” game with rookie lawyer Athena Cykes.
Phoenix Wright and Apollo Justice return in the new “Ace Attorney” game with rookie lawyer Athena Cykes.

However, the game also sets itself part from the previous games in the series for some very interesting reasons. As the first game in the series on the Nintendo 3DS, it has much improved graphics and the inclusion of animated cut-scenes and even more voice acting, but that also brings a stricter ERSB rating. “Dual Destinies” is rated “M for Mature” instead of the series’ usual “T for Teen” rating, something that confused and angered fans of the series. With crime scenes and cut-scenes that are much more gruesome and elements that are much darker than past “Ace Attorney” games, the M-rating is understandable, but it doesn’t take away from the light-hearted humor, clever dialogue and intriguing storylines, all of which are staples of the series.

Something that also might surprise some fans is that neither Phoenix nor Apollo are the main focus of the game. Sure, they both play pivotal roles in the story and you still get to play as them in a few cases of the game, but the main focus of the story is Athena Cykes, the rookie lawyer for Phoenix’s agency. Still, she’s a fun, well-done character, and so is her story, and she even has some very interesting reasons for becoming a defense attorney in the first place.

The game welcomes back most of the game play mechanics from previous games. Players can “Press” witnesses in order to get new pieces of testimony and “Present” evidence during contradictions, which are the keys to winning trials. However, presenting the wrong piece of evidence at the wrong time results in penalties, and too many penalties will result in the Judge declaring your client “Guilty.” Other mechanics also make an appearance, such as Psyche-Locks, in which Phoenix presents evidence to people in order to unlock secrets they are hiding in their hearts, and Perceive Mode, which enables Apollo to find a person’s nervous twitch (aka a sign that they are lying in their testimony) and figure out what they’re trying to hide. However, the game mixes it up with the inclusion of the Mood Matrix, which allows Athena to use her unique sense of hearing to pick up unusual emotions while witnesses give testimony and use those emotions to probe for more testimony.

The cast of characters is as lively as ever. The game welcomes back some familiar faces such as the clueless Judge, Phoenix’s old prosecutor rival Miles Edgeworth, rock star prosecutor Klavier Gavin, and Phoenix’s adopted daughter, Trucy. Some of the new characters include Simon Blackquill, the main prosecutor in the game and an incarcerated murderer who is somehow still allowed to serve as prosecutor, the fiery Detective Bobby Fulbright, and Juniper Wood, Athena’s childhood friend and Apollo’s love interest.

The cases are also great. As well as the previously mentioned trial involving a bombing in a courthouse, other cases in this game involve a murder where the culprit is suspected to be a mythical creature, the murder of a teacher during a mock trial at a legal academy, and even a murder in a space center. The cases are all exciting and intriguing and each feature their own memorable characters and environments, and heart-pounding twists.

“Dual Destinies” certainly won’t disappoint fans of the series. While it could have connected more with some of the previous “Ace Attorney” games in terms of the plot, it makes up for it by bringing back the core elements of the series and making them even better for the 3DS while incorporating fresher elements as well. Whether you’re a fan of the “Ace Attorney” games, puzzle games or even visual novel games, I highly recommend “Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies.”