GAME: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies
CASE: Monstrous Turnabout
CONSOLES: 3DS, iOS
I was surprised when I started this case and we jumped back in time. Apollo Justice isn't brooding on a solo mission but is introduced to Athena and acting like his old self. Phoenix hasn't gotten his badge back yet and overall, if it weren't for the prologue case, this story could very easily be the fifth chapter of Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney.
Mechanically, though, we are very clearly in a new game. This case, and this game, feels like the biggest step forwards since the very first game. Characters and backgrounds are expressive, animated three dimensional models. Investigatory sections are much more tightly paced, with a checklist of tasks eliminating awkward pixel hunts and aimless wandering. When pointing and clicking does show up, rotating and navigating the rendered environments is much more engaging than poking a flat image.
All of this is, of course, superfluous. The meat here is the court case itself. It's right up my street. A small Japanese town, obsessively wrapped up in typical Yokai myths and professional wrestlers. Even the new prosecutor, as well as having the very cool backstory of being a prisoner on death row, is a samurai. There is some weird attempt to explain all of this away as a town of Japanese Immigrants, but it's easier and makes more sense to ignore that and just accept this game as being set in Japan.
Another weird translation quirk arises here which makes me wonder if a different team worked on this game than the previous four. Up until now, everything has been typically American but now a great deal of British slang is sneaking into the script. "Nutter", "Bloody Hell", and "Schnozz" were all interesting to me.
The case opens in full-on Columbo style, with an anime cutscene showing us exactly whodunnit before we're even playing. From there, the locked room mystery and the cast of characters, rival mayors/ wrestlers, a cheeky thief, a scared daughter and The Baddy, is all pretty obvious. The Yokai trappings are underused beside putting the suspect in a silly costume and dragging out the resolution until the second day.
The player knows exactly what happened, bar a few details that twist around as time goes on, by the end of the first witness. Teasing out the truth and seeing justice be done just takes too long, and by the end of the second day in court I was playing while watching a youtube video and flicking through twitter on my phone. It's a shame, as the designs and music really made me want to keep all my attention in Nine-Tales Vale. And don't even get me started on laboriously using both Apollo and Athena's special powers.
Athena and the new prosecutor are both obsessed with psychology. Now, a psychological insight into witnesses and criminals may have been interesting, but the way it tends to play out is silly and cartoonish. Coincidentally, I recently watched the fourth series of the BBC's Sherlock. The final episode there fell into the same problem this does: the character is supposedly such a master of psychology they can manipulate everyone, yet the writers aren't nearly clever enough to believably script such behaviour.
While this little mystery didn't thrill me to death, there's enough here in the overarching plot to keep me on board. Phoenix, Apollo and Athena all have paths to walk before we get to the bombing and beyond. New prosecutor Simon Blackquill might be a little over-designed, but his dark past, his connection to Athena and his ruthless nature are all making me want to see how everything plays out.
Pun of the Week: Mostly a pretty weak offering, although I think there's something to Florent L'Belle trying to launch his own brand.
A fun concept and a good cast of characters fail to save a case that is twice as long as it needed to be.