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Veteran Member - Level 13
The dark age of the law resulted from two events in the Ace Attorney universe: Phoenix Wright's disbarment, as well as the incarceration of the prosecutor known as Simon Blackquill. In the years since those two events, the public has lost faith in the courts, and evidence fabrication is at an all-time high. It's a very bleak period for the latest Ace Attorney game to be set in, but in reality, Dual Destinies comes out of the darkness shining brighter than any previous entry, and cements itself among the greatest games ever made.
Yes, it's this awesome.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney-Dual Destinies is, in short, phenomenal. A few months before the release, I wrote a piece about how I was more excited for the title than pretty much any game before it, and how I predicted it was going to be my game of the year. Truth be told, though, as the release date drew closer, my mind drifted toward other yet-to-be-released titles, especially with all the hype over next-generation games and such. I still was very excited, but I felt like my anticipation wasn't as high as it was before. In reality, though, my predication came true-Dual Destinies is not only the best Ace Attorney game thus far, it is the best game released this year, and sets a high bar in terms of character development, storytelling, and overall enjoyment. While it's not without its faults, I can safely say that I haven't enjoyed a game as much as this one in a long time.
Dual Destinies does little overall to change how the Ace Attorney formula works, but it doesn't need to. What really matters are all of the refinements, as well as the new coat of paint the series has received in its transition to 3D. Gameplay is still restricted to simply reading dialogue and banter between the characters, but that doesn't need to change, nor will it ever. A new addition to this though is that by pressing Y, you can access a log of past dialogue that extends about 100-150 text boxes (that's just a guess, I didn't really check) in case you miss something. A small problem with this is that sometimes dialogue did not actually appear in the box using this feature, but I found saving, quitting, and restarting the game (which will take less than 30 seconds) to fix this. I used the feature only a couple times, so it shouldn't really be a problem many encounter.
The biggest change Dual Destinies has is, of course, the 3D characters and environments. While a part of me will miss the stilted animations and old look of the series, I fully embrace Dual Destinies' 3D approach, because it does it perfectly. Only a couple times did I sort of look weirdly at the black lines that outline all the characters, which just resulted from a close up being weird. The models allow for more animations, and more fluidity. The witnesses' breakdowns are also better than ever thanks to the 3D, with some being very creative. While Professor Layton's transition to 3D was, in my opinion, a bit shoddy with it's characters, Dual Destinies proves that the series belongs in a 3D environment, and should never go back.
There's better looking stuff out there, but the cutscenes don't need to be better for Dual Destinies.
Also, the game employs animated cutscenes for some story segments, a la Professor Layton. While they are short, with the longest being maybe a minute or so, they do create some of the most gripping moments. As I write, I am replaying the one set before the final trial over and over, because it's one of the best moments in Ace Attorney thus far, and it's beautiful. Another small complaint I have though, is that the voices do seem a bit stiff at times, but because the voice actors have changed for all the characters, I have been a bit abrasive to them overall. Looking back, they aren't really bad, it's just that they're different, and it's a bit odd to see it in Ace Attorney, so it might just be I'm not used to them yet.
Going back to 3D, now that the environments are 3D, crime scene examination has been reformed to allow camera shifts, and also a better understanding of the layouts of the crime scenes. In past titles, while finding that little clue was satisfying, it could be a bit hard at times. Now, there's a helpful indicator that shows if you've looked at an item of interest or not, and it also shows if that the thing you'll click on is actually important or not. I found this helpful more often than not, and think it also serves as a good way for newcomers to come into the series (however, if you're a newcomer...go play all of them first).
As for gameplay in court, as I mentioned before, the formula hasn't really changed. The same system is present as the rest of the games, but the new camera pans such make the court feel alive and new in a way never seen before in Ace Attorney. Pressing and presenting evidence are still your primary tools, but a new one comes in the form of the newest playable character, Athena Cykes. Because she has studied analytical psychology, she's able to use her computer Widget to interpret witness' emotions, and the player has to decide whether or not a certain emotion being experienced in conjunction with a certain memory/idea makes sense or not. It's a new spin that I enjoyed, but it was hard a couple of times to find the correct emotion (luckily, there is no penalty for this, other than feeling dumb). Past mechanics, Apollo's bracelet and Phoenix's Magatama, also make appearances, both in ways I did not expect and that actually played more important roles than I could have anticipated.
The dark age of the law knows no bounds.
By far though, the star of Dual Destinies is the story told, from Turnabout Countdown to Turnabout for Tomorrow. While in the first three games, there were one or two cases that had ultimately nothing to do with the main story arc, Dual Destinies sort of breaks the trend in a way that makes perfect sense for what that focus is. In Ace Attorney Investigations, each case was connected with the international smuggling ring, but each villain had at least some connection/motive that was connected to the actual ring itself. In Dual Destinies, there's one case that is not directly tied to the idea of the "dark age of the law", but it ultimately is focused upon because of the air that things aren't right at all in the courts. Other than this case, the other four all have very close ties to the dark age idea, and that's what I love. The final case is up there in the top 5, and it may even beat out Turnabout Goodbyes as my favorite case. This review is spoiler-free, but trust me when I say that you will drop your 3DS when you discover a certain truth.
What makes a great story, though, are great characters. Simon Blackquill, Athena Cykes, and Bobby Fulbright are three of the best in the series so far, and I love the air each of them brings to court. Fulbright's sense of justice is ever warming as hilarious (trust me, there's one scene that's amazing), and Athena's energy and devotion to her friends is inspirational. But, to me, the true star is Simon Blackquill, the convicted prosecutor who is allowed to stand in court. His character design, attitude, actions, animations...I loved every second of it. The truth behind his motivations makes him one of the most amazing Ace Attorney characters ever, and I know I won't ever forget his interjection of "SILENCE!". Other case-specific characters are also noteworthy, such as Professor Means, and Damien Tenma.
You will not forget Simon Blackquill.
Dual Destinies is, at the moment, the crowning achievement of the Ace Attorney series. It does not change the formula that Ace Attorney has had for a decade, but it does polish it to a sheen. Adding in new elements, and an amazing new look, the latest game starring people who shout "Objection!" is the best of its kind, taking new leaps and bounds with its story, to create something just as epic as last year's Virtue's Last Reward. It sets a standard for all video games in character development and story development, and it's the best game of 2013 as well as one of the best games ever made. It is now tied with Virtue's Last Reward as my favorite game of all time, and it will not disappoint Ace Attorney fans. The dark age of the law is wonderfully realized, and should not be missed for 3DS owners.