Save State Draws Aces for Cases in the Ace Attorney Trilogy’s Dual Destinies

Welcome back to Save State. Over the last couple weeks I have been replaying the Ace Attorney games, specifically the ones on the Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy. Replaying the first game in this set, Apollo Justice, gave me a new appreciation for the first case of that title when I originally wasn’t a huge fan of it back when it released in 2008. The sequel to Ace Attorney 4: Apollo Justice, titled Dual Destinies, sees Phoenix Wright returning to the bench as a defense lawyer, complete with new 3D graphics that do an amazing job of capturing the spirit of the Game Boy Advance sprites.

Dual Destinies is another weird one in the Ace Attorney franchise. They introduce a new prodigy lawyer to your rotation in Athena Cykes and completely revolve the climax of the game around her, and the very motivation of her character is to use her knowledge of analytical psychology to save prosecutor Simon Blackquill, who was arrested for murder years before the start of the plot. It’s their two fates intertwining that gives this title its name, Dual Destinies.

With a new lawyer, however, comes a new mechanic that gets used throughout the course of Dual Destinies: the Mood Matrix. Effectively, when a character is telling their story, Athena can use her incredible hearing with a special device that picks up on subtle emotions in the speaker’s voice, allowing her to point out when they’re incongruous with what they’re saying. For example, if rubble is falling on top of someone but their voice indicates they were more happy than scared, you can point out that inconsistency to pull some more information out of them. It’s somewhat similar to Apollo’s perceive mechanic from the previous game, which still sees some use in Dual Destinies.

While Dual Destinies is largely about the backstory and motivations of Athena and Simon Blackquill, Phoenix Wright and Apollo Justice are still present and take a lot of the screentime in most of the cases. In fact, Athena actually gets sidelined quite a bit in her own breakout game, even more so than what happened to Apollo in the climax of his. This likely isn’t helped by the fact that the cases for Dual Destinies are actually in an extremely bizarre order, with the first case available taking place chronologically in media res of the fourth case, with the player rapidly jumping among the three protagonists for the title’s five cases.

That said, the individual cases of Dual Destinies are pretty fun with their own ups and downs. The first case takes place immediately after the courtroom bombing and showcases Athena as she defends a friend of hers. Partway through, however, she begins to have a panic attack due to previous trauma. Thankfully, Phoenix steps in and takes over for the defense, relegating Athena to the role of an assistant, and he successfully manages to point out some contradictions that need solved before a verdict can be brought.

The second case follows Apollo and Athena, taking place before the courtroom bombing. This case is a fun locked room murder mystery, though the ultimate culprit winds up being a little weak because it’s too obvious. This is actually a pretty solid case overall, largely due to the fact that, in Ace Attorney, it’s oftentimes more fun to figure out the how than the who. The setting for the second case is great, and this case serves as the introduction of Simon Blackquill to really steal the show here.

The third case takes place involving Athena’s friend, again, and both she and Apollo have to unravel a murder that replicates a mock trial held at a legal academy. As far as third cases go in the Ace Attorney series, Turnabout Academy in Dual Destinies has a great group of side characters, an intricate murder plot, and is only really brought down by having a culprit that shoehorns the game’s subplot, “the dark age of the law.” This is another instance where the killer is pretty obvious, but we’ve had that before in Ace Attorney so it’s not a huge mark against the writing for this case.

The fourth and fifth cases are intertwined, effectively giving Dual Destinies a double feature climax. The fourth case immediately precedes the courtroom bombing shown at the start of the game and involves the murder of Apollo’s best friend. Apollo undergoes some significant character development during this case (including wearing an eyepatch- though that’s not due to any injury), and it’s especially important to him that he takes this case. However, as a result of information revealed from this case, the pasts of both Athena and Simon Blackquill began to surface until suddenly there’s an explosion.

The fifth case proceeds the explosion in the courtroom, and Apollo gets injured leaving Phoenix to assume the position as defense and investigate what happened. This case is incredibly climactic and raises tensions to a fever pitch due to Apollo working against Phoenix directly, though there are some old faces that reemerge during this case to help reveal the truth. Without giving anything away, both Athena and Simon’s stories get conclusively resolved in an extremely satisfying way. The dark age of the law subplot leaves a lot to be desired, but the actual character stories are wrapped up extremely well in Dual Destinies.

An overarching theme in Dual Destinies that has been mentioned a time or two already, one that doesn’t get resolved particularly well either, is that the Ace Attorney world is going through a dark age of the law. That is to say, Simon Blackquill being a prosecutor convicted of murder and famous disgraced attorney Phoenix Wright somehow ushered in a period of complete distrust in the legal system in their country. Bombs go off in courtrooms and men are literally silenced by shadow governments that use snipers to kill people on the witness stand. It’s a crazy setup for a story, and it would have been a huge leap for lawyers to somehow resolve a secondary conflict involving spies and international murder plots, but for a subtheme that encompasses the entirety of the game… I didn’t feel the dark age of the law really went anywhere.

When I originally played Dual Destinies back in 2013, I was overly critical of the conclusion of it rather than viewing it as a story with great resolution for its characters. After having played The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles, which released a couple years after Dual Destinies and required two whole games to set up its international conspiracy plot, I think I’ve softened on Dual Destinies usage of its subtheme. While I’m still not a huge fan of the dark age of the law or how it was resolved, I can at least now greatly appreciate Athena, Simon Blackquill, and even Simon’s sister, who will go to any lengths to help him.

The new style of graphics in Dual Destinies were initially shocking back in 2013, but the developers did an amazing job of capturing the personality of the character sprites from the first four Ace Attorney titles. The music in Dual Destinies is good to finally have on a device that’s not the 3DS, as well, with great orchestrations of familiar themes from the GBA and DS, and superb new tracks like Athena’s objection theme. The Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy also includes the DLC case for Dual Destinies, Turnabout Reclaimed, is quite possibly one of the best cases in the new trilogy. I never got the chance to play it on 3DS, and it’s full of humor and hijinks (Phoenix defends a killer whale in court) with a great mystery and cast of characters that’s basically Turnabout Big Top from the second Ace Attorney title but actually good.

That being said, I think this is a good moment to bring this entry of Save State to a close. We’re almost done with the Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy, so join us here again in roughly two weeks’ time when we finally wrap up a retrospective for once!

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