dual destinies

Review: Ace Attorney Dual Destinies

If you're ever walking into Ace Attorney expecting a realistic sim about being a lawyer, boy, you chose the wrong series. A great part of Ace Attorney is its ability not to take itself seriously. Unfortunately, the quality of Dual Destinies suffered as plots were dull and came together haphazardly.

The first thing I need to mention is the third case of the game, "Turnabout Academy." In this case was a character by the name of Robin Newman. Robin was training to be a prosecutor and was very loud and exuberant. Robin screamed when things got hairy or when flustered by a situation. Robin also presented as a male, an important fact for what I would most like to discuss.

As newbie attorney Athena Cykes, I cross-examined Robin to try to prove the client, Juniper Woods, was innocent. The prosecution's basis for Juniper's guilt was that a voice recording exhibited a woman screaming something that could be interpreted as a threat to the victim. Of the three people suspected of the crime, one was female (Juniper) while Robin and the other character Hugh were male. Through the cross-examination, Robin admits to wearing a dress Juniper made and eventually spit out that he wanted to wear feminine clothing. Athena then realizes Robin is actually physically female and outs Robin as a woman.

It turned out that Robin was actually being forced by her family to present as male since she was a child, leading Robin to be uncomfortable with her gender presentation as she had always believed she was a woman. While I love that the game tackled gender identity issues (somewhat) they're hardly explored in Robin beyond her being forced to come out as a woman (an act that made me extremely comfortable -- I would never want to out someone as that is never my business). Robin instantly shows her love for frilly things and frequently gawks over a sparkling shoe. From one moment, Robin shows her masculinity by shouting at people in a stereotypical testosterone-crazy fashion and the next she shows her femininity by obsessing over pretty shoes and clothes. This seemed simplistic, stereotypical, and played off for laughs. Robin's gender presentation felt like it was mostly played off for laughs. Even if this series is known for its comedic gags, poking fun at someone's gender identity issues in a way that makes the player laugh at the character struggling with those issues is the most definite wrong way to go about humor.

The middle of Dual Destinies fell a bit flat. For a game's theme to be about the dark age of the law, there needs to be more scenes of what that actually means. The first case was a good introduction to Dual Destinies, as the player is able to get its first sights of Athena as well as get reacquainted with Apollo, who seems more serious than he did in his own game (this is explained later). Opening with a case about a bomb explosion in a courtroom is a great way to show what "the dark age of law" entails.

Unfortunately, the second case feels very distinct. Taking place chronologically first in Dual Destinies the player sees how Apollo and Athena first worked together when they met. While this was an interesting way of storytelling, thematically it felt like it had very little to do with the "dark age of law," even though it had great minor characters and introduced several important characters.

The third case felt foreboding at first with a teacher who often preached that the ends justified the means in court, a phrase that came up at the end. Sadly, the issues with Robin distracted me so much from this case that I had a hard time enjoying it.

The fourth and fifth cases were strongly related, but it wasn't until the fifth case that the player finally learns more about Athena and her background. Had the game spent more time building up Athena as a character, the fifth case would have hit harder, but humor frequently distracted from Athena's character. The main problem with Dual Destinies is that it doesn't have the right balance between humor and serious themes. This can be done, and it can be done well, but when humor distracts from the plot rather than adding to it, the theme falls apart.

Other than that, Dual Destinies had several spelling and grammar errors in the English localization, making it seem like it was a very rushed job with no proofreading. (Hey, Capcom! I work as a proofreader for hire! Feel free to hire me!)