This Could Be Good

Ace Attorney

Ace Goes Deep

The new Ace Attorney adds visual depth to Capcom’s video game comic book.

By Anthony John Agnello • June 18, 2013

Preview events offer only brief glimpses at big games. Who knows how any given game will pan out in its final form? The most we can say is This Could Be Good.

The comic book is a proven format. Put some dialogue on a page, surround it all with vivid imagery, and you’re good to go. Fine way to tell a story. There’s always room for innovation, though, and that’s what’s makes the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney games so damn fun to follow. Each one is an experiment in comic book evolution. What if you had to talk with the characters yourself to move the story along? What if you had to dig into the background of panels to find evidence in a trial? Phoenix Wright, Shu Takumi’s long-running series of courtroom-drama games, is a playground for tinkering with comics, a century-old storytelling form. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney—Dual Destinies tweaks the comic book even further with new visual panache.

Ace Attorney

Dual Destinies is the fifth game in the 12-year-old series, not including spinoffs. It follows the excitable, accusatory trial lawyer Phoenix Wright in a surreal legal system that’s part Japanese, part Law & Order-based hallucination. Wright is usually defending some innocent person in a trial where the real criminal appears as a witness. That’s what I saw in the fun-size serving of Dual Destinies on display at E3. Phoenix’s new partner, a psychologist with extrasensory abilities, is trying to help her pal Juniper shake some serious charges. Junie is accused of blowing up a courtroom with a stuffed-animal bomb, but it looks like the creepy bomb-squad cop Ted Tonate (heh) is the real culprit.

Earlier in the Phoenix Wright series, characters like these appeared as hand-drawn characters on the screen with only the slightest animation. The screen would flash when a witness was pushed on testimony, and boom, the kind old lady transforms into a sneering hag. In Dual Destinies, the characters are 3D models, and they move with an exaggerated fluidity that speaks volumes about who they are. The prosecuting lawyer twirls his coif. The evil bomber extends his goggles and blinks too fast. And Phoenix slams his hands down decisively before yelling, “Objection!” When something shocking happens, the camera does a panoramic swoop around the courtroom—which is still mostly static, but prettied up. It’s awesomely impressionistic.

Unfortunately, my demo ended almost immediately after I learned about the game’s other new trick: the ability to read people’s emotional state while they testify. An overlay of moods appears on the screen, and you pick out what doesn’t fit. Why does Junie seem happy when she recalls the bomb going off? Ask her, and the whole trial changes. I can’t wait to read more and poke around the panels in this latest comic story.

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27 Responses to “Ace Goes Deep”

  1. The gimmick of being able to analyze when a witness is nervous in order to tell when to press them was one of my favorite aspects of Apollo Justice (the 4th in the proper series), so I’m really excited about this new mood-reading system.

    And cue comments about how Trials and Tribulations (the 3rd in the series) has probably the most satisfying ending in the history of video games…

    • Chalkdust says:

      I was always fond of the pivotal moment in Justice For All where the villain melts down, by way of two-way radio.

      • Dave Dalrymple says:

        Even better is when he gets calm again…

        They should totally bring De Killer back. He was great.

        • Josh Vogel says:

          They Brought De Killer back in Ace Attorney Investigations 2, which did not get released in the USA!!

    • zzyzazazz says:

       It was a super satisfying ending.

    • duwease says:

      That’s the fairly unique quality that really keeps me coming back to the Ace Attorney series.. defeating the “bad guy” in the end is *incredibly* gratifying.  You’d think, with video games squarely based around the plot conceit of pitting you against a villain, that this would be a more common occurrence.. but personally speaking, usually the final battle is just another hurdle, that happens to be the last and most bombastic.

      I think the main contributor to this is the fact that games prefer to keep their villains mostly out of the main action, and limit their plot interaction to cutscenes or the occasional quick appearance to beat down the hero and gloat.  You don’t generally spend a lot of time struggling with them directly, and I think that causes a failure to create a real feeling of rivalry.

      But in the Ace Attorney series, you’re face-to-face with the scumbag from the beginning, you get familiar with their unique personality, and you spend most of the case staring directly at their dirty, lying face in a direct battle of wits.  Once you do finally topple them.. oh man.  I’m not ashamed to shout “IN YOUR FACE!” at my DS.  Their downfall is protracted and immensely enjoyable.

      • Dave Dalrymple says:

        In every case, there’s a moment where I start to seriously consider the possibility that the bad guy might get away with it after all. (And occasionally they do, at least for a little while.)

        Somehow, they can keep piling on twist after ridiculous twist and it feels exhilirating rather than forced.  

    • Ardney says:

      What stands out to me most about the ending of the 3rd game was the use of music.

      For the first 2 games they ingrained the ‘Cornered’ theme into your brain as THE thing that happens when you’ve got the culprit on the ropes. But it’s absent from the entirety of the 3rd game until the very end.

      I didn’t consciously notice this until that moment though I’d had the nagging feeling that something was off up to that point. When it hits the final climax and the Cornered theme stormed in I was literally fist pumping. It was a great touch.

  2. Kilzor says:

    Objection! Phoenix Wright’s name isn’t Ace, and THIS piece of evidence proves you’re a liar, Anthony John Agnello (which is a made up name if I ever heard one).

    • HobbesMkii says:

      Out of order? YOU’RE out of order! THIS WHOLE ARTICLE IS OUT OF ORDER!

      Anywhooo, more nitpicking:

      Comics are really vivid images with dialogue around them, not dialogue with vivid images around it. The proof is that if you subtract the words from a comic, you’re still left with a comic, but if you subtract the images, you’re left with a book (that makes no sense).

      Also, “century-old” implies comics are an early 20th century invention. They’re actually a mid-19th century invention. Most people credit Rodolphe Töpffer as being the creator of what’s viewed as the modern comics form. His first publication was in 1833, so comics are 180 years old this year!

      (In case you didn’t know, I like comics)

      • Dave Dalrymple says:

        I generally hear the Ace Attorney games referred to as “visual novels” rather than “comic books.” As you said, the game is built around the text, and not the images.  

        • They’re definitely as visual novel-y as the true Japanese ones can be (think Bluray player menu type of interaction). I’d definitely describe the Ace Attorney games as point-and-click adventure games, if a bit wordy. That said, the two terms are interchangable in Japan, so it doesn’t really matter that much.

    • zerocrates says:

      Plus, Phoenix has always slammed his hands down decisively. It’s one of the only things he can do besides pointing at things.

  3. Chalkdust says:

    I am a sucker for this series, and I love that they build on the world with each new entry instead of feeling the need to separate new games from the larger mythos, as it were.  This is a fictional universe I like returning to, so the more cameos and ongoing character developments they can include, the more it tickles my fanboy nerves.  Even in the flashcards towards the end, there are characters from previous games (Trudy Wright, Kristoph Gavin and Pearl Fey that I saw, and of course Miles Edgeworth in the stinger).

    Now, if only we could get some news about whether or not Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright is getting released in the US!

  4. RidleyFGJ says:

    I will buy the crap out of this when it releases, but I’m still bummed that it’s digital only. I have AA1 through AAI on my shelf, and it’s just not going to feel right not having this game represented with them.

  5. PugsMalone says:

    In real life, Japanese prosecutors win over 99% of their cases because they don’t bring stuff to trial unless they’re sure they’ll get a conviction. Edgeworth should’ve been considering other career options after losing his first case, and after a second not guilty verdict, he’d be eating out of a trash can.

    I was really shocked that they weren’t actually making up the “murder has just a 15-year statute of limitations” thing in the first game, though.

  6. Dave Dalrymple says:


    I was disappointed at the lack of Fey in Apollo Justice, so this has me excited.

  7. WaxTom says:

    I honestly may buy a 3DS just for this. I love the crap out of these games. I think my ex still has my copy of Trials and Tribulations. -_-

  8. duwease says:

    Hmm.. Virtue’s Last Reward, Smash Brothers, Phoenix Wright.. I may not travel as much anymore, but a 3DS may be in my future.

  9. His_Space_Holiness says:

    Getting a 3DS isn’t in the picture for me, for a variety of reasons, but this has me itching for a good old-fashioned detective game. I played EA’s kiddie detective game Eagle Eye Mysteries over and over back in the day, and in retrospect it was an amazingly faithful take on deductive reasoning. It also had you solve the same cases several times with different clues and outcomes, which was pretty brain-bending. It’s a shame it seems to have been forgotten.

  10. zhirzzh says:

    As someone who imported the DS games as soon as they came out in Japan, and is really obsessed with this, all I can say is “Fuck, I really didn’t want a 3DS.”

    • Citric says:

      Speaking of Shu Takumi, if a new Ghost Trick shows up on 3DS that will be the point where I have to break down and get one.


    Phoenix Wright always makes me think of the year 2006, when he was a meme 

  12. Aaron Boyer says:

    I didn’t think we’d ever see any more of these games in the US. Downloaded all the Phoenix Wright games from Wii-ware and then picked up Apollo Justice (the only one in the series I still haven’t brought myself to complete) and Miles Edgeworth. They remind me of the old LucasArts adventure games.