PAX 2013: Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies preview

1beecf0c49b990d72a0f16a247140e1dWhen the 3DS was first announced, I made one of my strong statements that I always make about the launch of consoles I’m not too hot on.

I said that I’d buy a 3DS as soon as they released a new Ace Attorney game, and after playing a 30 minute demo of Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies, I’m ready to make good on my promise this Fall, even if some oddities in the writing and gameplay were present.

I must admit, when Miles Edgeworth Investigations 2 failed to make it over to North America, I was a little concerned about the future of the Ace Attorney franchise out here in the West. My concern multiplied when I thought that even the Professor Layton crossover game might not find its way through localization onto store shelves near me.

Thankfully Phoenix Wright and all the other characters that make up the rich Ace Attorney universe are making another appearance. I played through a single room investigation demo as Apollo Justice as well as a short courtroom segment where I was able to cross examine two new characters as Phoenix Wright.

The investigation segments have more visual depth than we’ve ever seen in the Ace Attorney franchise

The investigation segments have more visual depth than we’ve ever seen in the franchise. The aesthetic of the room I was examining wouldn’t look too out of the ordinary if you quickly glanced at the screen, but when you actually start moving your cursor around, the mechanical upgrades to the game are apparent.

I was able to tilt the screen up and down to look under tables and above dressers, rotate my perspective of the room 90 degrees as if I was standing in the centre, and zoom-in to suspicion areas in a similar method to what was present in Miles Edgeworth Investigations. No longer are the investigation segments built from a series of 2D backgrounds; the location was actually modelled, and examining the entirety of the 3D space was a requirement.

I don’t suspect that this change will have a drastic effect on how the game is played; it still comes down to looking out for clues in the scenery, but now you’ve got a few more perspectives to look at in a given location.

Given the additional perspective that Dual Destinies affords players however, I did find one strange element in my investigation. The game opted to use a classic “adventure-game sparkle” to tell me that I should examine a corner of a recliner. There was nothing visually distinguishable about that corner other than the sparkle, and when examined, it turned out to be a cellphone.

Compared to the other investigable elements in the scene that were clearly modelled, the cellphone sparkle was out of place. A note at the beginning of the demo said that details in the sequence were altered to prevent spoilers, so it could have been a shoe-in just for the demo, but I’d be pretty disappointed if things like this turn up in the full game.

New 3D animations are in, the new courtroom dialogue is not

The courtroom segment of the demo offered me a look at some of the mechanics that the game’s new side-kick, Athena Cykes, is bringing to the Wright & Co. law office, but some of the dialogue surrounding the additions didn’t match the quality that I saw in the new 3D animations.

Athena has the ability to see what a witness is feeling when they deliver a line of testimony. It’s the player’s job to detect emotions that conflict with the events being described. The testimonies are now supported my dynamic visual depictions of what the witness say they saw, and this is a cool, but the dialogue surrounding any objections to their testimony was not.

The way Phoenix talks-around Athena’s emotion detection ability was downright awkward for an Ace Attorney game. This is another case where demo-specific scenarios could be the culprit, but lines like “wasn’t there something you felt sad about at that time as well?” being prompted when I pressed the sad-face on the emotion detector felt stiff and out of character for the franchise.

There were a few basic usability improvements added, like a functional chat-log and the ability to read about evidence the moment that its added to the court-record instead of a few conversations later, and the 3D character and interface animations look like they were heavily inspired by the faithfully re-imagined ones found in the 2012 Ace Attorney movie.

However, one more element about Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies worried me, and the Capcom representatives I spoke with could neither confirm nor deny whether is was another demo-exclusive feature.

Ace Attorney games use text advancement to convey emotion better that any other franchise I know. The character-models’ reactions and the accompanying sound effects have always lined up with the animated text-advancements, which is a big deal because it adds a lot of depth to these characters who’ve never been fully-voiced.

In the demo I played, the character-to-text connections were still there, but I could double tap “A” and the screen would auto fill the rest of the text box. This is a feature that’s previously been reserved for exchanges that you’ve already seen and might want to skip, and If it’s a feature that’s going to be in the final game, I pray that it can be toggled off.

Skipping text-advancment in an Ace Attorney game is skipping the best part of an Ace Attorney game

The mere existence of a new Ace Attorney game has me excited enough to buy a 3DS, but many of the aspects that jumped out at me from the PAX Prime demo, jumped out for the wrong reasons.

Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies is bringing back my some of my favourite characters and locales in all of gaming, but I’m not sure if it’s going to bring them back in the polished way I’ve come to expect from the franchise.

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