Patrick Hope: Sleeper Game of the Year
As the year draws to a close, it’s incident upon me to choose a Game of the Year for 2013.
So instead I’m going to make a pick for Sleeper Game of the Year.
This is for the game that maybe slipped below the radar, either because of a lack of hype or because it released at an unfortunate time. Again, this is not my actual Game of the Year, which is Zelda. You should go pick that one up right now. And a Nintendo 3DS. If you don’t own a 3DS, you should lock that down, so you can pick up my Sleeper Game of the Year as well.
Because that game is Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies.
Dual Destinies, which is a download-only title released on Oct. 24, is the fifth entry in the Ace Attorney series. And as the title implies, you play as a lawyer — more specifically that of criminal defense attorney Phoenix Wright.
Actually, you play as Phoenix and his two associates, Apollo Justice and Athena Sykes, but Phoenix is the star as gaming’s own Perry Mason, winning murder trials (and they’re always murder trials) through a combination of always having innocent clients, possessing an extraordinary ability to think on his feet to piece together how the crime occurred and getting the true culprit to confess on the stand.
Gameplay in the Ace Attorney series is divided up into two sections: investigation and courtroom. While investigating, you’ll speak to witnesses and gather evidence in order to prepare for the big draw of the series, the trials. The courts in Phoenix Wright land tend to eschew pesky things like the Constitution (defendants always have to testify) and Rules of Evidence (there are literally two of them, one of which is “don’t fake evidence”), instead opting to have the attorneys yell “OBJECTION!” at each other in a battle of wits to find contradictions in testimony.
But these elements appear in every game in the series. What does Dual Destinies have that sets it apart, not just from its predecessors, but also every other game released this year, to make it my Sleeper Game of 2013?
First is the overarching story. Due to various events, we are currently in a Dark Age of the Law, where the public is extremely dissatisfied with the judicial system, as results have begun to take priority over actually finding the truth. Every case, with the exception of one, which is pro wrestling-themed and thus completely awesome and immune to criticism, is about trying to restore faith in the system. It gives you, as the player, a feeling of progress towards the ultimate goal of the attorneys at the Wright Anything Agency (the law office doubles as a talent agency due to events in the fourth game), culminating the fifth and final case, which pushes the crazy facts meter to 11.
Another area in which the game excels is its memorable characters. Phoenix and company’s victories are significantly less cool if they aren’t opposed by an equally memorable prosecutor. And Dual Destinies does not disappoint, with your rival being faux samurai and real convicted murderer Simon Blackquill. Yes, he’s so good at prosecuting that he was not disbarred when he went to prison. He plays a big part in ending the whole Dark Age of the Law story arc. Like his predecessors such as Miles Edgeworth, Franziska von Karma, and Godot, Blackquill is a great foil for the plucky defense attorneys, providing for some particularly memorable battles.
Dual Destinies’ secondary characters are, collectively, no slouch either, with personalities like police bomb squad member Ted Tonate, astronaut Sol Starbuck, and student reporter Myriam Scuttlebutt, all of whom are called as witnesses and provide, um, interesting testimony for you to question them about. Their presence is also buoyed by writing that balances gravity and humor, and is also filled with references to other video games.
With no weak cases, an intriguing story and characters, and courtroom battles that suck you in, there’s very little to dislike about Dual Destinies unless you have an extreme dislike of reading, as there is a ton of text in this game. And if you’re worried about accessibility, you can pick this up as your first game in the series and not really miss much and not worry about spoiling the previous games, though a few moments will have a greater impact if you’ve played the prior games.
And speaking of impact, do not, under any circumstances, use a walkthrough for this or any of the other games in the series as it really lessens the impact of some of the big reveals.
So go fire up your 3DS and download this from the E-Shop right now. It’s totally worthy of recognition as the Sleeper Game of 2013.
It is so ordered.
Hope takes game review requests. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.