Hi, I'm Arabella, and I'm still an Ace Attorney addict.

I've given up on ever having enough money to throw it at people like Nintendo or Capcom, so I broke down and spent a bunch of my mindless-repetitive-activity-TV-watching time on running a letsplay of Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies. (I have a lot of this. You don't really need your eyeballs for a lot of hoop drills, and I've knit entire bedspreads in moss stitch without bothering to look down.) This one is a commentary-free but not blind playthrough, so there's no one talking over the soundtrack, and you don't have to watch the LPer flop around for ten minutes at a time, brute-forcing a cross examination that they can't figure out.

[This strikes me as being a little like an alcoholic drinking mouthwash because it's all they can afford. But on the other hand, at least mouthwash isn't toxic, and Scope is like 75% of the way to being cheap peppermint schnapps anyway. I try not to think about it too much.]

Spoiler free commentary for above the cut: OMG YOU GUYS, THEY FIXED IT!

Spoilers below the cut, for people who want to know more.

I was brutal on Apollo Justice. Many things about that game annoyed me. There was an overarching theme of trying way too hard to build bigger! better! weirder! cases that came off as overenthusiastic fanfic. I outright loathed Apollo's Perceive mechanic and found it so aggravating that I FAQ'd my way through the court cases just to see the story. I found holes in some of the cases -- not that none of the originals had any plot holes, but there were a lot fewer of them, and Apollo Justice seemed so wrapped up in the shocking plot twists that nobody made much of an attempt to fill any of them.

But the thing that made me want to bang my head on the desk the most was the characterization. I didn't have a problem with Apollo being so loudly quirky, or with him lampshading it so many times, but it drove me bonkers that he seemed to be incapable of recognizing that not only was Klavier an honest prosecutor, but that half the time Klavier was on Apollo's side and quite frankly, was not being at all subtle about how much he wanted to be friends with the new kid. I did have a problem with Phoenix; I do not demand that my protagonists never change, and seven years of exile and poverty will certainly have an effect, but the Phoenix Wright in AJ and the Phoenix Wright in his own games might as well have been totally different people. I will buy that he's trying to walk Apollo through something while not being able to tell him where they're going with this, but the smug Zen hobo thing didn't match with anything we had ever learned about his personality.

They have fixed all of this in Dual Destinies. Phoenix in fact does have something he can't tell the kids at the law office about for most of the story, but he doesn't tell them about it in the same way he used to not tell people things in the first games -- he grins sheepishly, brushes them off with a rapid commentthatreallyexplainsnothing, and then basically goes LOOK, A THREE-HEADED MONKEY! and the conversation takes a hairpin turn on two wheels and ends up going a totally different direction. (This is often aided by the rampant chaos that is Phoenix's life. Which happens again in DD.) Apollo is still the same flaily kid who gels his hair like that on purpose and takes pride in the volume -- both in decibels and in quantity -- of his objections, but he is nowhere near as oblivious to how people feel about him. Klavier still makes him twitch and sometimes want to melt into the floor to escape, but he's pretty clear on when annoying behavior is vindictive, and when it's a rock star dipping his antennae into the inkwell.

Which is good, because we've gone back to the original formula here, where the tutorial trial is opposite a Payne, and the main prosecutor is batshit insane and hates you. This one has a sword and openly threatens murder during court cases, which nobody does much of anything about, mainly as he is already technically on death row for homicide. (I'd say it makes sense in context, but you should be appending that to pretty much anything I say about these games.) Also true to form, it turns out that while you could make an excellent argument for Simon Blackquill being nuts, he's actually raging at something else entirely, and the death threats aren't personal. He does it because he needs the defense to be giving 110% at all times to make his revenge plan work. I am definitely not defending Blackquill's scheme on the grounds of propriety, but there is a certain self-loathing sociopathic logic to them.

Blackquill has a hawk named Taka, who must hate the Perceive mechanic as much as I do, because it flaps over and takes a chunk out of Apollo whenever he tries to use it in court. Apollo still gets his squeezy-bracelet indicator when someone is lying, but there's too much big angry bird all up in his grill for him to hyperfocus on the witness. You use it once or twice during investigations, which is considerably less annoying. The new animations are also smoother, making it much easier to identify what thing might be a tell and what thing just looks twitchy because it has too few intermediate frames.

Phoenix's Magatama and Psyche-Locks also come back, with a slight twist. You run into black Psyche-Locks, which represent a secret that a person has hidden even from themselves. In this case, Athena is repressing the memory of stabbing someone on the day of her mother's murder. Initially when it surfaces she believes she'd shoved it away because she was the one who stabbed her mother, but later when the locks are broken she remembers who it was she'd really shanked.

[That does actually answer one minor question about the DL-6 incident, way back when: When Phoenix asks Edgeworth for the truth about his father's murder, all the Psyche-Locks that pop up are regular red ones, meaning Edgeworth genuinely did not know that it wasn't his fault because the information simply never became a memory. Probably he was so close to unconsciousness he was unable to make sense of anything at the time. Nobody says it explicitly, but that's also why Gregory Edgeworth accused Yanni Yogi of the murder when his spirit was channeled and questioned -- he wasn't lying, he was just passed out and had no idea von Karma was even around. The last person he'd seen waving a gun around was Yogi, and to the best of his knowledge, only the three of them were in the elevator.]

Athena's new mechanic, the Mood Matrix, is interesting. Conceptually, it ties in much more directly than the Perceive thing did -- IRL, in fact, spotting incongruous emotional responses is sometimes a better way to pick up on lies than Apollo's tells. Nervous tics tell you that someone is nervous, but you have to guess why; noting that someone is smiling when their words lead you to expect them to be sad tells you that they're lying and something about why they feel they need to lie in the first place. Angry when you expect sad would mean something different. The Mood Matrix gives you what the tells mean, and asks you to pick out the one that doesn't belong.

[It can also, I note, catch out true sociopaths that Apollo's method would not pick up on. Fulbright -- or at least the guy calling himself Fulbright -- lies to you constantly through the entire game, with nary a twitch from the magic bracelet. He does not have tells because tells are prompted by things like anxiety, which the phantom does not feel. Apollo's lie detector only starts going off at the end of the last case, when the defense accidentally locates and starts hammering him with something that genuinely scares him. Fridge Logic at its finest.]

As usual, the people who wrote this are not just devout worshippers at the First United Church of Chekhov's Gun. They are fundamentalist zealots. The cases can be brute-forced with enough stubbornness, but you cannot metagame these by assuming that once a piece of evidence has been used once, it is out of the running. Besides pieces of evidence being unexpectedly relevant to multiple cases, Dual Destinies also has a lot of repeated motifs. Athena and Apollo both have cases that involve old school friends; Apollo and Klavier re-create a mock trial in which Athena plays the mock defendant, and later, Phoenix and Edgeworth run an unofficial trial in which Athena really is up for murder. A man hiding his identity with a mask that belonged to someone else foreshadows how Fulbright got past the simpleton robot docent at the Space Center.

There are also a full compliment of the traditional turnabouts. Blackquill isn't a stranger and doesn't hate you with the passion of the utterly psychotic; one of the teenage boys Junie hangs out with isn't a teenager and the other isn't a boy; the launch pad where the murder took place turns out to not be the launch pad where the murder took place; the over-emotional detective turns out to be a cold-blooded spy. One of the bandages Apollo wears turns out to be from before the bomb went off. I was especially fond of the time Phoenix explained -- with a straight face, and as it turns out accurately -- that they had been unable to find a piece of vital evidence because it had been shot into space.

The end case has a lot of bits showing how Phoenix and Edgeworth have grown over the years, to the point where they're functional humans ready to mentor the next generation. Not that Edgeworth has stopped being grumpy or Phoenix has stopped letting his mouth outrun his deductions, but they are both much less high-strung under stress. They tease each other -- they take unrealated personal potshots to punctuate their trial arguments, and it's the kind of thing you hear from two people who have known each other a very long time, and expect it to be understood that if that's the only thing you can think of to complain about, your relationship is clearly on solid ground. Edgeworth still does the thing where he responds to pieces of Phoenix's internal monologue that haven't fallen out of Phoenix's mouth yet, because they're written all over his face and there's really no reason to wait.

[It's made explicitly clear by the end that the two of them have been in touch for a specific investigation recently, and implied that they've been in contact since Phoenix was disbarred, if not straight through since the last case of Trials & Tribulations. Phoenix makes an off-hand reference to having been to Europe to help "an old friend" with legal research, and the flashbacks say that Edgeworth turned up in person to ask him to finally come back to the law. Edgeworth wasn't going to tell him that he pulled strings to get Phoenix his badge back, but he doesn't seem upset that Phoenix figured it out, either. The kids from the Wright Anything Agency are probably taking bets on how long it'll take the two of them to cave and just get married already.]

Normally, right at the end of the last case I get through about half of the climactic dialogue before I start shaking the DS and muttering come on, come on, I know what I have to wave at the Judge, just give me the prompt already and let me present it! It makes me impatient because I've long since figured it out, but I have to watch Phoenix flop around in abject terror, because he hasn't had the epiphany yet. Not so anymore! There's still like twenty pages of grandstanding in the finale, but it is much more gratifying to watch the culprit squirm while Phoenix is standing behind the desk in his gloating pose and has made it abundantly clear that he already knows exactly what will put the final nail in the coffin. It's always nice when the protagonist is as smart as the player.

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