I’m slowly crawling my way through the latest Phoenix Wright game, Dual Destinies. I want to like them: the bombastic courtroom setting is funny; the impossible crimes are intricate and original. But they’re just so boring. Every possible ounce of subtlety is drained by a script that’s petrified you might misunderstand what’s going on. So the characters’ feelings are explained, at length, and then repeated again five minutes later. Clues and themes are reiterated again and again until it’s impossible to care any more.
Some of this is understandable. I tend to play each case straight through, but they’re also designed to be enjoyed in very short chunks. If someone is playing for five minutes every other day then repeating things is the only way to ensure they don’t get confused.
But the script doesn’t need to be so banal; endless platitudes and exaggerated shock or misery at every tiny setback or twist in the plot. Take this, for example:
“This is a homicide any way you slice it. In other words, we have a murder on our hands.”
Is there any context where that’s not a terrible line of dialogue?
The biggest shame is that this most recent iteration actually has a better calibre of writing and plotting. The mysteries so far have been interesting, with genuinely clever third act twists. But the actual technical standard of the writing, the boring nuts and bolts of spelling and punctuation, has never been lower. I’d say as many 10% of the lines have errors, most often missing pronouns or mangled tenses like “Let’s see if the defense can response”. Apollo Justice, one of the main characters, talks about his “Chords of Steel”. It’s a common enough error, but the writers should know better: they’re vocal cords – physical cords of flesh. Much of the overarching plot revolves around bombs, but the writers don’t know the difference between “diffuse” and “defuse”. As an editor I understand that no long piece of text is ever going to be perfect, but Dual Destinies reads like no-one ever bothered to proof it at all.
And it’s not like the story branches or the text is procedurally generated, common difficulties in editing video game stories. The Phoenix Wright games are as linear as they get, and any given player is going to see the same 90% of the game text, in the same order. The developers could have printed it out and given it to people to read like a screenplay.
This is a full price game. I know how little proofreaders get paid. Can it really be worth putting out such a shoddy product to save the price of a dozen units?