Thoughts: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies’ Villains Ranked

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney − Dual Destinies is the fifth entry in the main Ace Attorney series by Capcom. Unlike the Ace Attorney Investigations series (a spin-off) that I wrote about previously, this visual novel adventure allows us to step into the shoes of all three defense attorneys in the series so far, Phoenix Wright, Apollo Justice, and newcomer Athena Cykes, for five (plus one DLC) thrilling cases. In this spoiler-filled post, I’ll be ranking all of the villains/culprits in each case from worst to best. Again, this is full of spoilers so if you plan on playing the game at some point, I highly recommend you turn back now!

Spoiler break

The rankings below will be based on a weighted score across four factors for each villain that I arbitrarily decided:

  • General motive/character/evilness: 40% (reasons in bold)
  • Surprise factor: 25%
  • Theme song: 20% (with YouTube links courtesy of Bolt2nd)
  • Breakdown: 15% (with YouTube links courtesy of Der Namenloser Gamer)

5. Ted Tonate

Ted Tonate, the Los Angeles Police bomb disposal specialist

General motive/character/evilness: 3/10

Ted Tonate worked for the Los Angeles Police to disarm bombs, but secretly sold the bombs he disarmed to the black market. Before the trial for the murder of Clay Terran, he was caught stealing by Candice Arme and struck her on the head to murder her with the bomb to be used as evidence. During this assault, he allowed a thief to slip away with the remote detonator for his bomb. Arme wrote his ID number in blood before she died and he hastily covered it up with the bomb transport case, in which he also stored Arme’s body. This wasn’t the wisest move, as anyone who opened the case would immediately suspect him of the murder due to the body or blood inside.

After the explosion in the court room, Tonate moved Arme’s body to make it seem like she died from the explosion. Again, this wasn’t exactly foolproof as a detailed autopsy report would contradict this detail. As the trial for the bombing was in session, he caught Apollo Justice investigating the crime scene and knocked him out with the rubble in the courtroom and used his blood to frame Juniper Woods for the murder of Candice Arme with some fancy blood calligraphy.

However, it goes downhill once Phoenix Wright discovered Tonate’s schemes during the courtroom bombing trial due to his lie-filled testimony (it sucks to be the villain in the first trial in Ace Attorney games). As a last ditch effort, he threatened to blow up the courtroom with his model bomb that he claimed to be live. This was easily debunked by Wright before Tonate was finally defeated.

Side Note: Ted Tonate and Candice Arme? These punny names are getting out of hand.

Surprise factor: 3/10

Ted Tonate was antisocial and obsessive over his work, which made him a pretty suspicious witness to begin with. His name being a pun for “detonate” certainly didn’t help.

Theme song: 3/10

Ted Tonate didn’t even get his own theme song. “Difficult People” was used for multiple witnesses in Dual Destinies and not all of them were even villains.

Breakdown: 6/10

Ted Tonate held out to his lunacy all the way to the end, claiming that his bomb would explode even after Wright found decisive evidence suggesting otherwise. His eyepiece implant extends all the way and he bangs it against the witness stand as he “disarms” his model bomb just in time. A “bomb” goes off in his eyepiece in a mini-explosion, leaving two hollow black dots for eyes before he falls over. Overall, nothing too crazy but the explosion and “game over” at the end was a nice touch.

Final Score: 3.45/10

4. Aristotle Means

Aristotle Means, the Themis Legal Academy defense attorney course teacher

General motive/character/evilness: 8/10

Given that Aristotle Means was a teacher at Themis Legal Academy, his motive and plot for the murder of Constance Courte definitely met my expectation of sophistication. He and Courte had been at odds due to their differing opinions on the judicial system, with Means believing in victory no matter the cost, and Courte supporting the ideal that the legal system should seek to uncover the truth. On the side, however, Means also began accepting bribes for students’ grades, and it was this corruption that led to his downfall as well as his murder of Professor Courte.

When Courte confronted Means about the bribes, he murdered her on the spot and came up with a complex plan to claim innocense despite the murder not being planned out beforehand:

  1. Means used banners to mop up the victim’s blood before using the blood to manufacture a fake crime scene in the art room upstairs, and then incinerated one of the banners to hide the evidence.
  2. He then posed Courte’s body unnaturally under a cloth in order to make it look like a statue of Phoenix Wright that was supposed to be on display, allowing him to hide the body in “plain sight” until the next day.
  3. On the next day, Means pre-recorded the 10 minutes and 35 second speech he was supposed to give at school to provide an alibi, during which he actually revealed Courte’s body and created a disturbance that caused it to be discovered.
  4. Means then created fake evidence to frame Juniper Woods by using the voice of a woman screaming “you’re a goner” from the mock trial recorded over his speech before giving it to a witness as evidence. However, he was sloppy in this as he left 10 minutes and 35 seconds of white noise on the tape.
  5. Lastly, Aristotle Means had planned to take up Juniper Woods’ defense to clear up any suspicion or evidence against him, but this plan was foiled by Athena Cykes already heading the defense.

As Cykes uncovered all of this in the trial, Means let down his facade and showed his true aggressive self, even psychologically manipulating Cykes to dredge up her old memories and fill herself with doubt. Fortunately, Cykes recovered with the help of her peers and convicted Means of the murder of Constance Courte.

Surprise factor: 5/10

With Means’ values which essentially helped spur The Dark Age of the Law, it was easy to suspect him in the case. However, his benevolent demeanor (which was actually a facade) toward the protagonists as well as the defendant, as well as the fact that he was a professor of the school’s defense attorney course, helped remove some of this suspicion.

Theme song: 4/10

Aristotle Means also didn’t have his own theme song, which did help in giving us some surprise as to the culprit of the case. In his benevolent state, “Private School Themis Legal Academy ~ Our Precious School” was his theme song as well as the general background music for Themis Legal Academy. After he drops his facade, “The Dark Age of the Law” aptly plays since his values and teachings are what contributed to the corrupt legal system during which this case takes place. However, the music doesn’t really mesh with his belligerent personality during the trial.

Breakdown: 9/10

Aristotle Means’ breakdown was unique and entertaining. After he is proven guilty of his crime, Athena Cykes asks the gallery to decide Means’ fate, and he responds by writing various lenient alternative punishments on the chalkboard behind him, including bathroom detail, retaking the bar exam, a 30% salary cut, and dismissal; each of these bargains are met with boos and increasing numbers of chalk pieces thrown at Means. Realizing his defeat, Means slowly writes a capital “G” for guilty, before his teeth break in nervousness and he falls forward.

Final Score: 6.60/10

3. Florent L’Belle

Florent L’Belle, Mayor Damian Tenma’s personal aide

General motive/character/evilness: 8/10

Florent L’Belle was a personal aide to Mayor Damian Tenma, the defendant in The Monstrous Turnabout, while also selling his own private line of beauty products on the side. Except L’Belle never actually sold a single product due to his extreme narcissism; no other people could own his “Je suis L’Belle!” line due to its exclusivity. This caused L’Belle to suffer greatly from financial debt, and led to the motive of the initial crime of stealing the gold ingot in the Forbidden Chamber. Needless to say, this is a ridiculous reason for someone to be in debt.

In order to obtain the ingot, he schemed to unite Nine-Tales Vale and Tenma Town, anonymously blackmailing Damian Tenma (his boss) by threatening to harm his daughter if he did not agree to the merger. However, Tenma assumed the identity of “the Amazing Nine-Tails” and rallied the town against the merger, foiling L’Belle’s plan and pushing him to plan the murder of Alderman Kyubi of Nine-Tales Vale instead. His devious and elaborate plan was as follows:

  1. Drug Alderman Kyubi with sleeping pills during their meeting.
  2. Kill Alderman Kyubi and steal the gold ingot from the Forbidden Chamber (unfortunately for him, the ingot wasn’t there).
  3. Hide Damian Tenma in the Forbidden Chamber while disguising himself as the Amazing Nine-Tails by wearing the wrestler’s mask.
  4. Confess to Jinxie, Tenma’s daughter, who would recognize his mask and think that he is her father, but not remove the mask due to the act being deeply dishonorable for a wrestler.

However, L’Belle’s plan did not go 100% smoothly due to Phineas Filch’s (the manor’s caretaker) own attempts to steal the gold ingot at this time. The two saw each other and mutually agreed to lie about each other to create alibis. L’Belle’s misguided trust in Filch was one of the major factors leading to his arrest during the trial, as Apollo Justice was able to get the true story about L’Belle’s involvement in the murder out of Filch.

Surprise factor: 3/10

L’Belle straight up looks like a villain, and his narcissistic attitude, especially given the fact that he was a personal aide to the defendant, definitely cast a cloud of suspicion on him. Lastly, his theme song (see below) reeked of villainous intent.

Theme song: 10/10

Florent L’Belle’s theme in Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies is hands down one of the best character themes of the entire series. It perfectly exuded his vanity and condescending attitude toward others, while at the same time capturing his flamboyant obsession with outward appearance. The sassy violin theme with a sexy bass line in the background just screams: “I know I’m beautiful and better than you (and am probably evil).”

Breakdown: 7/10

L’Belle’s breakdown started out with him spraying himself with copious amounts of perfume after he was cornered by Justice. He then confesses to the murder by screaming that he was going to exterminate Justice just like he had Kyubi, his hair turning back to his natural white color in the process (a key piece of evidence in the trial). His cell phones then started to ring, and L’Belle found out that his sponsors were withdrawing, his project was being cancelled, he was fired as Tenma’s aide, and he owed $100 million in a damages claim. L’Belle’s phones kept ringing as he admitted that he was finished.

Final Score: 7.00/10

2. Phantom

Bobby Fulbright (Phantom), an international spy disguised as a police detective

General motive/character/evilness: 5/10

Phantom, an international spy who is disguised as Bobby Fulbright for the majority of the game, is the “big bad” of Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies. However, despite that, his lack of character (though his lack of character was literally his character) and the way his involvement wrapped up the game was a little lackluster and is what makes him only #2 on this list of villains. In the end, many of his motives were orders from an international organization and he was not much more than a cold-blooded killer and unemotional agent. It’s my opinion that Phantom would have been much more interesting if instead of merely masquerading as Bobby Fulbright, he had actually been Bobby Fulbright.

Before he assumed the identity of Bobby Fulbright, Phantom’s first job was the sabotage of the HAT-1 rocket launch, during which he murdered Dr. Metis Cykes due to her work on a psychological profile on him that could cause him trouble. He escaped wearing a mask from the crime scene and the victim’s jacket, but not before being stabbed by Athena, Dr. Cykes’ daughter, which sprayed his blood on a moon rock in the lab.

Six years later, the real detective Bobby Fulbright died and since the body was never recovered, Phantom assumed his identity in order to use the detective’s authority to destroy all evidence regarding himself. At this time, he received orders from above to sabotage the HAT-2 launch as well, and to do so, Phantom planted three bombs at the Space Center and also killed a new victim, Clay Terran, in order to silence him about potential evidence against him in his murder of Dr. Cykes. He framed Terran’s partner, Solomon Starbuck, for the murder and the police confiscated the Hope capsule (which contained the moon rock) he was trying to destroy as evidence for the case.

Phantom was actually responsible for the courtroom bombing from the first case of the game due to his desire to destroy the Hope capsule. Meanwhile, his identity as Fulbright was carefully kept as he helped Wright and co. solve each of the cases in Dual Destinies. However, when finally confronted in the final chapter of the story by Phoenix Wright, who had realized that a common theme of the Space Station murder and bombing was Bobby Fulbright, he seamlessly switched gears and claimed to be a secret agent looking to catch Phantom, who had the ability to pose as anyone else. However, with the magic of Justice’s bracelet and Athena’s mood matrix, the team finally proved him guilty and he was defeated in the end.

Surprise factor: 9/10

The revealing plot twist of Bobby Fulbright being Phantom was definitely unique in the Ace Attorney series (the closest would probably be the villain in 2-4), given that Fulbright was present throughout the entire game as a well-intentioned but somewhat unskilled detective. Being used to Gumshoe in the original series, I fell right into this trap, believing that Fulbright was filling the usual trope and not suspecting him until the end. The only reason that Phantom didn’t score perfectly in the surprise factor is that we knew that Phantom was the culprit the entire time; we just didn’t know who he/she was.

Theme song: 9/10

Both Phantom and Bobby Fulbright’s theme songs are fantastic in Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies. Fulbright’s detective theme resonated his sense of justice that at the time, seemed genuine and full of energy. Phantom’s theme was reminiscent of a JRPG boss battle theme, which is fitting since he represented the final battle of this adventure. The two themes are polar opposite ends of the musical spectrum, which represents the range of characters that Phantom can represent.

Breakdown: 9/10

Phantom’s breakdown was dramatic and fitting for the ending of the game. As he panics and begins asking who he truly is, he rips off multiple masks and we get to see Ted Tonate, Florent L’Belle, Aristotle Means, Jinxie Tenma, Damian Tenma, Hugh O’Conner, Solomon Starbuck, Simon Blackquill, Aura Blackquill, Phoenix Wright, and Bobby Fulbright throughout the entire scene. Finally his fear of assassination came true as a sniper shot rings and takes him down, though not fatally. It’s unclear why the sniper from his employers wouldn’t kill him though, and I can’t imagine them missing on accident.

Final Score: 7.40/10

1. Marlon Rimes (DLC)

Marlon Rimes, Shipshape Aquarium aquarist

General motive/character/evilness: 9/10

Marlon Rimes in the DLC case, Turnabout Reclaimed, is a unique case among the villains in this post in that his crime of murder was accidental rather than intentional. So since there is no “evil” to judge in this section, I’ll be mainly focusing on his character and other actions leading to the events of the case.

Two years before the case began, Rimes was dating Azura Summers, an orca trainer at Shipshape Aquarium. During this time, he would often get to see videos from Azura and her orca, Ora Shipley. About a year later, during one of the aquariums shows, Summers suddenly fell into the water, after which Ora grabbed her by the mouth and shook her. By the time Summers was retrieved, she was dead, and the public blamed Ora the orca for her death. This led to a devastated Rimes, who vowed to seek revenge against the orca (revenge against an animal is somewhat ridiculous), who was not put down despite the incident.

To do this, Marlon Rimes took on a job as an aquarist at Shipshape Aquarium. There, he met the orca, who now went by “Orla” and her new trainer, Sasha Buckler. He became close friends with Buckler and did not want her to suffer the same fate as Summers. Rimes then tried to end the life of Orla the orca three times:

  1. Marlon Rimes first tried to drain Orla’s pool in order to suffocate the orca, but Jack Shipley, the owner of the aquarium caught him in the act. Unlike most other villains who would have killed Shipley on the spot for intruding, Rimes did no such thing. However, Shipley slipped and fell into the empty pool. Rimes caught his hand at the last second, and in Shipley’s last moments before his hand slipped, he tried to explain to Rimes that Summers’ death was not Orla’s fault.
  2. Rimes then came up with an elaborate back-up plan to get Orla convicted of killing Jack Shipley. He hid Shipley’s body in a skull-shaped rock before getting Buckler to move both the orca and the rock to the main orca pool. He then contacted Norma DePlume, a writer already interested in Summers’ death last year, to witness his setup. Rimes used a walkie-talkie to play a recording of the “lifesaver” whistle command in the pool, to which Orla responded by headbutting the rock until she released Shipley’s body and brought it to the surface with her mouth. Norma DePlume was now a witness to Orla’s supposed murder of Jack Shipley.
  3. However, returning attorney Phoenix Wright cleared Orla of these charges, so Rimes came up with a third and more cruel way to kill Orla, using sleeping pills to drug the orca through her food. This was again foiled by the resident vet Dr. Herman Crab, who pumped her stomach just in time.

At this point, Marlon Rimes had another problem he had to deal with. His close friend, Sasha Buckler, had been accused of the murder of Jack Shipley due to Orla’s name being cleared. He went to court to testify the next day to defend his friend and also pin the death of Shipley on Orla. However, throughout the trial, Wright pressed him and forced him to confess to all of the above. Fortunately, after he found out that Summers had actually died of a heart attack, Rimes was filled with remorse and was encouraged by the judge to undergo rehabilitation due to the murder being accidental.

Lastly, Marlon Rimes’ amazing side job and transformation can’t be ignored in this judgment. He greatly enjoys rapping, and we get to see several instances of this in the case. In addition, after he is pressed by Wright, he swallows his bucket of fish and transforms into a swole pirate version of himself, with aggressive rap lyrics and shark bite marks on his shoulders.

Surprise factor: 9/10

The case had several characters such as Herman Crab and Norma DePlume who were much more suspicious than Marlon Rimes, allowing him to slip under the radar for the majority of the story. In addition, having the murder finally be discovered as accidental was a nice and surprising touch, especially for the Ace Attorney series, which generally looks to steer the plot toward an evil mastermind in almost every case. However, when Rimes’ handprint was discovered, it became more probable that he had a larger role in the case than initially expected.

Theme song: 4/10

Marlon Rimes didn’t really have a theme song, and this helped with the surprise factor above. He got the obnoxious “Lively People” background music reserved for the likes of other comic relief characters such as Robin Newman, Phineas Filch, and Ponco. However, he gets an extra point here from his own musical talent in rap music.

Breakdown: 6/10

Rimes’ breakdown happens when he is in his pirate transformation, and fit the sea theme of the case perfectly. Beyond the thematic elements, it’s a pretty standard breakdown. The witness stand begins to sway like a ship in a storm and Marlon’s eyes turn hollow as he desperately pleads in pirate-speak about his belief that Orla is the culprit. It ends on a sad note as he uses the witness stand as jail bars and tells himself that he is too weak to save anyone.

Final Score: 7.55/10

This ended up being a lot longer than I expected, which just goes to show how much complexity the Ace Attorney writers put into each of the villains in their games, whether they are minor culprits for a single unrelated case or major masterminds behind entire games. It’s why I show my love for the franchise by purchasing collectibles from the series and why I’m looking forward to playing the last two games (until a new one is announced for the Switch, hopefully)!

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