Review – Phoenix Wright – Justice for All (DS)

CoverPhoenix Wright – Justice for All (DS)
“Phoenix Wright – Justice for All”, produced and distributed by Capcom, is extremely well done sequel to the previous DS game, maintaining the same style of play, humor, and courtroom drama while adding a few new twists to the game to make it even better than it’s prequel.

Story: A
Justice for All takes place about one year after the events in the first game. Maya’s still training to be a spirit channeller, Edgeworth has disappeared under mysterious circumstances, and Phoenix continues his work as a defense attorney, still undefeated. One case reunites Phoenix with Maya, defending her yet again from a murder charge, but unfortunately meets Franziska von Karma, daughter of Manfred von Karma, who’s set on revenge for Phoenix’s success against her father from the last game. With other cases involving the death of a cop in love, the murder of a circus ringmaster, and the apparent assassination of a children’s show star, Phoenix not only meets people from his past cases but an interesting cast of others, and again works to save his clients from the guilty charge.
Gameplay: A+

The game play is pretty much the same as the first. There’s usually several points where you’ll be able to investigate the crime, talk to those involved, and collect evidence to be used in the trial the next day. During court sessions, you’ll need to cross examine the witnesses presented by the prosecuting attorney, find contradictions and raising objections, as well as responding to specific questions at any time. There are two main changes to the game; the first is that instead of having 5 strikes or misses that come about of presenting the evidence at the wrong time, you now have a health meter that takes hits from bad responses. Furthermore, certain actions will take a different amount of health; there are some points where a wrong answer will cost a small amount, while some critical points will sap your health bar in one shot. If it goes to zero, the court finds your client guilty, and you’ll need to restart from the chapter start. This aspect helps to improve the difficulty of the game; generally, if a leap of logic is needed to figure out the right response, then the penalty is usually small, but on the other hand, if you select the obviously wrong evidence when all the clues point to only one answer, you can lose a lot. An interesting note is that the health bar is only reset between cases, not at the start of each chapter as it was in the last game.

933086_20060510_screen011.jpgThis leads to the second new addition, the concept of a Psyche-lock. Certain persons when you ask them questions during an investigation phase will evade an answer and thanks to Maya, you’ll be able to see their Psyche-locks that prevents them from telling you the answer. You can attempt to break the Psyche-lock, which works similar to courtroom cases where you have to present evidence or respond correctly, but as before, the wrong answer will take away some health. However, unlike the courtroom, you can abandon a psyche-lock breaking attempt at anytime, which allows you to figure out that there’s evidence that you’re missing and thus gives you clues of what you need to find out from others. Once you’ve broken all the locks, the person will then tell you want you want to hear, and you’ll get back a good amount of your health bar. This addition makes the investigation phase more interesting, as well as adding some hints about where to go.

One additional minor change is that you can now also present the profiles of people involved with the case in addition to evidence; this makes it easier to take to others about specific people as opposed to having to use the given talk options.

Value/Replayability: A-
The game features four cases, and they feel much more worked out than those in the previous game, in that the overall background and murder feel well written out, and then the case is worked out. The general pattern is to first disprove that the defendant was at the scene of the crime, then to work backwards to find the real killer and motive for the case. Thus, there’s a more cohesive feel to the cases; information you learn early on gets used much later in the case, but events and motives do not change throughout. This also helps that you can usually figure out (as the player) what actually happened earlier in the case, and thus requiring you to work through the testimony and evidence to be able to show that to the court and achieve the not guilty verdict. The last case become very interesting, in that the murderer becomes obvious very early, but you have to make the case last as long as possible due to a hostage situation. The new characters are also very interesting, again feeling that their personalities and behavior was written out with the murder plot, then written around when creating the cases; the returning characters also gain some more personality in this sequel. while the first case is rather easy (and written to be a tutorial), the other three are all rather long with multiple court days and segments. Overall, there’s about 20-25hr of gameplay, a significant amount of time waiting for the dialog to occur, which you can’t fast forward through until you’ve seen it at least once. While it’s not immediately replayable, I would think, that as I found with the first game, that you can come back to it after some time and still have to rework through some of the cases since there are so many details to keep track of.

Note that while the game uses the DS features for examining a room as well as for working through the court record, there is no special additional uses as there was in the last game with the last case; in that situation, that case was specifically added from the original GBA port for the DS release. Justice for All is just a straight port for the second GBA game for the DS and no additional content is provided. The game has been translated and localized appropriately for American audiences as well. (I played the Japanese release which included the English translation built into it).
Graphics: A-
Audio: A-
The graphics and audio are the same from the previous game. Semi-animated cartoon figured help for dialog purposes with rather expressive looks at times. The music uses some of the old themes but adds a few more new scores to the mix.

The only major nit I have about the game is that there’s few points late in some cases where the endgame feels rushed; that is, by that point, you as the player should know the whole case from all the investigation and clues, but you still need to present a concrete case to get your client off, but the game seems to skip a few steps. For example, one case involves a murder weapon that picked up a part of the victim’s outfit. While the court eventually agrees that the weapon was the weapon used, there’s no question of what happened to the outfit, though it’s explained away by the actual murderer. Even though this would have only extended the game a few more questions, it felt like a loose end. But given how intricate some of the cases are, these small loose ends are rather ignorable in the end.
Overall: A

If you haven’t had a chance to play the first game, you may be a bit lost with some of the character interactions in Phoenix Wright – Justice for All, but the game is still playable without having this knowledge. But for those that have played the first, this game continues to expand upon the outstanding and enjoyable gameplay while still providing new, evocative cases. Unless point-and-click adventure games aren’t your thing, Justice for All is a title you’ll definitely want in your library.


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