Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Justice for All Review

When Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney was released on the Nintendo DS last year, it quickly became a cult hit, but the game really gained popularity once it was announced it would no longer be printed in the US. Gamers eager to make a quick buck on eBay flocked to their local stores, hoping to find one of the last copies. Somewhere along the line, even the eBayers fell in love with Phoenix and his quirky friends, and the text-driven lawyer adventure game became a fan favorite on the DS.

Seeing the late blooming success of Ace Attorney, Capcom decided to release the next installment of the DS saga in the US, as well as Japan. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Justice for All picks up where the first title left off, showcasing the further adventures of Phoenix Wright.

The game begins with Phoenix having a nightmare that ends with him being bonked on the head by a fire extinguisher. It turns out this wasn’t just a dream, as he wakes up with no memory whatsoever. To make matters worse, it appears he’s defending a police officer faced brought up on a murder charge. The police officer leads through a tutorial of sorts, helping you remember just how to lawyer it up. The tutorial does go on a bit too long, though, especially when considering most of the people purchasing this game most likely played the first. After a while, Phoenix is back in the swing of things, and (hopefully) wins the first case.

The real drawback to Justice for All is what happens after the first case. Other than the story behind each case and some of the characters, it really is the same game we’ve all played to death before. Many of the same characters make another appearance (Maya, Gumshoe, Edgeworth and Von Karma, to name a few), while most of the newer characters really aren’t as memorable (although, there are a few memorable ones). Of course, the subtle humor and pop-culture references are still abundant, so reading the text is still a blast. From references to Top Gun to a clown who bit a few lines from the Fresh Prince, there’s always something to inspire a smirk. Many of the animations are the same ones used in the past game, and several of the locales are exact copies of areas we’ve seen and examined before. Even the big, new feature in the game–the "psyche-lock"–is nothing too new.

How the psyche-lock works is fairly simple. When you know someone is lying, a large lock and chain will appear over the character. By gathering evidence and finding contradictions you’ll loosen the lock, and eventually find the truth. In other words, it’s basically a graphically enhanced cross-examination. It does add to the game, as it makes cross-examinations slightly more exciting and provides an opportunity to gain back lost health from presenting false evidence, but it really doesn’t offer enough in terms of newness. When you get down to it, the biggest new feature may be the ability to present profiles of people as evidence during trial.

The most disappointing (and shocking) aspect of this game is the fact that the DS-heavy features in the last case of Ace Attorney aren’t present here. During the final, DS-exclusive case of Ace Attorney, I was really looking forward to the next Phoenix Wright DS game, where I could use all of those neat abilities for every case. Surely with the extra time Capcom could add the DS features to the whole game, right? Guess I was wrong.

Another nitpick: it feels like every plot twist has been seen before. Wait, you mean that the witness may be responsible for the crime!? While the predictability does hurt the first couple of cases, there’s really no other way to make them as lengthy as they are. On the bright side, the final case in this game is an incredible journey, and once you beat it you’ll be thinking about it for a long time. Be sure to plug your DS in if you plan to beat it in one sitting, though, because it can take upwards of six hours to complete. Not a walk in the park.

Don’t get me wrong: Justice for All is still a good game. The writing is spectacular, the characters are as involving as ever, the artwork is still beautiful and the rush of yelling "Objection!" or "Hold it!" into the DS microphone is still there. I just really wish Capcom would have done more to make use of the DS, rather than make another direct port. As it stands, Justice for All is a slight step backwards from Ace Attorney. If you’re a fan of Ace Attorney and loved the original, by all means, pick this game up! It’s more of the same, but if you loved the original, isn’t that a good thing? If you’ve never tried Phoenix Wright before, though, or if you were only mildly entertained by the first title, Justice for All may not be the right game for you.


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Author: Brendon Lindsey View all posts by

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