Justice For All is a worthy sequel to the original, but a few things keep it from being a truly admirable addition.
Justice For All starts where the first game ended, with Phoenix heading up his own firm and Maya back from her spiritual meditation training to help. Similar to the first game, Justice For All is layered into four separate parts, which corresponds to the missions you will complete throughout the game. Technically speaking, there are only three missions all together since the first one is a rather short and uninspired tutorial of sorts. If you played the first game than expect the first chapter in Justice For All to last no more than an hour tops. Disapprovingly so, the scenarios in Justice For All seem really laid back and simple compared to those of the previous game. The last case from the first game was probably better than any case in Justice For All. Some of them may have been unusual and very well written, but they seemed to have lacked that certain flair and humor the first game all but showcased. While Phoenix does indeed get around (some of the levels have him visiting a spiritual training town, a circus, and a luxurious hotel), these locations pale in comparison to some of the many exquisite decors showcased in the first game.
Like the previous Phoenix Wright game, getting to know everyone you meet is essential to a successful victory. At the start of every chapter, something bad happens (usually a murder of sorts) and Phoenix is called in to defend the person accused of committing the crime. Phoenix’s pessimistic attitude always allows for funny lines of how his client has no chance in the world of winning, but yet he still manages to take the case and win (depending on how well you do in the proceedings). The game is heavily text-based, and most of your time will be spent asking people questions as to the incident. Going through every available option and talking to every person available is always key to victory, and it also allows Phoenix to get clues and evidence in an effort to help solve the cases.
Of course, Phoenix not only plays the role of lawyer in the game but also as Detective in which case he will also search for clues to help his case. While running around talking to people, you can also search any part of the locations for evidence or unusual items that might be handy for future use. The more evidence you collect the easier it will be to win the cases. Once everyone’s story has been told and the best of evidence has been collected, you are than ushered off to court to try and get your client found not guilty. The only way to lose in the game is for your client to be found Guilty, which happens usually when you either say the wrong things in court or present the wrong evidence too many times. Like in the previous game, there is a limit to how many times you can present wrong evidence before the judge calls everything off and pronounced your client Guilty.
However instead of a strike system used in the first game, Justice For All uses a health bar to indicate when the trial is over. If you manage to keep your health above zero for the entire trial than you have a good shot of never failing. While the meter does indeed work more realistically than a strike system, the way it is implemented in the game falls a bit short. There are times when you must answer a critical answer in court, usually pertaining to the identity of someone or a key item used. These questions usually result in a massive meter drop if answered incorrectly, somewhere along the lines of 50-75%. While you can fill up your bars with successful interrogations, players who get small penalties throughout and than are stuck on potential game-breaking moments like this might get irritated. Another new twist in Justice For All is an interesting form of questioning called the Psylock. Not to be confused with the superhero, the Psylock is used on those characters that are hiding deep secrets and are unwilling to spoil the beans. The essence of the Psylock is to offer background on characters and events throughout the story, making players find evidence to shove in the characters’ faces to make them speak. However, while the Psylock is crucial to the gameplay is does nothing more than cause players to backtrack and search for the most meaningless of clues. Some characters may have only one or two Psylocks to open, which usually encases finding some letter from ones past to show to them, while others require hours of perfect detective work in order to advance the story. Searching for clues to open the Psylocks can ultimately end up being a tiresome affair if you don’t pay constant attention to the plot and get lost easily, but otherwise it is an admirable addition to the game, but one that could have used a little more months of polish.
It is really hard to knock Justice For All for anything considering how great the original game truly was. The first game has some truly innovative ideas for gameplay, including blowing, rubbing, screaming, and shaking the DS to solve cases. Many of those special abilities are gone in Justice For All, leaving the game feeling almost unfinished. While players can still scream objections into the mic and use the stylus for a few evidence prying minigames, the rest of the game is stationed to walls of text with no ounce of change in between. There might be a few DS shakes thrown in to throw-off the monotony, but its still not enough to warrant the features missing from the first game.
Justice For All is in no way a bad game despite its gameplay flaws. The game still shares its great visual grace and sounds as the original as well as gives players the chance to meet some truly extraordinary characters in the most unusual of places. But even with the similarities, bad cases of backtracking, a faulty meter system, and a short story leave diehard Phoenix Wright fans objecting Justice For All. Fans of the series might be disappointed by the outcome but newcomers will no doubt enjoy the game as one of the best on the DS.