Justice For All provides more of the courtside action fans yearn for, but the overall plot leaves a bit to be desired.
With Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Justice For All, said expression rings true. The core gameplay of the Ace Attorney series stands as is: investigation scene, court scene, repeat. What this sequel does do, however, is add a few different elements into the mix which tweak the core mechanics ever so slightly.
The previous penalty system, which docked the player for presenting irrelevant evidence, is still in place. But instead of the five-strikes-your-out method from the first Ace Attorney, Phoenix now has a green life bar. One fifth is lost for presenting the incorrect evidence, but greater or lesser values can be lost and regained depending on the situation. This allows the game much more flexibility and unpredictability during intense scenarios.
The first Ace Attorney had a realistic, believable world in which the characters lived, for the most part. Occasionally the story dabbled in the occult, seeing as how there were spirit mediums and the like. This time around, a new mechanic, "Psyche-locks," presents a different challenge. During the investigation phase, Phoenix and company stumble upon various characters who hide dark secrets. Through the use of a spirit medium's mystically-charged magatama, Phoenix will see padlocks appear over said person's body. The locks break when the correct evidence is presented. Information vital to the case will be revealed by the now-vulnerable character. It works similarly to cross-examining witnesses in court, so it's not totally innovative.
Additionally, people's profiles can also be presented, during Psyche-lock sequences and court scenes, instead of just the physical evidence. It's not as game-changing as the previous features mentioned, but it adds just a little more depth to the game.
Besides the above, not all that much has changed from the first game. The sprites still look great, despite being ripped right from a 2002 GBA game. The music comprises mostly new tracks, with only a few carrying over from the first game. The songs don't feel as memorable as in the first game, but the soundtrack is solid regardless.
The cases this time around are written magnificently (however, there do seem to be more typographical errors in this game) and the "whodunit" feel is genuine. However, the stories themselves do not contribute to the overarching story of the central characters in any real way. That fact alone makes them feel shallow and lacking, save for the fourth and final case, which is epic to a new degree.
There is no bonus case with touch control as seen in the previous game. Subsequently, that makes the entire game quite a bit shorter than its predecessor. The dialog is as witty as ever, and most of the main characters are great fun to watch interact with each other because of it.
Justice For All fails to outshine the original game, mostly due to the lackluster overall plot. That aside, it's still an excellent game that manages to tweak the formula enough to freshen it up. Justice For All is worthy of its spot in the Ace Attorney series, but chances are it probably isn't anyone's favorite of the bunch.