Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice For All
By Sherv Thursday, 15 Mar 2007

The following review contains plot spoilers, please read at your discretion!

Phoenix Wright: Justice For All borrows its name from the 1979 film starring Al Pacino and it is not fully apparent why until the very last case. The game is structured almost identical to its predecessor,Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, with a few gameplay changes and tweaks; if you are familiar with the previous game then feel free to skip the next paragraph.

The premise of the Phoenix Wright games mainly lies within the (humorous and quirky) dialogue and descriptions found throughout. The game is partly played from a first-person perspective during the evidence-gathering phase and then changes to the third-person during court scenes. While gathering evidence you, as Phoenix, get to question witnesses and other characters and examine the crime scene and any other related areas. The game will not let you proceed to court until all relevant and irrelevant items and dialogue have been exhausted which is a nice failsafe, and luckily it does not require the player to nitpick over every pixel in an attempt to discover that last missing key item. I found the most memorable scenes to take place in the court setting, as the defense and prosecution leap at each others’ throats to accomplish their goal; only by pressing witnesses and spotting contradictions in their statements and objecting appropriately will you successfully defend your client. Faulty objections cost you, however, and your mistakes are tracked by a “life bar”: make too many and you’ll lose the case!

Four cases make up the entirety of the game and there are no DS-specific scenarios (every case can be played exclusively via the touch screen or game pad and buttons). The first case serves as a refresher as Phoenix has temporary amnesia and you are walked through the basic mechanics of the game. The subsequent cases have some particularly unique characters and some hilarious dialogue but, when compared to the previous game, lack what I felt to be any emotional tie to the player. The 4th case in PW:AA involved Phoenix defending his once-rival, prosecutor Miles Edgeworth, and right off the bat you were assaulted by a tremendously fierce and powerful prosecutor, Manfred von Karma. It isn’t until the 4th case in this game where you are placed in a similarly tough situation: your aide and friend Maya is kidnapped and threatened with a violent end if you do not secure an aquittal for your client. The parallel to the movie, …And Justice For All, is made evident about halfway into the case as you discover that your client is guilty but are forced to defend him due to Maya’s situation. While this mechanic addresses some interesting moral questions I found it to lack that emotional “oomph” which kept me fighting through the 4th case of Ace Attorney.

There are a few particular differences in PW: JFA. The most striking difference for me was the inclusion of Psyche-locks, ethereal psychic blocks which impede your questioning process and can only be overcome by specific evidence presented appropriately. If a character seems to be hiding something or lying outright the chance to break these locks presents itself; a failed attempted at breaking the lock lowers your “health”, effectively decreasing the number of mistakes you can make in court when presenting evidence. Correctly breaking the lock refills your meter by about 50% and progresses the plot accordingly. Another addition to the game is the ability to present character profiles. This is something I felt was sorely missing from PW:AA and it really helps to make questioning and presenting evidence a lot more streamlined and logical. Lastly, there’s some new music, some of which is decent but nothing which really sticks out as outstanding. My biggest gripe here is that Pressing Pursuit, the music played when you’re dominating a cross-examination, is replaced by something far less invigorating and even almost emotionally flacid.

Overall PW:JFA is a very well done game and I would highly recommend it to fans of the series. My minor gripes can easily be overlooked in appreciation for the game as a whole and players who trek through and successfully complete it are rewarded with hilarious dialogue and some touching moments. It’s a shame that DS-specific elements didn’t make their way into the game as they did in the 5th case from PW:AA but that’s hardly a damaging blow to the game.