Review: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Justice For All (WiiWare)

“Sustained!”

This second game in the Phoenix Wright series brings more of the same intriguing puzzle solving game play mixed with addictive storytelling that made the first game a runaway success when it was released. And like the first game, Phoenix’s second outing is one of the best experiences to be had on a handheld. But as we pointed out in our review of the WiiWare port of the first game, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, even great games require some minimal amount of effort to successfully port them to a new platform. And once again, Capcom has shown no interest in doing anything to spruce up this old gem for its new audience. Quite the contrary, they appear to be focusing their minimal efforts on stripping content away.

As with the first game, Justice for All began its life on the Gameboy Advance in Japan only. It wasn’t until years later that it was ported to the DS for its initial release in the west. With DS touch screen controls and dual screen support, Capcom pulled out all the stops to take advantage of the unique features of the DS to make the game even more fun on that platform than it was on the original.

One would think that the Wii Remote would be a perfect stand-in for the DS stylus and that “touchscreen” controls could be left alone for this release. But someone at Capcom must have taken objection to that logic and chose to release these games with their original GBA style interface instead. It’s not unplayable, it’s just a bizarre regression without any apparent reason, especially considering the GBA version was never released outside of Japan and so everyone in North America and Europe expects pointer-style controls by now.

Regardless, the problems such as the downgraded controls and the extremely low-resolution display have already been addressed in our review of the first game. And everything that was lazy and sloppy about that first port is true of this one as well. But before buying this game, you’ll be familiar with these shortcomings already as we advise that you play the first game in the series before this one.

For one thing, the story of Phoenix Wright, although told in a series of self-contained episodes, is also a continuous soap opera. By skipping the first game, you will skip out on five episodes worth of plot twists and character interactions. Even though a thorough understanding of the story of the first game is not really necessary to understand what’s going on, given that both games are available on the Wiiware service for the same price there is no real reason not to start at the beginning either. And not doing so may lessen your enjoyment of the story.

Secondly, when you add in the downloadable fifth episode in the first game, that release has more content for very little extra cost. At only four episodes with no DLC available, this second game is shorter than the first as further evidenced by its significantly smaller block size.

Lastly, although the game looks and plays almost identically to the first, it feels a bit more challenging and players who did not learn along with the first game may struggle to catch up with the steeper learning curve here.

It’s not all just more of the same though. This second game in the series did introduce the “psyche-lock” game mechanic. Like questioning a witness on the stand in court, this puzzle challenges you to interrogate someone during the Investigation phase of the game and convince the witness to reveal his or her secrets. It doesn’t add much, and the game still plays almost identically to the first Phoenix Wright, but it’s a logical next-step in a game play format that was pretty much done right the first time around.

Another minor change is the addition of a health bar to replace the wrong move count from the first game. This health bar can drop in varying degrees depending on how far off course you are, and can be replenished when you do things right. But otherwise, the goal is the same: study your evidence and submit it at the appropriate time when examining a witness to expose a lie, and thus prove your client innocent.

With the sheer amount of perjury committed by the average witness in these games, it seems harsh that Phoenix gets punished by taking a hit to his health meter for merely submitting truthful and relevant evidence at the wrong time, but by this time players should be experienced enough to recognize the subtle hints as to what the game is looking for you to present and what specific moment it should be presented.

Conclusion

Although not originally intended to be thought of as an episodic Wiiware series, when viewed as such, Justice for All can be seen as a fitting successor to Ace Attorney as it succeeds in doing the one thing an episodic Wiiware game should do: provide more of the same kind of content to fans of the first "episode" without rocking the boat by screwing with the formula too much. Although a few tweaks were made here and there, the game is almost identical to the first release in the series and even reuses many of the same character animations from the first game, most notably Phoenix Wright himself. As a result, players who fell in love with Ace Attorney will no doubt view Justice for All as a must-have expansion to the first release. But those who were unconvinced that Phoenix Wright was the second coming of Atticus Finch are unlikely to be swayed by this new evidence.

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