A good defense never rests. Wright proves he still has what it takes in Capcom’s localization of its second lawyer simulation.
In late 2005, Capcom's popular lawyer adventure series for GBA, Gyakuten Saiban, finally made its way to western markets as Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney on Nintendo DS. Welcomed with rave reviews for its humor and story, Phoenix Wright was an instant cult classic. Over a year later, Capcom brings America the second entry in the hot new franchise. While Phoenix Wright: Justice for All does not quite live up to its predecessor, it is a solid continuation of the Wright tradition.
Just as in the original, you play as Phoenix Wright, a kind-hearted (but somewhat sloppy) defense attorney sworn to protect poor innocents accused of murder. With his trusty aide (and spirit medium) Maya Fey, Phoenix is tasked with uncovering the truth, however difficult the prosecution makes it. His headstrong tactics and knack for speaking before thinking often land the young lawyer in trouble, usually leaving the judge, defendant, and player in suspense. Wright’s charm is undeniable, and the game's quirky humor brings the murder mysteries to life. It is important to stress that the series’ characters, scenarios, and judicial system are not based in reality—Justice for All cannot teach you about Japan or America’s legal system. It can, however, provide hours of refreshing entertainment.
Justice for All begins a few months after the original, and its formula remains pretty much the same. Players control the game through a simple menu interface using the face buttons or touch screen, which allows Phoenix to move between areas, survey environments for evidence, ask and answer questions, and present evidence. In the courtroom Phoenix must defend his client in the courtroom by uncovering lies or omissions in witness testimonies by questioning, objecting, and presenting contradictory evidence, ultimately debasing the prosecution's accusations. Unfortunately, Wright usually faces an uphill battle—a forceful prosecution and senile, suggestible judge—and too many mistakes (trying the Judge’s patience) will cost him the case. To prepare for court, Phoenix also sleuths for leads, exploring the crime scene and talking with the involved parties. Wright must more frequently show his cards to stubborn witnesses to debase lies and loosen tongues, and he can now be reprimanded for presenting irrelevant evidence (just as in court).
The biggest—and most disappointing—addition in Justice for All is Wright's newest rival, Franziska von Karma. Being a von Karma, naturally she is an overbearing prosecuting attorney obsessed with maintaining a “perfect record" of guilty verdicts, at any cost. While certainly a formidable foe, compared with Miles Edgeworth's witty retorts and charismatic personality, von Karma's direct insults and perennial hostility are unfunny and shallow. The lawyers’ relationship does mature with time, but it is not as satisfying as Edgeworth and Wright’s complex rapport. Fortunately, Justice for All's abundance of nutty characters (both old and new) help fill the void with their zany and unexpected quirks.
Justice for All also succumbs to the original's pitfalls. While the game does its best to lead the player, during investigations it can be unclear what Wright must do to further the story. For example, the player may need to investigate a seemingly inconspicuous section of a room or be sure to ask all possible questions to characters in the area. In court, sometimes the game only acknowledges one piece of evidence as correct when presenting any one of multiple pieces of evidence could demonstrate Wright's point, which can frustrate and confuse the player. Finally, if you don't have a clue on how to proceed, you can usually resort to brute force, systematically presenting all of the evidence in Wright's arsenal.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney’s translation was a labor of love, carefully crafted to flow naturally for English native speakers, both culturally and linguistically. While the sequel is still hilarious, it sadly did not receive the same polished treatment. Grammatical errors, misspellings, and unnatural sentence structures blemish the story’s English text. Most distracting is the chronic disagreement between pronouns and subjects (e.g. “they" referring to a single person). Phoenix Wright is little more than its text; this noticeable slip in quality is disappointing.
While the game design has its issues and the localization bloopers are regretful, I still found myself glued to the DS—on my second play through. I strongly encourage anyone new to the series to hunt down the superior original first, if only because Justice for All contains significant spoilers of the first game. Nonetheless, I heartily recommend Capcom’s latest helping of justice for all players.