Review: Phoenix Wright: Justice For All

“Phoenix Wright 2 – OBJECTION! Why don’t you own this game???”

The Phoenix Wright (Gyakuten Saiban in Japan) series is a long-running series of point-and-click court games. The first three were originally made for the GBA several years back, and have begun to get ported to the DS, and are getting English language options and international releases. With the recent release of the second in the series, countries outside of Japan finally get a taste of this excellent game. Though the first was very limited in supply, and so few people got it, Capcom seems to have learned its lesson, as Phoenix Wright 2 is very plentiful in supply.

Gameplay – 10/10

The gameplay is divided into two main segments: The investigation phase, and the court phase. The investigation phase plays like a typical point-and-click adventure. You move around crime scenes, interview witnesses, and gather evidence. While some people consider this phase to be the more boring of the two, I find it rather enjoyable, as it gives you a chance to explore diverse locations, learn more about the many characters in the game, and gather very important clues to aid you in court.

Interviewing witnesses is the most fun to be had in the investigation phase. You can talk to them to learn new information, as well as present evidence and profiles to them to learn more about a piece of evidence or person(In the case of presenting profiles, you can occasionally learn interesting things, such as a witness’ opinion on another character). New to this game in the investigation phase is the “Psyche Lock” feature. This feature allows you to see the witness’ secrets, and by presenting the correct evidence, you can unlock them, and gain valuable facts about the case. This adds a lot to the gameplay, and makes the investigation phases far more fun than the phases in the first Phoenix Wright. The only small flaw is that there is no real way to tell if you have the right evidence yet or not, so you may be trying to present every possible bit of evidence, when you don’t have what you need yet.

Though the investigation phases are fun, once again, the courtroom phases return as the most fun the game offers. The courtroom phases place you in court(Obviously). In them, you must go through witness’ testimonies, and provide proof to back up your defenses. In a testimony, you have two options. You can press a witness, and gather more information about that part of their testimony, or you can present evidence, if you think you’ve found a contradiction. Occasionally, there are parts where you will be asked to provide explanations on certain points, and are given options. Often times, these options will all seem right, but you are left to logically think out the correct choice. These courtroom battles will often leave you on the edge of your seat, as you provide every possible bit of evidence to attempt to save your client, and grasp at any small contradiction, in a desperate attempt to defend your client and find the truth.

In Phoenix Wright 1, your life was in the form of exclamation points. You lost one point for every wrong move that you made. In this game, the feature was done away with, in favor of a life bar. Instead of having “five strikes and you’re out”, your life will now shorten in varying lengths depending on the situation. If you make a major accusation, but cannot back it up, you will lose a lot of life, while if you make a smaller one, you will only lose a bit of it. The bar is with you at all times now, as well. For instance, if you mess up while trying to unlock a Psyche Lock during the investigation phase, you will still lose life. However, to counter this and leave the difficulty at a reasonable level, successfully unlocking a Psyche Lock will raise your bar by about half of its max length.

The controls in Phoenix Wright 2 work well. Since it was originally designed for the GBA, you can go through the game only using the DS’ buttons, but you also have the option to use only the touch screen, as well. An interesting and popular feature of the controls is the voice recognition. Instead of simply selecting “Present” during court phases, you may yell “Objection!” into the DS’ microphone. “Hold it!” and “Take that!” voice commands are also present. While using this may get you some odd looks while playing in public, it is a fun and interesting feature.

Story – 10/10

The story is, as you might expect, an extremely important part of Phoenix Wright 2. There are four different cases in this game, and while they may seem rather unrelated, they are, for the most part, tied together into one main story.

Case 1 follows the story of a murdered police officer, and the woman charged with his murder. Much like the first case of the first game, this case is a tutorial to help you get into the game. Though they are both tutorial cases, this case is generally seen as much more difficult than the first case of Phoenix Wright 1.

Case 2 follows a murder of a somewhat crazy doctor. Phoenix’s very own assistant is charged with the murder, and it is now up to Phoenix to help her out.

Case 3 involves a murder at a big top. The ringmaster himself was killed, and now it is up to Phoenix to get to the bottom of who did it.

Case 4 brings back old memories, as a new Steel Samurai (Or Nickel Samurai, in this game) is charged with the murder of a fellow actor.

Though the story of Phoenix Wright 2 builds off of the story of the first one, it is not required that you play the first one in order to get enjoyment out of the story for this one. It does help, as it introduces you to characters, and will help you to understand certain elements later, you will still get a full experience without having played the first one. Overall, I recommend playing Phoenix Wright 1 first, though it is not required at all.

One of the largest points of Phoenix Wright 2’s story is the vast amount of characters. Unlike most games, these characters have very realistic personalities. You don’t get any boring, one-sided characters here. Every character has a unique personality, appearance, interests, and stories. Several characters from the first game also make repeat appearances in this title, which gives you a nice feeling, as you meet a character from the first, and suddenly remember everything about him or her, and your experiences with them from the first game. Though some characters may seem annoying at first, they will almost certainly grow on you, to the point where you feel like you get to know every one of them. Overall, the character development is superb, and is possibly some of the best development of characters in a video game to date.

Overall, we are presented with one of the greatest stories in a video game to date. Phoenix Wright 2 is filled with a colourful cast of characters, exciting plot, and more twists than you can count. As far as story goes, Phoenix Wright 2 easily blows almost every other game out of the water, and is likely the best element of the game.

Graphics – 9/10
Sound – 9/10

Phoenix Wright 2 has the same sprite-based graphics as the first game, though several of the newer characters have somewhat more advanced animations. The characters are very well-animated, and are actually quite good to look at. You won’t get any truly ugly characters here, except maybe one from a later case. The style of the characters gives off an immediate feel for their personality. Each animation reveals how the character is feeling, and can clue you in to what they are thinking. From a polite, good-natured officer, to a ditzy research student, to a not-so funny clown, and everything in-between, the style of the graphics on the characters is quite the sight to behold, and is a wonderful way to hold together the story.

In addition to the characters, there is a nice, diverse amount of locations to visit. The courtroom, as well as the crime scenes and different locations are very well animated, and look pretty. You never really get any similar-looking environments. You get a village of spirit callers, a circus, jail cells, hotels, and more. Every one has a unique and interesting look that is extremely appealing to the eyes, and complements the sprites of the characters very well. The characters are bright enough to stand out well against the backgrounds, while still seeming like they are a part of them.

Between the animations of the characters, and the backgrounds, you get a game that certainly comes to life and feels very real. Though some may complain that sprites are obsolete, they are a perfect fit for this game, and give a very nice look and feel to the game.

As well as nice graphics, there are is also a nice soundtrack to go along with the game. There are many different songs that fit every situation and mood quite well. Similar sound effects as the first game are used in this one, which is not a complaint at all, as they work well with situations. However, even though the music in this game is great, and some songs are superior to their Phoenix Wright 1 counterparts, there are some that are inferior. They are still good, but there are certain tracks that may leave you wishing for the old songs instead of the new ones. Overall, the sound is great, but it could be slightly better in parts.

Play time – 10/10
Replayability – 7/10

As far as play time goes, there have been some complaints that this game is too short in comparison to console RPGs. However, something that you must remember is that this is a DS game, and as such, should not be expected to be as long as console games. That said, as far as DS games go, this is easily one of the longest around. While the first case only takes about two hours, Case 2 will take, at very least, 5 or 6, and the last two cases took me over 8 hours each. Admittedly, part of that was due to getting snagged on some tough points, but that is still nothing to sneeze at. So, while this may not be as long as console RPGs, this is still one of the longest DS games to date.

Replayability is definitely a weaker point of the game. Unfortunately, you really don’t have many “branching paths” to explore in the game. While you can go back and try presenting new things to witnesses, or examining everything in rooms, you’re getting the same experience again. Even so, replaying Phoenix Wright feels like reading a great book for a second time or watching a good movie again. Sure, you may know what happens, but it’s still a great experience.

Final Recommendation: The charming atmosphere and wonderful characters tie together an intriguing story with fun gameplay. Definitely worth buying if you enjoy the point-and-click genre, or if you’re just looking for a great DS title in general. Buy.

Individual scores:

Gameplay – 10/10
Story – 10/10
Graphics – 9/10
Sound – 9/10
Play time – 10/10
Replayability – 7/10

Score: 10 out of 10

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