Justice for All continues with Phoenix’s bizarro legal shenanigans about a year after Maya left the law office in order to train as a spirit medium. When the two finally reunite, tragedy strikes and Phoenix is once again tasked with defending Maya against impossible odds. Sounds like a recipe for success, so what went wrong?
In short: Justice for All isn’t as nostalgic as the original Ace Attorney, nor is it as climactic as Trials and Tribulations. It’s a decent sequel, but brings nothing new to the table in order to make up for the forgettable cases.
The gameplay remains mostly unchanged from the first game, but adds the ability to present character profiles as evidence, which increases the amount of information you need to consider when looking at a contradiction. While this adds depth to the puzzle solving, some of the solutions still require a frustrating amount of trial and error which is further amplified by the increase in complexity.
The more interesting change is the introduction of Psyche-Locks. These are literal locks that you have to break to get information out of certain witnesses during investigations, which is done by presenting evidence in order to make them believe that you already know what they know, or otherwise persuading them to spill the beans.
If you present the wrong piece of evidence you’ll lose some health, and you’ll have to restart the sequence if you run out completely. Successful unlocking on the other hand heals you up a bit. It’s an utterly pointless mechanic – as I’ve stated in the previous review, the inclusion of a traditional fail state adds absolutely nothing to the experience, and the Psyche-Locks are no different.
Most of the time you won’t be able to immediately unlock them, and you’ll need to investigate further until you have all of the required evidence. While I welcome the concept of adding a tangible goal to investigations, it ends up being a gimmick that feels way too forced due to the unnatural way the dialog is presented.
Justice for Most
Apart from a few typos and grammatical mistakes, the localization remains stellar. The handling of Kurain village – Maya’s very Japanese hometown – is especially noteworthy as the narrative seamlessly inserts such an alien concept into a familiar setting. My only gripe are the memes and pop culture references, which just don’t age well.
However, even the strong localization is still at the mercy of the original script, which isn’t without its faults. The overall pacing is slightly worse and some of the leaps in logic are even more obtuse. It’s not terrible, but the game’s narrative structure is so similar to the original that slight dips in quality are immediately noticeable.
An interesting change to the script is Edgeworth’s absence, who went on a sabbatical after the events of the first game. Being framed for the murder of his own father, having to prosecute his own superior and finally seeing the error of his ways after getting repeatedly trounced by Phoenix is simply tragic, and the game acknowledges this for the first time.
And I feel that’s the game’s theme – tragedy. The events depicted weigh heavily on everyone involved which not only enables potential for growth and awesome redemption stories, but also allows us to empathize and relate to the characters on a deeper level – even with the murderers, and it’s for this reason that the game’s aptly named title is my favorite in the series.
While Edgeworth and his whereabouts remain an interesting plot point throughout the game, we still need an actual prosecutor and subsequently get introduced to Franziska von Karma, daughter of the disgraced Manfred von Karma from Ace Attorney. Like her father, she’s extremely capable, obsessed with perfection and very antagonistic.
She does feel rather similar to Edgeworth though, and her character doesn’t really develop until the last 20 minutes of the game which makes her feel a bit one-dimensional. Nonetheless, she’s a great rival and her lack of empathy leads to a very interesting dynamic between her and Phoenix.
The second newcomer is Pearl Fey. She’s Maya’s younger cousin and serves as substitute assistant when needed. Her ignorance about the world outside Kurain village coupled with her intense devotion towards shipping Maya and Phoenix is just adorable, and her involvement the game’s second case lets her become an integral part of the story without feeling like a token child character.
While the new additions to the already strong cast are welcome, I can’t help but feel disappointed about Mia’s treatment. She still makes regular appearances via Maya or Pearl, but her existence and purpose are confined to the defense’s bench, and I feel that Justice for All missed the opportunity to explore her role in the Fey Clan as well as her life prior to the events from Ace Attorney.
Let’s get to the game’s main problem now: It’s short and the cases aren’t very good. I’d recommend you to skip 2-1 and 2-3 if you’re purchasing episodes individually as the cases and its characters aren’t referenced again in the future.
The Lost Turnabout (2-1) kicks off by having Phoenix get clonked over the head by the culprit before the trial. As a result, he enters the courtroom with amnesia where he gets reintroduced to the game mechanics. It’s a lazy, poorly executed concept, and the case’s weak premise doesn’t leave you satisfied when you come out victorious in the end.
Reunion, and Turnabout (2-2) once again features Maya as the defendant, but the use of spirit channeling as an integral piece of the puzzle sets it apart from the first game’s second case. While the culprit’s M.O. is a tad bit convoluted and the pacing could’ve been better, the case provides a fascinating insight into the power struggles around the Fey Clan, spirit channeling and the inner workings of Kurain village.
Maya’s involvement also enhances the immediacy of the case, while the progress made in her relationship with Phoenix adds a good bit of continuity to the episodic plot structure. We’re also introduced to both Pearl Fey and Franziska von Karma here, making it an overall enjoyable episode.
Then we get to Turnabout Big Top (2-3), and it’s pretty bad. The actual murder is contrived, the prosecution’s case is weak and the investigations just drag on an on without ever revealing anything interesting. The characters involved are shallow, unlikable and the writing makes it difficult to get invested in them.
The case’s one redeeming quality is the culprit and his motive which plays into the game’s central theme once again, but even that is overshadowed by a rather large oversight in the script which requires you to have inconceivable information in order to win the case.
That leaves us with the finale, which might as well be the game’s saving grace. Farewell, My Turnabout (2-4) prominently features a strong cast of characters whose personalities and relationships are much more complex than what they initially let on. The case also dramatically raises the stakes and brings a twist to the normally black and white courtroom dynamics of Ace Attorney.
We’re made aware very early into the case that our client is a guilty son of a bitch, and for the first time Phoenix is faced with the moral dilemma of either framing an innocent person or losing someone dearly precious to him. The idea is discarded pretty soon though as you get an easy way out, removing the tiny speck of gray from the good and bad endings.
Stil, it’s an amazingly tense case with plenty of things to discover which is further amplified by the unique circumstances around Maya, and Edgeworth’s triumphant return coupled with the superficial, but nevertheless appreciated glimpse into Phoenix’s moral integrity lets the game end on a high note.
Unfortunately the short run time – a total of 4 cases including the tutorial – leaves no room for error, and even the superb finale can’t make up for the forgettable other half of the game.[letsreview]