Defense attorneys in Phoenix Wright's world must be stressed to the point of insanity. Not only are their clients presumed guilty until proven innocent, but the only way to actually free them is to find the real culprits and force them to confess on the stand. What's more, the judge is a gullible idiot who allows key witnesses to constantly revise their testimony after being caught in lies. All things considered, it's a wonder these lawyers ever get paid.
Of course, it wouldn't be much of a game if the odds weren't stacked against you, and as Wright, you'll take certain defeat and turn it into victory time and time again. Four times, in fact, as that's how many new murder mysteries you'll get to solve in Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Justice for All.
Like 2005's Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Justice for All is structured sort of like the Law & Order games, except that it's actually interesting. Not that it sounds that way from describing it; it's a text-driven adventure that's divided between arguing in a courtroom and investigating crime scenes. Your input is limited mostly to moving between rooms, picking dialogue options, poking at static images to find evidence and then using an inventory screen to present that evidence.
See? Boring. But for whatever reason, the game isn't. Maybe it's the constant sense of danger, the thrill of slowly piecing together a mystery or the weird blend of oddball charm and life-or-death brinksmanship. Whatever the case, Justice for All is way more fun and addictive than it has any right to be.
Justice for All picks up about a year after the original Ace Attorney, and Wright has a couple new tricks up his sleeve. The first is a health bar, which takes varying amounts of damage when you screw up in court. Second, you'll be able to present character profiles as evidence during questioning and cross-examination. Third, you can see through lies.
After reuniting with his psychic teenage sidekick, Maya Fey (and her seven-year-old cousin, Pearl), he's handed an item that enables him to see big red "Psyche-Locks" when people try to hide something during questioning. If you can find the right evidence to smash down your target's defenses, you'll eventually break the locks and get them to confess whatever they're hiding.
Sadly, you can't use that power in the courtroom, and showing the wrong evidence will damage your health. Nevertheless, it's a cool, tense little addition that adds a new dimension of weirdness to the gameplay.
Another cool addition - at least at first - is your new opponent, prosecutor Franziska von Karma. The high-strung daughter of Ace Attorney's diabolical arch-prosecutor Manfred von Karma, Franziska has a score to settle, and this apparently involves cracking her whip in people's faces at every opportunity. She temporarily replaces Wright's rival Miles Edgeworth, but while he actually developed and became likable during the first game, she only gets more obnoxious as her unyielding "I am perfect" schtick plays out.
She's not the only one, either, but we can forgive a few irritating characters. We can even forgive dozens of spelling errors, long stretches of meaningless dialogue and a script that, while entertaining, tended to leave us knowing exactly what happened and how to prove it long before Wright did.
What's a little harder to forgive is that, unlike Ace Attorney - which featured a made-for-DS final chapter that made full use of the handheld's capabilities - this port of a four-year-old Japanese GBA game doesn't feature any bonus trials. It's not a huge deal, as all the cases still use the touchscreen and microphone, but after the fun of dusting for fingerprints and checking out 3D evidence in Ace Attorney, it's disappointing.