By AlisterCat 6 Comments
First I want to apologise for the previous entry in this blog series. Only the second blog and I already messed up! I rushed it, so I wasn't really thinking and did a poor job in general. It's completely useless as an introduction to Phoenix Wright. Especially when you consider it's covering the first game which is the most important and considered by some to be the best in the series.
With that out of the way, I will be looking at the second game, Justice For All. There are more games that I will address in the future, but Trials and Tribulations serves as an end to many of the plot lines and unanswered questions of the previous two games and will be in the next blog. I'm getting ahead of myself though. First up...
Justice For All
The sequel to Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney is largely the same as the first game and follows very much the same format. Investigate, go to court. Talk to people, read a lot of text, solve logic puzzles to prove your client innocent. The game reuses most of the same graphical assets as the first such as locations and characters but also feature's an entirely new soundtrack.
Some of the characters introduced in Justice For All, I think, are some of the best in the Phoenix Wright Universe. Pearl Fey, the sweet and innocent cousin to Maya;Franziska Vonkarma, the daughter of tough prosecutor Manfred Vonkarma following in her father's footsteps; Shelly DeKiller, the honourable assassin. Returning characters such as Edgeworth, Gumshoe, Maya, The Judge and Winston Payne are still a delight but there are also a few insufferable or boring characters, such as Max Galactica.
Improvements and Disappointments
Even though this is considered the worst in the series by some ace attorney fans the game benefits from a host of improvements that come from making a sequel. There were some pacing and writing issues with testimonies and conversations with witnesses in the first game that are improved here and in all future ace attorney games. You get the sense that they finally standardised a lot of things internally leading to a smoother experience. No more overly long testimonies with super short statements. Also, as I mentioned previously, it features some strong characters that go on to feature in future games.
New gameplay elements are also introduced. The first being a minor change; strikes are gone and in its place is a health bar. A health bar that EXPLODES when you receive a penalty in court. Previously you had 5 penalties and it was game over, but the health bar allows for variable amounts of life to be lost depending on the situation offering more flexibility in the games failure state.
The second element is the magatama. Charged with spiritual energy this object allows Phoenix to see in to a persons heart and determine if they are lying. Note that it doesn't determine the truth, just if the person is lying or not. The effect is twofold. One is it fixes some of the issues where Phoenix would just take someone's statement as true without question. Two, more importantly, is it adds some much needed depth to the investigation part of the game. Familiar elements from the courtroom are taken out in to the field and adds some puzzle-like challenge rather than pixel hunting to trigger the next scene.
A great atmospheric piece of music. Shame the rest of it is junk.
Well, you might be asking what's so bad that fans consider this the worst of the ace attorney games. My perspective on it is the writing is just bad. Characters, scenarios, logical sense... bad. I'm not able to articulate exactly why. I'm certainly not a literary critic. The cases you deal with are not as interesting, the twists aren't as shocking and the characters can be forgettable all the way to annoying.
It isn't for lack of effort. For example, one of the cases is set in a circus. Ripe for wacky antics and characters, right? Well, sort of. For some reason I found all the performers to be unlike-able narcissists. Even the stoogey clown. Character motivations and relationships seem questionable to the detriment of the plot killing a lot of the intrigue and an unsatisfying pay off. There feels like a lot of wasted potential.
The one exception is the final case. Unique in the entire franchise, you find out your client is guilty. You proceed as normal under the assumption that your client is innocent but over the course of the case it becomes evident that they are responsible for murder, and the game creates legitimate tension. Maya has been kidnapped and even though you know your client is guilty you must get a not guilty verdict. On top of that, you're presented with the first real choice in the series because you can continue the charade or serve justice by submitting a guilty plea. It isn't completely free form by any stretch of the imagination but it feels liberating considering how linear the game normally is.
Well, that's it. Look out for my next blog. I intended to write about the third game as well in this blog but just doing one game took far too long so I'll do it another time. As always, leave a comment. I love to read them.