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Critical Reception: Capcom's Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Justice for All

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Capcom's Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Justice for All, the awaited sequel to 2005's surprise hit lawyer sim Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney.
This week's edition of the regular Critical Reception column examines online reaction to Capcom's Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Justice for All, the awaited sequel to 2005's surprise hit lawyer sim Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. Despite the relative unpopularity of the text-based adventure genre outside of Japan, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney managed to find an audience in the United States thanks to overwhelmingly positive reviews and a high amount of word-of-mouth buzz. Critics praised Phoenix Wright's high-tension courtroom sequences and quality localization, and its surprising popularity warranted several reprintings after its initial release, all of which sold out quickly. As with the first DS volume, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Justice for All is somewhat of an unusual case as far as English localizations are concerned. Its Japanese equivalent (Gyakuten Saiban 2) was released in October of 2006, and contained a full English script in addition to its original Japanese text. In effect, this allowed gamers and critics alike the opportunity to play through Justice for All in its entirety several months in advance of its U.S. release date. These critics were apparently impressed by what they saw, as Gyakuten Saiban 2/Justice for All currently pulls in an average review score ratio of 81% at Gamerankings.com. Charles Flynn of Jolt Online Gaming UK rates Justice for All at 9.1 out of 10, despite its similarities to Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. "Justice For All is essentially more of the same," Flynn claims, "which is pretty much all that is needed. There are a few additions and alterations that do add to the experience however." Flynn explains that the addition of "psych-locks" in particular gives new complexity to the Phoenix Wright formula, and help to add tension to the investigation phases. "These moments help make the field scenes a little more involved than they were in Ace Attorney," he says, "although you will still find yourself wanting to spend more time in the courtroom." Flynn concludes in saying that Justice for All's storyline is its greatest asset, but that linearity could be a potential turnoff. "As with the original, this is very much a linear game," he warns. "Whether this is a good or bad thing is up to you. Being linear does allow for better dialogue and a stronger story, however." EuroGamer's John Walker, however, feels that Justice for All's linearity and similarity to its prequel should be of little concern. "What matters is that yes, it's as splendidly crazy as ever," Walker raves, "replete with recurring characters, running jokes, and new developments in the soap story of Phoenix's relationships with the evil prosecutors." Walker is impressed enough by Justice for All's humorous script to score the resulting product at 8 out of 10. "Constant chuckling abounds as you plough through the elaborately silly conversations," he says, noting that "The volume of awful puns this time has doubled." Walker warns that this humor is sometimes offset by frustrating moments, however. "Occasionally the evidence you must present to a particular statement is madly obscure, forcing you to resort to guess work, which then means lots of saving and reloading and frustration," he criticizes. "But don't let that bother you," Walker recommends. "This is the most joyfully daft fun imaginable, bursting with in-jokes and hilarious set-pieces." Over at Gaming Target, on the other hand, Byron Tsang feels that Justice for All improves upon its predecessor in a number of ways, but has its share of problems as well. "I think the pacing is even better in this one than the original," says Tsang in his 7.5-out-of-10 review, "as time is divided up between investigations and the courtroom more effectively. However: "In terms of actual plot content, Justice for All feels less gripping," Tsang admits. "That is not to say that it’s wishy-washy; it’s just not as intriguing as the first." Tsang is also disappointed with Justice for All's short length and linearity, but feels that its plot makes it worth a playthrough. "In a nutshell," Tsang summarizes, "it’s a satisfactory entry into the Phoenix Wright series without much deviation from the original." Though Justice for All is cosmetically and substantially similar to Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, critics thus far feel that the game's narrative is strong enough to set it apart and make it worth a purchase. If fans of the original release are expecting a continuation of Ace Attorney's storyline with little deviation from its core gameplay, reviews indicate that they will likely be satisfied with Justice for All.

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