Phoenix Wright: Justice For All
For better or worse, Phoenix Wright: Justice for All plays almost exactly the same as the original game. Rather than describing all the basic mechanics again, here's what you need to know to decide whether or not to buy the sequel.
During the game's investigations, there's a new psyche lock system. People who are lying to you appear (to Phoenix) to be surrounded by locks and chains that represent things they are hiding. By presenting evidence, character profiles, and giving the correct answers to questions, you can get through these locks to find the truth. Unlike the original game, you are penalized for presenting the wrong evidence during investigations, but trials are still the only way to get a game over. The worst thing that can happen during an investigation is to have your "health" bar decrease with wrong answers, and then to start the trial with lower "health".
I'm not terribly fond of this system. It changes what was a very enjoyable and relaxing aspect of the original in turns it into a higher pressure, more frustrating experience, which we already have enough of with the court sequences. I had previously found the investigations to be a good break, but they don't serve that purpose quite as well anymore. At least they made an attempt to improve on things, though.
The court scenes have a much higher difficulty level than before, and there are situations where one wrong answer can give you a Game Over, even with a full health bar. While it's appreciated that they didn't waste a lot of time easing veterans into the new game, the challenge seems a bit unfair in certain sections. The evidence you need to present can actually seem pretty illogical until you hear a complicated explanation after you present it. There are times when you present the right piece of evidence, but don't present it at just the right moment, and times when other pieces of evidence make logical sense as well. And if you pick apart the actual storylines involved here, you're sure to find plenty of things that don't make sense. I tend to overlook this last part as this is more comedy than serious trial simulator.
The other issues detract from the game somewhat, as getting through a case can be more about figuring out what the programmers might have had in mind and less about being observant and listening carefully to testimony.
Fortunately, the game is indeed very funny at times, but not so much that it keeps you from being interested in the plot. Most of your favorite characters from the first game make return appearances, and many great new ones being introduced. There are story surprises around every corner. One small complaint is that I'd like to have an option to advance the text more quickly the first time playing. With the first game, I thought this was a standard feature, simply because I played after someone had already cleared the game.
On the topic of returning characters, this wasn't a major issue for me, but those that do return often have the same old designs and animations from the first game, which might strike you as being somewhat lazy. The explorable locations are almost all original, well designed, and sometimes pretty large.
Aside from the rare spelling issue or other error, this is another excellent translation. With a game that's based so much on dialogue, a rushed job could have rendered it unplayable.
The original Phoenix Wright had an extra fifth case made just for the DS conversion. While it wasn't the best trial in the game, had some stupid gimmicks, and didn't flow well with the rest of the story, it did add a lot of enjoyable content, too. But apparently, they didn't feel that all the extra work was necessary this time around, so all you have here are the four original trials from the Japanese exclusive GBA version. And as I expected, this game wasn't modified at all, so in terms of story, it's like the fifth trial and the story developments centered around it never occurred. Even so, it should last you several days if you play heavily, and much longer if you just play it when you have a moment here and there. Which is easy to do with the option to save and resume anywhere.
By the time this game ended, I was feeling a little burned out on the series, having played through both games within about a month and a half. Still, it ended on a high note and if Phoenix Wright 3 gets translated, I'll be one of the first to buy a copy. This game is highly recommended for fans. If you haven't played the first PW yet, go back and do so, there's no good reason to play them out of order.