Capcom made the same mistake twice with Phoenix Wright 2 : Justice For All. When they first released it on the GBA in Japan, they rushed it to market to capitalize on a surge of popularity with the first game. When they localized it and released it in the west on the DS, they rushed it to market again to capitalize on the surprising cult following springing up around the first localization. The first rush job led to a game full of recycled sprites and backdrops, a fair bit of recycled music, and almost no enhancements to the game engine whatsover, essentially making it an "extra levels" pack. The second rush job added nothing to this but the DS touch screen menu enhancement; not even the addition of a bonus case with extra DS-specific functionality like the first release.

What you're left with is a good, solid, well-written game full of the sort of moments that made people enjoy the first game. However, you have only four cases this time, and three of them feel like filler meant to pad the game out en route to the epic final case, which is really the main selling point of the game.

Phoenix returns to his legal practice after the events of the first game. His first trial is essentially a tutorial for those who are just joining the series with this installment, that takes it easy and is fairly short. The second and third cases contain some small elements of the ongoing plot, but mostly feel like filler and tease leading up to the main course. The second case is well-written and has what would have been a great final twist, had they not blatantly telegraphed it so early in the proceedings (pretty much ruining it for those paying close attention). And the third case is possibly the most maligned by fans out of the whole series, a sort of side investigation into a carnival murder that has a lot of humorous moments and entertaining characters, but also features probably the most poorly written sequence of events in the series and stretches credibility just a little too far (even for these games).

Kefkzer? Setska?

That leaves us with the famous case 4, and it's a good thing that it's here to bail the game out. It is possibly the most engrossing, sharply written and challenging of the series to date and is, thankfully, worth the price of admission on it's own. Not to say that the other cases were horrible, but if this final case hadn't been so stellar and memorable I think the series might have been sentenced to death in the West after this installment.

The game plays identically to the first four cases of the previous game, the only enhancement being the "psyche-lock" system used to add a little more challenge and risk to the Investigation portion of the game. Certain witnesses have to be challenged with evidence to get them to confess their secrets, much the same as you do in court, but you can also lose health here by making wrong guesses (and presumably lose the game if you deplete your health meter). This is still pretty much a cakewalk, however, as you can back out at any time if you don't feel you have the right piece of evidence yet, and your health is replenished completely with every psyche-lock that you break (some chapters have multiple locks to break in the same investigation). The psyche-lock really doesn't fix the problems of linearity and lack of replayability, but it is a step in the right direction.

As mentioned, the main character sprites are almost totally recycled, as are the menus and the backdrops. I would say about 25% of the music has been retained, with 75% new compositions by the same composer (Noriyuki Iwadare). The new music is a mixed bag; I thought the new compositions used outside the courtroom were on the whole pretty good, but the in-court music has taken a more sedated tone that I didn't think was as effective as the high-energy music used in the first game.

The final verdict on Phoenix Wright 2 - don't make this the first of the series that you play. Most of the enjoyment in this one centers around the development of the ongoing story, and missing out on the first game means missing out on what makes this one worth playing. Get Ace Attorney first, play that and see how it grabs you; if you finish it and really enjoy it, then move on to this one next. In spite of not being a perfect sequel, it's still more than enjoyable enough for those who are into the series.

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