There are always video game franchises that have
the makings of providing some of the greatest crossover possibilities of all-time. Some have been realized (Capcom/SNK, Mario and Sonic) and some will always sit in dream states or fanmade executions (Street Fighter vs. Mortal Kombat.) For puzzle-style gamers, no two franchises have made greater impacts in my opinion than the Phoenix Wright and Professor Layton games. Both are longtime favourites of mine in their own little ways. I’ve long wondered what would happen if the two of them got together and there was a crossover game. Back in 2012, Japan made that dream come true, and while I’ve had to wait nearly two years (including the extra 6 months from the original March release date,) it’s finally here.
Release Date: August 29th 2014
Consoles: Nintendo 3DS
Rating: T for Teen
There’s the worry often times that when you go from crossing one franchise over into another, you lose the essence of one series. This definitely had to be on the minds of both franchises’ respective gamers. Both series’ function very differently, and while they both test your brains in similar ways, it would be crazy to see one cross over into the other’s world while leaving their past behind. Could you see Professor Layton walk into the courtroom and start yelling “HOLD IT!” or Phoenix Wright walking into a crime scene digging for hint coins and solving logic puzzles without a court case to run to? For Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney to work, you’d have to retain most, if not all of the elements of both series’ somehow.
You begin the game as Professor Layton, who, as usual, is presented with trouble at his doorstep. He has been sent a young girl named Espella by one of his previous students, and tasked with protecting her. His assistant, Luke Triton (in his infinite inability to pay attention to detail despite having having been under the watch of the most detail-oriented person ever) opens a window and lets a witch in, who kidnaps Espella and begins our adventure. You then stumble into a bigger conundrum than expected (in true Laytonian fashion) and after solving a series of puzzles, finding Espella and hiding her on a cargo freighter (and learning of a mystery land called Labyrinthia) are sucked into a book Espella was carrying, which just happens to be about the history of the city. This part of the game is portrayed to you as though you’re playing a typical Layton game.
Meanwhile, while Layton and Luke get sucked into the book, Phoenix Wright and Maya Fey arrive in London as guest legal counsel for a young defendant who, they’ve been advised is to plead guilty by her apparent school’s headmistress. Said defendant just happens to be young Espella, who got in a measure of trouble on the cargo ship, and is now being prosecuted for theft and assault. You then launch into a full blown court case, where Phoenix (in his infinite ability to not accept “guilty” for an answer) helps overturn the case to find Espella not guilty. It should be noted here that Espella is in a bit of a trance, and incapable of much. Espella is also holding the Labyrinthian history book, but leaves it behind. Curious, Maya and Phoenix open the book and are sucked into the book themselves. This part of the game is portrayed to you as though you’re playing a typical Phoenix Wright game.
That’s just the intro. It takes around 90 minutes to 2 hours just to play the intro. So begins Phoenix Wright vs. Professor Layton.
Eventually, after a little bit more from both sides, Phoenix and Layton meet up and begin the most epic cartoon crossover since the Flintstones met the Jetsons. Of course, it isn’t without hilarity. Layton and Luke walk into a bakery with Espella, and there’s Maya and Phoenix, who say they’ve been working in the bakery already for approximately 5 years. Phoenix, of course, is wearing his suit with a baker’s apron over top.
From there, the main journey really begins as you start to solve the puzzles of Labyrinthia through the grand archive and going from there. As it turns out, the mystery lays within the idea of the storyteller, a bizarrely dressed individual (who looks a bit like the templars from Assassin’s Creed decided to clothe the Phantom of the Opera or something like that) who writes about the town’s history. Every so often, a parade occurs where he comes through the town and pages of his latest chapter are thrown out amongst the town. Everything the storyteller says comes true, and a new mystery around witches that have ravaged (and will continue to ravage) the town are the latest escapade. All of the previous history of Labyrinthia, as it turns out, may not necessarily be stored in Espella’s book – Anthologies upon anthologies exist in a grand archive. However, Labyrinthia isn’t a real town right? It’s just something in a storybook … right? London exists in the real world and Labyrinthia’s a fake … right? Does your head hurt yet? That’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Here is the crazy part – It seems like this game never ends. In typical fashion to both series’, the game could last 25 hours, or the game could last 1000 hours depending on how keen your puzzle solving skills are. For the average gamer, I’d put this right at about 35-40 hours, and you’ll never get bored of it.
The puzzles in this game aren’t your normal Professor Layton puzzles, especially at the beginning. It hits you with some really difficult puzzles immediately, but there’s a lot more turn based puzzles and mazes where you can’t get the answer wrong and just have to grind through it. That’s an interesting approach, and I suppose they really needed to give gamers a break from the harder stuff occasionally since Phoenix Wright’s cases are always logic based and often intense, but that was about the only thing that felt out of place. Still, it takes nothing away from the game itself – It’s just a random observation I had as someone who’s religiously followed and picked up games from both series’ through the course of time.
I guess this game solved a question I’d been putting around since I played the first Layton game in 2008 – Which franchise do I find more fun? This game will probably give you that revelation too. For me, the Professor Layton series wins out. I grew up playing a lot of puzzle games and have fond memories of nearly throwing my Game Boy out the window playing stuff like Puzzle Boy and Vic Tokai Puzzle Road (the types of puzzle games I’d see on those weird 30 in 1 combo packs my neighbors would return from China with.) The games and scenarios have changed, but my enjoyment of these games haven’t.
As a crossover title, this game is seriously everything you could ever expect it to be. It more than adequately answers the age old question of what would happen if this crossover occurred, and our fair geniuses even (SPOILER ALERT: switched partners – I’d still say whomever ends up with Luke is always at a disadvantage.) The soundtrack (a collaboration of efforts) is a combined masterpiece, the storyline is a combined masterpiece and while you progress, you’ll eventually reach the end, only to find (of course) that there’s more downloadable content that will be available to you.
Linear Puzzle Games like Phoenix Wright and the Layton games have an interesting dilemma. They have very little overall replay value since the puzzles are the same each time you play. They need to supplement this through scaling difficulty that makes the game insanity by the end (like the Wright games) or one where the puzzles do get somewhat harder, but there has to be some added incentive to purchase. The Layton games have always just given you a wack of extra puzzles after the fact which has added another 20+ hours to your gameplay experience. It’s a bit different this time. The Japanese and PAL region games have a completely new story arc released in
episodes over the course of a couple months. I assume this release will too (since it was already translated into English for Europe) as the options for downloadable content do appear off the options menus. You can likely expect your answer within the next week or two, and fragments of the story should surface over the next few weeks.
It may not matter of course. You may still be playing the main story line by the time the new stuff is all out. But then again, you may not be since I found the title to be so addictive that I couldn’t put it down the entire week leading up to release. Hopefully you will enjoy it as much as I did! This is probably going to be your Nintendo 3DS Game of the Year. On many off years, I’d say it’d probably contend for Game of the Year in general (which it still could) but there are a lot of strong titles out, and yet to come out. Consider this in the mix, however.
Gameplay: 5 / 5
Graphics: 4.5 / 5
Sound: 5 / 5
Controls: 4.5 / 5
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 4 / 5
Overall: 4.6 / 5 (92%)