Professor Hershel Layton is a British archaeologist who loves solving puzzles, along with his apprentice Luke Triton. It is a series of games developed by Level5, and there have been many games in the main series. Phoenix Wright, on the other hand, is an ace attorney; he defends his clients in courtrooms, along with his assistant, Maya Fey. There have been a similar number of games in this series when compared to the Professor Layton games, but the Phoenix Wright games are developed by Capcom. So naturally, a crossover title, when it was announced, was slightly unexpected. What Capcom and Level5 delivered however, was something worthy of both series.
The game starts with the Professor Layton side of the story, which is set in London. The duo receive an unexpected and mysterious visitor, who is carrying a note from one of the Professor’s students. The girl is snatched away from the Professor by a mysterious force, and then it is up to the duo to save her, as any true gentlemen would. This means solving several puzzles.
The game then switches to Phoenix and Maya, who are arriving in London thanks to an attorney exchange program. Their story starts in a courtroom, where it is up to you to defend…the same girl that came to the Professor. This means that you have to find clear contradictions in the witnesses’ testimonies, and then prove these contradictions with evidence.
After that prologue, both parties find themselves in the mysterious town of Labyrinthia, a world where everything that the “Storyteller” writes comes true, a world where magic and alchemy exist, and a world that is completely inaccessible, as the gate to the outside of town disappears once you enter. From there, it is up to the two main parties of the game to find the truth about the happenings in Labyrinthia. For Layton this means solving puzzles throughout the town, and for Phoenix this means defending clients in a witch’s court, where the stakes are high – guilty witches are cast into the flaming pit.
The Professor Layton style of gameplay revolves around, as mentioned previously, solving puzzles and mysteries. The world appears on the top screen, in 3D, while moving the stylus around on the touch screen will reveal a magnifying glass on the top screen that can be moved around. The magnifying glass turns orange when something can be interacted with, while hint coins, which are coins that can be used to give clues to the answer in puzzles and trials, make the magnifying glass orange and golden twinkles appear around it. This is much easier and a better system than the old DS games, where finding hint coins meant tapping ever pixel on the touch screen. If you interact with someone you can easily see whether there’s going to be a puzzle, as if that person has a puzzle a red exclamation mark will appear when they are tapped, otherwise three white lines will appear.
The Phoenix Wright style of gameplay is similar to the other games in his series, although with this being a magical world, naturally some things are different. During the trials, you must listen to the witness’s testimony and point out contradictions. If you see no contradictions, you can press the witness in the hopes that they reveal new information, or hopefully crack their testimony. To point out the contradiction, you present evidence from the court record, which can be anything from a sketch of the crime scene to a murder weapon. In this game there are a few simple alterations; the first being magic. If what a witness says contradicts the spell, then naturally it could not have been cast (for example, if the spell states that the victim dies immediately, then there’s no way they could have put up a fight). The second alteration is the witnesses themselves; in all witch court trials there is more than one at the stand, so the witness’s testimony will often contradict each other. Alternatively, witnesses may look shocked at something another witness says, so you can question them about what they thought of the testimony.
The above play styles are a proven formula; the success of both the Layton series and the Phoenix series is proof of that, and I’m not going to lie, playing this made me want to play the other games again in both series. However good these game formulas are though, both aren’t without their flaws. In the Layton puzzles, some puzzles were either worded poorly or were simply wrong. One particular example comes to mind of a flower puzzle, where all the petals need to be next to a flower of the same shape or the same colour. The puzzle was already solved in its basic state. All petals were either next to a petal of the same colour or next to a petal of the same shape. The answer was the petals arranged by colour, with non-matching colours next to similar shapes. It just didn’t make sense. These puzzles were the exception and not the norm, thankfully, but it’s still somewhat annoying. Most puzzles can be solved through careful solving, but most are rather simple, and can be achieved through trial and error or the massive amount of hint coins you receive from the game. The puzzles seemed a lot simpler than the one’s I’d played in the main game that I’d played, but that was older and I’m not sure whether the puzzles in the newer games are any easier, but I recognise that it’s difficult to get the sweet spot with these crossover games, and I think these puzzles can work for both parties. Simple enough for the Phoenix fans, but there are harder (optional) ones in the game for Layton fans. In the trials, the main issue is where you present evidence. I remember having the right piece of evidence, just presenting it at the wrong point, even though the testimony was contradictory to the evidence (it could have been presented at the right place or my place, but only one was right). I hadn’t played much of the Phoenix Wright games, but apart from this flaw, I still found the trials enjoyable, even if I did use about ten hint coins per trial.
I finished the game in about 20 hours, then finished all the puzzles that I hadn’t completed, so there’s about 21 hours of gameplay here, give or take. Most trials last for about 2 hours (in total, but there is a “to be continued” cliff-hanger at one hour, this game is brilliant at those), and most Layton sections last for an hour and half, before a cliff-hanger and a “to be continued” screen, where you can save then go back to the story. This means that there’s about 6 or 7 hours of trials, with the rest being Layton sections, although both characters have the same amount of screen (game?) time, so Phoenix will still star in those Layton sections, just solving puzzles. What is interesting to note is that Layton and Phoenix never really “verse” each other, and when they do, Layton still helps Phoenix. With the game numbers above, the game should be called “Professor Layton starring Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney”.
It’s quite difficult to score a crossover game like this, because Phoenix fans might be disappointed with the third of the game that is trials, Layton fans might have to put up with some simple puzzles, and both have to put up with 2 characters from a game series they might not be familiar with. However, if you’re a fan of both series, or have never played either game but like puzzles, or are just in the mood for a really good story, then this is brilliant. Disclaimer: I consider myself to be a fan of both series, even though I’ve only played one Professor Layton game and two chapters of the first Phoenix Wright game.
– Brilliant, intriguing story with an absolutely fantastic ending
– Ingenious puzzle ideas
– Great alterations to the Phoenix Wright courtroom trials make for interesting gameplay
– Beautiful Music
– Great cutscene animation style
– Amazing 3D art (the pointed finger literally comes out of the screen)
– Believable characters
– 20+ hours of gameplay, with more special episodes (each with a new puzzle, and taking place after the main game) coming soon
– Some poorly-worded or simply incorrect puzzles
– Evidence can only be shown at one correct place, even though it can contradict another point in the testimony
– Luke’s voice actor. He’s grown on me a little bit, but it’s still somewhat annoying