Welcome to our new column: Geekly Gamer. Here we will do game reviews and posts related to gaming, which is one of Ice Block's many passions. For game reviews, we'll talk about what works and what doesn't and leave it to you to add up the pluses and minuses. First up on the agenda is the strange crossover between Level 5's Professor Layton series, and Capcom's Ace Attorney: Phoenix Wright series. It's a game that brings two completely different worlds together in an interesting mystery story.
Professor Layton VS Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
System: Nintendo 3DS (US/JP/EU)
Who VS who now?
Although the two series may share fans, the core of both of these franchises are inherently different. The Ace Attorney (AA) series has you defending people as a lawyer while interacting with a colorful cast of characters as you explore crime scenes. You look for clues and evidence to help them battle their way to a "Not Guilty" verdict in the courtroom.
The Professor Layton (PL) series has you play as a Sherlock-esque gentleman/archeologist named Hershel Layton and his young assistant Luke as you discover the mysteries behind curious villages by solving multitudes of brain teasing puzzles.
Perhaps the two things they have in common are they both involve tapping almost everything you see on screen and that they are both more like visual novels than games.
Right off the bat the game sets a great tone as Phoenix Wright and his assistant Maya are arriving in London on a rainy night as a mystery unfolds before Professor Layton and his side-kick Luke. After meeting a mysterious girl named Espella and a series of unfortunate circumstances, both sets of main characters seemingly get sucked into a story book world and thus, the true story begins.
They arrive in the stange medieval city called Labrynthia, where the lives of it's citizens are dictated by the Storyteller, an old man who writes their lives and future. Top that off with endless witch trials where people suspected of being witches are tried, convicted, and burned in one merciless session, and you've got a terrible place to call home. So now the stage is set. A mysterious city and a courtroom to battle in. But what could have been a boring setup is brilliantly paced. Phoenix and Maya arrive in the city as regular citizens, leaving Layton to figure out what's going on. We are also introduced again to the leading lady Espella who travels with the group and eventually gets sucked into the witch trials.
It's well Paced.
The pacing is amazing in this game. What plays out to be about 20+ hours of game play is superbly laid out in a fun, engaging, and mysterious way that will make you want to keep playing. The writing is also good and well translated. The US version is the same as the European version. So, it's Colour not color.
The best of both worlds.
It brings the best of both series to the forefront and cuts some of the stuff the just doesn't work. The Professor Layton style puzzles have been made more fun and interactive. They even have themed puzzles that return and get more challenging. They never feel tedious like they do in the Layton series' regular games. The Ace Attorney courtroom game play has been ramped up and made less repetitive by adding multiple witnesses on the stand at the same time. This requires you to pay attention to the reactions of the other whiteness to catch them in a lie. It's very fun to watch as they are all entertaining. Unique characters in the courtroom have always been the best part of the AA series.
High production value.
The character models and animation are some of the best I've seen in both of the series. They also fit into the gorgeously painted 2D backgrounds turned 3D which pop nicely with the 3D feature turned on. PL VS AA also has some of the best music and variations of some of the iconic themes from both the series. The Layton series has already had some great music and art due to Level 5's usual high level of production. But they really went above and beyond to make this game look and sound great. Just listen to the Intro music below.
The best DLC in life is free.
Free DLC was released in the following weeks after the game. Once you complete the game you can get a bunch of free character art as well as 12 episodes written by the developers that kind of break the 4th wall and let you in on some behind the scenes stuff. Very interesting and fun.
Despite being a mash up game, the story stands strong on it's own. It also doesn't require a vast knowledge of either series. Because the cast is sucked into a whole new world it allows them to tell a new story without fear of stepping on the canonical toes of either franchise.
WHAT DOESN'T WORK
Two in one doesn't always work.
What I view as the best thing about this game may be the worst for fans of one and not both of the series. On one end you get an AA game with distracting and mind-numbing PL puzzles. Or you get a PL game with obnoxious AA courtroom battles that take away from your puzzle solving. But, to the game's defense, it treads so carefully to make both parties as happy as possible.
Pressure to please.
As I mentioned earlier, It felt as if both Capcom and Level 5 were working very hard to please both sets of fans. But this isn't always for the better. Sometimes this comes across with how they hold back with character development. This means the characters really aren't allowed to learn anything new. Or other times stale jokes don't work because you just don't care about certain characters from one of the series.
About that DLC...
I know I praised the free DLC, but there was a few things I was disappointed with. There was way two much winking at the camera. In japan, a large amount of time passed before the DLC came out, so it must have been nice to revisit the cast after some time. Some of the stories feel like they wrap stuff up, but others feel overly silly or just flat out stupid. Some things are so meta and talk about character popularity or obviously give popular characters more screen time. It makes you feel like you missed some sort of great party while you were playing the game. I wish they would have stuck with more of the "Lets wrap up loose ends" kind of stories that everyone could enjoy.
Professor Layton VS Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is available in all regions at stores, online, or downloadable through the Nintendo eShop. Thank you for reading and feel free to follow me on the Nintendo Miiverse for random posts about stuff including pics like the ones I pulled above.
-Thanks for reading