Developer: Level-5 and Capcom
Puzzle-solving Professor Layton and Ace Attorney Phoenix Wright meet face to face with the release of Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright, hitting the Nintendo 3DS this week. If you’re a fan of either series, or ideally both, you’re going to love this mash-up of gameplay and style. And if you’re a newcomer to either series, this serves as a surprisingly great introduction to both worlds.
Set apart from any pre-existing title, the game focuses solely on Wright and Layton, along with their respective assistants Maya and Luke. The rest of the cast introduced here are brand new to the series, and take things in a decidedly magical direction, bringing both heroes out of their element a bit. They’ll be sucked into the magical world of Labyrinthia, and take part in a constantly changing tale that ignores most of the modern day conventions both heroes are typically familiar with. Magic, Knights, Inquisitors and other medieval concepts rule here, while forensics and logic are foreign concepts to most citizens.
Thankfully, Labyrinthia still enjoys a hefty amount of puzzle-solving and court trials, so Professor Layton and Phoenix Wright will have plenty to keep themselves busy throughout. Gameplay is broken up into two parts, an Adventure mode where you’ll explore the streets of Labyrinthia as Layton, engaging in conversations with townsfolk, uncovering mysteries, finding hint coins, and of course, solving puzzles. All of this is done via the touch-screen, which will have you controlling a small magnifying glass that highlights objects or people to interact with.
Puzzles featured here are mostly based on previous entries in the Layton series, but with more fantasy trappings than we’ve seen before. You’ll encounter mazes, logic, and math puzzles, with plenty of headscratchers and optional puzzles tossed in. Hint coins will help guide you to a solution quicker, and if need be, you can unlock super hints that virtually point out the solution when stuck. Coins are plentiful here as well, so even if you find most of the puzzles daunting, it’s unlikely you’ll get completely stuck.
As the story progresses, you’ll occasionally enter Trial mode, which of course represents the Phoenix Wright portion of the game. Here you’ll cross-examine witnesses, yell OBJECTION! a whole bunch, and present evidence to contradict testimonies. Some new elements are introduced here, like the Grand Grimoire, a large book containing a number of spells that can be quite helpful when navigating the magic-based crimes encountered during trials. Multiple witness testimonies are also new, wherein Phoenix will be forced to cross-examine multiple witnesses at once. During these examinations, small tells may be given by idle witnesses, allowing Phoenix to suddenly question them in order to throw them off guard.
Thankfully, though feeling like two separate games with these two distinctive modes, there’s enough crossover between story and characters that everything manages to blend quite well. The fantasy setting here was a smart approach, taking both characters out of their respective universes to meet, instead of just shoehorning Phoenix into Layton’s world, or vice versa. They’re both on even ground, both equally important, and despite the differences in their art styles, they interact in a way that doesn’t feel at odds with their established personalities and quirks. While this may serve as a more stand-alone event as opposed to something referenced in later titles for either hero, it doesn’t feel unimportant. The story is fun, makes great use of both characters and their gameplay elements, and again serves as a really solid introduction for those that may be unfamiliar with either series.
All in all, I’m pretty impressed with this engaging mash-up that blends the best of both worlds. You get the challenging puzzle solving and charming characters of the Professor Layton series, in conjunction with the entertaining trials and eccentric oddballs that make up the Ace Attorney series. The only thing that doesn’t gel well is the individual look of each character, which becomes more evident when they stand side by side. But everything else comes together, including the soundtrack, featuring familiar tunes for both of the series featured.
If you have any affinity for either character, you’ll really enjoy this crossover. And again, if you’ve never sampled a Phoenix Wright or Professor Layton title before, this is a pretty great way to get your feet wet with both the key characters and mechanics that make both series shine. Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright is certainly one of the best releases on the 3DS this year, and it shouldn’t be missed.