From Scooby Doo teaming up with Batman to King Kong going one on one with Godzilla, and the plethora of characters that appear alongside Rodger Rabbit, crossovers are a big part of entertainment. Seeing two popular characters either fight side by side or against each other makes all of our dreams come to life. Now Capcom and Level 5 have decided to put their hat into the ring with Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright. Combining two hugely popular puzzle franchises leads to some pretty lofty expectations, and while the end result doesn’t quite get there we are still left with an enjoyable product that fans of either (or both) franchises, or puzzle games in general will get a huge kick out of.
On a dark and stormy night, after being involved in a horrible accident, a young girl knocks on the door of the infamous Professor Layton’s office asking for help and babbling about witches and the supernatural. After taking on the case, the ever curious professor ends up transported inside a magical book and into a small medieval town known as Labryinthia. Layton puts on his detective hat and is adamant about protecting the girl, and unraveling the mystery. Meanwhile, Phoenix Wright and his assistant Maya are making a trip to London for work when they too are sucked into the book. Phoenix soon discovers that there is a girl who has been accused of witchcraft and starts to build his case to free her. After the two hero’s paths cross, they each realie they are trying to reach the same goal, albeit with different means and the game is on.
I will be frank here; as much as I have enjoyed every installment in the Professor Layton series, not a single character has ever endeared themselves to me and quite simply I could take or leave the whole universe. On the other hand, Phoenix and his crew have all felt unique and special to me as I have played through their many adventures. Despite their differences, both companies have brought their big guns to the show and seeing Layton and Wright bounce ideas off of each other and work together to unravel the mystery, while still arguing and competing with one-another is still a sight to behold. Neither character hogs the limelight and it really feels like a fantastic collaboration piece rather than one character just making a cameo in the other’s universe.
Professor Layton and Ace Attorney are some of the most well renowned and popular puzzle franchises on the market today, and having them both together is a dream come true for many people. This game manages to bring us samples of each world and combine them into one package. To this end, it is not quite the best installment in either franchise, but it definitely delivers on the
While they are both challenging puzzle games, Professor Layton and Ace Attorney couldn’t be further apart. Luckily instead of trying to completely combine the two different styles, each character plays their own certain way – Layton’s story sections play out exactly as they would in one of his own games, and Phoenix is right at home gathering evidence or behind a courtroom desk yelling “OBJECTION!”
Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask seems to be the inspiration for the puzzle-solving sections of the game, and has the player investigating areas of interest by moving around with their stylus (or the circle pad if you so choose). Areas of interest sparkle and allow players to gather all the clues they can to solve the mystery. You can also find hint-coins that can be exchanged during some of the game’s more challenging puzzles in order to help you out a little bit. Solving puzzles in a timely and accurate manner will unlock you Picarats that are used to purchase bonus content from the game’s menu.
During the witch-trial sections of the game, you will play as Phoenix Wright as he cross-examines witnesses to uncover the truth. You will present evidence and try to uncover lies, deciet and just plain old contradictions on the witness statements. Presenting the wrong information or evidence at the wrong time will result in a strike. You will fail the mission if all of your strikes have been extinguished. Picarats are also awarded at the end of each section and increase in value the better you do. A cool little feature of this game is the fact that Phoenix can be cross-examining more than one witness at a time. When you are presenting evidence to one witness, another may speak up. This adds an extra level of challenge and intrigue to the events and will keep players on their toes. Hint coins earned during the Layton sections of the game can also be spent during the witch trials to help you out.
While both entrants are strong showcases of their individual franchises, neither is the top of their game. The puzzles on both sides while challenging don’t hold the same spark as the solo outings for each character. In the end, the gameplay is fun but could (and possibly should) have been so much more.
Visuals & Audio
So I think the elephant in the room is the vastly different art-styles between the two franchises. The Ace Attorney series has always stuck to that traditional anime-style of art, where the characters and settings all look somewhat realistic, and with high levels of detail but with a lot of straight line-work and exaggerated hair and clothes. This is in stark contrast to the layton series which delves more into the Studio Ghibli style of artwork, with characters and settings that have really outlandishly shaped (seriously, look at the shape of Layton’s head) and with less detail.
What is amazing is that the two styles manage to blend almost seamlessly with one another. Even when Professor Layton and Phoenix are on the screen at the same time, they just sort of look like they belong together. It isn’t until you take yourself away from the game that you realise how different they really do look. Huge credit to the art directors on this one for their seamless integration of the two universes.
While the game has some amazingly animated and voiced cut scenes, the in-game dialogue sections are a little less refined. Often the characters will be speaking alongside the text at the bottom of the screen, but almost arbitrarily the voices will just stop and leave only the text behind. It is a pretty common thing to happen in video games, but the way it is done here feels disjointed and jarring. Not only that, but the fact that only part of the game is voice acted makes it feel a little out-dated in 2014.
When you combine two beloved franchises together, you set yourself some lofty goals for your end product. Whether it is Scooby Doo Meets Batman, or Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright you always want the result to be greater than the sum of its parts. Sadly, while Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright is a solid game, it doesn’t quite reach that lofty expectation, and while we are left with by far an above-average puzzler, it is neither the best installment in the Phoenix Wright or Ace Attorney franchises.
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