Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is probably a very misleading title. You don’t get to see them knocking heads with each other (unfortunately, we’ve yet to see any adequate swordplay from Wright) but what you do get is a partnership in its most basic meaning.
Professor Layton and Phoenix Wright (who arrived in England for a lawyer exchange program) are both transported to a medieval-era town called Labyrinthia. As the name suggests, they both find that there is no way to return back to their home and instead realize that witches and magic is real in the town. They are forced to defend a girl accused of being the Great Witch named Espella while they unravel the mysteries of Labyrinthia together.
Created as a collaboration of Level-5 (the developers of Professor Layton) and Capcom (the developers of Phoenix Wright), the game is true to what it was meant to be: a collection of puzzles and Witch Trials. It definitely caters to fans of either side and fans of both series (like me), and a must-get for puzzle fans.
- The long playtime (25-30 hours) is really something to praise in this game. While long playtime is not staple for games to be amazing, it is definitely desired for a puzzle game, especially for a collaboration between these two series; and it delivers well too. Though the game has less trials than a staple Phoenix Wright game and less puzzles than a staple Professor Layton game, it still provides more than enough to create a satisfactory game. To be completely honest, I thought it would be far shorter than it actually is, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was quite long.
- The new additions to the game, such as using the Grimoire for spell referencing in trials and the mob of witnesses on one stand, were more than fun to play with. Although not too huge as to create a major difference during Wright’s trials, the way that they are placed into the trials are seamless and you get the hang of it pretty quickly. It showed that the team really made an effort to include these, so they’re not just an afterthought to boast about having added shiny new features.
- The puzzles and trials are also works of art, and you can tell that the team really put a lot of thought in all them. They’re all very creative puzzles and different from the ones encountered in previous Professor Layton and Phoenix Wright games, so this game is not just a crossover but it also gives something new and fresh for veterans to enjoy.
The learning curve is also enough to teach newcomers into the crossover game and both series. The puzzles and trials are also the right difficulty: they’re not too easy, they’re not too hard, they’re just right for any kind of gamer. Even for those who are new to either (or both) series, especially since the trials allows the use of Layton’s hint coins for this game, which could create a huge difference in gameplay if you frequently get stuck during Wright’s time.
- The art style is also an exciting addition. Now with 3D rendering and fully-voiced cutscenes for Wright and Maya, it’s shows a brand new step for Phoenix Wright games (and a brand new addition for fans to scream over). Though cutscenes are common for Professor Layton, the game is still beautifully made to present what normal life in the medieval era is like while living under the fear of witches.
- The story was just barely believable, even for a Professor Layton game. Yes, myths and legends come alive during Layton’s adventures (and even spirit mediums are real in Wright’s world), but what made it only passable in this game was that the writers discarded going through with the whole “magic is real” with a bunch of scientific shit to explain it all in the end (that is as much spoiler-y that I will get in this review). Going scientific is not always a bad thing with Layton, for example its second game where it was heartfelt instead, but the scientific shit that is dumped in here has a lot of holes. For example: how the fuck did they have enough time for all those magic tricks?
It felt as if the writers went a bit overboard with this game, trying to over-impress the players by pulling a huge twist at the end. To be honest, I would have been perfectly fine if they went through with “magic is real”, it could have been a bit more seamless anyways. Plus, I felt as if the game could have built on much more suspense with revealing who the big bad is, because, unlike the usual scenarios in Phoenix Wright games, the big bad is revealed through a cutscene between two non-playable characters. We, as the players, had no interaction at all during the scene, and so we had prior knowledge and no element of surprise was really built up when the big bad is revealed at trial, which was a shame because there was potential there.
- The new characters introduced were lackluster and didn’t feel as if they had been built upon at all after their conception. Really, the only new character that seemed to have develop over the course of the game is the new prosecutor Zacharias Barnham where he has a change of heart, but even then, it still feels a bit too rushed for such a transformation and his intentions or thoughts still aren’t exactly made clear. Aside from that, the others are the staple damsel-in-distress, big bad, etc. It felt more as if they were just puppets used by the story rather than characters who interacted with the story.
I would have also liked seeing major characters from both series play a part in the game, especially since it was a crossover. Gumshoe and Don Paolo, just to name a few, would have been incredibly welcomed because their personalities have already been established in previous games, and both the writers and players would have been more comfortable with them rather than just a cast of all brand new characters. Sure, Edgeworth makes a cameo in the final cutscene but come on, we all know that was going to happen, plus it doesn’t count because we don’t get to bicker with him.
(Update: It would have been nice if we could have seen Maya act as a spirit medium in the game as well, because that is also a part of her. Like other Phoenix Wright scenarios, channeling Mia during a particularly difficult part for Wright could have brought a nostalgic touch, something that wasn’t particularly realized here.)
Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is basically everything fans and puzzle-lovers wanted from a crossover. It does has its ups and downs, but that’s something that even the best games suffer from, and the game’s downs do not outweigh its ups by far. If you are a Professor Layton fan, a Phoenix Wright fan, or both, you must get this game. No buts.
P.S. Beginners to the series, you’re in luck, because the game gives you thirty fucking hint coins when you start out, and three hidden in almost every screen you stumble upon. I know they’re shared with the trials segment and it’s our choice to use it or not, but seriously, the game’s developers don’t think that the players are stupid enough that we had to start with thirty, right?