We’ll miss you, Hershel Layton.
The time has come for all mysteries to be solved and every question to be answered. For the final time, our top-hatted hero sets off on a worldwide adventure in Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy. It’s a bittersweet moment to be sure, but in true gentlemanly manner, Azran Legacy bows out with grace, bringing together exactly what we needed for an ambitious conclusion to this magnificent series.
Sticking to a familiar formula, the adventure begins when Professor Layton receives a letter that sends him on a global trek with his faithful apprentice, Luke, the ever-ready assistant, Emmy, and his newest acquaintance, the famed archeologist Professor Sycamore. After discovering a “living mummy”, the sole survivor of the ancient Azran civilization investigated in Miracle Mask, the team must keep the girl safe from the secret organization Targent while solving the greatest secret left behind by the mysteriously advanced Azrans.
Along the way, players’ investigations will be hindered by various puzzles offered up by local residents or even flustered villains. Many puzzles may be familiar to fans of the series, following re-imagined ideas from previous games. This doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the game’s puzzles, however, since there is still an abundance of them and the difficulty picks up rather quickly, featuring harder puzzles earlier than usual. Answering puzzles correctly earns you more Picarats, which can be used to unlock items in the Top Secret menu on the Bonus page.
Fortunately, Azran Legacy does a nice job at shaking things up too, diving straight into an action-packed story featuring quick-fire puzzles during a daring rescue mission. After the prologue is complete, players are given the opportunity to explore international locations in any order they choose. The freedom is refreshing. Sending the team to areas such as a tropical island or ghost town gives it a more expansive feel, appropriate for the finale of a series. The addition of the World Times, a newspaper featuring mini-mysteries from previously visited settings, also helps expand the playtime of the game. This optional feature reveals comical stories and, on occasion, new scenes and characters to interact with. This range of options provides a welcome alternative when you want a change of pace or are even just plain stuck.
The pace of the main story slows down in the middle of the game, as location-specific side stories remain isolated and don’t contribute the overall plot. While fun and charming in their own way, it fails to build off of the energy established in the beginning and can feel like pushing a car uphill. But, there are still a fair share of surprising reveals to long-standing questions that keep the game interesting and hard to put down as a whole. Curiosity is rewarded and hints and clues from previous games are finally addressed. Azran Legacy thrives on past mysteries and well-placed cameos, with grand reveals mixed in with character back stories and secrets.
Par for the course, Azran Legacy comes with its fair share of mini-games and extra content in the ever-present Layton’s Trunk. The Episodes and Collection areas have returned, providing small side stories and a familiar hobby for completionists.
In addition to the World Times feature, new mini-games extend the frustration of puzzle solving into three cute packages: Nut Roller, Blooms and Shrooms, and Dress Up. Nut Roller puts players in the position of a squirrel who needs to maneuver a walnut through an obstacle course, with traps and hazards increasing exponentially throughout the way. Blooms and Shrooms creates a puzzle out of gardening. Players must plant special flowers that shoot out energy helping trees grow. The energy cannot touch mushrooms, however, so placement can become rather tricky.
The final mini-game, Dress Up, differs greatly from the others. Taking on the role of fashion consultants, Luke and Layton must piece together outfits for people they meet on their travels based on their very strict style preferences. Items for these outfits must be gathered throughout their journey, so it can take some time to even get one outfit done. It’s an interesting concept, but will undoubtedly annoy people since the drawn-out nature of the challenge leaves you at the mercy of random items found throughout the game and make it difficult to keep track of characters’ feedback to presented ensembles.
A clever addition, Treasure Hunt, finally allows Layton to make real use of the console’s StreetPass. Players can challenge others to locate a variety of items as they play through their game. Completing the challenges rewards players with 3D objects and dream sequences of numerous characters. Play Coins can also be used to play more Treasure Hunt challenges.
Fans will appreciate the added touches in Azran Legacy. While remaining true to the series, there is a genuine feel of polish to Azran as beautifully illustrated settings, animation, and strong voice acting are showcased perfectly. Even the puzzle pages go the extra mile, featuring small animated elements to illustrate the scene or add some humor while you mull over the problem at hand. The use of 3D fits the subtle charm and aesthetic of the game, changing to fit the style of the different areas while never going overboard.
As this is a prequel and the fate of many characters is already well known, Azran Legacy can’t really hope to compete with the emotional gravity of Lost Future. However, it is an intelligent and engaging addition to the series, bringing together the best of the new and old. With the most puzzles and extras of all the Layton games, there is no shortage of things to keep you occupied,and the charming music and fun quirks will balance out even the most vexing of brain teasers. In a series known for its quiet allure and charismatic appeal, Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy is exactly what it should be: a gracious farewell.