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Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Review

by Daan Koopman - March 18, 2014, 4:01 pm PDT
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8.5

The journey of a top hat professor and defense attorney go a long way.

We discussed the beginnings and changes in detail in two separate previews, but we are now coming to the final decision point. Is Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney worth your time and money? The simple is yes and for everything that is holy in the world, it can already be considered a top contender of the year. Because not only is this crossover a loveable endeavor, but it is also well written and endlessly clever. I will tell exactly why this package comes together so well.

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As we have been talking a lot about the story until this point, I do feel that shouldn't spill further plot details. Professor Layton, Phoenix Wright and their assistants end up in the mysterious Labyrinthia and here a grand mystery will unfold before their very eyes. In Labyrinthia, it is believed that everything one man writes will come to fruition. The story heavy adventure will have various unique moments in store for our heroes with witches, trusting your memories and overcoming the odds being just a few key elements. In the beginning, I kind of expected that the whole approach would be solely darker and there wasn't too much room for fun. Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright surprised me as the wits of both series are combined together for quite a spectacle. Enjoyable and, above all, the witty characters are introduced to give the shocking moments somewhat more time to sink in.

What the game does incredibly well, and it is the biggest compliment I can give, is that Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright feels as their game. No one of the two characters get top billing and the roles and perspectives are changed ever so often. It creates a dynamic that just simply works and there haven't been many games that get these little details just right. Players who have been fan of either franchise will recognize these bits and appreciate them. For the newcomers though, there is nothing at all to worry about. You can play this game without any knowledge of the games and things will become clear to you as things are starting to get going. The game is inclusive and for the sake of watering it down, but for the sake of understanding each franchise's desires. The original writers, the localization staff and everyone who helped crafting the story should be proud of what they achieved.

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What matters the most though, as always, is the gameplay and here I am again mostly positive. With the Professor Layton gameplay, it is exactly what you expect. You will move across points on a 2D map and go to these places to search through the environment. In these environments, you will tap on characters and points of interest to help you further along. Next to pushing the plot, you will find yourself in monologues and being introduced to a slew of puzzles. These will test your skills in logical thinking and reflexes to the test. If you quite lost on how to solve any of these feats, you can use your trusty hint coins and get a clue about what to do next. Considering you will meet many characters along the way, it is easy for you to miss a couple puzzles. These will be sent to a special location, so that you see the game for the whole 100%. What irked me just slightly is that some puzzle types are a bit overused, but I did enjoy myself with them in the end.

With the Phoenix Wright half of the gameplay, we see actually the more interesting set of changes. The basic rules of the court trials remain, though with some twists that will leave you coming back for more. A good example is how multiple witnesses take the stand now during these Witch Trials and you have to pay attention to all of them. Some might be surprised at the comments another person is making and it could contradict the overarching story up until that point. They will get discussions with one another and starting to doubt what they had originally in their heads. Because at first, everyone will agree that the person in question is a witch, but slowly and steadily they will start to ponder in rapid succession. It changes up the whole dynamic somewhat and in some quite interesting ways I might add. Instead of hearing one long winded speech by one person, each will have their own two lines and this makes pressing all the more fun.

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Does that mean that the game is perfect in every regard? No, surely not. My biggest gripe with Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright is that it is somewhat easier than the main entries. I do understand that this is done to get more people introduced to both sides and get a better idea what to expect from the game. From a personal standpoint though, I did not feel challenged in the opening moments. This does change when the story grows bigger and bigger, but it is a bummer at the very least. A good example was how zooming with the top hat's professor magnifying glass was used somewhat less.

It must be said though that the game is truly made with the Nintendo 3DS in mind. Graphically, this game looks stunning and there is simply no other way around it. The crisp and colorful world makes this game feel special and it has taken grand steps in making everything stand out. Of course, this is more noticeable when you turn on the 3D effects of the systems, as the world gives it all a nice layered feel. You can also view upon the cutscenes in 3D and that is when your jaw will drop, as the animation and effects mesh so well together.

As far as the sound design is concerned, I don't have much to complain about. Many people will cite that Phoenix Wright will have a different voice than in Dual Destinies, after brief moments I forgot that there was a difference. The other voices are welcoming too as Maya Fey gets a voice for the first time and many of the new characters certainly have style to them. While there isn't a much voice work as I would personally like, it makes the moments when it is used more intriguing. There is more weight to those situations and that makes them stand out moments. The soundtrack is quite fantastic as well with a grand variety of music in its package. There will be more classic remixed themes, but the original compositions truly shine. The music when you are walking through the night of Labyrinthia is single handedly my favorite of the entire game.

Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is one beautifully crafted game and an extremely well put together crossover. The original story has many twists and it becomes more interesting as everything unfolds. The intriguing cast of characters, seamless transitions of the two gameplay styles and stunning presentation makes this all one adventure you don't want to miss. It will be somewhat easy for veterans and that is a slight irritation, but nothing that should stop you from having a fine time in Labyrinthia. If you have been searching for the next big Nintendo 3DS game, well, you have just found it. With roughly 25 hours of content and additional free stuff coming at a later date, you would be shamefully missing one of the best games to ever grace the system.

Summary

Pros
  • Exciting, dynamic changes
  • Love for both series shared equally
  • Stunning visuals and audio
  • Well crafted story
Cons
  • Can be a tad easy sometimes

We also posted four minutes of footage for the title! Check it all out over here.

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3DS

Game Profile

Layton Kyouju vs. Gyakuten Saiban Box Art

Genre Adventure
Developer Level-5
Controllers

Worldwide Releases

na: Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
Release Aug 29, 2014
PublisherLevel-5
RatingTeen
jpn: Layton Kyouju vs. Gyakuten Saiban
Release Nov 29, 2012
PublisherLevel-5
Rating12+
eu: Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
Release Mar 28, 2014
PublisherNintendo
Rating12+
aus: Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
Release Mar 29, 2014
PublisherNintendo
RatingParental Guidance
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