Professor Layton Vs Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
The Professor Layton and Ace Attorney series are both game series known for their plot-driven stories and puzzle-orientated gameplay. It’s only natural that these two series should cross-over due to being a perfect match, and that is exactly what Level-5 and Capcom decided to do with Professor Layton Vs Phoenix Wright.
The story begins on a stormy night in modern day London. The game opens with a car being chased by mysterious spectres, who cause it to crash. A girl regains consciousness and tries to help the other man with her to escape, but he tells her to run and leave him. Meanwhile, Archaeologist Professor Hershel Layton and his assistant Luke Triton are stuck in the Professor’s study solving puzzles will waiting for the weather to clear up. The mysterious girl shows up at their door and introduces herself as Espella Cantabella, and informs them she was sent by Carmine, one of the professor’s former students, and that only the professor can help Espella. Espella tells the duo of how she is being pursued by witches, and how she has a mysterious book in her possession, the Historia Labrynthia; a book about Espella’s hometown of Labrynthia, a strange town whose fate is literally written by a man known as the Storyteller. After she explains her ordeal, one of the witches breaks into the study and kidnaps her. Layton and Luke decide to go and search for her, where they encounter the Scotland Yard (British police) and help them with the investigation of an unusual car crash. During this investigation, they find Espella and help her escape from the witches, only to be sucked into the mysterious Historia Labrynthia.
Elsewhere, Ace Attorney Phoenix Wright and his assistant Maya Fey are in England on the Legal League of Attorneys exchange program. As luck would have it, Phoenix ends up having to defend someone in court, much to his annoyance. Oddly enough, the defendant is none other than Espella, who does not seem to remember anything of the incident (nor what happened to her prior). As per the Ace Attorney tradition, Phoenix solve the case in court by cross-examining some amusingly quirky characters that’d fit in perfectly in a regular Ace Attorney game, such as ship’s cook who peels potatoes and attempts to prepare live sea food while testifying. After winning the case, Phoenix and Maya see that Espella dropped the Historia Labrynthia, and they, like Layton and Luke before, are sucked in too.
The professor and Luke wake up in the back of horse-drawn wagon, where they are taken to the town of Labrynthia. After arriving in the town they attempt to investigate, and run into Espella, who remembers the London incident but not anything after it. She takes them to the bakery where she lives with her aunt who runs it, and Layton and Luke encounter her two employees: Phoenix Wright and Maya Fey, who seem to have no recollection of their lives before becoming bakers. Later that night, Espella is walking home in the dark, and when apprehended by two thugs, a mysterious spell is cast, causing them to be incinerated by an inferno. She is arrested by the Knights of the Inquisition and is be trialled and executed as a witch, and it is up to Phoenix and Layton to save her.
The gameplay is split into two kinds. The first kind is based on the gameplay of the Professor Layton series, where you investigate the environment (similar to a point and click) to find clues, talk to people, and solve puzzles. Puzzles serve as the main attraction here, and they can range from nice and simple to tricky and complicated. They can range from tile-sliding puzzles, to memory-based puzzles, to all other kinds of challenges, all of which provide variety. Hint Coins can be found, which can be used to receive hints on puzzles, which can be useful if you are stuck on one. Examining certain places can also provide some dialogue from the characters, but it tends to be rather basic.
The other half of the gameplay is the Witch Trials, which play like the court sessions in the Ace Attorney games. In these trials, Phoenix is up against Inquisitor Barnham (think Edgeworth but a tad less smug), where he must convince the judge that his client is innocent by cross-examining witnesses and pointing out contradictions in their testimonies by presenting the appropriate evidence. A new feature that previous court sessions in Ace Attorney lacked is that multiple witnesses testify and are cross-examined at once, allowing offer new strategies such as seeing if one witness’ testimony contradicts another’s. These trials tend to be more difficult than the puzzle sections, and require thinking outside of the box every now and then. A much welcome addition is the ability to use Hint Coins in these sections, meaning if you are having trouble figuring out the contradiction or the evidence required to disprove it, you can spend a coin to ease your troubles.
The game features multiple gorgeously animated cutscenes made by studio BONES, each accompanied by full voice acting. It’s better to watch these with the 3D off however, as sadly, some objects and characters appear to be floating above the ground when it is on, spoiling the immersion. The voice acting is also used in-game too, but appears rather sporadically and only in important moments, causing jarring situations where the characters are being voiced for some of the dialogue and immediately ceasing a few text boxes later. The art style is rather charming, featuring 3D modelled characters (a first for the Ace Attorney series but not for Layton) and detailed backgrounds that feature 2D elements on 3D environments. It runs pretty smoothly too, although the frame note noticeably drops in the last chapters of the game for some reason.
The plot is divided into several chapters, which serve to break up the puzzle and trial sections. The plot throws many twists and turns that keep you compelled to play to the end. The final plot twist though, while massive and unexpected, unfortunately feels rather convoluted and leaves a few questions, and it feels as if it does not do the rest of the plot justice. The last chapter also drags on a bit, lasting at least three or four hours, and even when you’ve proved your client is innocent and the final twist is unveiled, you can still have her found guilty if you present any incorrect evidence to later testimonies, which appears to be an oversight of the development team. Additionally, with the exception of a small appearance at the start from Inspector Chelmey and Constable Barton, no other characters from the Layton or Ace Attorney series appears in the story, which feels like a wasted opportunity.
The game also features bonus content, such as concept art and extra episodes, which can be unlocked depending on how many Picarats (basically points gained from puzzles and trial credibility) you earned through the story. These features are nice additions that will provide players with extra content after they’ve finished the main game.
Overall, Professor Layton and Phoenix Wright’s first team-up is a solid effort from Level-5 and Capcom. The puzzles and trials are challenging, the story is engaging, and the animated cutscenes are spot-on. It’s a shame though that the ending is somewhat of a sore spot. Here’s hoping the two famous gaming inquisitors team up again in the future.
- Gorgeous animated cutscenes
- Great voice acting
- Puzzles and Cross-Examinations provide a good challenge
- Hint Coins for Trials
- Voice acting occurs sporadically
- 3D looks off in cutscenes
- Frame rate drops around third-act
- Ending is a tad convoluted and drags on a bit
Professor Layton Vs Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is great game filled with captivating plot twists, beautiful cutscenes, solid voice acting, charming puzzles and devious trials. It offers lots to love for both Layton and Ace Attorney fans, and newcomers will find something to enjoy too. The plot is marred by its final revelations, but aside from that, the game provides a great service to fans and newcomers alike. Any objections?
Written by Jacob Getley