The Ninjabot

Professor Layton Vs Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Review: Hold it! How About a Puzzle?

Posted on October 1, 2014 at 1:28 am by Victor Chaves

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I have always been a fan of the Ace Attorney series, and I thought that the Professor Layton series was fun as well (although I only played The Curious Village). So imagine my surprise when Capcom and Level 5 decided to make a crossover game between the two series! Admittedly it took awhile for the game to be localized, but this past September, we were treated with Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (which will be referred to as LvW).

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Essentially Two Great Games

The trouble with writing this is that I am essentially reviewing two games at once, Layton’s parts and Wright’s parts. For the uninitiated, the Layton game series involves Professor Layton and his apprentice Luke getting wrapped into mysteries while having the player solve puzzles of several varieties. The Ace Attorney games mostly involve Phoenix Wright and Maya Fey working to defend their clients by cross examining witnesses and presenting evidence. If you’re interested, check out my review of the first three Ace Attorney games on iOS here.

What brings these two together is a mystery surrounding a town named Labrynthia and a girl named Espella Cantebella. Layton fits well into the story as he employs his puzzle-solving techniques to unravel the mysteries of the town, while Wright makes his mark by defending the accused in the town’s witch trials (more on that later). The twist is that Labrynthia as a town is medieval, where accusations of the occult are thrown left and right, the prosecution is now named the inquisition, and magic is apparently a real thing. While this doesn’t affect Layton too much, Phoenix as a lawyer is comically out of place, as punctuated by him being referred to as “Sir Blue Knight”.

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What I really loved about LvW are the tweaks made to Phoenix’s type of gameplay, which does a great job of spicing up a style of game I’ve been playing for the past five titles. While Layton’s gameplay is largely unchanged (and slightly uninteresting), Phoenix has to deal with a lack of forensic evidence (no fingerprints, blood testing, etc.), artist renditions instead of photos, and multiple witness cross-examinations—at the same time! The courtroom still plays the same, but the fact that I had to mentally shift how I played the Ace Attorney series was quite refreshing and a lot of fun.

Great and Endearing Character Animations

The best part of LvW is the characters, although Espella Cantebella is uninteresting, the rest of the cast proves to have personality and quirk by the virtue of very memorable character designs and animations. A personal favorite of mine is when Inquisitor Barnham slams his fist before making a point; the guy looks like he’s about to throw the last-second Hail Mary, but instead comes down with an awesome BAM every time. Furthermore, this is the only game where you can see Maya Fey as a 3D character model—not even the fifth Ace Attorney game, Dual Destinies, has that. I think what makes these characters so great is not so much the exposition, but making charming, attention-grabbing animations that show characterization in non-verbal communication. Level 5 and Capcom did an excellent job here, and should be praised for that.

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The story, however, I don’t feel was very good. Much like in the only Layton game I played, the mystery that is being built up in most of the game was gripping and suspenseful, with plenty of great twists, to only fall apart in the end. LvW suffers the same problems. As all mysteries should be graded, it is when the clues are all available at the end, and the reveal shows a convincing evidence, that such a mystery can be considered “great”. The problem is that the truth behind all of the things that occur in Labrynthia is particularly dumb. Several conveniences occur at the end that are just infuriating and make for an extremely lacking ending with too many coincidences to count. I want to guess that Level 5 decided this story, as Capcom’s Ace Attorney mysteries always surprises me, and is convincing to the end.

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Final Thoughts

There are a few other small niggling issues I have, like how the puzzles seem easier and the framerate can take a dip at times, but that isn’t to say there are a lot of great small things about the game as well. I loved solving puzzles as Phoenix and Maya, there is an asinine amount of extra content after the game, and some of the mixes of classic Ace Attorney music rival the originals. There is a lot to love in Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, it’s just that the payoff of the story, which is the most important part in a game like this, doesn’t achieve what it sets out to do. Whether you’re a fan of either series, this game is absolutely worth picking up. Maya is still the cutest.

Presentation: 8

Gameplay: 8

Replay: 10

LEGACY SCORE: 8.6

Geek Legacy’s review scores are on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest possible score.

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