It’s rare these days that we are treated to a crossover event the likes of The Flintstones meets The Jetsons. The Phoenix Wright series was first released in North America in 2001 to favorable reviews. Professor Layton and The Curious Village released in North America in 2008 to critical acclaim. Both series require critical thinking but in different ways. That’s why it’s such a perfect pairing. My history with either series is varied as I have not played a lot in either series. I have played the first in both and thats why I was very interested in this game.
The gameplay is a mix of both franchises strengths. Professor Layton games are all about the puzzles and there are a large assortment of them here. A lot of the puzzles are easy, or that the hints you can ask for give away the solution. I thoroughly enjoyed the level of difficulty though because it allowed me to advance and enjoy the story. Phoenix Wright games are most famous for the courtroom sections and that’s the only part of that series that makes it in the game.
In the full Phoenix Wright games, you are tasked with finding clues and evidence to help you in the court hearings. This is not the case since you are given everything you need in the court sections. I actually enjoyed this because it allowed me to just concentrate on what was happening instead of wondering if I missed a piece of evidence that could make things less frustrating. The court has a new gameplay element with having multiple witnesses on the stand at once. What this allows is when you press one witness and further their testimony, another witness will notice a contradiction and make an audible sound to notify you. Granted this is not difficult and in certain instances, makes things easier, it’s a lot of fun to build a better picture for what happened.
The story is interesting in terms of how they had these 2 franchises come together. This is a little bit of a spoiler but not towards the ending. A young woman named Espella comes to Professor Layton and his apprentice, Luke Triton for help and accidentally transports them to the medieval storybook town of Labyrinthia. As for Phoenix Wright’s involvement, he is tasked with finding Espella innocent for the crime of assault and theft. After the trial, the same book that transported Layton and Luke was left behind at the courthouse and thus transported Phoenix and his assistant Maya Fey. The game is centered around the idea of “what if you threw these characters in a magical medieval setting?” Having everyone try to use logic in a magic setting made for an interesting experience.
It takes a good long while for the 2 pairs to meet but when they do, the serious nature of the Layton games and the quirky comedy of the Phoenix games mixes surprisingly well. Luke and Maya get along very well and it’s quite interesting when you take the characters and separate them. Phoenix and Luke together are funny when Luke basically calls out Phoenix for being stupid but in an unintentional way. While Layton and Maya are together their dynamic is different, Layton is more of a teacher. They interact very well together and supplement each other in surprisingly complex ways.
This leads me to the cast of unique characters. You have your Layton characters who are very serious and are not at all intended to me funny, then you have your comedy characters who are directly like the ones from Phoenix games. These characters are spaced and spread out enough to not feel strange. They mix well and when you have to interact with them, you feel like they belong in the story and not just added for length.
This leads me to the writing for each line of dialog. This game is part visual novel in that 95% of it requires you reading it. There are moments of voice acting spaced out in critical moments throughout the game. I would have liked more but the moments where you get voices are a pleasant surprise. Especially since this is first time I’ve heard Phoenix speak more words than “OBJECTION!” or “HOLD IT!”. There are also fully animated moments that are so much fun to watch but also incredibly short. It leads me to believe that there could be a fully imagined anime in either series. Upon further research, the studio Bones are the ones responsible for the animated sequences. People may know their work from such titles as Wolf's Rain, Soul Eater, Fullmetal Alchemist : Original and Brotherhood, and Space Dandy.
I have a few gripes with the game. Firstly, some of the dialog was brain numbingly long when it didn’t need to be. Talking to a character when there is no story based reason and you end up spending 5 to 10 minutes speaking with them only to be left with no new information is very annoying. Secondly, I realize that there needs to be character building moments but my bet is that people didn't get this game to watch and discover new characters. They got this game to have fun watching 2 franchises that they know well enough clash together. Having well known characters go off and do what could be considered a side quest was incredibly boring. And Lastly, the ending...oh boy. the ending. This ending is long, or at least if feels as such. Everytime you think credits are going to roll, they don’t and it’s more character resolution. It was as if each person had a point they wanted to make and damn those credits. It took me almost 31 hours to complete the game and by the time everything was said and done, I had to watch a 30 minute ending. It just left a sour taste in my mouth.
My overall opinion of the game is that it’s a lot fun. You have a lot of puzzles that aren’t too difficult and the court hearings are funny and relatively easy. A story that’s intriguing to the very end and a cast of wonderful characters both whimsical and unique. If you are a fan of either series, I highly recommend you check this one out. I give Professor Layton Vs Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney an 8 outta 10.
What did you think of the game? Are you planning on getting this title? What series do you enjoy more? Let us know in the comments below, on our Facebook Fan Page, or tweet at us @MissionStartP
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