Inspired by Magnalon
and his constant destruction of entire game series, Iíve decided to finally jump in the fray and represent a series that is often overlooked: Professor Layton. You probably wouldnít expect someone like me to enjoy Layton games (I often go for shooters), but Iíve been smitten with the series for awhile now.
Sadly, though, Iíve only ever finished 1 game. I own all 4 DS titles and will be acquiring the 3DS sequel in short order. Still, what better way to send off the year then by beating a game that has become a Christmas tradition for me?
Why Professor Layton?
Why Layton at this point in the year? Quite honestly, I lost power a few days ago and just turned on my 3DS. I had left the games out on my desk as a reminder to eventually finish them, but nothing spurred me toward my quest.
Iíve done every Zelda last year, all three Deus Ex games, the 3 main entry Quake games with their expansions and a crap ton of Mario games this year: why was Layton eluding me? I really cannot say.
So while I donít really have a clear motive on why Layton finally got lucky, I just know that Iím happy to be playing them after having the games hang around my house. I always felt bad since I asked my mom to get them for me and just let them sit around.
See, as Iíve become older, Iíve demanded that my mother stop lavishing me with gifts and boil it down to a single thing each year. For Christmas, since Layton happens to release later in the year, I just ask her to grab me that.
Thankfully Iíve been able to pay it forward this year as I currently have money. My mom is now the proud owner of a red 3DS XL and itís all thanks to me! I hope thatís one of the best birthdayís sheís ever had; living with me is a nightmare unto itself.
Professor Layton And the Curious Village [Nintendo DS Ė Owned]
I actually did manage to beat this one when it originally launched. I was studying in Florida to become a Chemist (hahahaha) and I was having troubles with my ďfriendsĒ at the time. While Iíve come to miss them, they definitely werenít offering words of advice with my depression or school work.
Regardless, I was able to shut myself away in my dorm and power through some puzzles. The first thing I remember about Layton, though, are the FMVs. I was blown away at how good looking those cutscenes were in the DS screen. How did Level-5 even manage to compress these videos down so well?
Then comes the puzzles. There are just so many of them (130 to be exact). I took this game with me everyone. In class, over to friendís houses, out to eat; I couldnít be separated from it. It was fun having some of my friends come up with solutions with me and us all being completely wrong.
As I replayed it, I missed a lot of that community element, but I really got sucked up in the story again. I love a good mystery and Layton certainly provides that. The characters arenít insanely deep, but they do provide chuckles. I still laugh at how stupid Luke sounds saying Professor.
I managed to beat the game in about half of my previous time, too. I am going by the save file, but 11 hours and 30 minutes was knocked down to 6 hours flat. Thatís not too bad!
Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box [Nintendo DS Ė Owned]
I really prefer the Japanese name to this (Pandoraís Box!), but Diabolical also sounds pretty intimidating. Now, I have actually played this, but I never managed to finish it. At the time in my life when the game came out, I just couldnít muster up the strength to sit through a DS title.
That usually happens to me at the end of a consoleís life-span. When Shadow of the Colossus originally came out, I wouldnít be caught dead playing it as I was ready to move onto the 360. PS2 was a distant memory for me.
Iíve since changed my views on that matter, but obviously not before this Layton game came out. What do I remember about the short span I played? WellÖthe graphics were nicer. It also took place at night!
I was having fun with it, but I think I just got stumped somewhere and turned it off. I was heading to my uncleís house for Christmas dinner, I believe, and my aunt was terribly ill at the time. I didnít want to waste any precious seconds playing some game when she was so close to death.
JustÖ.wow. I really missed a damn good game. Strange thing is, though, my save file was actually around 70% done. I had sunk 6 hours and 48 minutes into the game with around 68 puzzles solved. Holy shit! I remembered a fair chunk of them, too.
For starters, the presentation is just ace. The cutscenes come back with a vengeance and are much better. The lip synching is tighter and the animation is just stronger. There are also some text segments that are fully voiced and itís just much easier to get sucked into the plot.
The plot is also a bit more heartwarming. I am not afraid to admit this, but I shed a few tears at the end. I was just so overwhelmed with the realization that comes during the conclusion. Makes you think about your own life, too.
Gameplay wise, though, this one is strong and weak. For starters, there is much better variety in the puzzles. Youíre almost always doing something new and exciting and most of them actually have something to do with the plot. Most, I must mention.
While the game boasts around 153 puzzles, I think that number isnít quite right. One puzzle about mid-way through the game tasks you with moving a chess piece around a board and hitting each square once. You then do this againÖand againÖ.and again.
There also happen to be a few more puzzles that each have 4 levels. Claiming to contain over 150 puzzles is kind of false when you just come up with one idea and repeat it with variations.
Still, I actually like this one more than the first game. Itís story is stronger and the length is pretty damn good (took me about 10 and a half hours!). Just like in the first title, there are DLC puzzles and a crap ton of unlockables, so Iíd recommend this to everyone.
Professor Layton and the Unwound Future [Nintendo DS Ė Owned]
I know the name is different in Japan againÖThatís honestly it. I have not the faintest idea of what this game entails. It follows Luke and Layton solving puzzles. Sounds fine to me.
Iíve heard reviews claim itís the best of the first trilogy of titles. Apparently the puzzles really come together or something. Iím not quite sure. I just know that if it has another great story, then Iím game to waste countless hours on it.
Oh, as the box informs me, there are at least 165 puzzles. Weíve effectively added half another game on top of the original.
So, Iím a bit indifferent. This was a great game with a long playtime (about 12 hours!) and I was blown away at the story in parts, but there is just something off. It doesnít feel like the soul of a Layton game is there. Everything gets so larger than life that Iím not sure what to think.
We have time travel coming into the equation (even though that later gets debunkedÖand then reinstated) and there are an insane amount of FMVs peppered throughout the story. The plus side is that there is also more voice acting during the text sections.
The polish is just through the roof and there are some very clever ideas that integrate puzzles directly into the story. There also happens to be crap where youíll look at a flight of stairs and Layton will say, ďThis reminds me of a puzzle.Ē
At the same time, I was just more interested in seeing the plotline finish then actually tackling most of the puzzles. I just love the acting and writing, even if this story falters a bit, so I think thatís probably a negative to people who enjoy the puzzles more. Now I understand how a Layton movie would work out.
Regardless, this was a very good game. Iím not sorry I played it and itís probably my favorite of the first three, but there definitely seems to be a small drop in overall cohesion. Whereas the first two games kept things quick and often made puzzles feel organic, this one just throws everything and the kitchen sink into the mix.
I mean, how many games have you played where two Londonís exist at once and one gets decimated? YeahÖI canít name a single one. I did shed tears at the end, though. So itís definitely powerful under the right circumstances.
Professor Layton and the Last Specter [Nintendo DS Ė Owned]
While I know nothing of the main game, I do know that this DS entry comes with an Animal Crossing style mini-game called ďLondon Life.Ē That sounds pretty killer to me. I doubt it has ď100 hoursĒ of content, but I could see myself wasting time with it until ďAnimal Crossing: New LeafĒ comes out.
Regardless, Iíve heard this entry is fairly lackluster in terms of what Layton is. There are puzzles abound, but they never push farther than the other 3 games. Itís like a retreading of ideas (something Nintendo is glorious at!).
I do know that, canonically speaking, this is a prequel to the entire series. This game details the first time that Layton met his apprentice, Luke. I suppose that makes sense as the two seem acquainted during the beginning of Curious Village. Whatever, I just want more puzzles.
Well, itís not my favorite in the series, but ďThe Last SpecterĒ is a very solid game. Like I mentioned with the last game, though, Iím far more interested in the plot line. This game tones down the main puzzles, though, giving you more extras instead of just bloating the campaign with needless padding.
The ending is completely amazing, though. While pretty much none of the puzzles flow directly with the plot, the ending has a series of 8 puzzles that all deal with exactly whatís going on. Itís very thrilling.
Thereís even a section where you get to play as Laytonís new assistant, Emmy. I find it strange that a third character in introduced in the prequel trilogy and never mentioned in the original games, but sheís actually not so bad.
Thereís almost an over abundance of cutscenes, though. I definitely love them, but considering the plot is shorter (Only 11 hours this time), it seems like practically half of it is spent watching.
Most of the puzzles are also incredibly safe. What I mean is, there arenít a whole lot of fresh ideas presented during the course of the new mystery. Lots of slider puzzles, marble jumping and a cool little pseudo-puzzle story wrap-up thing. Still, nothing 100% fresh.
Whatever the flaws are, I did like this game. The Layton stories are very well written, even if they are completely far fetched at this point. Iím eager to see what the movie holds, since Iím far more invested in the character of Layton instead of his actual puzzles.
Oh, and London Life is boring. Itís Animal Crossing without the funny, circle shaped people.
Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva [DVD, Blu-Ray]
This is the first film in the series. While I technically canít play it, I would like to watch it to get a full understanding of the series story. The movie is a flashback that takes place after the events of Last Specter. The flashback occurs during the downtime between Curious Village and Diabolical BoxÖThat honestly makes no sense.
Honestly, why bother with this? Well, I love the animation in the FMVs, so Iím sure there will be something I can enjoy out of this film. Iíve heard that itís actually quite good, so why can the harm be? I really canít fathom how puzzle solving works as a film, though.
HmÖ..I donít really know what to say. Iíve been more interested in the plot lines of Layton games for the last few and then this movie failed to produce a decent plot. Like most anime video game adaptations, the script focuses too much on including every character without actually understanding why they work.
One character from the prequel trilogy, Inspector Grosky, does absolutely nothing with the narrative other than provide his famous line, ďI AM GROSKY OF THE YARD!Ē Itís infuriating. Emmy, too, has no relevance in this movie, despite being introduced and fleshed out fairly well in the ďLast Specter.Ē
Even with these problems, though, the film is an okay watch. As far as game to movie adaptations, Iíd say this is easily the best. The humor is lighthearted, the film has some fun action scenes and the integration of puzzles into a different medium works very well.
The animation is also exceptionally beautiful. I was awestruck at how the Layton universe looks in fullscreen HD. I really would like Level-5 to develop something for the Wii U, now!
Particular mention needs to go to the soundtrack, as well. All of the themes are done by a full orchestra and they sound wonderful. Itís great hearing the tunebox theme and even the puzzle time theme come to life. The main theme is used far too often, but it is very loud, bombastic and high octane, so Iíll let it slide.
So, would I recommend this to the casual anime fan? Eh, not really. The film, on its own merits, isnít worth a watch. For those interested in Layton, Iíd almost say to skip it, too. But, just seeing Layton in a full movie and gasping at the animation can provide some joy to viewers.
So, whatever. Take the good, take the bad, put it togetherÖblah blah. Not too bad.
Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask [Nintendo 3DS]
The first 3D entry in the series and a launch title in Japan for the 3DS, Miracle Mask is supposed to be aÖfairly typical Layton game. Oh well. Iíve heard that regardless of how comfortable this title is with the series legacy, it does make for some quality entertainment.
Iím not sure how I feel about the characters finally being rendered in 3D, but I donít really have much to complain about. If the only detractor is that the graphics look weird, then I think Iíll be okay.
I do also know that this game had a full year of DLC. Thatís right, some crazy bullshit like THQ promised with Saints Row, but for free and actually decent! Since the game has only been out for a week or so, I think only 14-21 puzzles are available in the US. By the time I get to this game, hopefully there will be a sizeable amount for me to comment on.
I donít know why people called this a typical Layton game. For starters, itís the first game in the series to not focus solely on puzzles. There is an extended sequence that plays out similar to Zelda and itís amazing.
Also, the changes made to the way one interacts with the world are incredibly welcome. While I donít mind the old games, it was frustrating to be looking for hint coins and just tapping everything imaginable. Now you can simply scroll over items of interest and a little magnifying glass will highlight if you can click there.
Also, the graphics are incredible. With the 3D effect on, this game just pops off the screen. The colors are vibrant, the added depth makes the world feel huge and alive and the character models (now in place of the old sprites) animate like Wind Waker. Itís wonderful.
The variety in the puzzles is also stepped up, which is surprising considering there are less puzzles here than every game since the first. You do get a few repeats (I guess making cats and penguins jump is just too good to pass up), but for the most part, every puzzle is unique.
The story is also very touching, delving into a time when Layton was younger and dealing with the passing of close friends. I cried again, but considering how depressing this series tends to be getting, I donít think Iíll ever stop. Iím really not sure why Layton hasnít killed himself or how he remains so jovial.
So, Iíd say this one is close to the top of the list. If I had to rank the games, Iíd go: Unwound, Miracle, Diabolical, Spector and Curious. Funny, seeing as how the only game Iíve finished twice is Curious Village.
So while Layton isnít exactly the biggest hitter that Nintendo has up its sleeve, Iíve been a fan of the series for years now. Itís sad that Iíve actually only completed 1 game, but that will soon change. Since no one seems to give this series any coverage, Iíll be the harbinger of progress for Destructoid!
Hopefully Iíve gotten a few of you to pick up your DSí and get cracking on some mind benders! If not, then at least youíve read my thoughts on this wonderful little series.