Review: Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney



Patrick Hancock

Contributor

5:00 PM on 08.30.2014

Gentlemanly and Objectiony

You got chocolate in my peanut butter! You got peanut butter in my chocolate! 

Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are great. Personally, my favorite part is the edge, as long as you still get a little bit of peanut butter along with it. It is sort of annoying though when you peel off the wrapper and it takes a good chunk of chocolate with it, though. If you don't like peanut butter OR chocolate, I can't imagine that you'd want to indulge in a Reese's. If you don't dislike either one though, you easily understand why Reese's is some of the best candy ever.

So anyway, Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney...

Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (3DS)
Developer: Capcom, Level-5
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: August 29, 2014
MSRP:  $29.99

The story revolves around the main characters from each game: Professor Layton, Apprentice Luke, Ace Attorney Phoenix Wright, and Spiritual Medium Maya Fey. It doesn't take long for these characters to meet up in a town called Labyrinthia, a town on no map and completely run by one person: the Storyteller. It's also a town that seems to be caught in the past: knights keep order and there's no modern technology to speak of.

The Storyteller is exactly that: the one who pens the "story" for the town of Labyrinthia. However, the town has been having some major issues with magic-using witches in the past years, and everything seems to be coming to a head just as the four protagonists enter the scene. 

The characters of Labyrinthia deserve a very special mention. There are numerous characters that easily steal the spotlight during the courtroom scenes, which is largely due to the fantastic writing. The game's tone ranges from incredibly serious to downright hysterical while hitting every note in between. Characters come to life, scenes nail the correct tones, and the unpredictable story itself all come from the brilliant writing throughout. 

Gameplay is divided into two distinct sections: puzzle solving while navigating the town and court cases. The former will be familiar to anyone who has played a Professor Layton game in the past, and the latter familiar to Ace Attorney players. The major issue here is that they almost never blend together. Instead they act like oil and water, with each section being completely separate from the other. It is important to note, however, that despite this lack of congruence, the game does not feel disjointed, largely due to the character interactions between the two sets of protagonists.

There is a moment towards the end of the game where the two gameplay types cease to act like oil and water and instead act like peanut butter and chocolate. Needless to say, this moment is nothing short of pure gameplay bliss and one of the most memorable moments of the entire game. 

The Layton-inspired puzzles are various logic puzzles. For players unfamiliar with the games, these puzzles often require a decent amount of brainpower and/or trial and error to solve correctly, and the objective of each puzzle is different. The difficulty of these puzzles is widely inconsistent, as some of the final puzzles are laughably simple. 

Some puzzles are required to progress, while others are included simply for players who want to try more puzzles. The context for these "extra" puzzles is always absurd, in an endearing way. Meeting someone on the street and having them challenge the player to a puzzle just because is absolutely ridiculous and perfect. The story puzzles are always given context and make a remarkable amount of sense within that context, making them feel very real.

As for the Ace Attorney-inspired court cases, players will listen to witnesses tell their testimony, and then have a chance to point out any inconsistencies or contradictions they can find. Players can "Press" the witness, which involves Phoenix Wright asking for more clarification on a specific statement. Players can also Present information to the court, which will bring up a key piece of evidence to hopefully point out a flaw in a witness' testimony. 

This time around, there can be more than one person on the witness stand at a time. This allows for a slightly different mechanic of asking two witnesses about the same topic. While pressing a witness, another witness may make a sound if they hear something funky. At that point, the player can move to that witness and ask why they had a reaction to what was said. It's a decent mechanic that lends itself to a little bit of repetition, since the original witness' testimony will be cut short when moving to another witness, and to hear the entire testimony players will have to press the original witness again.

Hint Coins can be found while exploring the town and can be utilized in both the Layton-style puzzles and the Ace Attorney-esque courtroom scenes. During the logic puzzles, Hint Coins will slowly reveal more of the solution, until finally telling the player "alright fine here's the answer," essentially. In the courtroom, Hint Coins can be used when a player has no clue what to do next. The game will then let the player know who to Press or Present to, and when presenting, Hint Coins will remove certain incorrect options from the evidence to narrow it down for the player.

The game's visual style and technical capabilities are wonderful. The town of Labyrinthia truly does feel alive with vibrant characters while maintaining a sense of a seedy underbelly and something very sinister lurking around. There are some moments in the game where the framerate becomes noticeably terrible. This is often when there are many animated characters on the screen, and happens whether the 3D slider is on or off. Speaking of which, the stereoscopic 3D presentation is great and is easily the best way to experience the game. The music and sound effects from each game make an appearance, but much of the music is new to go with the "Middle Ages" theme of the town of Labyrinthia.

Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is two great tastes that taste great together, even if they don't congeal together until the finale. But wow, what a finale it is! The framerate issues are very unfortunate and the new Ace Attorney mechanics can make the game a bit repetitive, but with over 20 hours of well-written content, this is a game who will please fans of either series, and will delight anyone who is a fan of both series. This game is also a great entry point for either series, since it offers a glimpse into both without heavily favoring one or the other.

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