Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: "There's a contradiction in this puzzle"

Time to get back into non marathon reviews that also goes back to my second review ever... and probably my worst written one as I don't think the joke works in a text based format...

"Puzzles and contradictions abound when legends meet". To say that it was a shock to see these two franchises meet is an understatement. Both the Professor Layton and Ace Attorney games are some of the most popular small franchises for the Nintendo DS, but that's just it, small franchises. If I asked a Nintendo fan to name 10 games in the DS's library, its a pretty safe bet that neither of these would be thought of... unless your the friend of mine who I borrowed this game from in which case they would probably be in the Top 3. It would take two years for the game to leave Japan, and like a lot of games recently, it would be in the US last (though why it took 5 months after Europe and Australia is beyond me). Time to return to the courtroom to see how well these two play nicely with each other. Any objections?

Labyrinthia, a town still in the days of Witches and magic, with a man only known as The Storyteller writing the story of the town that always seems to come true. After literally being pulled into a book called the Historia Labyrinthia, it is up to the combined efforts of Professor Hershel Layton, Luke Triton and making their 3D Debuts, Phoenix Wright and Maya Fey to solve the mysteries of the town. Now I'm sure I know what you're going to say, you're going to raise an

and claim I'm lying because Dual Destinies was released before this game, so Phoenix Wright has already been in 3D. And to that I have vital evidence that proves otherwise.

Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright was release on November 29th 2012 in Japan. Dual Destinies was released in Japan July 25 2013. So yes, these two games were in development at the same time, PLvPW (which I will be calling the game for now on), started development before Dual Destinies did.
Yes I did write this paragraph specifically to use those. I regret nothing.
"Out of the way fools!"

I should make it clear that I'm not going to go into more detail about the plot as it is a visual novel, where the theme is mystery. To go any further would kill the mystery. Encase it wasn't obvious, yes this is a visual novel game as both the Professor Layton and Ace Attorney franchises are visual novels at heart. There's a lot of cut scenes and not a lot of gameplay. Personally I think its both better and worse in comparison to the main Ace Attorney games. I do not have any experience with the Layton games out side of this game, as such I won't be making any comparisons to them. What do I mean by better and worse? Well its better as it incorperates both Professor Layton's main gameplay and Ace Attorney's investigation moments... though more so Professor Layton's... As you search throughout the town, you can find Hint Coins and puzzles to solve, which give you points called Picarats, which basically display how well you went on that particular puzzle and the game as a whole. The puzzles themselves are simple enough to do once you get into the mindset, some will be extremely easy, others a pain to do. However, a big problem I have with these sections I believe to be a Professor Layton problem as it wasn't such a pain in the Ace Attorney games. There are times in the game where no one knows when to shut up, a problem that got worse as the game progressed and was at its worst in the DLC, more on that later.
"He's so shiny" Play the game, and you'll get the joke
However, this does combine the two styles of gameplay so lets go to court. Remember at the start how I said that Labyrinthia was a town that still believes in magic and Witches... well lets just say that the medieval theme is a common trend. With Witches comes Witch trials the courtroom itself is a Witches court. "Those found guilty of being a witch will be sent to the flames". There's also more to this. The penalty system is, once again the 5 strike system instead of a health bar which has been the standard since Justice for All. There's also no Magatarma, no forensics, pretty much none of the aspects that could help distinguish trials from the main games.

There are new mechanics though. Mob testimonies, where you have two or more testimonies to juggle during a cross examination, meaning that you can use testimonies to find contradictions and even question a witness in the middle of another ones testimony. You also have access to the Grand Grimoire, allowing you to use magic spells as evidence. On top of that, the Hint coins that you can use to help solve puzzles can also be used during cross examination. While I do like these changes, there are two aspects of the trials I don't like. While I can live without the forensics puzzles and I can cope with the 5 strikes system. Why is there no Magatarma? Before you can chime in and say, "because that would be witchcraft", I'm sure they could work the Magatarma into this without having to call it witchcraft, and if they do have it confused for magic, it could have been an interesting plot point.
There really must be something shocking...
Unfortunately my problems don't stop there. While there are some minor issues like voice acting not matching the on screen text ("Say yourself", while screen shows Save yourself) and some FPS lag when there are to many characters on screen (again, worse the further you go), my big problem is that the story (... game story, not Labyrinthia's story) is written in a way that portreys Professor Layton as a man who already knows the answers to the mysteries, but doesn't share them for the sake of having a plot, a problem that become glaringly obvious during the final trial, which is Layton vs Wright. To the Professor Layton fans, is this a common trend in the Layton games?
"Everyone, give us your serious face"
There are a lot of things I like about this game though. I think the art style and soundtrack is quite charming, with several remixes of Ace Attorney songs being some of my favorites in the series. The voice acting is also really well done for the main cast with the exception being Phoenix's voice actor, though that's because I like the Dual Destinies voice more. The humor is also really well done, with a lot of references to the games of the two franchises... I assume as there were a lot of Ace Attorney jokes and, again, no Layton experience. It's also kept simple enough for fans of the individual franchises to be introduced to the other... with that in mind I'm probably going to be giving the Layton games a shot... my wallet...
If you're a fan of either the Layton or Ace Attorney games or a fan of visual novels, then you'll like this game. That being said though, like the review of the Ace Attorney games from last year, if you're expecting a lot of game, while it is better, there still isn't a lot of game play because, again, its a visual novel. You can also finish the game in a weekend, my playtime is just over 30 hours, including the DLC puzzles, which are all free along with free concept art of the game (PL Phoenix and Maya are adorable, with PW Layton and Luke looking great), which is one puzzle per episode, the rest dialogue... I hope you like reading. But for now, court is once adjourned. See you next time for a complete polar opposite for magic: Puella Magi Madoka Magica.

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