Written by Twisted Ideas
Well this game took a long time to come overseas. News of this bizarre crossover began in 2010 when it was announced. It was finally released in Japan in 2012 and fans of both series bellowed to have it localized. In a common move by both companies, Capcom and Nintendo were initially hesitant for localization of the game due to the risk of low sales. Two years after its initial Japanese release and 5 months before the North American release, Professor Layton Vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney was finally localized. Fans overseas can finally enjoy the puzzle solving finger-pointing adventure.
Developers: Level 5, Capcom
Publisher: Level 5, Nintendo
What is it about?
Professor Layton and his young apprentice Luke are approached by a mysterious girl Espella. She carries a letter from Layton’s former student that they have escaped from a placed called Labyrinthia and that they need to protect Espella. They are attacked by witches who take Espella and are eventually absorbed into a mysterious book.
Phoenix Wright and Maya Fey are accepted in an exchange program in London for law. Phoenix is asked to represent a mysterious girl Espella and to plead guilty. As it’s against Wright’s nature to let the truth elude him he successfully defends Espella. Shortly after the duo find a mysterious book and are drawn in.
The two groups end up in Labyrinthia, a curious walled off city. The town is has concerns about witches and the Storyteller, a man who oracles their live, writes about two people who will die at the hands of a witch. Professor Layton and Luke are on the case but it seems that they may need a little help from Phoenix Wright and Maya Fey.
How does it play?
Professor Layton Vs Phoenix Wright takes the puzzle solving gameplay from the Professor Layton games and the court trials from Ace Attorney series. The game is split into adventure/puzzle solving and trials. Both series feature adventure aspects but the game borrows from Professor Layton in this regard. The adventure sections has the group explore Labyrinthia speaking to residents, looking for hint coins and solving puzzles. Most puzzles are optional but some are required to move the story forward. Each puzzle has a score system called picarats that unlocks bonus features later on. Wrong answer reduces the amount of picarats earned but hint coins can help you solve puzzles if you’re stuck.
Phoenix mainly head the trials. Phoenix Wright is a defense attorney who is famous for pressing witnesses to find contradictions. You have to provide the correct evidence against specific parts of a testimony to reveal a contradiction to the court. Eventually trials will have multiple witnesses at the stand at once. Some witnesses may react to another’s testimony. You can question these reactions to reveal new information. You have five points of credibility a trial. Any mistake results in a penalty, reducing your credibility and the amount of picarats earned at the end of the trial.
How does it look?
Both series have different art styles yet somehow work together. Professor Layton games has a more cartoon aesthetic which unusually features as Phoenix Wright games aims for a more realistic look under the anime style. While the two styles clash the vivid cel shading provides a consistent look that doesn’t make the two games look too different (despite how out-of-place Phoenix’s clothes are).
The characters are 3D rendered but strangely the game lags a bit. This doesn’t seem like a game that has that much going on in the background; When several characters or the more tailed ones appear the frame rate drops a bit.
How does it sound?
The game takes music from each series but uses a more of the Victorian era music with simple classical instruments. The trial tends to use more upbeat and dramatic tunes but recomposed to fit with the feel of Labyrinthia.
I believe Phoenix is voiced by a different voice actor than in Dual Destinies and this is probably the first time Maya is voiced (unless she was in Ultimate Marvel Vs Capcom 3). Professor Layton has the same voice actor but Luke has a new one and sounds much younger and more shrill. Oddly there isn’t that much voice acting despite this game essentially a visual novel.
What do I think?
Professor Layton Vs Phoenix Wright is a fantastic idea for a team up. Level 5 and Capcom have made a game that respects and complement these two franchises excellently. If you haven’t played Dual Destinies, it has been a long time since we’ve seen Phoenix Wright and an even time longer for Maya. The dynamic between the two groups is incredibly charming. Phoenix humorously points out the strangeness of the puzzles they encounter. Maya tries to convince Layton to do silly things and Layton and Luke are so nice that their criticism towards Phoenix’s mistakes in court is hilarious at his expense. Nothing beats seeing Professor Layton in court though. He adopts Phoenix’s phrases and mannerism and fans won’t be able to help but smile.
Professor Layton’s puzzles still weirdly come up as a natural thing and still tries to trick you. Most puzzles are interactive and don’t really have a fail state that loses you picarats but there are still puzzles that require unique logic to solve. The most difficult puzzles force you to think outside the box and even answer strangely but not all puzzles do. People who aren’t familiar with Professor Layton games may not be expecting these unique ways of looking at the puzzles.
Phoenix Wright’s trials suffer from inflexibility. As per the series, trials are scripted and each segment has one answer. If you think two steps ahead you will likely be penalized, even if that line of thinking is valid later on. Trials can also be tricky because contradictions might be arbitrary until the game starts explaining its logic. Trial are quite long too; They operates under a lot of circumstantial evidence so witnesses and the prosecution constantly tries to weasel themselves out of trouble. The second you think it’s finished, someone may come in an open a whole new line of questioning. It can be tough knowing where to present evidence but hint coins and the game’s hand holding that gives clear visual, audio and blatant hints does ease things.
Both of these series would benefit from a text log, Ace Attorney more so. Trials often leaves you answering questions with little context if you’ve forgotten what was said a few line ago. You can only refer back to it if you answer incorrectly and they bring it up again. A text log would reveal a lot of grief. Also both games are very funny and it would be nice if you could scroll back a few lines if you missed a line or just want to read it.
I was surprised on how dark the game gets. The game is light-hearted but a serious undertone. Labyrinthia is a place that practices witch burning. Before the first Labyrinthia trial starts you see a witch put in an iron maiden and dropped into a pit of fire. There is a lot more that meets the eye but it does a great job or raising the stakes of the story. Once Labyrinthia’s mysteries start to unravel to unravel things become more clear but still maintains even greater mysteries that will keep you hooked until the end. The main characters and the supporting cast are well written and can even throw in a joke or two when in the heat of the moment.
Should you get it?
If you were every curious about either the Professor Layton series or the Phoenix Wright series then this is the perfect game for you. Professor Layton Vs Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney encapsulates the core gameplay of each series and blends them into a complete and enjoyable experience. The puzzles aren’t as difficult as they are in either series but when they are you can always us a hint so you don’t get stuck. New players may have an adjustment period to both game’s logic but once you grasp it you’ll feel right at home.