Published on June 5th, 2014 | by Michaela Buckley0
Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
This long awaited crossover game, pits Level 5’s deferential archaeologist, Professor Layton and his apprentice Luke, against Capcom’s graceless attorney-at-law, Phoenix Wright and his assistant in a story that sees them attempting to solve the mysterious case of Labyrinthia. This game has been out in Japan for well over a year, where it received some good reviews but lacklustre sales. After dipping their toe in the water, Capcom made the brave and best choice to dive in and release this in the west with a full retail release, unlike the previous Ace Attorney game which suffered ‘download-only’ status.
Contrary to Japan, Professor Layton is the more popular series in the west, enjoying high sales amongst gamers both casual and core and from a variety of backgrounds, making this title ideal for getting the west in the lesser known Ace Attorney series.
When a strange young girl arrives at Professor Layton’s office, claiming she is being chased by someone, Layton and Luke are soon wandering around London looking for clues, going straight into the action the mechanics are briefly and simply explained giving even the most clueless players no room for confusion or error.
Striding the line between a traditional point and click, with Ace Attorney style courtroom battles goes hand in hand, much like the Ace Attorney series does conventionally, the chapters are divided between the characters and the time spent on each case or section of the game is paced well, all being directly involved with the main plot of the game. The visuals are beautiful, both series look faithful, with Ace Attorney being a more old-school looking in its 3D incarnation than in Ace Attorney 5. The soundtrack contains some mixed up versions of both games backlog, with the most standout pieces being part of the original score, which feels grand and memorable.
The experience is great until the approach of the third act, where it turns into a bit of a slog. Gameplay goes out of the window and turns into a visual novel, complete with huge, lengthy dialogues which attempt to tie up plotpoints in order for the convoluted twist to make a little more sense; which in trying to be both Ace Attorney and Prof Layton-esque ends up as a semblance of neither, resulting in dull confusion.
Most of the time, I enjoyed what I was playing, simply seeing better attention to the plot (which was also handled by Shu Takumi who created Ace Attorney) was important after having played a somewhat lacklustre one in the Phoenix Wright series not too long ago, but the attempt at making the story too epic seems to have undermined the core enjoyment one usually gets out of these games. It’s almost as though trying too hard to make the game good was its own condemnation, the story reaches a standstill, going on too long and too oddly for the bell to really chime at the end.
Unlike other tie-in style games, this is one which feels almost more lavish than main series entries for both franchises, and fans of either series will enjoy seeing the respective protagonists showing down in this fantastical setting, but as a game by itself, it’s a bit of a mess, we’re unlikely to see more, which is a shame.
This is a game series which with more installments, had a high chance of getting the formula down, but as it is, I guess we can just marvel at young Phoenix and Layton having their spotlights nicked by one another.