It can safely be said that two of biggest titles to make a name for themselves on the Nintendo DS are Professor Layton and Phoenix Wright. Their respective gameplay styles were tailor-made for the dual-screen, touch screen format and could not have possibly worked as well on anything else. Both also feature logic and thinking over flashy gameplay and already have more than a handful of titles under their belts with no signs of slowing down. Their similarities are plentiful and it has led to this singular moment, Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney — A crossover of epic proportions. Expectations are high and this mash-up certainly has a lot to live up to for fans of both series.
Witches are the theme in Layton vs Wright and it’s up to the two to get to the bottom of what is happening in the medieval world of Labyrinthia. The characters from both franchises get transported to this alternate world and the story develops from there. The game starts off quite slow and alternates between the two respective games a few times before the two main characters actually meet. The game eases new players into the different play styles and gives a good recap for seasoned fans. The game also gives you the option to skip some of the tutorials, which is much appreciated. Noticeable is the lack of challenge from the game overall. The puzzles and challenge in previous Layton and Wright titles have proven to stump me good, but not so much this time. On top of the lack of challenge, characters established from both worlds are also lackluster with only one more mainstay character from each title. Layton brings along with him his trusty sidekick Luke and Wright is followed by close friend Maya.
What plagues Layton vs Wright are some of the issues prevalent in each series. Layton games are a series of puzzles tied together with a point-and-click story; they can be a bit too hand-holdy and there is never a shortage dialogue. Every time the brilliant voice-over work is used, I breathe a sigh of fresh air from the constant reading, but it only happens so often. Also, I can’t imagine how hard it would be for my old man eyes to play a text-heavy title like this on a regular sized 3DS/2DS. It may be because Layton games are targeted to a younger audience, but the impatience I have with the title is the same I have with watching kids cartoons now — it takes forever to get to the point.
Phoenix Wright games are riddled with court sessions that you will have to read and decipher where a contradiction lies or where evidence will disprove a claim. It’s a fun system that works wonderfully when your brain is actually in sync with the direction the game is going. Unfortunately, my brain (and I’m guessing other people’s, too) often goes in another direction and whilst my reason for contradiction is 100% plausible, it’s written off as wrong. And even if you are right in guessing where the game is going, you have to figure out how to present it the way the game wants. For example, I knew that one of the contradictions was that a person could not hold two things at once and had to highlight this in a piece of photographic evidence — Turns out I picked the wrong hand and then had to choose the other. It is moments like this that make the game incredibly rigid and frustrating and what I wind up doing is picking every line of text for contradictions until I get it, because there’s no way of accurately knowing otherwise.
The two varying game styles never quite come together in a brand new way that I would have imagined, but there are elements that find their way into each other’s styles. Layton series staple, hint coins are usually used to help solve puzzles, but can now be used in the courtroom to highlight which lines to press or evidence to use, which turned out to be extremely helpful. Layton also finds himself alongside Phoenix in the courtroom to lend a hand in deducing evidence and putting pressure on the eye-witnesses. It’s a bit odd to see the two stand next to each other with their very different art styles, but it is goofy enough to work.
The sounds for this game is absolutely the shining star. Both series had iconic and memorable tunes and this mash-up brought the two minds behind the music together for some brilliant stuff. When the two styles of music is actually woven together, you can hear how much they actually complement each other in a magnificent way. Players who have never played either game will appreciate the stuff here, but there’s something extra special when you’ve played both games for so long — If only the game itself came together as magically.
Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney serves its purpose well as a game where two iconic characters finally come together. Disappointment comes in the fact that so much more could have been done. The two games never stray too far away from their comfort zone and each take a significant hit in challenge and series lore. There are so many characters and stories from each franchise that could have been used, but sadly none of it comes through. There are some big missed opportunities here and here’s hoping the next game (if any) gets the job done right.