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Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

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Professor Layton vs Ace Attorney

Professor Layton and Phoenix Wright were finally coming together after years of success on Nintendo portables. The two popular Japanese adventure game franchises were supposed to form the formidable duo to tackle a mystery that required both their skillsets. The Professor and his investigative skills would gather evidence while the Ace Attorney would utilize said evidence in courtroom. I was hoping for seamless collaboration but instead there was a clash of styles that hurt the overall experience.

I expected nothing but the best when it came to presentation and I wasn’t disappointed. Level 5 and Capcom may have both their names on the box but the Layton trappings, visual style and animated cutscenes point to a Level 5 helmed effort. Coming from Miracle Mask (the last Layton title that I played), there was a appreciable jump in quality in the character models and animation. The original characters like Espella, Inquisitor Barnham and Darklaw were standouts for me.

They pushed the 3DS’ capabilities too far for a couple of characters but the framerate drops were forgivable given the type of game this was and the ridiculous characters they were trotting out. I can only hope the witnesses who take the stand in Ace Attorney 5 will be as flamboyant and grand as the ones found in this crossover.

The adventure began strong but lost steam when they were fumbling around with the two franchises marqee game mechanics. Ace Attorney titles didn’t spend a lot of time with exposition; they established a situation and unraveled revelations at a rapid pace. Professor Layton titles built up the suspense and sense of wonder gradually. The two styles shouldn’t have been woven together like they did because it only highlighted my preference for the Ace Attorney franchise. I ended up vastly preferring the Ace Attorney sections and dreading every interaction with Professor Layton and his ilk.

Every conversation outside of the courtroom seemed to drag on for an eternity. I commend their effort to establish a relationship between the two franchises but when they’re also trying to establish the game’s overarching narrative and introducing side characters with just as much exposition, it disrupted the flow of the game.

The mystery was memorable and I liked the characters of Labyrinthia. They reused a handful of them as witnesses one time too many but they were characters worthy of both franchises. I was happy to see they didn’t trot out too many staples from each respective franchise and created originals.

Despite its erratic pace, the overarching story built towards a grand finale. They made it out to be a big deal but it would have been better served if the big secret wasn’t so farfetched and the protagonists weren’t so cheesy. In fact, I think the game would have been better served if they toned down the ego stroking in general. I get it, you both respect each other. You don’t have to remind us all of that on a regular basis.

I found each franchise’s signature gameplay mechanics were well represented. For Professor Layton, they left the math problems behind and focussed on interactive puzzles. For Ace Attorney, they introduced additional layer of courtroom pressing with the multi-witness questioning mechanic. I shouldn’t have been surprised by the great execution but I was.

Many of the issues could be attributed to the jitters and awkwardness that plague any new partnership and that’s why I want to see them take another crack with crossover. With a sequel, they shouldn’t spend a significant amount of time courting each other and just get down to business. Perhaps they could also revise how they handle the crossover with subsequent games as well.

I would have preferred if Level 5 made a Professor Layton title that featured a Ace Attorney characters and the Capcom team made an Ace Attorney title that featured Layton characters. It would have been similar to how Capcom and SNK handled their crossover fighting games.

It was a commendable first effort. I wish it was a better effort as these two great franchises deserve it.

Verdict:
Worth a Try

Ratings Guide

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