The smartest game currently on 3DS, this is a treat for both Layton and Phoenix Wright fans alike
Never in the history of Nintendo handhelds has there been a crossover battle quite so highly anticipated as Professor Layton Vs Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney for the 3DS. Ever since we solved our first case in St. Mystere and uttered our first, tentative “Objection!” into our tiny DS microphones, we’ve been waiting for the day when Level-5’s master of logic and Capcom’s rookie lawyer would finally come face to face to solve perhaps the greatest mystery of all – who’s the ultimate Nintendo mastermind?
Phoenix Wright and Professor Layton must team up to defend their friend, Espella Cantabella, who’s been accused of being a witch
Happily, Layton Vs Wright sees both characters give it their all as they tackle one of their toughest challenges yet. Set in the mysterious medieval storybook town of Labyrinthia, our two protagonists find themselves caught up in a tale of time travel, witchcraft and prophetic storytellers who can write the future into existence with the scratch of a quill. It’s a world away from the modern day / pseudo-Victorian London trappings we’re used to seeing in Layton and Ace Attorney games, but it allows both developers to air out their respective cobwebs and retune their traditional formulas to help make each series the best it’s ever been.
Fans of the games will be instantly familiar with how each half operates. While Professor Layton must solve puzzles in order to gather clues from the townsfolk, Phoenix Wright must defend his friends from being burnt at the stake in Labyrinthia’s court of law. The two styles of gameplay complement each other perfectly, with Layton’s puzzles filling in for the investigation sections of Phoenix Wright’s court trials.
Inquisition knights take the form of prosecutors
The court trials in particular are more complex than ever before, as everything from forensics to voice and finger print analysis doesn’t exist in Labyrinthia, forcing Phoenix to take an altogether different approach when making his case. Instead, witchcraft, deceit and rampant speculation are the order of the day here, making it even tougher to untangle the pack of lies given to you by the witnesses.
Presenting evidence and cross examining witnesses still plays a key role in discovering the truth, but one of Layton Vs Wright’s greatest and liveliest features comes from one of its brand new additions: group testimonies. Instead of witnesses taking the stand individually, trials are conducted with a whole host of witnesses simultaneously. Members of the audience can jump in, too, completely altering the course of the trial as they gang up and play with the truth.
As per previous Layton games, the supporting cast are a rather distinctive and flamboyant bunch of characters
You’ll still need to point out when their statements contradict the evidence in your Court Record, but dealing with so many witnesses at once gives each trial a much more dynamic and colourful tone. Every supporting character is just as daft and well-written as we’ve come to expect from Layton and Ace Attorney games (even more so now with Ace Attorney creator Shu Takumi at the helm), and their outrageous personalities only make unravelling each mystery that much more enjoyable.
It’s when those personalities clash that the real fun begins, though, as you’re now able to use their testimonies against each other when there’s nothing in your Court Record to help you out. As the witnesses listen to each other’s statements, you can zone in any suspicious behaviour by sliding a magnifying glass across each character on the touchscreen. Audio cues make it pretty obvious when you need to do so, but choosing to question those characters during another’s statement will catch them off guard and allow you to tease out even more inconsistencies.
Phoenix Wright and his assistant Maya lose their memories upon entering Labyrinthia, but they’re soon back to their old tricks
It’s a lot to get your head round at first, but the game’s masterstroke is that it’s never overly reliant on one solution. Questioning other characters doesn’t always lead to fruitful information, and sometimes you’ll need to go against your natural instinct of presenting evidence to get to the bottom of a case. Luckily, if you do get stuck, you can use Professor Layton’s handy hint coins to help narrow down your options and give you clues about when to press witnesses and when to present evidence. Just be aware that if you get the answer wrong five times, you’ll either have to restart the trial from scratch or reload from your last save point, as there’s no instant restart like the latest Ace Attorney game, Dual Destinies.
The Professor Layton sections have also been refined, albeit not quite as substantially as Phoenix Wright’s court trials. Hint coins now glitter as you move your microscope around each 3D panorama, and the town map shows you how many hint coins and hidden puzzles there are in each area, making it easier to mop up every last secret as you make your rounds through town.
Both sets of characters will try out each other’s gameplay styles before the game is over
If we had one complaint, it’s that the puzzles are notably easier than previous Professor Layton instalments, as many rely on trial and error solutions that you can attempt multiple times without being penalised. This is no bad thing, and there’s still a fair few that are real head-scratchers, but it’s a shame the Layton puzzles don’t quite match the intricacy of Phoenix Wright’s court trials.
The Professor Layton sections also tend to get a bit bogged down in story exposition, leaving less time for actual puzzles. Players will notice immediately that the total number of puzzles only extends to double-digits this time rather than tripe figures, so Layton fans may feel a tad hard done by compared to the lengthy Phoenix Wright trials.
Some puzzles aren’t particularly difficult, but you’ll find a lot more tie into the main story than ever before
It’s hard to begrudge the game for long, though, as the end result is one of the best and smartest games on 3DS to date. With more mysteries and surprises than even Phoenix Wright can point his finger at, Professor Layton Vs Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is a game that constantly evolves and betters itself as the story goes on. With over twenty hours of devious cases to solve and a belting soundtrack to boot, this is a treat for both Layton and Ace Attorney fans alike. A must buy.