Review: Professor Layton Vs Phoenix Wright (3DS)

Ever since it was first announced, and it’s Japanese release in 2012, the crossover between Professor Layton and Phoenix Wright has been much anticipated. Both series have had huge success on Nintendo’s handhelds, making the 3DS the perfect platform for Level 5 and Capcom to produce their collaboration for.

While Phoenix Wright and his assistant, Maya Fey are on an exchange placement to London, Professor Hershel Layton and his apprentice, Luke Triton, start investigating a mysterious case involving a young girl, who is being pursued by witches. Wright and Fey end up being called into a court in London to act as defence for an unusual girl, leading to a strange court case. Shortly after these events, both parties end up in the town of Labyrinthia, but with no knowledge of how they got there.

Labyrinthia is a medieval town which has more than its fair share of mysteries. On top of how Layton and Wright got there, the town is plagued by witches, who use magic staff with gems in order to cast spells. Anyone who is found guilty of being a witch must be cast into a pit of fire. And if that wasn’t enough, the events in the town are pre-written by the Storyteller, whom everyone considers to be the creator of the town. Both Layton and Wright must accept the ways and working of the town as they both search for the “truth” behind everything.

The gameplay is split into two distinct gameplay types: adventure and trials. The adventure parts will be well known to Layton fans: exploring, speaking to townsfolk and solving puzzles. The inhabitants of the town are varied and interesting, however, due to the setting, none of the great supporting cast from either franchise will make an appearance (outside of a couple of Layton cameos at the start of the game). This will disappoint a few fans, but overall there is enough fan service in the game that fans should still feel more than satisfied. Puzzles come in a wide variety, although I found that the required puzzles were easier than most Professor Layton games, with the challenge being left to some of the optional and hidden puzzles.

The other aspect of the game is the witch trials, which brings the Ace Attorney gameplay to the table. The witch trials bring some unique elements to the courtroom, the first of it is due to the magic. The magic in Labyrinthia works by very specific methods, and paying close attention to how the magic works will be very vital to defending your client. On top of this, witness stands do not have the same amount of order as previous Phoenix Wright games: here, there are multiple witnesses, who will join the stand, leave, bicker and collude with each other, and it’s up to Mr. Wright to sort through the mess and find the contradictions between them. Hint coins, which are plentiful and found during the adventure sections, can also be used to give hints or narrow down selections if you get stuck. While these can sometimes feel like they reveal a bit too much, they are entirely optional.

When the 3D slider is set to “off”, the background and areas of the game look like stunning backdrops – bring it up to max and everything really pops – the background “painting” suddenly has a surprising amount of layers while retaining its beautiful style. It really is lovely to look up. The characters are nicely styled in 3D while still managing to fit in with the style of the world around them. And when both Layton and Wright do their famous points, you can almost feel them pressing against your eyeballs.

Accompanying this lovely presentation is an outstanding soundtrack from composers Tomohito Nishiura and Masakazu Sugimori, with help from a few others. On top of new orchestrated renditions of classic themes heard in both games, there is a ton of wonderful and unique music, including some amazing medieval renditions of Phoenix Wright music during the witch trial sequences. The main cast and a few supporting characters also have some great voice work during some sections, all topped off by some lovely animated scenes. Even with the different styles of gameplay, the world brings everything together in a natural-looking way.

The plot of the game is packed full with twists and emotion. You’ll find yourself jumping to conclusions based on your current knowledge many times, with the game surprising you at every turn, you’ll also connect to the characters and feel guilty for some of the things you have to do. It’s a fascinating tale that keeps you gripped from the very start to the very end, which will take around 25 hours to complete. There will also be 12 mini-episodes that will be made available for free download after the game launches.

Overall, Professor Layton Vs Phoenix Wright does feel more like Phoenix Wright in a Professor Layton adventure, as elements from his games, like Hint Coins and Picarats, carry on into the courtroom sections, and the story itself is very much like a scenario found in a Layton game. That doesn’t mean that Phoenix Wright won’t have much to do – the court cases are very long and is where the majority of surprises come from. It’s a wonderful tale with some amazing characters, and this is definitely one of the very finest crossovers to date.

Gameplay: 5
Playability: 5
Visuals: 5
Audio: 5
Lifespan: 4

Pros:

  • Plenty for fans of each franchise.
  • Even more for fans of both.
  • Outstanding soundtrack.
  • Brilliant story, full of twists and surprises.
  • Lovely visual style.

Cons

  • A lack of supporting cast from both franchises.
  • Hint coins can reveal a bit too much.

Overall: 9/10

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