Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright Review
Some of my favorite media comes in the form of crossovers. When hokey and cheesy, as two things that weren't supposed to be, ram together at high speeds, they often provide a mechanic that you wouldn't find elsewhere. Sometimes, however, the crossover becomes perfection: where would we be without peanut butter and chocolate? So, is Layton vs. Wright a Reese's Cup, or do we end up with something out of the pages of Amalgam Comics?
(please tell me someone gets that reference)
To be fully honest, while I've wanted a 3DS since they were released, I purchased it solely for this game. I was enjoying my Phoenix Wright WiiWare titles, and had been given one game in the Layton series. When I heard that the two were combining, it felt like an amazingly perfect puzzle combination. I hunted down the remaining Layton games and bought the Phoenix Wright games as I found them (why we got everything but Ace Attorney Investigations 2, I'll never know). I alternated between the two series' titles, sometimes even playing two at once. Therefore, when a single cartridge finally arrived with both play styles on it, I was prepared for the combination, and felt right at home.
While Layton may yell "Objection!" from time to time and Maya Fey will "tick-tock" think her way to a puzzle solution, by and large the two protagonists, while working on the same case, tend to keep their play styles separate. This doesn't mean that there is no intermingling, and I think both heroes will come out for the better. The cross between Layton's map-style movement and the insta-anywhere list that is Layton allows things to stay logically together, while providing a faster travel than you find in a traditional Layton game. The orchestration of a Layton game mixed with the tunes from Phoenix constantly made me smile. Little things, like the sound effects being out of each individual series for saving depending on what play style you were in, nods to each series' uniqueness.
Professor Layton and Phoenix Wright have been in "magical" situations before, but this story throws them right into a very Salem-y "witch trial" area, hunting down clues to prove a witch's innocence. For me, there were some heavy shocks, as judgment is handed down immediately, with accused witches being dumped straight into a pit of fire. I could see the shock on Phoenix's face. After all, he's used to finding his client innocent, while the now-obvious criminal was always shipped off for their real trial...some other day. Very few deaths have occurred in Layton games to my recollection either. The storyline definitely is grabbing my attention during the playthrough.
As I was late to the game playing both Phoenix and Layton's titles, I did have one advantage: walkthroughs. I got stuck at demanding perfection in those games, and if I got stuck, I would find myself saving right before a choice and resetting. If I got completely lost, it was off to the internet. Layton vs. Wright does not give me that leisure as easily. I know walkthroughs will come out soon, but I'm on edge, as I know I don't have something to fall back on. One annoyance I found seems to be that the court sections are broken into mini-chapters of sort. I would save right before a decision, fail miserably and reset, only to find I need to go back through a lot of dialogue to get where I thought I saved at. I know, I'm cheating a bit, but it has to be annoying for those who think they save at a certain point, only to find that they aren't where they thought they were. This problem seemed less prevalent in the Layton sections.
As I said, though, I feel Layton vs. Wright gives fans of the two sets of games exactly what they deserve, just as a Reese's cup will keep the peanut butter and chocolate just apart enough to allow the flavors to mix in your mouth. Phoenix and Layton don't glomp into an incoherent mess, but still retain their individual uniqueness. New twists, such as multiple witnesses and their contradicting testimonies, keep you coming back to see what else the game has in store. By and large the puzzles seem to be a bit easier, but at times I feel that may be needed, as I would find myself running to a FAQ often, near the end of a Layton game. It may be a divisive opinion, but I wish to enjoy the game, not have it beat me mercilessly until I eke by.
Layton vs. Wright, for me, defines what the DS family of systems was created for: fun stories that can be taken with you, enriching your game time, but can be closed up like a good book and kept for later. There have been a few disparaging reviews stating that the mix could have been better, but I feel that separation is necessary for each adventurer to keep their uniqueness. Fans of both characters will find an amazing adventure that harkens to two cherished titles, while fans of only one may end up finding a whole new world to play in. With most of the Ace Attorney series now or soon available on the eShop, I hope Nintendo finishes out that series (including Investigations 2!) and ports the Layton adventures over. New players will be compelled to delve into the rich worlds already created by two amazing companies.
4.5 out of 5
Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright is now available on Nintendo 3DS.