Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy Review (3DS)
Completing Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy is a bittersweet experience. On one hand, it’s a pleasure to come back to the Layton gameplay that we all know and love. On the other hand, it’s the last time we will be doing so. This is, essentially, the end to the Layton series; a swan song for everyone’s favorite top-hatted sleuth. The game is perfectly crafted to push you closer to the end, and with it the answer to a mystery that has been built up over the last three titles. You’ll happily gobble up puzzle after puzzle, but as you fill out Layton’s suitcase and slowly uncover all the answers the game has to offer, you can’t help but be filled with an emptiness as you realize, this is really it.
Picking up exactly where Miracle Mask left off, the professor, Luke and his assistant Emmy are trying to uncover the secrets of the lost Azran civilization. Along the way, they are introduced to a living relic of the civilization, an Azran girl named Aurora. Now the professor must uncover the secrets of Aurora’s past and her connection to the Azran people, all while battling the Targent group and the treacherous Jean Descole. It’s crazy british mystery pulp and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The basic formula of Azran Legacy is the same as it was in every past Layton title. Layton and his buddies usually have a main goal that they are pushing toward, but along the way they meet a whole bunch of colorful nutballs that have puzzles that need to be solved, or that remind Layton of a puzzle from his past. It’s up to you to solve those puzzles and earn the coveted Layton badge of honor, Picarats. Puzzles are worth fewer Picarats for each mistake you make, so strive for perfection.
The puzzles themselves are much what you would expect from a Layton title as well. You’ll have a couple pathing puzzles here, a couple sliding block puzzles here, a veritable smorgasbord of math puzzles and a few language riddles as well. But even though we have basically seen this all before, it’s astounding that the puzzle gameplay never gets stale. The developers over at Level-5 were very careful to never outright repeat a puzzle from a previous Layton title. You will certainly encounter some puzzles that look familiar but just before you finish them you’ll encounter a twist or two that makes you think about the solution in a different light. The game is set up to give you a lot of those tiny “Eureka!” moments that make solving puzzles so much fun. Don’t worry, if you ever get stuck you can always spend one of your hint coins to get a little bit closer to the answer.
The pacing of Azran Legacy is a bit different from other Layton titles. One of Layton’s main tasks is to find five ancient artifacts strewn about the globe. He can fly to different locations freely and tackle puzzles there whenever he chooses, which makes the game feel a lot less linear. In addition, each locale has its own mini-storyline to follow that, while inevitably unrelated to the grand plot, makes each area feel more alive. Unfortunately, this world hopping takes up much of the game and while Layton is preoccupied, the main plot doesn’t progress very far. After all the artifacts have been recovered, the game snaps back to the same old linear gameplay we are familiar with, and the story enters serious mode.
Another thing that sets Azran Legacy apart from other Layton games is the amount of “out of puzzle” moments the title has to offer. During important story moments, Layton will be asked to participate in a mini-game or two in order to advance the plot. During these sequences Layton decides to be more Indiana Jones than Sherlock Holmes. None of these are as inane as, say, quick-time events, but they are all far less complicated than the caliber of puzzles the game usually has to offer. It helps to pull you into the cinematics a bit, but it certainly isn’t any big gameplay revolution.
Honestly, it’s hard to say much more about Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy, because we are all already familiar with Professor Layton games. You still get to come back to your puzzle log, even after you have beaten the game. You still get to check Layton’s suitcase for more interactive puzzles, two of which are special reasoning puzzles this time around, while one is just a “fulfill the request” type puzzle. You still will tap around the bottom screen ravenously looking for hidden hint coins and puzzles. We have all been here before, and we are happy to be here again. Azran Legacy doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel, and that’s a good thing. The last thing we would want for the good professor’s sendoff is some sort of strange experimental game where everyone shoots first-person puzzles at each other through top hats.
But what a send-off this game is, because its conclusion hits you right in the heart. Knowing this will be the last time we see Emmy is absolutely heartbreaking. Seeing the prequel trilogy join up with the original trilogy is just so pleasing for long time fans of the franchise. It’s nowhere near as heartbreaking as Professor Layton and the Unwound Future, but it’s damn close.
I could honestly play the Professor Layton series until the end of time. The fact that, somehow, this simple game series that is basically a puzzle book with a plot keeps feeling fresh is really amazing. It’s ability to make me feel for its characters is unparalleled by anything else in the genre, of which there are very few offerings. You know whether or not you like Professor Layton now, we are six games in after all, and if you do and somehow miss Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy, you have done yourself a tremendous disservice.
This review was based on a purchased copy of Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy for the Nintendo 3DS.