Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is a pure Professor Layton game.
Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is a pure Ace Attorney game.
It may be odd to see both of those statements together, but it's true: Layton vs. Ace Attorney is a true marriage of both games' signature styles coming together in one grand adventure. Is it all solved puzzles and "not guilty" verdicts? Not entirely, as there are a few glaring contradictions in the game's overall testimony. That said, the game makes a great case for more Layton/Wright team-ups in the future.
The game takes place over nine chapters with two prologues and two epilogues, with the majority of the game taking place in the fantasy town of Labyrinthia. This is a town ripped straight from the Middle Ages but with a sprinkle of Salem, Massaschusetts circa 1692: the townspeople are terrorized by witches led by a mythical "Great Witch" named Bezella. Meanwhile, a mysterious man called "the Storyteller" literally writes the lives of the townsfolk down and delivers it to them, making him some sort of puppetmaster for all of Labyrinthia. There are a lot of questions about this town, and it's up to the two great minds of Professor Layton and Phoenix Wright to figure them out.
As the name suggests, Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney is a hybrid of two giant DS and 3DS puzzle franchises. However, those expecting a full mixing of the two games, like puzzles during a trial or using logic to solve Layton-esque riddles outside the courtroom should check those expectations at the door. There is exactly one puzzle where Phoenix Wright uses his skills to "think outside the box" to solve it. Conversely, there's only one trial portion of the game where you'll solve a puzzle during deliberations. That may disappoint some, but that's how it is.
Instead, the game plays more like chunks of each game were placed next to each other to make a full game. Some chapters will be investigating diorama scenes with a magnifying glass, finding Hint Coins and puzzles by tapping through the scenes. Other chapters will be set in a courtroom, listening to testimony and cross-examining the witnesses. Actually, it's almost a perfectly even split:
Layton format: Prologue 1, Chapters 1, 3, 5, 6, 7, half of 8, half of Epilogue 2
Phoenix Wright format: Prologue 2, Chapters 2, 4, half of 8, 9, Epilogue 1, half of Epilogue 2
This dichotomy makes the game perfect for people who love both franchises, because they're going to get enough of both to be satisfied. It also makes the game perfect for people who haven't played either franchise and wants to see how each of them works. However, players who lean one way or the other might think the non-preferred sections drag on and on before finally giving the goods. Also, if you enjoy both but don't think you have a preference or don't know it, you'll find out before the credits roll.
Layton vs. Ace Attorney does add a few new wrinkles, but most of the major additions appear on the Ace Attorney side of the fence. The biggest addition is during witness testimonies, which now may have multiple witnesses at once. Pressing one witness's statement will sometimes cause an adverse reaction in another, and Wright can question why that witness is uncomfortable by focusing on him or her. It sounds like it's more complicated, but the change actually makes perfect sense in the Ace Attorney realm.
What's implemented less gracefully is the Hint Coin system. While it's the same as before in the Layton sections, you can now use Hint Coins during a particularly difficult part of a trial in the Ace Attorney sections. If something has you particularly stumped, you could use a coin to make things easier on me, although sometimes "making things easier" means "directly giving the answer" and that's kind of a downer.
If there's one piece of excellence from both games that's properly conveyed in Layton X Ace Attorney, it's the incredible soundtrack. This game's music is a perfect meeting of the Professor Layton "wonder and awe of puzzles" sound with Ace Attorney's "courtroom drama" sound, creating a symphony of beautiful music. Most of the music is original to Layton vs. Ace Attorney, but the songs sounds like they could be from either game. The best piece of music in the game is the wonderful medley of iconic Professor Layton and Ace Attorney music during the end credits. I still haven't stopped listening to it.
I do have one major issue with Layton X Ace Attorney, and it's a part of the game I never expected to have a problem with: the story. I'm not saying it's uninteresting or overly strange, and anyone who's familiar with these two franchises knows that wacky stories are nothing new, but the swerve this game takes is so sudden and jarring I'm still not sure I've completely processed it. A good story twist still makes sense in the overall narrative of the game, but this is channeling M. Night Shyamalan in the strangest of ways and I don't know how people who spent twenty hours of their time solving the mysteries of Labyrinthia will feel about it.
After playing Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, I realized that the lengthy title is actually perfect. This is a cross-over by definition, but the game plays like the Layton sections and the Ace Attorney sections were made separately and mashed together. Instead of a perfect fusion like Gogeta from Dragon Ball Z, it's more like Janus from Roman mythology, having two very different faces looking in different directions. Is it a Professor Layton game? Yes. Is it an Ace Attorney game? Indeed. Is it fun? Yes, in its own Layton-esque, Ace Attorney-esque way. You'll get no objections from me if you want solve these puzzles.
This review is based on purchased version of Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney for the Nintendo 3DS.