The Nintendo DS – arguably the best handheld system of all time – gave the world a library of titles containing innumerable quality games that covered all of the industry's core niches. Its dual screens and touch commands nourished the creation of software that either used those functionalities to power complex gameplay scenarios, or took advantage of the hardware's clever simplicity to craft games that were fun and easy to pick-up and play.
Straightforward works like Meteos, Brain Age, and Elite Beat Agents flourished beautifully with the aid of the stylus and the support of stripped-down concepts. Meanwhile, more complex efforts like Grand Theft Auto, The Legend of Zelda, and Advance Wars had their engines oiled by quick and easy commands.
However, amidst all that gaming goodness, the system's largest contribution was, perhaps, the fact that it allowed the rebirth of a genre that stands nicely between the humble structure of the former group and the intricate bones of the latter.
Point-and-click adventures had been virtually dead – at least from a mainstream perspective – ever since LucasArts, the creative mother of that gameplay style, abandoned the ship it had built in order to focus on highly-profitable Star Wars epics. The fact that the power of computers rose to a point on which the static-scene anatomy of those games started being seen as aged had seemingly put the final nail on that digital coffin.
But that corpse blasted right through that casket when the Nintendo DS came around. Its portable size was the perfect trampoline for storybook games with heavy amounts of text, and the smoothness of the stylus appeared to be suitable for a exploratory kind of gameplay on which players had to investigate the screen by touching certain points of interest.
Numerous titles were the offspring of that ideal scenario, such as the wonderful Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective, or the mysterious Hotel Dusk: Room 215. Still, no games were able to garner as much critical and commercial appreciation as the ones starring a goofy attorney and a wise scholar. Phoenix Wright and Professor Layton read the book written by Monkey Island, Maniac Mansion, Full Throttle, and Grim Fandango, and updated it with great style.
Wright replaced the item-based puzzle-solving with crime investigation that culminated on exciting trials, while Layton approached riddles in a different way: by betting on more traditional and logical problems. In spite of their difference in style, the two games were united by common threads that had always permeated the genre: fantastic storytelling that served as the main fuel to the gameplay through incredible well-written twists, and interesting environments whose lines were determined by great art.
As it turned out, the updated point-and-click style found a very receptive audience. The four Layton games released on the DS ranked among the system's highest sellers, with all of them selling over 1.9 million copies worldwide. And although Phoenix Wright did not achieve the same extreme numbers, it did well enough for Capcom to spin a series of five games packed with cases, trials, and mysteries.
Given the similarities between both franchises, and the fact they were the most prominent catalysts of the rebirth of a beloved but long-forgotten genre, it is only fitting that Layton and Wright join forces in the same game. Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright, released in Japan almost two years ago and in Europe early this year, will arrive in the Americas – and in the arms of a fanbase that has been waiting for a really long time – next month.
It is one of those too-good-to-be-true concepts that border on fan-fiction, but it is about to become real due to the joint efforts of Capcom and Level-5. To those who enjoy both Layton's logic-defying puzzles and Wright's courtroom attitude, it will be the gaming equivalent of being a superhero fan and going to the movies to watch The Avengers in full-blown silver screen glory. It is the joining of different universes into one cohesive realm, and watching the different factions interact and work together will be a sweet scene to many.
If the gameplay style the game will feature is already familiar to those who have enjoyed both series, the greatest expectations end up falling on the shoulders of its storyline. The Professor Layton and Ace Attorney series are among the finest storytelling achievements in gaming, creating stellar characters, situations, and surprises through brilliant narratives and dialogues.
The union of forces behind the scenes (the Level-5 and Capcom writers) and on the screen (Layton and Luke paired up with Wright and Maya) will likely create some astounding developments during the adventure.
And, when it is all said and done, Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright could, through the display of a great tale, pay a great homage to the line of games that inspired both characters. After all, what truly made the family of LucasArts adventure titles so universally beloved and culturally relevant were its delightful scripts, which proved how powerful a great plot can be when it is employed on a game that claims for it.
Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright could make that point resonate almost two decades after point-and-click adventures were seemingly left for dead. And that would be the greatest favor it could do for Monkey Island, Maniac Mansion, Full Throttle, and Grim Fandango. As Layton and Wright head towards retirement, they could come together to give the genre one more boost and inspire a new generation of games of its kind.
Then, the LucasArts gaming legacy could be kept alive and kicking, showing that the power of great tales is indeed everlasting.