Review

Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Review

  • Game release: August 29, 2014
  • Reviewed:
  • 3DS

Professor meets Lawyer... how could we object?

Why would the amiable Professor Layton be interested in squaring off against the uncomfortably awkward Phoenix Wright? Answer: He's not. The first thing to understand about the awkwardly named Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is that the two title characters are allies, not adversaries. Pure and simple, what you've got here is a bromance between two of the DS and 3DS's most captivating stars.

And it works. The problem of how to combine two franchises that operate in fundamentally different ways has been deftly overcome by transplanting this entire 30-hour-plus (yes, 30 hours...plus!) adventure to a new time and place. Proceedings begin in London but quickly move to Labyrinthia, a medieval town of a fantastical disposition featuring witches, knights, magic, and a storyteller capable of changing the future by rewriting it.

Inquisitor Barnham is one of the few secondary characters of genuine interest, predominantly because of his role in Phoenix's sequences.

Once the narrative has satisfied its initial inflated sense of self-importance--resulting in an opening act that is tediously long--the ebb and flow of how the two protagonists act and interact makes sense and feels natural. As Layton, accompanied by his apprentice Luke, you primarily spend your time wandering about town, talking to its inhabitants, and solving the kinds of puzzles that made him famous in the first place. In the process of doing so, you're consistently collecting evidence that Phoenix, along with sidekick/secretary/apprentice Maya, uses to defend his clients in the courtroom.

There is some small degree of crossover between character pairings in that, for example, it might be Maya and Luke solving puzzles, or Layton joining Phoenix in the courtroom, but the procedure of solving puzzles in a bid to inform courtroom trials never really changes. As a result, it can feel as though you're playing through two completely separate games that just happen to be bundled together into one package; first you do the Layton-focused puzzles, then you do the Phoenix-focused courtroom trials, and then you do some more Layton.

It's a successful approach. Especially during Phoenix's trials, anything other than an extended and uninterrupted period of witness cross-examination and contradiction hunting would make the process feel tame and shallow. There are times when the sheer volume of onscreen dialogue and exposition during Layton's puzzle-solving gambits around Labyrinthia makes you yearn for more involving courtroom sequences, but because the two styles of gameplay are kept apart, they're allowed space to breathe and grow as the story rolls on.

The storyteller holds the key to many of Labyrinthia's mysteries.

Due to the prevalence of witch trials in this world, Phoenix's courtroom cases are grandiose, exaggerated, and some of the most charming and wacky he has ever been involved with. The blue-suited, hedgehog-haired lawyer has always been prone to misfortune, but here such things make more sense than they ever have given that he's in a strange land and is unaccustomed to many of the courtroom procedures.

For example, multiple witnesses take the stand in unison--providing you the opportunity to cross-reference their testimony against one another. However, seeing as each witness tends to be as far from impartial as it's possible to be, each is more than willing to flat-out lie to you to have their stories match and find the accused guilty. In the middle of trials it's not unusual for one or more witness to change their tune completely, giving Phoenix more than enough of an excuse to don his trademark flustered face.

Perhaps more than any other, though, it's these multi-witness moments that represent the best--and certainly the funniest--pieces of dialogue in the game, and they go a long way toward preventing you from getting too frustrated when you arrive at a sticking point. Recurring town drunk, Emeer, and local Bard, Birdly, provide some particularly humorous lines--the former mispronouncing words while swilling various forms of alcohol, the latter insisting on singing at every opportunity.

With the illegal use of magic resulting in defendants landing in the dock in the first place, under accusation of witchcraft, it's easier to forgive those sometimes ridiculous leaps of logic that Ace Attorney games have always required you to perform. After all, if magic is possible in Labyrinthia, what else might be? Thinking way outside of the box, more than ever, is critical to success in a world that can seem wholly illogical until you've wrapped your head around its unique way of doing things.

The fully animated cutscenes are stunning in quality

On the flip side, Layton's puzzles, while generally well crafted and boasting diversity, come off as a little underdeveloped in comparison to the trials. The new setting and the multiple witness angle means playing as Phoenix feels fresh and exciting, while puzzle solving is the same as it ever was.

Identifying the odd one out, navigating a maze, solving faux-mathematical number puzzles and besting diluted variations of popular games (chess, for instance) feel very much like brain teasers that we've seen and done before in more than one other Layton game. Those included do a good job of mimicking the magical tone of Labyrinthia, but at their core the format is familiar enough to trigger déjà vu and for you to wonder if you've solved this same puzzle somewhere else previously. This is going to be a greater or lesser problem depending on how many Professor Layton games you've already played--if you've played them all, then fatigue is going to set in before the finale.

That said, both sides of the game are undoubtedly of high quality; it's just a shame that one side feels fresh and new while the other remains exactly as we've always known it. If you've never played a Layton game, however, or haven't played one in recent history, you'll find nothing to complain about.

Phoenix's courtroom cases are grandiose, exaggerated, and some of the most charming and wacky he has ever been involved with.

There can certainly be no complaints, however, regarding the quality of the production values. Fully animated video cutscenes and voiced dialogue appear often, while the design and implementation of the touch-screen controls and in-game menus exude the kind of quality you'd expect from two franchises that have been doing the rounds for so long.

Layton vs. Phoenix Wright is a long game--at least as long as a Professor Layton game and a Phoenix Wright game combined--and relatively little of it is genuine crossover. But that doesn't make it any less enjoyable. What is here is big, it's often silly, and it's sometimes unwieldy, but it's rarely anything less than engaging thanks to some great execution on tried-and-tested ideas. It's Phoenix, however, in his element in this magical world, that well and truly steals the show.

The Good
Some of the best courtroom scenes of any Ace Attorney
Hysterical dialogue
Quality cutscenes make the story a delight
Interesting setting that makes character crossover seem plausible
The Bad
Layton's sections are not as interesting as Phoenix's
Feels like two games, rather than a cohesive one
8
Great
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

John Robertson has been solving puzzles and defending accused innocents since the original Professor Layton and Phoenix Wright games transformed the original DS into one of the greatest handhelds of all time. Well over 30 hours were spent puzzling and objecting before writing this review.

Discussion

51 comments
asapp7
asapp7

Finally I'll get to play this game, I was excited back in March when reviews came out. Well the wait is over, cool beans.

BrunoBRS
BrunoBRS

wait, did they just bump the EU review because of the NA launch? :P

GladChimer
GladChimer

Wow, as a fan of both Professor Layton and Ace Attorney, I was always excited about this but also more than a fair bit skeptical. I really thought it won't turn out right and will just devolve into simple fanservice rather than a fleshed out game; I am glad to hear that's not the case at all.

30+ HOURS?! That's insane, and I am definitely getting this game on the 29th. I did play most Professor Layton games, but I don't think I'll get any of that fatigue the review describes, hehe! Really excited, thanks for the great review, I wouldn't have considered purchasing this game for another few months otherwise. 

jay606327
jay606327

Instead of posting this 20 times I will put it here. I just checked the online store and it says available to DL at midnight 8/29 in NA.

nparks
nparks

And now I have to go buy a 3DS.  Well, maybe just a 2DS.

abHS4L88
abHS4L88

That first + 
"Some of the best courtroom scenes of any Ace Attorney"


Automatically sold! 


I did enjoy the first Professor Layton, but the series hasn't captivated me anywhere near the level that Ace Attorney has. That's one franchise where I would have no problems if it was "milked" simply due to how stellar the writing of the games are. 

phili878
phili878

I bought the 3DS because I was bored and have too much money. With it I purchased the Prof. Clayton and the Azran Legacy. Man, so far I logged 30+ hours in this game and am still playing it, because it is simply amazing. The Quizzes range from extremely easy to extremely hard, there is so much additional content (extra quizzes) and I was amazed. I have had 1000x more fun with this than this shit COD, BF4 crap that I only plaid for a couple of minutes. Can't wait to play the next series of this game, outside on my terrace next to the pool, then going for a dive and have that brain work again solving puzzles while I dry up ! Love this game.

naymleswon
naymleswon

I really want this, haven't played an Ace Attourney game in a while.

RabidBurp
RabidBurp

WHY IS THERE NO VIDEO REVIEW FOR THIS?

LE5LO
LE5LO

@johnr2806 Thanks for the review. I'm hoping to see this game deliver on lots of finger pointing from the Professor and the Lawyer, it just wouldn't be a Layton or Wright game without lots of that. ;)

Meh-ness_basic
Meh-ness_basic

What's with the lack of North American release? If it's localized for EU, it's localized for NA. Just take out the language data that isn't English and you're done...

JustPlainLucas
JustPlainLucas

There better be a fucking American release, or I'm doing to have to buy a European 3DS to get this game. 

Shouoken4Peace
Shouoken4Peace

Phoenix Wright and Prof. Layton for 30 hours? My dream come true. Why does it says that the release date is Dec 31, 2014? Is this an early review or did someone mess up something?

wiserat4
wiserat4

That Infamous commercial makes me so sad...  because I know that people are going to buy it!  The direction of gaming makes me so sad.... especially when it is marketed by businessmen and not gamers.


I'm going to go play Dragon Force on my Sega Saturn, or maybe Baldur's Gate on my PC before I die from depression.

PosiTVEMinD355
PosiTVEMinD355

I hope they have physical copies of this.  I'd rather not own it digitally

icebeam83
icebeam83

So Europe gets the game march 28th this year while the NA release date is still TBA...........

Now I know how Europe felt about their SMT IV release date :/ 


apolloooo
apolloooo

**** nintendo and their ****ing archaic region locking. i don't know why this s***ty practice is allowed.

EasyComeEasyGo
EasyComeEasyGo

Nice review John Robertson but is this game out already? I don't remember seeing the actual release date.

King9999
King9999

Uhhh....what's with the release date?

BrunoBRS
BrunoBRS

wait, did they release it on this side of the world?

Bowser05
Bowser05

That's amazing. I totally forgot that this was slated for the US. It says on GameSpot that it comes out at the end of this year though? WHAT? I better check the e-shop since that doesn't make sense (a review copy over 6 months before release?).

zeca04
zeca04

Is this on e-shop? Or does it have physical copies?

hotdiddykong
hotdiddykong

Awesome

I think the point in gameplay terms is for each side to introduce the series to the other side, which is probably why it feels like 2 different games.

ziminaiman
ziminaiman

A review nine months before the release date? That's proactive! 

Wanderer5
Wanderer5

@BrunoBRS Heh this has been done quite a few times before.:P Also wow completely forgot this game was coming out here soon lol.

abHS4L88
abHS4L88

@GladChimer

I would average around 30 hours with each Ace Attorney game so I expected it. 

tiopuit
tiopuit

@wiserat4 Don't make judgements if you haven't played the game. I despise the first infamous and yet the second is one of my favorite games. Give it a chance, just because it's big doesn't mean it's bad. Yeah there are alot of games like that, but infamous earned some credibility. 

LE5LO
LE5LO

@PosiTVEMinD355  Secondly, sorry I didn't realise region locking was an issue on 3DS until now, ie. don't import it! :,(

LE5LO
LE5LO

@PosiTVEMinD355 The physical copy comes out at the end of the month in Europe. ;) Also, you should send that comment to Capcom, in western territories they want AU$40 to download 'Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies'. I'd say that's massively overpriced for a download only game that is automatically locked to the buyers Nintendo account. If 'Dual Destinies' got a retail release in Australia, I would've bought it already, but as it looks like it isn't going to, they lost a sale from me.

komuchen
komuchen

@icebeam83 felt? So it actually got released?


Europe gets shafted most of the time with later release dates...

disneyskate
disneyskate

I agree. It's bull****. No other console has this. It's really, really stupid, and pretty pointless.

sanchango
sanchango

@EasyComeEasyGo  EU, and AU have a release date of March 28 and 29 respectively. NA however, has no actual release date

Klagmar1
Klagmar1

@Bowser05  They played the European version. The US version has been announced, but no release date yet ("December 31, 2014" is Gamespot's way of saying "sometime in 2014").

abHS4L88
abHS4L88

@Pwnslaught @kejong861112

And the huge library of amazing games because that's the most important thing in determining the quality of a system.

Bowser05
Bowser05

@Klagmar1  Oh ok. Thanks for clearing that up! That's probably for the better, I don't have time to play that right now XD.

Raxyman
Raxyman

@LE5LO No, actually i don't even have one, but i didn't knew they decided to bring region locks to 3DS, that kinda sucks really, i always liked that advantage PS3 had over 360. Anyways, good to know. Thanks for the info.

Professor Layton VS Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney More Info

  • First Released
    • 3DS
    Defense attorney Phoenix Wright and archeologist Hershel Layton collaborate to solve puzzles in a medieval city.
    9
    Average User RatingOut of 4 User Ratings
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    Developed by:
    Level 5
    Published by:
    Capcom, Nintendo
    Genres:
    Puzzle
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Teen
    All Platforms
    Mild Blood, Mild Suggestive Themes, Mild Violence, Use of Alcohol