There are some video game team-ups over the years that were just meant to happen, but never like this. Although there are a few hiccups along the way, “Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney” is one of them.
One’s a dashing lawyer and the other is a gentleman detective. One grills criminals on the witness stand and the other helps the police catch them before they get to court. Despite their different methods and vastly different personalities, Phoenix Wright and Professor Layton’s adventure on the Nintendo 3DS works solely because the gameplay mechanics that drive both series blend so well together that at times, it’ll feel as if they were always a team.
With great visuals and a one-of-a-kind story that takes both characters- and some of their friends, out of their comfort zones, Phoenix and Layton turn in a "storybook" performance. Although less time with the spotlight sometimes limits the game’s overall charm, there’s just enough challenge and fun to keep veterans of both series happy and attract new fans.
Overall, it’s the sum of all the parts that make “Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney” something special. Covered with polish from the music, voice-overs and story, combined with the tried-and-true gameplay that has won over countless gamers over the past decade, its incredibly difficult to hate this entry into both of these acclaimed cult classic series.
Some of the Best Cutscenes on the 3DS, ever: If this game were ever to turn into an anime, there would be plenty who would want to see it. Even for gamers who aren’t fans of the puzzle and courtroom drama, the visuals in the cut-scenes are absolutely beautiful and easily some of the best ever seen on a Nintendo handheld.
Wonderful Sound: The music in the courtroom gets your blood-pressure going and while with the Professor and Luke, there’s always the feeling something mysterious is afoot. The same thing goes for the voice-overs. Clear, but brimming with emotion, the voice work is super solid. While it’s always the norm to keep the volume low on your handheld, especially in a public place, “Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney” is a huge exception. Bring your headphones- you won’t regret it.
Excellent Use of 3D Backgrounds: The backgrounds, especially in the Layton scenes early in the game are wonderfully drawn, but in 3D, there’s so much to look at. You’ll almost want to slow down and make sure you look at every nook and cranny of the screen to take it all in. Considering that this is the key to success in the game as well, Level 5 and Capcom did a great job with the 3D aspect of the game, something many developers on the 3DS don’t take into complete consideration anymore.
Fun Script: The whimsical, yet mystical word of Professor Layton is intact, as well as the high-octane, but weird and wacky atmosphere of Phoenix Wright. Over the course of the adventure, you’ll surely laugh and be intrigued, but most importantly, you’ll think. Despite having to split time with another equally as charismatic main character, both Layton and Wright still manage to entertain- it’s a fact that cannot be forgotten here. Regardless of which character you enjoy more, you’ll find plenty to like in both of them over the course of this wild tale.
Slightly Watered-Down: While none of the puzzles are mega easy, the overall difficulty of the game is a notch lower than what you would normally expect. While it doesn’t ruin the fun factor and makes the game more accessible to those who haven’t played either series before, it’s almost a little too forgiving.
Art Styles Don’t Exactly Mesh: While both sets of characters look better than they ever have before on a handheld, they just look weird on the same screen together. Perhaps it’s the Professor and Luke’s beady eyes and line lips, contrasting with the anime-inspired look of Mr. Wright, but it ultimately feels like an episode of “South Park” when Terrance and Phillip or any other Canadian is on-screen with Kyle, Stan, Cartman and Kenny.
Prologue is Too Long: It takes about two hours until the game really gets started. For those who have never played either series before, it’s no biggie, as there’s a lot to take in. For fans of both Layton and Wright however, it’ll feel like an eternity before the fun begins.
Story Takes Characters From Their Home: While this review is spoiler free, we will say that there isn’t nearly as much interaction, if any at all, between the secondary characters as you’d expect. Being a mash-up, it would have been cool to see both Layton and Phoenix in each other’s worlds and not a brand-new one.
“Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney” is an enjoyable adventure that is best suited for fans of both series and not a dedicated gamer of one series and not the other. Although it’s a delicate balancing act of different characters, the game has a fun, far-reaching and original story that takes Layton and Wright, as well as the player-to a place they’ve never been before- and probably never will be again. Overall, despite the lack of mega difficult puzzles and court room drama that have made both games so much fun over the years, the slightly-more fan-friendly mash-up does every one proud enough.