Published Aug 29, 2014Pop culture loves its crossovers, be it Spidey teaming up with Superman in comic books, Aliens taking on Predators onscreen or the Simpsons visiting Quahog on TV. Gaming has long dabbled in it, too, albeit mostly in fighting games like Super Smash Bros.or Olympics compilations pitting Mario against Sonic.
Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is a more ambitious amalgam, however, as it tries to mash-up two of Japan's most popular handheld franchises.
The former is a 15-million-selling puzzle adventure series from Level-5, the studio behind epic RPGs like Dragon Quest VIII and Ni No Kuni, which follows the top-hatted British Prof and his apprentice Luke as they visits various towns and solve an overarching mystery by answering brain-teasers.
Layton was actually inspired by another DS icon — an ace attorney named Phoenix Wright. This Capcom adventure series, which has since been spun off in Japan into manga, musicals and a movie, puts players in the role of a defense attorney trying to clear clients through field investigations and courtroom cross-examinations.
Both long-running DS/3DS series favour intellect over action and are rooted in anime and rely heavily on text, but their respective art design and gameplay mechanics are considerably different. This crossover game gets around that by magically transporting the protagonists from their usual, relatively modern-day stomping grounds to a medieval fantasy world called Labyrinthia and then flipping between character-based modes.
Layton employs his usual point-and-click puzzle-solving while Wright works the witness stand as they try and save a young girl from a witch trial. In between, we are treated to high production value cut-scenes that could almost be their own movie.
While the characters and gameplay styles could have been blended together a little more rather than switching back and forth, it doesn't discount how fun those styles remain, and it's a treat in the instances when Phoenix goes evidence-gathering and Layton gets involved in the trial itself.
Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney took two years to be localized for English audiences, but fans of either series should be satisfied that the creators cracked the crossover case. Meanwhile, newcomers won't object to the fact that they now have so many previous games to catch up on. (Level-5/Capcom)