OSW Review | Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

Straight off the bat I have to say that I’m a huge fan of the Ace Attorney series. I’ve played every game in the series so far, but I’ve only ever played the original Professor Layton & thought it was meh. Could this mash up be the game to finally get me into Prof. Layton? Will it surpass previous Ace Attorney games, or will it be worse than the sum of its parts? Read on to find out.

Developer: Level 5
Publisher: Capcom
Console: 3DS
Reviewed by V1

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Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright (PvP for short) is a crossover story featuring the leads in two of the most prominent handheld games in recent years. Both Professor Layton & Phoenix Wright are visited by apparent witch Espella Cantabella, & upon coming into contact with a magical book are both transported to a Medieval City of Labrynthia. Once there they must team up to defend Espella from the High Inquisitor, save Labrynthia from the Great Witch & solve the mystery behind Labrynthia & it’s leader, the Storyteller.

After a long but entertaining intro, events really kick into gear once both characters have reached Labrynthia & decided to team up to save Espella. Events are always changing & just when you think you understand the situation, bam, plot twist that turns everything on its head. This is both a blessing & a curse however. On one hand it means you never know what to expect, but this comes at the cost of a logical storyline (especially at the end). I’m not a big fan of this type of storytelling, I much prefer a logical plot that can be dissected without falling apart.

Apart from the swerve happy storyline, everything else is very well made. Writing is good & the translation from Japanese to English is fantastic. It’s amazing how to manage to keep the humour intact despite having been written in Japanese. Many graphic novels fall flat here, but Factor 5 should be commended on the excellent job done here.

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I can’t believe I’m about to say this! In Layton v Wright, the story is not the best aspect of the game, it’s actually the games presentation (it pains me to say that). Yep you heard me right, in a graphic novel the story is secondary to the presentation. That’s because Factor 5 have outdone themselves in this aspect. Everything from character art, animation, setting, music, voice acting & use of 3D are exceptional. Best of all are the fully animated, fully voiced cutscenes that are used throughout the game, particularly to bookend chapters. Fans of Professr Layton are probably thinking so what, all of our games are animated & acted. Well this is a series first for Phoenix Wright (Although Dual Destinies on 3DS also has some animated scenes) & it’s fucking great!

I have to take the time to mention how great the sound is in this game. Apart from having fully voiced characters for the first time (it’s jarring at first, but it’s a great touch overall) the music for PvP is just amazing. Taking the best tracks from both series’ & remastering them with a full orchestra instead of midi is just perfect. I have no affinity for the soundtrack in Laytons games, but hearing some Ace Attorney classics performed by a full orchestra is beautiful. When you get the upperhand in a court case & THAT song kicks in, it’s just wonderful.

Unfortunately the presentation isn’t flawless. For some reason they have a mixture of character art styles throughout the game. I’m totally fine with Layton looking different to Phoenix, they look completely different in their respective games, there’s no reason to change either character to fit in. However why the citizens of Labrynthia are half Layton art style & half Phoenix Wright art style just bothers me. It’s kayfabe smashing imo, it makes more sense to keep Phoenix as the only character to have his art style, kinda like the Canadians in South Park. This bizarre choice doesn’t ruin the game, or even hurt it much, it’s just another strange design decision that I wish wasn’t present.

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PvP is a graphic novel with gameplay components from both Professor Layton & Phoenix Wright series’. The game is broken into chapters, alternating between Layton/Luke & Phoenix/Maya (although it does mix up the line-up at certain points in the game). Most of the gameplay consists of reading text, searching the environment for clues/coins & solving puzzles & feels lifted straight out of Professor Laytons games. Most of this is fairly average & it’s the strength of the characters & writing that’s the main driving force behind the game. Puzzles are a fun distraction for a few minutes but I found them to be a bit too easy, as well as very repetitive (lots of harder versions of puzzles I solved earlier). As a result I found them to be more of hindrance to the story, rather than a fun part of it. It seems like they wanted to pad out the game so they looked for excuses to add in puzzles wherever they could.

The games other main mechanic turns out to be a much more interesting one. Taken straight from the Ace Attorney games, trials feature excellent writing, great characters & lots of interesting twists. You have to listen to witness testimonies & point out inaccuracies using evidence collected during the investigation phase of the story. These are lots of fun & where most of the games challenge comes from. A new addition to trials is the ability to interrogate multiple witnesses at the same time & look for differences between their testimonies. This is a great new addition to the series & one I’d definitely like to see carry over to the main games. However it seems to me like the trials are definitely a bit easier than the main series, possibly to not alienate Layton fans (vice versa with the puzzles), but they’re still the best thing about this game.

Another disappointing aspect of the game is the investigation portion. As these parts use the Professor Layton mechanic instead of the Ace Attorney gameplay, I feel like the investigations are far too simplified. All you need to do is move to cursor around the screen until it turns orange & then you’ll be given all the information you need. I miss questioning the witnesses & using my evidence to solve the mystery of the crime scene. I understand this is a crossover game & not a full Ace Attorney game, but more care should’ve been taken to make the investigation feel important & not just like a story segment.

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Good Points:
• Great to see these two characters come face to face
• Awesome animated & fully voiced cutscenes
• Great music
• Amazing new mechanics in trials
• Great use of 3D

Bad Points:
• Lack of investigations for trials
• Puzzles are far too easy
• Puzzle repitition
• Prof. Layton is a bit of a dickhead
• Story falls apart by the end

Final Thoughts: Professor Layton v Phoenix Wright feels like a missed opportunity. It starts off very well & adds some great mechanics too, but the story loses steam quickly & is flat out ridiculous by the end. I also thought that Phoenix Wright is basically jobbed out to Layton. Wright doesn’t tell Layton how to solve puzzles, so why is Layton figuring out vital info in trials? (Well the game is made by Prof. Layton developers, that’s why!).

Overall, this game is still decent & worth while playing for fans of either series, but I wouldn’t recommend it for new fans. Also remember that it’s the worst Phoenix Wright game ever made & the puzzles are far too easy, so it may be a turn off for Layton fans. 6.5/10

6.5-10 stars


Release Date
November 22, 2014