|Dev: Level-5, Capcom|
|Pub: Level-5, Nintendo|
|Release: August 29, 2014|
|Screen Resolution: N/A||Mild Blood, Mild Suggestive Themes, Mild Violence, Use of Alcohol|
by Sean Engemann
Two of Nintendo's most beloved adventuring icons find themselves within a common universe to solve a fantastical enigma and save their future. Of course, the adventures of Professor Layton involve panning through locations for clues and brain-teasers, while lawyer Phoenix Wright's exploits involve courtroom drama and decisive objections to contradictory witness testimonies. It's two distinctly different gameplay styles lovingly paired together by developers Level-5 and Capcom to ensure that fans of both series are given equal acknowledgment.
The lengthy two-part prologue spills the exposition of the story, as well as tutorials for both Professor Layton's puzzle attracting mechanics and the series of courtroom interplay between Phoenix Wright, the witnesses, the prosecution, and the judge. The two titular heroes begin on separate paths, though a suspected witch from a Medieval land known as Labyrinthia becomes a merging character that has both our heroes and their faithful companions transported into the supernatural world via a book called Historia Labyrinthia.
Don't let the dueling title fool you, for when our protagonist's paths intersect, a battle of wit mastery is the furthest thing from their minds. After all, being a gentleman is always the first priority of our top hat donned professor, and Phoenix Wright has never wavered in his commitment to defend the innocent. They may each excel in their respective battlefields, but it is a mutually beneficial partnership formed to depose an evil threat.
The story itself, however, falls a little flat when set against the individual exploits of both our heroes. The adventure is very text heavy, having you sift through dozens of screens of script, oftentimes delivering information you likely deduced on your own before the social exchange. Only a smattering of characters from either series makes a cameo. Instead, Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney introduces an assortment of medieval archetypes and clichéd townsfolk in Labyrinthia. Unfortunately few of them weave an interesting tale. The progression throughout is slow, but the trials our quartet must endure is gripping enough that you'll press on.
The decent amount of brain-teasers à la Professor Layton show off a variety of ways to tax your brain, with clever uses of the touch screen. However, veterans of the series will find little originality, and not much weight on the difficulty scale. As usual you can peruse the screen for Hint Coins to help you though any stumpers, but these tokens also crossover to the courtroom side, aiding equally as much during witness testimonies. Here, using Hint Coins will guide you to which section of the statement should be pressed, and eliminate some evidence pieces when proposing an objection.
The courtroom scenes have more impact than the investigation process, with flamboyant witnesses full of quirks, slap-in-the-face humor, and a flurry of screen slamming exclamations such as, "Objection!" and "Hold it!". Sometimes our litigator must handle multiple witnesses at once, with their accounts changing on the fly to try and weasel themselves out of a bind. Delivering blow after blow of evidence backed challenges to the falsified statements builds to climactic conclusions, leaving the audience gasping to almost overwhelming levels. Though one series never tries to outshine the other willingly, the courtroom drama certain provides the adrenaline.