Finishing With a Bang!
Fans and critics alike cannot deny that the Professor Layton series has had an incredible run. Quirky storylines and oddball characters compelled to stump our protagonist with mind-boggling brain teasers? But it has worked now for six years, and though each new entry struggles with originality, the overall package is simply too charming to dismiss. Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy is the final game of the prequel trilogy, and the last title with our titular top hat wearing hero. Though not as emotionally wrenching a finale as we have seen from past adventures, it is still ripe with plot twists and gotcha moments.
After receiving an intriguing letter from a Professor Sycamore, Layton and his two assistants Emmy and Luke are escorted via airship to a lavish winter resort town called Froenberg to assist with a mystery involving a “living mummy”. New characters carve their way into our hearts and ire, with plenty of cameos from past performers. Of course, the locals in all the venues are rife with oddities, and always seem to be stumped on a puzzle that our team cannot ignore.
After a few chapters, the story dispenses with some of the linearity we have come to expect in the series. With your airborne vehicle called the Bostonius, mysteries surrounding five “keys” needed to unlock the secrets of the Azran civilization can be tackled in any order you choose. You also have the luxury to return to any previously visited location to scavenge for puzzle helping Hint Coins and other collectibles. This flexibility doesn’t affect the flow of the story, but it’s nice to have the freedom to change vistas at your convenience. Also, travelling to jungles, deserts, coastal resorts, and even London, gives Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy a breadth we hadn’t seen in previous titles.
An interesting storyline and whimsical cast is only half of the appeal of any Professor Layton game. It’s still a puzzler first and foremost. Likely not being the first game of the series that a new player will pick up, you’ll find that of the 150 puzzles in the campaign and nearly 400 expected through the course of a year afterwards, plenty of concepts will feel familiar. Also, the game still doesn’t use the 3D feature or motion controls to a degree that would be considered revolutionary. That said, though I’ve tackled far more challenging puzzles in previous entries, Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy has riddles laced with layers. Multiple factors are integrated into each which give them more girth. So instead of simply 2 + 2 = 4, it feels more like 2 x (9 + 5) ÷ 4 – 3, which of course still equals 4.
I was less impressed with the trio of minigames to unlock and build throughout the adventure. Dress Up has the most inclusion within the story, as characters enlist your secondary skill as a fashion guru to complete a top to bottom look for them. Success will have them don the new duds for the rest of the game. It feels more like a dating sim than anything, tugging at people’s vanity. Nutty Roller and Bloom Burst are self-contained minigames, with the former tasking you to deal with obstacles to allow a walnut to reach the goal tent, and the latter asking you to turn a neglected garden into a flowery paradise by arranging flowers in a precise pattern. New boards are unlocked as you progress through the main story, but unlike some past minigames, the excitement of earning a new piece to the progressive puzzles just isn’t there, and the practical use of your side quest skills has no significance in the campaign.
The Daily Puzzles accessed through the Bonuses section of the main menu are far more enticing. You get twenty freebies to start, and can download a new puzzle every day for one year. These puzzles are paired with achievements that award you set pieces to place in various mini dioramas. It’s an endearing little extra that is complete with satisfaction.
Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy is also the first game of the series to make use of the StreetPass feature. Each destination has some “not-so-hidden” objects that can be added to your folder. You can then choose three for a scavenger hunt to send to anybody you pass, and you’ll receive theirs. If StreetPass is a seldom used feature for you, Play Coins can be spent instead to fill up you quest log. You earn points for successful finds which can then be spent on practical gifts such as Hint Coins, and more superficial curios to add to your collection.
The game never strays too far from a well presented cutscene or story pushing conversation, and from start to finish you’ll feel as though you are fully a part of a blockbuster narrative on the big screen. The muted and earthy colors pervade most of the way through, but the style is as genuine to the series as any other element of Professor Layton games that simply can’t be replicated. Each screen allows you to guide your investigative magnifying glass beyond the boundaries, offering a much more panoramic view of the area. The only downside is that the cinematics paired with the 3D effect will drain your system battery in a hurry.
As in the past, the violin takes the lead in almost all the orchestrations, playing to the mood as it changes. Everything fits the period where rules of etiquette persist, and the music feeds off of that sentiment, though doesn’t shy away from building percussions during the more gripping moments. The exceptional voice acting comes from a team that understands the design after numerous forays into the world of our gentleman hero.
Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy is the apt way to finish the trilogy, tidying up all the loose ends of the prequel series, and leaving a fresh start as Layton and Luke drive towards a “Curious Village”. The puzzles may have a slight lack of originality, but they are superbly crafted yet not overbearing. I would have enjoyed some more engaging minigames, but there are still plenty of other diversions to lose dozens of hours in. It’s bittersweet to envision this as the final game for Hershel Layton. I feel like the series has run its proper course, but still find it hard to swallow a future without a game as unique as Professor Layton .
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.2 Graphics
There are plenty of cinematics and a unique art style to enjoy, but it still feels a little lacking of the system’s hardware. 3.2 Control
The series still struggles with finding the right interface formula, or perhaps that was an intended puzzle all along. 4.4 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Finely tuned melodies and well performed voice acting. However, it’s an overall tune you’ve heard from past games, so it may feel a little stale. 4.0 Play Value
A great conclusion to a great trilogy, and hundreds of puzzles to keep you busy. Minigames from previous titles have been the highlight, but fall short in this final entry. 4.0 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend|
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid||2.5 – 2.9 = Average||3.5 – 3.9 = Good||4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy|
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor||3.0 – 3.4 = Fair||4.0 – 4.4 = Great||5.0 = The Best|