Video game characters come and go, but some of them stick with us and remain close to our hearts long after their series have come to a close. For me, Professor Layton is one of those beloved characters, who I will remember with fondness even though he’s solved his last puzzle in Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy. The good professor is unique in the world of gaming, and its his intelligence, compassion and accepting nature that make him a true hero in my book.
The Layton series treasures brains above brawn, and its unflappable gentleman hero is the perfect mascot for one of the best puzzle adventure franchises in gaming. Above all else, Professor Layton takes joy in solving a good puzzle. You could call him a nerd, but he wouldn’t mind. In fact, he’d remain kind and polite, merely challenging you with a pleasant brain-bender in order to share the bliss of puzzle-solving. In a world full of macho, sarcastic and bombastic video game heroes, the pleasant professor and his big brain are a breath of fresh air.
Intelligence may be rare, but an even scarcer quality in video game heroes is compassion. Professor Layton is highly motivated by compassion towards others, dropping everything to help people in need simply because it’s the right thing to do. He strives to see the best in others, even the many weird and self-centered characters he encounters on his adventures. Likewise, his gentle tutelage of his apprentice Luke shows a keen understanding of the human spirit, bringing out the best in the boy without suppressing his appropriately childish qualities.
Layton’s excellent qualities have especially shone during his second trilogy, in which he acquires a new assistant. Emmy Altava is a sprightly, highly intelligent young woman with a mean roundhouse kick. Her occasionally impetuous nature puts her at odds with Layton’s perpetually calm demeanor, but her skills often prove useful in times of trouble.
Many self-proclaimed gentlemen seem particularly concerned with the behavior of the people around them, especially women, but Professor Layton doesn’t fall into that trap. He may not always agree with the way she does things, but he never suggests that Emmy act more like a “lady,” and he’s secure enough in himself that he’s not threatened when she’s better at something than he is. That, my friends, is the mark of a true gentleman.
Unlike the many video game heroes who solve problems with their fists and guns, Professor Layton has the unique kind of courage that it takes to confront dangerous foes with the powers of logic and rationality. That he does so with kindness and without condescension makes him one of the few game characters who is not only a hero, but a role model. I doff my hat to the creators who brought Professor Layton to life, bucking the trends to give us a different kind of game helmed by a very special hero.