A renowned attorney and a famous professor team up to defend clients accused of witchcraft. No, this is not the newest drama on a local network. This is the plot of the just released “Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney” on the Nintendo 3DS. This game is a crossover of two fun (but perhaps little-known) series of video games, “Professor Layton” and “Ace Attorney,” though it requires no previous experience with either series to enjoy.
“Vs.” takes the puzzle solving Englishman, Professor Layton, and the unrelenting defense attorney, Phoenix Wright, and drops them into Labyrinthia. Labyrinthia is a storybook world ruled by the Storyteller, whose stories dictate the world’s inescapable future. Plagued by the Great Witch Bezella, Labyrinthia holds witch trials where accused witches are found guilty and burned to purge the curse of witchery from the land. Assisting the mysterious Espella Cantabella in the first trial, Layton’s puzzling prowess and Phoenix’s dogged defense join forces to defend the innocent. Working against, and sometimes with, the Inquisitor Zacharias Barnham and his armor-wearing puppy Constantine, they must interview an array of unique personalities and investigate artful locales to end the witch trials, expose Bezella, and end the tyranny of the Storyteller.
The game is told through chapters which alternate between exploration and puzzle solving with Professor Layton and his apprentice, Luke Triton and trial segments with Phoenix Wright and his assistant Maya Fey. During exploration chapters, players travel from area to area talking to people and solving puzzles. Trial segments have Phoenix cross-examining witnesses and using evidence to find the truth behind various witch-related incidents.
Puzzles originate from the “Professor Layton” series and can be found anywhere. Most are found within the story, but some have to be sought out. Puzzles you miss are sent to a library at the end of the chapter, and completed puzzles can be replayed anytime through the Puzzle Index. Most puzzles submit themselves when you complete the assigned task, but others must have the right answer submitted from multiple choices. If you guess wrong, you’re given another chance – though the reward for solving them is reduced.
During the trial chapters from the “Ace Attorney” series, players listen to testimonies and find contradictions based on evidence. Each testimony consists of statements given by witnesses. Statements can be responded to in many ways, such as pressing witnesses, or presenting evidence. When pressed, witnesses elaborate on their statement. Other witnesses must be watched for reactions and can be questioned on their thoughts about the testimony to reveal new information. Presenting evidence can be done from the Court Record, which contains the trial’s evidence, the Grand Grimoire, which is the definitive encyclopedia of all magic, or profiles of people associated with the case. The player must present the proper evidence at the proper opportunity to arrive at the truth. Giving the wrong evidence incurs a penalty. Five penalties and it’s game over.
Finding the right solution or the true culprit can be a long and tiring process. However, help arrives in the form of hint coins that can guide to you to which witch is which. Puzzles have four hints that give progressively more detailed clues about the answer. During trials, hint coins reveal what action to take on which statement, or to narrow down the choices of evidence to present. Hint coins are abundant and can be used without penalty, making them an excellent choice if a player needs some help figuring out a conundrum or catching a witch.
Pacing is the only other major issue with “Vs.”. While chapters often seem to be drawn out, this is circumvented by the constantly evolving story, brilliant gameplay, and witty dialogue.
“Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney,” despite the title, is an excellent merger of two spectacular series. Taking two men that thrive on logic and dropping them into a world where magic rules and witches run rampant opens the door for a comical conflict between their rational discourse and the hysteria of Labyrinthia’s citizens, and allows each of their distinctive gameplay elements to shine while improving them with new twists.
The interactions between the characters are just as strong as the gameplay thanks to the genuinely funny script, and the plot keeps the player on the edge of their attorney’s bench with twists and turns worthy of the Storyteller himself. While the game can be frustrating and long, the complex story, colorful characters, and comedic dialogue more than keep your interest. If you decide not to purchase this game, all I can say is, “OBJECTION!”