By Guy Rainey / March 22nd, 2014
|Title||Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy|
|Release Date||February 28, 2014|
Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy marks the end of an era. It is the last game that will star the brilliant English gentleman, and that makes me sad. I’m also incredibly proud of what the series has accomplished up to this point, and this is the culmination of everything the series has done right, with only a few missteps.
Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy is the end of a stronger trilogy than the original games were. While the original games had a cast of recurring characters and mysteries, they were more self-contained stories. While each of the games in the prequel trilogy stand on their own, there’s also a much stronger over-arching story that ties them together. The Azran were a highly advanced civilization– having technology that far surpassed anything we have achieved. They went extinct for unknown reasons, but their ruins and artifacts are highly valued. Over the course of the prequel games (and the animated movie), important Azran ruins have been unearthed. Now, it’s time to unearth the titular Azran legacy and learn about the rise and fall of their civilization. I can’t think of a better way to wrap up this story.
The story begins with the Layton team boarding the Bostonious, a luxurious airship owned by one archeologist Professor Desmond Sycamore. Professor Sycamore has summoned Professor Layton to join in the excavation of a “living mummy.” This living mummy turns out to be Aurora, a member of the Azran civilization. Aurora’s duty is to give the legacy of the Azran to a society that is suitably developed. This is tested by logic puzzles. Isn’t that convenient?
Here’s an image of Professor Sycamore. He’ll come along with the team for this adventure (and, since he owns the Bostonious, no one is going to object). If you’ve played the prequel games, you may recognize him. If you do, I’d like to discuss it, so spoiler warning to those of you who haven’t figured it out yet. Yes, Desmond Sycamore is Descole, and now, Layton doesn’t figure it out right away. Since I figured this out right away, I think it’s safe to assume that it’s supposed to be obvious (on hinted twists like this, I’m usually incredibly slow on the uptake). And I actually like knowing that this new companion is Descole. The fact is, aside from his flair for the theatrical, we really don’t know all that much about Descole. He’s been more of a plot point than a character thus far, so having him join the team for most of the game means we get to learn about him. He becomes a very relatable character over the course of the story, and, by the end, I think that he’s a better, more interesting villain than Don Paulo.
Aside from Sycamore, Aurora is also a fun character to have around. She’s been asleep for a million years, so everything about Layton’s world is new for her. She’s so sweet and naive, and she’s got a wonderful Scottish accent (which I wish we could hear more than we do). You can’t help but love her.
Unlike previous Professor Layton games where you were confined to exploring one city, this game features world travel, thanks to the Bostonious. There are eight small environments you explore– each with their own small story arcs. They all tie back to the main plot in some way, but are mostly self-contained stories so that players can choose in which order they wish to complete them.
The Layton games have always been the best kind of visual novel, in my opinion. Rather than having the experience be akin to reading a book, the Layton games allow the player to explore the game. The focus is still on a carefully crafted story, but it gives the player a feeling of control that other visual novels lack.
As always, Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy is an interactive puzzle book. You’ll talk to characters, who will ask you to solve a puzzle. These puzzles will usually be in the form of logic or mathematical puzzles. These puzzles are worth picarats, which unlock bonuses at the end of the game. If you get stuck, you can spend Hint Coins to give you some hints. I know this sounds like old hat to Layton fans, but that’s because it works.
The puzzles in this game are pretty good. There are very few of the infamous moving block puzzles. Though there are certainly some more aggravating puzzles (the type shown above is the bane of my existence), the number of puzzles that can’t be solved by a combination of trial and error and logical thinking are very low.
In the DS Professor Layton games, any puzzle interaction was displayed on the touch screen, with the top screen displaying the puzzle instructions. However, with the move to 3DS, the puzzles have become a lot more dynamic, like the one above. The top screen is displaying a 3D space that you must rotate to find the solution to the puzzle. It opens up clever new puzzle opportunities that I usually enjoyed.
The memo function is incredibly well implemented, giving players a few simple tools that makes taking notes a simple task. You can choose the color of your pen and the thickness of your lines. You can clear the entire screen. You can backtrack in your notes. This all helps to make taking notes as painless a process as possible.
The presentation in this game is the best it has ever been. The 3D models look nice and sharp, the anime cutscenes look incredible, and the backgrounds are more dynamic than ever (just look at that pumpkin). The music is also terrific, but that’s been the case in every Layton game, so it almost doesn’t seem worth mentioning. Still, I was stunned with the presentation. Level-5 did a really good job.
When I first heard that Nintendo of Europe was handling the localization of this game, I was confused; Nintendo of America has handled all the localisations for the series in the past, so why the switch? I still don’t know the answer, but now that I’ve seen it, I wish this had been the case all along. After, Professor Layton is a British gentlemen. It makes sense that he would use British idioms and spellings. Layton and his crew now feel genuinely British, rather than just having fancy British accents.
Honestly, this is another good Layton game. It took me 20 hours to get through the excellent main story. The base game includes 165 puzzles, and, like previous games, there’s a year’s worth of puzzles to be downloaded for those who are so inclined. For $40, that’s a pretty good value. That’s not really shocking, since all the Layton games have been good, if not for everyone. This one still doesn’t have the emotional weight of Professor Layton and the Unwound Future, but it’s still Layton in top form. If you love the Layton games, you’ll love this one. But if you haven’t been able to get into the Layton games, this will not change your mind.
Review copy supplied by author.
Professor LaytonProfessor Layton and the Azran Legacy