Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy Review
Professor Layton gets around fast. Western shores only saw the Professor’s first game in 2008, and in just five years Layton and Luke have starred in five games and a movie, not to mention a Japan-exclusive title co-starring Ace Attorney’s Phoenix Wright. Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy is the sixth game in this series, and it proves to be a worthy entry.
First off, let’s be clear: This is not a good starting point in the series. The Professor Layton series consists of two trilogies, and The Azran Legacy is the final title in the second trilogy, a prequel trilogy. If you want to understand the overarcing storyline and better know the characters, then this isn’t a good place to start. Although the stories of past games are recapped briefly, it’s certainly best to play through them to better understand the story.
For those of you who don’t know, the Professor Layton series is part visual novel, part puzzle game, and part point-and-click adventure. The bulk of the gameplay will be reading conversations between characters and solving puzzles. This might not sound exciting, but this is what the Professor Layton series is all about, and the story is good enough to warrant hours worth of reading. Of course this story is also carried by some brilliantly written characters, which have some decent voice acted scenes in some of the more important story sequences. If you don’t feel some sort of empathy or bond with any of the characters after a few hours playing, then you have no soul! They are charming throughout.
Graphically, the game is perfectly functional, but not necessarily exciting. Characters are rendered in 3D when they are on screen conversing, but backgrounds are mostly static images, although they do feel more alive than they have done before, thanks to the 3DS’ stereoscopic 3D, which works fabulously with this game.
Puzzle solving is always different and constantly addictive. There’s a range of puzzles, from simple math, logic puzzles and the odd action minigame. Unless you’re the kind that really hates using your brain, then you’ll be hard pressed to find Layton’s puzzles boring or repetitive. Admittedly they can sometimes be rather taxing, which would be frustrating if the puzzle is necessary for story progression, but luckily you have a selection of hints to unlock, just like earlier games in the series. The first hint will be minor, and by the time you unlock four hints, the game will basically have given the answer to you. Using these hints are of course entirely optional, and it’s naturally recommended that you persevere as far as possible without them for full puzzle-solving satisfaction.
On top of these, the games supplies you with several minigames, including Dress Up, Nut Roller and Blooms & Shrooms. These minigames have more stages as you progress through the game, and again, stages vary from entirely straight-forward, to ridiculously frustrating. Again, these are entirely optional. Not everyone is as likely to be enamoured by these minigames as the rest of the game, as they don’t feel as robust as the rest of the game is. Despite this, Professor Layton fans looking to increase the game’s longevity as much as possible will find them enjoyable enough.
And of course, all of the above is accompanied by a lovely soundtrack. The entire Professor Layton series has a lovely soundtrack, but it feels more alive than ever, with gentle “thinking music” playing during puzzle solving, or a gentle orchestral track whilst walking about town. From start to finish, the audio, much like the rest of the game, feels high quality.