Review: Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy for Nintendo 3DS

Like his hat, Professor Layton goes out on top.

In Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy, the good eponymous professor is at the top of his game. Which, in a way, is a sad shame, seeing as this marks the last of his adventures (barring an upcoming crossover with a certain Ace Attorney). On the bright side, at least he’s going out on a high note.

Before I go on, I have to confess that while I have played some of the games in the Professor Layton series, I have not (yet) played them all. This includes the series’ Nintendo 3DS debut, Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask, so I might wind up retreading a few things that game has already done.

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Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy is the third installment in the second trilogy of Professor Layton games, which serve as prequels to the original three games which were released for the Nintendo DS. The story begins when Layton, his assistant Emmy, and his protege in becoming a good gentleman, Luke, heed the summons of archaeologist Professor Sycamore by boarding the airship Bostonius to visit frosty Froenberg. It’s there that Sycamore claims to have made a most astounding discovery: A living mummy.

Given the rather narrative-heavy nature of the game, I’ll refrain from delving much deeper than that for risk of spoilers. If you’re familiar with Professor Layton, then you should have a pretty good idea of what to expect in this latest outing. If not, then one should expect a tale of adventure and action which in some ways feels reminiscent of the style of Uncle Scrooge/DuckTales or Indiana Jones (evident in the style of the games’ titles), albeit with its own flair, style, and charms which stand apart and don’t feel derivative; feeling cut from the same cloth, rather than like a copycat.

Despite its place in the series and being a story-centric game featuring lots of character dialogue, interaction, and cutscenes, the game does a pretty good job of welcoming newcomers (or those who might have missed a chapter here or there) and keeping you from really feeling lost. There are benefits to having played previous games in the series, to be sure, and particularly the last two games, which have a more direct connection to this one. Nonetheless, they feel less like a prerequisite, and if anything, playing this adventure should only serve to encourage you to look into previous offerings.

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A hallmark of the Professor Layton series is frequently stopping to solve puzzles presented to you, and The Azran Legacy is no different in this regard. However, where it does differ is in how they are presented.

In previous titles, many puzzles had a rather abstract place in the narrative. Layton’s world is almost unnaturally obsessed with puzzle-solving, and many times, progress requires helping to solve them. But often enough, the puzzles themselves felt arbitrary to what was going on around the characters and the story.

This time out, though, the puzzles feel more closely woven into the narrative, or related to the surroundings you find yourself in… most of the time. Though one of the lead characters is still bound to roll out the “this reminds me of a puzzle” chestnut for one of the others, many are related to actual dilemmas being faced by the people you meet. Other times, it’s woven even more directly in, such as during an aerial chase where you have to blast drones and missiles with certain criteria out of the air, unlocking a door’s security mechanism, or evading a series of hooks you must bypass in order to make your escape.

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Suffice to say, it’s a refreshing change, as in previous games I would sometimes find myself drawn into the narrative, only to be snapped out of it by a sudden puzzle. I enjoy the puzzles, but instead of an either/or proposition, this feels much more organic and enjoyable to me. It’s just a shame that it didn’t come a little sooner than the sixth game of the series.

As for the puzzles themselves, they are a variety of brain teasers which range from simple to downright devious. Tying back into their place in the narrative, you’ll find some with outside the box thinking– a regular math problem, for example, can present you with the rough equivalent of “How many pieces of chicken do we need to feed x number of people? None, there’s a pizza place right here.” Perhaps not as bad as all that, but devious enough just the same, at least when you first realize what they’re expecting of you.

On that note, the game isn’t lacking for puzzle content, either. In addition to those you’ll encounter in your journey, you’ll occasionally be gifted other puzzles from some of the people you help, capable of being played at any time during the game and added to as you progress. Then there are even more to come each day from SpotPass for a full year, with the option for more still through StreetPassing with other players (who you can share some of your own with as well).

So in addition to a fun story, there’s still plenty of additional content to enjoy well after the credits roll. The only downside for some might be that there is no carry-over of the Professor Layton’s London Life role playing game featured in Professor Layton and the Last Specter.

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Exploration is a bit more streamlined now, too. Rather than almost randomly poking at spots which may be of interest in each setting, you activate an investigative mode which allows you to drag a magnifying glass around the area (now rendered in 3D, giving you a better view of your surroundings). When it turns orange, you simply tap it again to look closer into that particular area, object, or person. This also makes valuable Hint Coins for solving the more fiendish puzzles a bit easier, too.

In addition, certain segments allow you to “zoom in,” such as houses you can enter and explore, further deepening the process. You’ll also eventually find there are all sorts of numerous knickknacks which you can collect for fun, as well as a series of five MacGuffins tied to the game’s central plot.

Eventually, you’ll come to a point where the exploration opens up beyond the confines of a linear path. Traveling with the Bostonius, you’ll visit different parts of the world and even be able to backtrack a bit as desired as you continue to work towards solving the mystery of the ancient Azran civilization.

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Really, there is little if anything particularly bad to say about Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy. If you have any experience with the series, you should have a good idea of what you’re getting into already, whether you like it or not. Unless the abstraction of some puzzles was your big hang-up, then you probably won’t find a lot here likely to change your mind.

That said, the game is filled with charm, and is enjoyable in a way few others manage. The voices, the characters, the music– everything works together in harmony to create a unique and enjoyable version of our world where puzzles are king.

Perhaps the worst thing about it is that, upcoming crossover aside, this currently marks the end of the road for Professor Layton (though minds can always change; see the case of one Wright, Phoenix, after turning his series over to Apollo Justice). Still, there are plenty of worse things than going out at the top of your game.

3DS_ProLay_BoxArtProfessor Layton and the Azran Legacy was released for the Nintendo 3DS on February 28th, 2014 at a price of $39.99.

A review copy was provided by Nintendo of Canada.


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David Oxford

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you're interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.