Now with twice the finger-pointing!
Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney may seem like wild, out-of-the-box horseplay, but Capcom is a publisher known for crossover hybrids with other properties like Street Fighter X Tekken, Project X Zone, Marvel vs. Capcom, and Capcom vs. SNK. Not only is it encouraging to find a developer that's so willing to collaborate with others, but it's a calculated, concerted marketing effort to reach gaming audiences of different brands. While Capcom and Level-5 don't have prior experience combining two puzzle-based franchises together, and the entire concept seems downright ridiculous on paper, the blend is surprisingly cohesive and agreeably straddles the line between logic-intensive riddles and comic relief.
For all intents and purposes, Professor Layton and Phoenix Wright stumble into a friendly, symbiotic relationship that belies the "vs." in the game title. Maybe this particular word choice is meant to reference Capcom's past crossover titles or maybe they figure that "versus" gets gaming nerds all riled up. But apart from a specific instance near the endgame, Hershel and Nick along with their sidekicks Luke and Maya become fast friends, combining their puzzle-solving prowess to clear the name of Espella Cantabella, a teenage girl who looks as innocent as Red Riding Hood but has been accused of being a witch. Both dynamic duos, mysteriously misplaced from the real world and plopped into the fantastical city named Labyrinthia with knights, parades, and inquisitors, must gather evidence and disentangle several magical murders to free Espella from being burned alive in the guilty-before-proven-innocent witch trials.
Certainly, something is amiss in Labyrinthia, which is populated by citizens who seem to come straight out of a Renaissance Fair reenactment, inquisitors who dispense justice against all that is perceived as magic (which is almost everything foreign), and a Storyteller who mystically predicts all that will happen in the future of the town. The story steadily unveils itself as the motley crew uncovers the truth behind the town's mysteries. However, the ending and especially the epilogue resolve the multi-layered plot with an information dump that feels rushed, melodramatic, and silly even for a Phoenix Wright title.
Despite the inclusion of magic into the court proceedings, fans of either franchise (or both) will be familiar with the ten chapters of gameplay. On the Professor Layton side, you will need to complete various brainteasers posed by the townfolk and tap on the environment for hint coins. On the Phoenix Wright side, you will lightly investigate crime scenes before presenting evidence in court to show contradictions in the testimony of the witnesses on the stand. For clarity, this installment introduces group cross-examinations where testimony is presented across multiple characters. This might sound bloated and over-complicated, but the length of each testimony remains succinct and it opens Phoenix to reveal inconsistencies between statements made by different witnesses.
The main campaign of PLvPW grabs about half of what you would expect from a game from each franchise and combines them together into an adventure that lasts more than fifteen hours. To be exact, the game includes 70 puzzles (most Professor Layton games have about 150) and three courtroom trials (most Phoenix Wright titles have about five or six). Due to the lower number of puzzles, a larger percentage of them are integrated into the story, and since all three courtroom cases deal with witchcraft, the cohesion between them holds strong.
Characters from both camps will swap roles as well throughout the game just to mix up the interactions between the characters. And you'll see Layton in the courtroom while Wright solves math problems. Better yet, you can use hint coins to help with courtroom cases, where it can easily become confusing how to approach and trigger the right moment to present the right evidence. Hint coins help eliminate the wrong answers, so that you can focus on how the remaining pieces in the Court Record might snuff out a contradiction.
Professor Layton and Phoenix Wright make for a odd couple who complement each other surprisingly well, with the former bringing additional side puzzles and the latter bringing weight to the story. If that is'nt enough, the silly interactions between the main cast of characters are worth the price of admission. Though the ending wraps the story up a bit too neatly and the lasting value sharply drops off once you complete the game, Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright points its fingers with the best of them.