Fine finale to Layton prequel trilogy

Updated: 2014-03-21 08:45

By Eric Jou (China Daily)

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Since the release of Professor Layton and the Curious Village, Nintendo has been releasing a different Layton game every year. While it may seem that constantly rehashing and milking of a franchise for money is a bad thing, the Layton games have been getting better, and Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy makes a fine finale to the Layton prequel trilogy.

First released in the West in 2008 (2007 in Japan) Level-5's puzzle-solving game finished its first trilogy in 2010 (2008 Japan) with Professor Layton and the Unwound Future. The current trilogy began in 2011 (2009 in Japan) and is a prequel to the first trilogy, making it akin to Star Wars. The difference here is that the Layton prequels are actually good and on par with the first trilogy.

Taking place just a few months after the previous Layton game, professor Layton and his trusty assistants Luke and Emmy are wrapped up in another mystery, this time involving a living mummy. Not to give too much away but the game concludes in a satisfying manner that ties up Professor Layton and the Last Spector and The Miracle Mask. Of course, that's not to say that the games aren't enjoyable in their own right.

Each Layton game is a game of puzzles. The player solves a series of riddles and puzzles to advance through the game. The player is given a map that they can look at and interact with. Occasionally an object or character will give the player a clue to solve the puzzle. If the puzzle is solved correctly, the player will be given "picarats", essentially points for solving a puzzle. Scattered throughout the game are hint coins that can be used to unlock hints on all puzzles.

In terms of puzzles, if you've played a Layton game before, the puzzles are more or less the same. That doesn't mean the puzzles are easy or repeats. They may be rehashes of similar mechanics but each puzzle and riddle, arguably, has its own charm.

The only major difference this time around is that the narrative for the story is told in a larger fashion. The player can choose how and when to complete a portion of the game instead of following a rigid narrative.

Graphically speaking, Professor Layton retains its beautiful hand-drawn Japanese anime style. The characters are in color, cute and distinct. The art style works well, and its transition from 2-D to 3-D on the Nintendo 3DS worked very well in The Miracle Mask that it only looks more polished in The Azran Legacy.

Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy is a solid game. While it's not hard for a game prequel to be better than original series because of new technologies, it is hard for it to match the originals' brilliance. For Level-5 to have put this much thought and polish into the series is an achievement itself.

If games and movies could be judged on the same scale, the Layton series would put Star Wars to shame. With its pleasing artwork, calm music and head-scratcher puzzle, the Layton series is a game definitely worth picking up for fans of the series and new players alike.

 Fine finale to Layton prequel trilogy

Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy makes up the third part of the prequel trilogy of games.

Fine finale to Layton prequel trilogy

(China Daily 03/21/2014 page22)