This combination of two distinctly different, beloved franchises takes an archeology professor, a lawyer, witches, and shakes liberally until thoroughly mixed.
…ok sure why not. It’s not like a fantasy setting can really make Phoenix Wright’s adventures much stranger. 😉
The prologues set up things well, with related events separately running afoul of Professor Hershel Layton and Phoenix Wright. These segments serve to establish the gist of each character’s gameplay elements as well as the central characters.
In an interesting choice the art style from each separate game is kept for its characters. The mix is a little weird at first, but I got used to it quickly and it was probably a better approach than trying to force one set of iconic characters into the other world’s style. Also, the backgrounds tie it all together pretty well.
Similar to the mixing of art styles is the mix of going back and forth between the disparate gameplay mechanics. I found it jarring at first and a bit forced as during the first half of the game it was basically switching each chapter. But it ended up melding together much more naturally and seamlessly by the end.
While I’ve played and enjoyed both series, I’m traditionally more of a fan of the Phoenix Wright games. Yet here the Professor Layton elements were perhaps just a touch better, likely due to fitting the story more naturally. The trials were a bit contrived, and some of the constructions and limitations implemented to extend them (and thus the gameplay) were ridiculous.
However they were still enjoyable, and the new mechanics introduced (group testimony and related elements) were fun and well done. Also, the “railroading” feeling and unreasonable burden of proof being foisted on the defense fit the themes and historical events obviously being alluded to.
On the opposite side the puzzle elements were pretty much classic Layton. Sometimes appropriate and interwoven into the narrative well, sometimes shoehorned in, yet nearly all reasonably fun and varied in difficulty.
Once everything starts to come together, Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright uses a couple of strong, nuanced characters to anchor the plot amidst a silly supporting cast that keeps the tone from getting too dark. Parts were overly melodramatic, but that’s par for the course with both these series and it never derailed the tension.
Things just kept escalating and provided an excellent story with compelling mysteries, strong foreshadowing that simultaneously avoided spoiling things, and some phenomenally clever twists and red herrings. The story’s climax was fantastic, and overall I left Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright extremely satisfied with the journey I’d been taken on.
Highly recommended to fans of either series, just make sure to stick past the somewhat uneven start.