What initially may seem as a bizarre combination has actually turned out to be quite ingenious. Despite different approaches to everything from character designs to gameplay, the courtroom drama of Phoenix Wright and the puzzle solving antics of Layton have melded into something that not once felt out of place. It wasn’t long before we were sucked into the world and wanted to uncover every last mystery of Labyrinthia.
Labyrinthia being the mysterious town Phoenix, Layton, Maya and Luke find themselves in after an opening prologue where we’re re-introduced to the two gameplay styles present. Layton’s puzzle solving skills are required again, there are a good range of puzzles here, some of which required a lot of thought (or Hint Coins) if you happen to have them. Phoenix Wright once again enters the courtroom with testimonies, evidence and objections all present and accounted for. That’s not to say each character is locked to their specific gameplay style. Phoenix will often aid in tackling puzzles and Layton himself will be no stranger to the courtroom as the game progresses.
Set around the world of witchcraft and magic, both series’ have always had to endure a leap of logic when it comes to the plot, but none quite so drastic. If you’re not on board with the story from the opening few scenes then you may never be. Admittedly it took us a while to truly be on board as Phoenix Wright, who is usually grounded a lot more in the real world, albeit an incredibly fantastical one, was seemingly transported into a magical book. Even though the game manages to wrap everything up quite neatly, toning down the absurdity in the process, there were still questions left unanswered that the writers probably hoped people had forgot about. Chances are you’ll be carried along for the ride though, it’s only when you’re given time to really reflect on what you played that a few holes start to appear.
What really helps you be taken into the story, no matter how weird it gets is the writing, which has always been a strong point in both series. Writing is sharp and witty with all characters getting suitable time to shine. Newer characters, such as Barnham, who often clashes swords with Phoenix in the courtroom, are also great additions. Even the more irritating characters, such as the loud mouth drunk that you bump into numerous times, has his charm.
The gameplay then manages to mesh both styles surprisingly well. This is also the case with the music. That great Phoenix Wright theme manages to transition effortlessly into Layton’s. And yes, when it’s all coming to a head in the courtroom the music ramps up, and with one solid “Objection” that theme begins to play. This usually accompanied by the traditional finger pointing animation, with Layton now getting in on the action. Graphically the game looks lovely, with only a few dropped frames, usually when more than one character is animating, but it’s barely noticeable.
Despite playing two both fanbases, it’s not just about taking what already exists, at least with the courtroom portion. For the first time in the series there can be multiple witnesses giving testimonies at any one time. So as one testimony is given the other witness could appear shocked at something heard (accompanied with a sound effect) it’s at this point the person could be questioned. It doesn’t change the gameplay in any major way, but is a nice new addition that could work well in future, solo, Phoenix Wright adventures.
A successful combination of both Layton and Wright. Maybe a little lengthy for its own good, with a story that could have ended a couple of hours earlier, it is nevertheless a great celebration of both series.