Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

This is the seventh in a series of Ace Attorney reviews and I recommend reading the others before this. This post will contain spoilers for Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney and all the games preceding it. It will also contain spoilers for Professor Layton and the Curious Village, Lost Future and Spectre’s Call. Thanks for reading!

I remember seeing the first trailer for Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright way back in 2010, four years before the game would eventually release in the UK. The excitement for it then was palpable – although then relatively new to both series, the idea of a team up between two huge puzzle game mascots with a theme revolving around medieval witch trials seemed too good to be true. There’s an atmosphere to that initial trailer that still captures me now, sadly probably more than a lot of things in the finished product. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves – let’s first talk a little about Professor Layton.

Here’s a quick disclaimer – I haven’t played all the Layton games, nor do I intend to. Although a big fan of Professor Layton and the Curious Village and Lost Future, the games in that series have always been hit or miss for me. Mainly this comes down to the core gameplay; instead of weaving its puzzles into the narrative like Ace Attorney, the Layton series features one main plot each game, with the puzzles usually more of an interruption from that narrative, doled out to the titular Professor and his assistant Luke by various strange townspeople.

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What works for me most about Layton games is their very unique sense of atmosphere. The Layton games have a strange timelessness about them. They’re set in what seems to be an England of around the 1950s, although employ technology from both before and after that time when it suits the games’ aesthetic or plot. The games work best when they’re focused around a specific location that they can build up with a strong sense of place, such as the first game’s St. Mystere or the third game’s future London. Within those little enclosed environments, the games are allowed to show off their natural charm with small, self-contained mysteries that are enjoyable to play through, but have never left much of an impact on me after the fact.

The Professor is a leading figure who seems to drift from an Agatha Christie protagonist to Indiana Jones when the occasion suits him, but generally fits into that idyllic British stereotype of the gentlemanly academic, never without his idiosyncratic manners and top hat. His assistant Luke, who can talk to animals, is a little whiny, but never to the point of distraction. His friendship with the Professor isn’t really explored fully in the original trilogy (by far the peak of the series) but it doesn’t really need to be; the Professor and Luke work best as travelling enigmas. When the series finally allows a show of proper emotion from Layton at the end of Lost Future, it works so well precisely because he’s been so guarded before. Unlike Ace Attorney, which attempts to give more development to its characters, the Layton series seems more concerned with developing its settings. 

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The opening scenes of Layton vs. Wright set the game up firmly in the Layton mood, on a dark and stormy night. The atmosphere in London is extremely lovely; it’s cosy inside Layton’s flat as the weather rages outside. Although the opening cutscene literally starts with a crash, it’s very mellow drinking tea in your flat and wandering the parks and streets of London. That is of course, until you’re met with witches and sucked into a book. Normally ruins a walk, that. 

At which point, we come to the first case in the game; English Turnabout. This is still half an Ace Attorney game after all. Being a crossover, the characters here are Phoenix and Maya at their most recognisable; Phoenix is in his classic suit and Maya is still his companion. The game, written by Takumi, then, feels like a bit of a nostalgia trip, given that it’s the last game produced in which Phoenix and Maya spend the majority of the game together. For fans of the trilogy, it’s one last chance to see the classic pairing take on a new case, with the orchestrated music and new 3D visuals I’m sure many fans hoped to see for future instalments of the series. Which is why it’s such a shame that English Turnabout is such a dud.

This case is the first fully non-murder case in the series; instead you’re defending a seemingly-hypnotised Espella – who you’d previously met decked out in more medieval costume with Layton and Luke in the game’s prologue – from a charge of theft and assault. This means you get the chance to cross-examine the victim of the case – Olivia Aldente – for the first time, which is a nice twist once you can get past the slight awkwardness of Phoenix shouting at a woman who’s recently been the victim of an attack. 

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The new 3D animations take some slight getting used to. For some reason this case feels quite washed out of colour, and Phoenix’s model looks a little stiff. By keeping his model in continuous movement with a breathing cycle, it makes some of the 2D animations that have been bought into 3D feel a little off at times. Mostly it works, however, and this case employs some neat visual tricks, such as the zoom on Aldente’s face as you accuse her of smuggling, and Maya showcasing the contradiction with the position of the fingerprints on the pipe with the new capabilities of her 3D model.

Overall, though, the case fails to leave any lasting impact. It’s a thankfully brief distraction, but unlike previous first cases there’s not much to set it apart or have it stick in the memory at all. Even The Lost Turnabout had Richard Wellington and an amnesiac gimmick, but I’d pretty much forgotten English even existed before I replayed this game. (Also, English judges? They got the wigs right, but they don’t have gavels.)

But of course, that’s just another part of the prologue – the real game starts after Phoenix and Maya are likewise sucked into a book and we enter the town of Labyrinthia. We see our new locale first through Layton’s eyes, and I think that makes a lot of sense. As I said before, Ace Attorney puts a lot more thought into the limited characters of each case, whereas Layton builds up a sense of place through a larger but more thinly sketched cast of townspeople. Sure, the bard or the two little kids aren’t that interesting as characters in and of themselves, but it’s more to give you a sense of the town’s atmosphere, which ends up working extremely well.

I’d also like to give a mention to the music. Composed by Layton veteran Tomohito Nishiura (with help from Capcom’s Yasumasa Kitagawa, who would go on to work on The Great Ace Attorney), the soundtrack to the game is a highlight for both series. Labyrinthia’s theme fits well into the pantheon of Layton town themes; relaxing, with a melancholy undercurrent that encourages the player to dig deeper into the town’s various mysteries. It’s lovely, and one of those rare game soundtracks I can listen to independent of playing the game.  

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Eventually Layton and Wright have to meet, but the game cleverly delays the reaction the player was  expecting by robbing Phoenix of his memories. To Layton, Phoenix and Maya are simply more residents of this already odd town; no more, no less. Instead of a grand courtroom meeting of minds, instead their friendship is allowed to grow more organically as that between a Professor and a baker’s assistant. One of my favourite moments of character interactions comes before Phoenix has regained his memories, as Layton explains puzzle solving to him and Maya. Layton, Phoenix and Maya all have their own little unique ways of thinking outside of the box and it manages to introduce their dynamic through the Layton-specific medium of puzzle solving.

As you continue to explore the town as Layton, you eventually hear of the Storyteller’s Parade, which introduces Labyrinthia’s main distinctive features. Cut off from the outside world by a large wall, Labyrinthia exists in a strange void of medieval living. It’s also a town plagued by witches and magic; all those accused of being witches are tried by Inquisitors in witch courts and eventually sent to the flames and killed. The events of all of the town’s major happenings are told to the villagers in advance by ‘The Storyteller’, an old man who “writes Labyrinthia’s story”; whatever he writes comes true, making him some kind of vengeful God to the town. It begs a whole lot of questions, like why people admire the guy responsible for basically creating witches that kill ordinary townsfolk all the time. Perhaps it’s some coded religious satire or ponderance on the problem of evil. For now, however, all we have to go off is that this game is set in a world where magic does indeed exist, which is something that should have major consequences on any legal proceedings.

The game’s first full case, The Fire Witch, ably showcases all those consequences. Once again, the accused is Espella Cantabella, although she’s now being accused of the more serious crime of being a witch. Espella is, sadly, one of the game’s weakest aspects, especially since so much of the game’s emotional weight is put on her shoulders. If I had to sum her up, it would be all of the standard tropes of an Ace Attorney assistant with all the personality sucked out. Like Maya, or Trucy or Kay, she’s very nice and friendly. When Phoenix and Maya later ask to defend her of the crime of being the Great Witch Bezella, she refuses because it would also put them in hot water. She’s quiet and shy and beats herself up a lot, but none of this really makes for someone that’s all that interesting to care about, at least for me.

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When Maya is accused of murder in Reunion and Turnabout, it has impact because there’s a contrast with her usual demeanour. She’s generally so upbeat and witty that seeing her so accepting of her own fate comes across as a shock. When Kay loses her memories in The Forgotten Turnabout, it’s once again shocking as a contrast to the energetic Kay we know. Of course, it’s great to see an Ace Attorney assistant who isn’t constantly upbeat, but Espella only really ever has one mode; nice. The only time she ever shows much variation from that is when she’s hypnotised, at which point she’s simply docile and doesn’t say much. Perhaps if she was really mean when she was being controlled we’d get some form of contrast, but I wasn’t worried much just because her eyes glazed over a little.

It also doesn’t help that Espella is subjected to so many of Ace Attorney’s various tropes that are employed throughout the series as a shorthand for trying to make us care about a character. Is she accused of a crime? Yup, three times over. Is she made to believe that she committed a crime based on false memories? Yes indeed. Do those false memories involve her as a child doing something awful? Yup. Is she accused of killing her own parent? You guessed it – of course she is. One of these on its own would be fine, but it’s all old hat by now, and with Espella so devoid of personality aside from the various things she’s accused of, I found it hard to connect with her emotionally at all, despite Takumi throwing everything and the kitchen sink at me in an effort to make me do so. The problems this ends up having on the game’s overarching story get worse as it reaches its climax, but it’s worth highlighting now given how much screen time Espella gets.

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Luckily, The Fire Witch has so much more going on than just Espella. As Phoenix and Maya walk into the courtroom, we see that the game’s approach to narrative stakes involves literal stakes… of burning wood (I’m sorry). We enter onto a scene of a woman being burned alive for the crime of being a witch – a metal casket closing on them and plunging into a pit of fire. It’s an explicitly more shocking image than has been shown in any of the Layton or Ace Attorney games before. Even lacking any blood andnot showing the actual death, it still hits hard; having it play before the trial even starts tees up what’s on the line perfectly, as does Espella being suspended above the fire for the entire trial.

The idea of an Ace Attorney game about witch trials is probably Layton vs. Wright’s most genius move; using the freedom of a non-canon spin off title to put familiar characters in situations that could never happen in the main series. What’s more, the game seems to understand perfectly what sets a witch trial apart from a regular trial. Firstly, the whole town is usually against the witch and on the side of the prosecution (here called the Inquisition). Secondly, evidence is sparse, and unreliable and bias eye-witness testimony has to be relied on. Even previously rock-solid evidence, like a picture of the crime scene, is an unreliable drawing in Labyrinthia. Thirdly, in this game where magic is indeed real, Takumi still realises it needs to follow certain rules to work within a mystery setting – hence, the inclusion of the Grand Grimoire, a book of magic rules and regulations that can be used as evidence. 

The game’s Inquisitor is Zacharias Barnham, who the game takes pains to remind us is supported far more by the crowd than we ever will be. He’s a bit boring here – slightly a cookie cutter prosecutor in the early-game Edgeworth mould, but he still works as a pretty solid opposition force. If that weren’t enough to make us convinced of the odds being stacked against us, the first witness is actually four witnesses. This helps introduce some fun new gameplay mechanics, of course, but also gives a tangible sense of how much the entire town is against you. It’s a nice blending of Layton with Ace Attorney here – instead of your opposition being individual fleshed out characters, it’s a whole town.

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The four witnesses are, to be frank, all idiots, constantly squabbling amongst themselves about what they did or didn’t see. When the fifth witness, the local town drunk and a personal favourite, Emeer, comes down onto the stand, all illusion that the witnesses have ever been telling the truth crumbles. These are people who are unashamedly warping their own memories to use against Espella. Given the medieval setting, your own evidence is limited, so you’re forced to use witnesses against each other – both butting in to ask one witness’s thoughts on another’s testimony, or, in disappointingly rarer cases, contradicting one piece of testimony against another. The idea of five witnesses on one bench may seem overwhelming, but it works as a use of gameplay to mirror the kind of mob mentality that fuelled real life witch trials, especially once you get to the end of the case and have to find the real witch among the suspects. 

The witnesses and the new atmosphere they bring really lend The Fire Witch a great quality, one that’s shared throughout the Ace Attorney parts of the game. While the Layton segments remain pretty stock Layton, it’s good to see Takumi having the confidence to experiment with mixing up the core Ace Attorney gameplay to support this game’s unique features, and for me it’s a risk that really pays off in the game’s favour.

After the witch Kira has been exposed and duly executed (but not before she points the finger at Espella for being the so-called ‘Great Witch’), you return to Layton’s segments. Phoenix and Maya split up to talk to Espella and eventually investigate the house of the murdered alchemist, Dr. Belduke, while Layton and Luke go to see The Storyteller. It’s a bit of a shame, in my opinion, to split up the main characters so soon after they’ve met. There’s some fanservice in the court when the two work together to expose the truth, and do a cool little double Objection, but as if the game feels like it’s served that purpose now, it quickly divorces the two.

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It speaks, I think, to an annoying mentality of the game’s – a reluctance to properly lean into its premise. This is, after all, Layton vs. Wright, and I’d think you’d want to not only maximise their screen time together, but also to explore the ways their gameplay systems might work together. Of course, it’s not the job of a critic to criticise what’s not in a game, but certain things that are there can often smack of wasted opportunity. Take, for example, the one ‘Turnabout Puzzle’ that occurs in the game’s latter half. It’s a half-hearted attempt to blend the puzzle solving styles of the two franchises. The first mistake it makes is assuming that puzzle solving in Ace Attorney actually has anything to do with turning your thinking around, rather than being focused mainly on cross-referencing and your ability to follow a train of logic. The second is that it basically amounts to an unsolvable puzzle, a tiny bit of dialogue, then another, solvable jigsaw puzzle. A brainteaser like listening to the testimony of the Shades in the Great Witch’s room feels more apt for a ‘Turnabout Puzzle’, but only Layton is there at that point, so I guess they can’t do that. What’s more, this is the only instance of this kind of puzzle in the whole game, which is weird; it feels like a recognition that they should be doing more to justify both franchises being here, but then an acceptance that they don’t really know how to.

The separation between Layton and Phoenix continues as Layton is turned into gold for the game’s third case; The Golden Court. I don’t have a lot of hesitation in calling this case one of my all-time favourites in the series – the way it continues its experimentation of Ace Attorney gameplay from The Fire Witch, but builds them around a top notch case, is nothing short of genius. 

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For a third case, the evidence load is surprisingly thin. According to Takumi, this is to make it easier for new players to the series, but I don’t really care what he thinks; the effect this has is to refocus cases around eyewitness testimony and magic. I talked about this earlier, but given that this is the third case, and ramps up in terms of complexity, the stark lack of evidence in the face of all the witnesses (including a returning Emeer, in a moment of glory) is made all the clearer. It even means that when you have to cross-examine a parrot again, the moment is simultaneously fan-service and effective thematic building, as the parrot’s testimony becomes the unhindered objective truth of a mindless creature as contrasted to the easily manipulated testimony of the witnesses.

Where there is evidence, a lot of it comes from the Grand Grimoire. I do find that this is perhaps one of the weaker elements; the information given by the Grimoire is often so specific that it’s obvious where some of it is going to be used – when you learn that Godoor only works on green walls, for example, the puzzles that information will be used to solve are a little too obvious. 

The main standout in the case, however, is the character work. The loss of Professor Layton is felt perfectly through Luke taking the witness stand against Maya, and the little arc he has here is done pretty nicely as he realises that the Professor would have wanted him to seek the truth and trust in his new mates.

The real heavy hitter, however, is Jean Greyerl, the witch and murderer in the case. In The Fire Witch, Kira makes some noise towards the idea that living as a witch is not only difficult but also a cruel twist of fate, but her manic outburst makes it hard for us to have much sympathy for her. However, the pain of living life as a witch is exemplified through Jean, a girl from a poor family who tried to use witchcraft to help her parents. Who then, after risking being exposed, tried to kill herself to avoid being exposed as a witch. And finally, who had to live her whole life in the wrong gender just to survive, who had to kill the man who cared for her just because she thought she was going to be exposed as a witch. It’s surprisingly horrific for a Layton game, and even bad in Ace Attorney terms. It’s also entirely necessary to carry the proper weight. Layton vs. Wright seems to be hammering home a message of discrimination with its witches and Greyerl is needed to be the face of the effect of such discrimination.

The game, then, is cruel to Greyerl, but not needlessly so. In a final twist, Belduke is revealed to have committed suicide. It’s not a narratively necessary twist, but it’s there to avoid being so horribly nasty towards Greyerl. She’s relieved, in the final act, of having killed someone who really cared about her and who she, in turn, cared about. This act of kindness from Takumi towards his characters is one of the reasons I think he’s such a great writer – one able to straddle that line between darkness and needless cruelty.

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Of course, the case does end with a final twist of the knife – this time towards Maya, who, despite being proved not guilty, is thrown into the flames anyway as the result of an accident. With Phoenix having lost Maya and Luke having lost Layton, the game hits an emotional low point, but also a writing peak. Phoenix’s outburst at Barnham in the forest outside the court is fantastic, showing a side to the character we really haven’t seen before – a desperate, angry Phoenix. Barnham himself is also good here; a man on the verge of self-reflection at the acts he’s been responsible for.

Phoenix, Espella and Luke go to hide out in a pub, but Phoenix is unable to sleep. Ace Attorney has always had a weird problem of characters dealing with grief by pushing it down and putting on a happy face – it’s perhaps necessary for a comedy murder-mystery game that there aren’t extended scenes of traumatic characters coming to terms with death, but the crutch of ‘just smile away the pain’ is sometimes leaned on too heavily throughout – even here, both Espella and Luke seem to be putting on their best happy faces. Yet refreshingly, Phoenix shows some proper grief at losing his best friend; not only the anger with Barnham, but proper grief and a real conversation about it with the bartender. To come from Golden Court to this is one of the best sequences in any of the games I’ve talked about so far. I feel like it’s something that might not have been able to happen in the mainline series. Once again, we see Takumi able to take risks with his own characters (and even Layton’s, in the case of Luke) in the space of this crossover. 

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It is, unfortunately, all downhill from this point. Once we reunite with Layton and Maya in a mysterious forest outside of Labyrinthia, the entire game takes a steep nosedive in terms of quality. The reason for that is clear after the emotional previous chapter; in focusing the game on the mystery of Labyrinthia and Espella, the game loses track of what I, at least, actually care about. I care about Phoenix, Maya, Layton and Luke, I care about the Labyrinthia I know, and I care about it solving the problem of how it treats witches; I care about seeing characters like Barnham get over their prejudice, and those like Greyerl being free to live their lives without fear of discrimination. This is what the game has been building up to; it has put all its work so far into these aspects, and yet abandons them so quickly in pursuit of some meaningless solution to a mystery that didn’t need to ever be solved. 

So let’s talk about The Final Witch Trial, and everything it gets wrong. Because there’s a lot here. The trial, now to determine whether Espella is Bezella, and whether she killed her father, The Storyteller, starts with Layton and Wright once again going their separate ways, Layton investigating the Storyteller’s tower to find him still alive, and Wright defending Espella in court.

The first court part is far too long for its own good. In the initial investigation of the Bell Tower from which Espella summoned the fire dragon that “killed” her father, we find a pendant that clearly fits into a hole in a contraption in the bell tower. And yet, you pretty much spend a lot of the first cross-examination proving that fact which you already knew. You first have to prove it to a bunch of Vigilantes who were guarding the tower at the time. The appearance of seven witnesses on the stand is a great sight gag, especially as each increases in levels of ridiculousness as the camera pans across them. However, in practice, it’s the mob system taken to a logical extreme, which means a whole lot of testimony to comb through in an act that quickly wears out its welcome. The final case does at least do one cool experiment with its testimonies; there’s surprisingly few of them, but each is instead continuously modified, and even a correct objection won’t necessarily cause you to move on from that testimony.

The other person you prove this to is the Head Inquisitor, Darklaw, who replaces Barnham for this final case. As mentioned, Barnham was last seen at the verge of some kind of emotional breakthrough and character arc, but he’s tossed into a dungeon to remain off-screen and without dialogue for the rest of the game, in what is perhaps the most shining example of the game’s misplaced priorities.

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Darklaw isn’t much as an Inquisitor, but like many prosecutors past, she’s eventually tied into the case as a suspect herself, and Layton takes the position opposite Wright, finally fulfilling the promise of the game’s title. Of course, it’s a rather contrived conflict – the two don’t actually have any opposing beliefs, and Layton is simply toying with the court and extending the drama. He already seemingly knows the entire truth behind the Labyrinthia mystery, but instead of telling everyone, decides to eke it out through arduously long testimonies and surprise witnesses.

Eventually the game leads us, slightly ungracefully, to the solution of the mystery of Labyrinthia. I do wonder if part of the problem with the game’s twists is that they aren’t presented very well. I’ve complimented Yamazaki and his team in my last two critiques for their command of presenting twists, and it’s a shame that Takumi can’t really do the same. Almost the entirety of the main twist is presented in a press-all cross-examination with The Storyteller, which robs it of a lot of its impact.

Let’s talk about that twist then, shall we? So, magic doesn’t really exist in Labyrinthia, it is instead the work of ‘Shades’, former-inhabitants-turned-brainwashed-slaves who effectively pause time to create the effects of magic using machinery hidden from the townspeople by a colour called ‘pure black’. They can do so with little silver bells, seeing as the groundwater in Labyrinthia contains a toxin that causes people to faint at the sound of silver. Plants grown in said groundwater can also make people extremely susceptible to suggestion, which is why everyone believes they’re living in a fantasy town. The whole thing is the creation of The Storyteller and Belduke’s huge pharmaceutical company, aided by the UK Government (perhaps the only plausible part of this).

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Now, there are quite a few plot holes in this explanation, and if you want a comprehensive list of them I’m sure you’ll be able to find it from cleverer people than I (my favourite has to be pure black though, which just makes… no sense at all). But with all the hypnosis it’s quite easy to plaster over the gaps if you’re so inclined. Besides, this ending takes from the Layton school of thought, which has always spat in the face of Occam’s Razor. However, some Layton endings work for me, and some don’t, and I’ve always grappled with why, so let’s step back for a minute and work out how to write the perfect Layton ending.

The first step is ‘make sure your solution is different from your question’. This one seems obvious, but it’s not always followed. For example, take Professor Layton and the Spectre’s Call. Here, the mystery is that of a giant monster attacking a town. The solution, however, is that a giant monster is attacking the town, it’s just a slightly different kind of giant monster than first thought. This is a wholly unsatisfying ending, because the solution isn’t different enough from the initial mystery. When we apply this to Layton vs. Wright, we see it falls into a similar trap. The mystery is that magic exists. We find that simple magic doesn’t exist, but the solution relies on complexities that might as well be magic – pure black and complete mind control would be magic in lots of other series. Layton has dealt with unrealistic science in the past – take the city of robots in Curious Village. But there, it comes as a solution to a mystery that wouldn’t suggest something like robots.

A good Layton ending should also have a simplicity to it. Now, simplicity doesn’t mean that there aren’t hidden complexities to it, but there should be an elegance to it. The solution to Curious Village, that all the inhabitants are robots, solves a lot of the town’s mysteries in one stroke. That’s similar to Lost Future, where the solution of a giant underground city of London is unbelievably unrealistic and complex in its details, but has one main broad simple point that solves a lot of the game’s mysteries. Layton vs. Wright lacks that killer punch for its solution – it’s extremely inelegant and inefficient in the way that it solves its various mysteries. The solution isn’t just invisible machines, it’s also poison groundwater and poison plants and scientific experiments. Sometimes the game’s attempts to plaster over its own cracks are laughable – take, for a perfect example, The Storyteller’s last minute justification of his actions with the fact that he has an incurable disease, only to say five lines later that he actually has a cure for it (maybe part of his disease was forgetting the existence of the past tense). Coming from Prosecutor’s Path, it’s almost funny to see a game struggling harder than that one to deal with the weight of its own ambitions. 

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In the end, though, none of the plot holes or inelegant solutions matter too much if the game’s solution is emotionally satisfying. That’s the point of all of it, right? Some sort of emotional closure on the game’s arcs will always be more important than whether the Shades had to knock everybody out every single time someone bumped into the invisible tower on the main square. After all, the moment everyone remembers from Lost Future isn’t the reveal of the underground London, but the tender moment Layton shares with his time-travelling dead ex-girlfriend.

Layton vs. Wright fails to achieve any of that emotional payoff, however. Mainly that’s because it focuses so much on the relationship between Espella and The Storyteller. I’ve already said that I don’t care much for Espella, and The Storyteller isn’t given nearly enough time to redeem himself in my eyes. The game bends over backwards to make sure these two characters are given a happy ending at the expense of all else. Darklaw, who already has more personality in her gloved hand than Espella has in her whole body, is smugly proclaimed an accidental mass murderer, but has to get over all her trauma in ten minutes, where Espella was given ten years. Characters like Barnham at the cusp of learning something end up with no emotional payoff, and other characters like Greyerl, who’ve been through intense suffering, given no attention. More attention is given to the Judge having his conscience cleared by the revelation he actually didn’t kill the people he thought he did than is given to the people who’ve suffered their entire lives at the expense of The Storyteller never bothering to take Espella to therapy. The ending is almost worse than uncaring – it’s at times cruel to characters in order to make us try and care about the Cantabella family.

So what was the point then? Why give this game a typical Layton ending? Perhaps it was to communicate the extent parents will go to for their children. If so, then it does it extremely poorly. This could have been accomplished so much better and simpler without having to blow up the entire premise on which the game was built. Without uncovering the mysteries of Labyrinthia, the game would have had more time to work on characters like Darklaw and The Storyteller and work on creating emotional payoffs that don’t sacrifice the other members of the cast. If the game must go the Layton route, then perhaps cases like The Golden Court, which end up actually doing little to service the story the game ends up wanting to tell, should have been cut out.

As much as I hate the ending – and I do hate the ending; more so, in fact, than I used to – it doesn’t ruin my enjoyment of the rest of the game. I think the ending is a symptom of biting off more than you can chew. Having to deal with Layton, Wright, and Labyrinthia is a lot for one game, but it does it so well for the first half that I was sure it would manage to stick the landing. In the end, though, the fact that I care so much about the ending proves the quality of the rest of the game. After all, I wouldn’t have any investment in a story that isn’t worth reading.

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In the next entry, we’ll finally be ditching the spin-offs and heading back to the good ol’ courtroom No. 4 (albeit under different leadership) with Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies. As always, you can support me on patreon or follow me on twitter. If you want to hear me speak out loud about The Golden Court and my other favourite Ace Attorney cases, you can find that on my friend IKG’s channel. Thanks for reading!

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