Review #026: Professor Layton vs Ace Attorney Phoenix Wright (3DS) ~ This Puzzle Has An Objection!

250px-PLvsAA_BoxartWarning: this review is longer then my usual reviews! WAY LONGER. For reasons. 

Ace Attorney Wiki entry link

First Impression link

So, this game. After a month, I finished it. And honestly, I feel sad. I’m going to directly say that I think that this game is amazing. I’ll defend this game in this article. My newly ordered mind hasn’t arrived yet sadly enough. But I might write a longer review then usual? Why, since I find that this game totally deserved it. So, yeah! This game gets the longer review for a reason. I feel ashamed that you guys in America can’t play this game yet. So, I’m avoiding spoilers as much as I can! But before we start, the usual. Feel free to leave a comment on the game and or this article. 

Writer versus the story

largeIn my first impression I talked about how I can predict the ending of stories from games or movies. I was able to predict the ending of other Layton games and Phoenix Wright games in the past. Yet, this game has taken me by surprise.

I have to say, that the ending took me off guard. All the plot twists and how the story wrapped up, just was an amazing ride. If a story can do that to an experienced writer, then you can be sure you have a solid story.

At first, I would say that there are a few plot holes in the story. Yet, the unexplained plot holes in the main game will be explained in the bonus content you unlock after finishing the game.

The writing of the story is the best I have seen for a cross over from this format. It’s quite clear that each company has written his or her part. The parts where you play as Layton, feel like a real Layton game. And the writing in the parts of Phoenix, truly feel like you are playing an Ace Attorney game.

I didn’t expect that when both styles get crossed would work so well. The two styles blend in each other without notice.

One question people asked me is what meaning the “versus” has in the title. A minor spoiler, it has different meanings in the game. There is a part where you actually have a battle between Layton and Wright but you have moments where Layton and Phoenix work together to solve the case.

Do I have complaints about the story? Yes, thanks for asking. I have no complaints about the writing. It’s just spot on. Yet, it’s the voice acting. Now, don’t get me wrong! The voice acting is top notch. People who hate dubs of anime’s, you won’t be disappointed with the voices and the casting of this game. But there is a major issue with the voice acting.

The moments where the voice acting is used is a bit strange. There are moments where one person is voice acting and the others are just plain text. Or there are moments in the game where the voice acting just suddenly stops. You will have to play the game to understand what I mean but it’s truly annoying.

This menu has an objection?

largeA fair warning, it’s quite possible that the rest of the review might be nitpicking if I talk about the mistakes of this game.

Let’s take a look to the user interface. And here I have my first complaint, you can’t delete save files. While this is a minor annoyance, I don’t get why they didn’t program a feature in where you can delete a save file when saved by accident on the second slot.

The main menu, well, it’s good and bad at the same time. While I miss the options button, that you can find in game, it’s not cluttered. Only the bare essential buttons are in the main menu. This is actually good because you don’t need to waste a lot of time to the main menu.

So, let’s take a look at the in-game menu’s. Thank the lords they took a combination of both games for this! The lay-out of the menu’s in Layton is excellent but you have to operate it all with the touch screen. In the Ace Attorney games, you can open things with pressing the buttons. While you can’t do much, besides closing the menu, inside the menu with the buttons, it’s a neat feature!

Also, you have a notepad for the whole game. Yes, you have a memo feature for the whole game. That’s simply mind blowing. I admit that I haven’t used it but I think that the idea is simply great. Since some people aren’t that good at remembering and having a space where you can write notes is pretty good.

But with every good thing comes a bad thing. While it’s great that you have an items menu where you can look at the items you have, it’s so bare bones that it’s actually kinda bad. When you have a letter, you can’t read it’s content or when you have a book, you can only stare at the cover.

And if I may be extremely nitpicky, the mysteries. Okay, I understand that this feature comes from the Layton games but why is this ‘Layton exclusive’? Let me explain. The button for this option shows Phoenix and Layton with a speech bubble with a question mark in it. But in the whole menu, only Layton talks about the mysteries. Phoenix isn’t allowed to talk about the mysteries? That was a bummer. It’s clear now that I’m a bigger fan of Ace Attorney, I guess.

Also, the story button is a perfect addition to the game. With this you can somewhat relive parts of the story. What I mean here is that you have the “View Story” button when you press on an entry in the story menu. This games you a brief overview of what happened then. And it’s different then the entry itself.

So, I mentioned a bit about the controls of this game. How you control the menu’s. Now, the controls outside of the menu’s is just way better then the Layton games. One complaint I always have with those games is that the touch screen is used too much. But in this game you can use the buttons more. The controls, no real complaints there.

Now, let’s game.

large (1)Oh my, so much to still talk about and so far in the review we are already. But thankfully I don’t have a big limit for this review so I can still write a bit.

Let’s talk about the gameplay. The meat of the game. The bones is more the story. Anyways, the gameplay is just well balanced and fun. It’s quite clear that this game is aimed mainly at fans of both series.

The game switches between both gameplay types quite nicely. And they managed to blend the investigation moments with puzzles without them being annoying. I applaud the developers for that!

It’s quite fun exploring around in the town. Sadly, your are restricted to one area because the story forces you too but there are many opportunities where you visit every place in the game.

At first I thought that the area of the game would be too small. But as soon as you continue to play, you are proven quite wrong quite quick.

Something that helped me a lot is how the map shows how many hint coins or hidden puzzles are in the area. That way I was sure that I didn’t skip any hint coin or puzzle. But this concept needs some minor tweaks. One tweak they could do is show how many coins or puzzles are at the place you are currently at. Since that’s not possible. And another tweak they could have done was showing the amount of hint coin or hidden puzzles somewhere on the top screen maybe? So you know if you found everything in that area or not.

The difficulty, well, that’s something that this game has some trouble with. The game isn’t very easy but it isn’t very hard either. If you pay attention during the game or when you have played other games in the series, this game isn’t a big challenge. I had a lot of hint coins to spare at the end of the game.

In my first impression I have said that it’s strange that you can’t earn hint coins during trails. While I understand that it would be awkward trying to hide them in trails, I still found it strange. You can use hint coins in trails and thank the lords that they don’t “solve” the puzzle for you. They show which statement needs pressing or presenting, and if you need to present evidence, you can pick out of three options. Also, when you need to answer a question, one hint coin actually hides a wrong answer. And you can’t use more then one hint coin at one time.

The last part of the gameplay is the actual length. In the case of this game, we have to talk about how much each character is on screen AND how long the game takes before you have beaten it.

The balance between Layton and Phoenix, no complaints. Honestly, I enjoyed the parts more where they were both together. It just felt right.

And the actual length of the game, well… according to my save file you can beat this game around 30+ hours. Which is great length for the game. They provided enough plot twists so that there is never a dull moment and I think that’s one of the strong points of this game.

Reviewing the other parts.

Layton-vs-Wright-5So, the last part before the conclusion of this review. We have the music, design, sound, post game content, replay value and animation left.

Let’s begin with the easy one. This game has some replay value. It might be fun to replay to challenge yourself to get more points or to see what dialogue you get when you pick different answers. But since this is a visual novel, adventure game; the replay value is almost zero.

The post game content, well… ehrm… How to say it? It’s perfect. When you load a finished save file, you can either play the final chapter(s) of the game again or you can start at a part where you can look for puzzles you have missed.

Maybe I looked over it but the points you gain after completing a puzzle or finishing a trail aren’t used anywhere. Maybe something for the additional content?

Anyways, the additional content is great! You can download galleries where they show concept art and you can download bonus episodes. In those episodes some plot holes are explained or some background information about Layton or Phoenix is revealed and you get some additional gameplay. The writing is just beyond excellent.

The music and sound is next. The sounds, I have no complaints. No dull or overused sound effects. I’m glad that they used the sound effect library of both games. The fans feel right at home! But the soundtrack, if they ever release it on CD, I’m so going to buy it. I love listing to it and it has the right mood all the time.

And now let’s talk about the last part of this game; the design, graphics and animation.  Do I have complaints? Yes. Are they big? No.

As far as I know, I have one complaint. And that is in the animation area. The movement of the mouths is the weakest link. I found that the animation there isn’t as solid as the animation in the other parts of this game. But the rest of the animation, the graphics and the design… is extremely solid.

The anime cutscenes, the world this game takes place in, the animation of (nearly) everything… It puts this game so well together. You truly feel as a spectator of this game. In other words, the immersion of this game thanks to the visuals is perfect. It’s hard to put the game down.

So, I think I’m going to my conclusion. I talked about almost everything there is to talk about in this game. But don’t worry, I have still left some things as a surprise. Let’s wrap up this ‘journalistic review”

Conclusion

The good:

+ Amazing story line.

+ Eye candy graphics.

+ A solid cross-over.

+ Great length.

+ Beautiful soundtrack.

+ …

The bad:

– Some minor nitpicks with the menu.

– Some small nitpicks with the save files.

– The difficulty could have been better.

– The moments they used voice acting could have been improved.

Final thoughts:

So, I have written this extremely long review for a couple of reasons. As I said before, I wanted to give this game what it deserves! A great long review. Don’t worry, the length of this review won’t be my new standard. This review is twice as long as a normal review.

Another reason why I wrote such a long review is to challenge myself because I wanted to try writing a review as long as in a magazine or on a game website. I think I succeeded.

Anyways, my final thoughts about this game are simple. This game needs a sequel. Yes, this game is so well done, I’m hoping that they create a sequel. Nearly everything is solid and I the complaints I have are mostly nitpicks. It’s clear that this game is polished to near perfection.

If you are a fan of the genre, the series or the 3DS you owe it to yourself to play this game. I love how it’s clear that the cross over of this game is taken serious and that the final product we got was worth the wait. That’s why I give this game the points it deserves!

Score: 100 / 100

First Impression: Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright – Ace Attorney (3DS) ~ I Already Placed An Order For A New Mind

250px-PLvsAA_BoxartAce Attorney Wiki link

So, let’s not be creative and mind blowing. Oops, too late. Yesterday I posted a picture on my Twitter with my holding the box of this game. My apologies of the blurry image but my webcam isn’t the best in my gaming laptop. After playing it on college breaks and today, I finally got far enough to write my first impression. And my honest apologies to my buddy who had to cancel his pre-order. I had to zip my mouth about it and not brag about it. Well, brag… It was more like me not shutting up about the game here and there. I didn’t spoil him. I didn’t tell him about the Story. Yeah, intentional cap there. Anyways, let’s get this ball rolling. The first impression I wanted to write for months. Feel free to leave a comment with your opinion about this article and or this game.

No creative article?!

Layton-vs-Wright-5I apologize if you expected me writing in a style where I mixed a mystery or a puzzle with a court. Nah, I’m adapting my usual writing style for this one. Why? Because in the game the story is like that as well. While the Layton and Ace Attorney series are written in two completely different ways, the game mixes the styles prefect!

Honestly, I have a special ability. Because I wrote so many stories and articles I’m kind of able to predict how a story or plot is going to end. I can’t predict each and every turn but I mostly see the outcome of a plot. But this game has me puzzled. While the game’s plot has some similar elements to a story I wrote once in my childhood, I can’t figure out how the story is going to go.

The point that I’m trying to get across here is that the story blew me off my socks. While experienced writers can see some plot twists coming at the start, the execution and the writing is so well done, it catches you off guard easily.

I won’t talk much about the story because I don’t want to spoil the fun. I’m mostly aiming this article at the people who need that last push to buy this gem of a game. And the story alone is strong enough to be a selling point for this game. The story isn’t weak or too far fetched for both universes and really fits nicely into the existing stories.

Play the game?

largeThis game, is just extremely good. First of all, I have to admit that the all puzzles in Professor Layton started to bore me a bit. Not that they are bad games, not at all. But I wasn’t pleased at the heavy focus on puzzles. I wanted to challenge my mind on another way.

And this game nails that. With a smart switching system between the formula of Layton and the formula of Ace Attorney, this game is a blast to play. It was hard to put down because I find it has barely any flaws gameplay wise.

But as a reviewer, I have to be fair and point out the mistakes they made on the gameplay front. First of all, the introduction of hint coins in the Ace Attorney system. This is a nice translation of Athena’s ability in the Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies game. But for now I can only see it as a way to spend your coins. I haven’t seen a moment how you can earn the coins in the Attorney sections.

And honestly, that’s the biggest and only flaw I have seen now in terms of gameplay. There are some other minor flaws or missed opportunities. Let’s talk first about a big irritation I have with the game.

Some lines are voice acted. While I would have done some voices with more emotion, this game has a big issue with deciding who’s line should be voice acted and which shouldn’t. There were parts at the first trail where only one character was voiced. Mixed with just dialogue boxes threw me off a bit.

And the saving menu is a bit, lacking. Let me put it that way. You don’t have a delete save option. And they adapted the way of saving in the Layton games. I always had a major issue with that way. Don’t display a list as save slots. I truly think the PSP had a better way for this. To avoid saving in slot 2 by accident.

large (1)Just wow.

So Layton’s puzzle addiction is finally integrated into the story. They don’t talk about “crack this puzzle and you can pass” things. They finally used “prove yourself with this test” and things like that. A huge improvement.

While that’s not the only thing that got an improvement. The way how you can recap a story is an extremely nicely done feature. You can recap parts of the story as you please. It’s played out in a short scene so you are up to date again.

And in the Layton sections, they “fixed” the controls. You can now explore the rooms with the d-pad and the circle button. Thank the lords for that change. Always having to use my stylus is not that handy when I’m trying to drink something. For example. It’s just convenience.

And you can see how many hint coins or puzzles there are hidden in one area. I slow clapped to this change. One they should have done a long time ago.

I read some articles about people not being so happy with this game. And I read some people who played the Japanese import. And I honestly disagree. This game is a blast to play. While this article is slowly coming to an end, I invite you to discover this game for yourself. I might not have talked about the music, controls, gameplay (bit more in depth), design, animation and difficulty… I promise that I will talk about those things in my review. I will say now that I barely have complaints about them.

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this article. And now, I continue to play this game. Laters!

Review #009: James Noir’s Hollywood Crimes (3DS) review ~ A lot of cheese!

James-Noirs-Hollywood-Crimes-cover

Wikipedia entry of this game.

Before I got myself the latest Professor Layton, I played this game on my 3DS. It’s one of the first games I finished on my 3DS. All over the internet, people find this a mediocre game. In this review, I will tell you if I agree or don’t agree. Let’s try to look at this game separate from Professor Layton. In my previous review of Corpse Party on the PSP, I compared the game way too much with Virtue’s Last Reward and thankfully a forum member pointed it out. Thanks for the feedback BloodCatNS. Anywho, this game is created by Ubisoft, the guys behind a load of pet games on the DS and the very successful Assassins Creed. Did they create a great game here or are the reviews pulling at the right end calling it mediocre? Let’s solve this bad-boy and crack the codes. Time to review this game on the 3DS. Oh, the game has its own site, but I didn’t link it since it’s inside a collection site of all 3DS games Ubisoft made. But the Wikipedia article contains all your information needs. 

Loads of cheese

James-Noirs-Hollywood-Crimes-3DS-Screenshots-1

Let me tell you, this game suffers from a lot of cheese. Wait, you aren’t following me? Well, the story is extremely cheesy. It’s a story you don’t need to take seriously at all. The story was one I could predict nearing the end.

The voice acting added towards the story being cheesy. I’m glad to see that this story doesn’t take itself seriously and frankly, it helps in this game. The story feels a fresh change of pace instead of having a weak flat story that you barely remember in the end.

The consequence is that the story is somewhat memorable. It has been a few months since I played this game, and I still remember parts of the story. And that are signs of a well-crafted story.

I’m not going to lie or praise a bad story too much, but it isn’t too bad that it takes you out of the experience. The point I’m getting across here is that it does its job but doesn’t go beyond that to try and impress you. But what’s unique is that at the start of the game, you have to take a profile picture of yourself and when your character looks in the mirror, you actually get a live feed from the 3DS camera, which is an amazing idea. This pulls you in the game even more since you feel involved.

Creative, yet done before. 

james-noir-hollywood-crimes-03

This game gives me the impression to be a very creative one, yet I sometimes felt that some puzzles have been done before. This is mainly because of the unique use of puzzles. There are sliding puzzles and many classics but there are also new puzzles I haven’t seen a lot in games like these.

Many puzzles are quite challenging. Like the puzzle in the screenshot, I even needed to take out a notepad to make notes. And if a game manages to make you do that, it’s a good game in terms of puzzles. I heard in another review that the puzzles feel fresh, and I agree. In the story, you play in a game show to look for a killer. And thanks to this, you can choose which puzzles you solve. This helps with the replay value of the game and when you don’t feel like solving a sliding puzzle, well, you can take other puzzles.

You also get fan mail and hate mail too. This is an extremely neat addition in the game. It feels a bit like the downloadable puzzles from Professor Layton but you don’t need to do the effort to actually download them.

The amount of puzzles is great too. As far as I know, there are about 150 puzzles you can solve. And this will take a great deal of your time.

The 3D doesn’t add a whole lot to the game but I think that isn’t such a big deal in these puzzle games.

Far from perfect.

JAMES_NOIR_3DS_Screen_1

Where does this game fall felt on its face? Well, that’s an easy question. The game repeats the story way too much. I rolled my eyes at the number of times the game got stopped where you got an overview of what happened. I have seen games that do this way better. Another Code: R, for example, has a small quiz at the end of each chapter and Professor Layton displays a summary before loading your save file.

Also, the graphics are where I think they made a wrong turn. While the backgrounds and the puzzles look great, the characters actually don’t look all that neat. They feel like early green screen and quickly pasted on the backgrounds. They feel somewhat out of place. And I don’t like it.

Another part of the game that doesn’t do a great job is the music. Normally I remember the music of each game I play but from this game, I can’t remember any melodies. Vaguely I might remember parts but the music is a missed opportunity.

Also, there is an issue with the length of this game. It might have 150 puzzles, this game can be easily beaten in a few days. The game is short, way to short for this style of game.

And what’s a big shame is, yes there are typo’s in the game! And not one or two, there are a few. Almost like they forgot to proofread this game. An example is this screenshot you can easily find some grammar issues. “TOUCH tiles to highlight a path to cross the grid.” Yup, that’s this game for you.

I’m out of things to say about the game, time for my conclusion.

Conclusion

The good:

+ Unique puzzles.

+ Challenging.

+ Details like fan mail is a nice touch.

+ Your face in the game, man I have never felt more involved.

+ Great freedom in choosing your puzzles.

The bad:

– It’s over way too quickly.

– Graphically, the animation and characters feel dated.

– The music is generic.

– Typo’s in a visual novel?!

– Way too many times you get reminded of what happened.

Conclusion:

Is this a good game? Yes, it is. Is this a great game? No, it isn’t. The game has a certain charm that hasn’t been created in a long time. Yet, it’s too flawed to stand out. It also doesn’t do anything new. It’s just a puzzle game. I can barely bring up arguments to tell you why this game is better than the others.

Comparing this to Professor Layton isn’t doing it any good either. Then this game feels like shovelware. Yet, this game still has its moments. So, if you can pick it up for cheap, I would recommend it.

This game comes recommended as a snack, to play between two game releases you are waiting for. But don’t expect an amazing game. It has too many missed opportunities for that.

Score: 68 / 100