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Professor Layton And The Lost Franchise: Where Has The Beloved Puzzle Series Go? – Main speaking topic


Layton level -5
Image: Nintendo Life

From the late 2000s to the mid-2010s, my gaming experience was learning to be a gentleman. This is a central theme throughout Professor Layton’s series. If Professor Hershel Layton wears a coat, I wear a coat; if he drinks fruit tea, I drink fruit tea; if he is reminded of a puzzle at the most inopportune times…well, you get the idea. This means that Professor Layton’s games were an important part of my formative gaming and indeed my self-education. So why is my opinion of the series so often tainted these days?

The answer can be found in the final title of the series: Layton’s Mysterious Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy. This is a game that, regardless of its merits, never satisfied me. No Hershel, no Luke, no powerful jazz music. It’s not a Professor Layton game – to my mind, at least.

This week marks the fifth anniversary of Layton’s Mystery Journey 3DS’ release in the US and Europe. It also means it’s been five years since we last had an original Professor Layton title on consoles – still if, like me, you struggled to get Mystery Journey into games. other main.

Is it fair to say that all hope of another Layton entry is gone and if so, is it fair to blame the Mysterious Journey? This is a puzzle indeed, and as I have learned from the master of etiquette himself, a true gentleman has no unsolved puzzle…

Level one of Level-5

Level 5 . logo
Image: Level-5

To solve the mystery of the lost franchise, we have to go back to the beginning. It’s 1998 and former Rivershillsoft employee Akihiro Hino has teamed up with Sony Computer Entertainment to work on projects for the PlayStation 2, if he does so under his own corporate brand. Choose a name to refer to the highest score on the Japanese transcript, Level-5 Inc. was born and after implementing projects such as Dark cloud, Dragon Quest VIII and Rogue Galaxy with Sony, the studio began self-publishing games in the mid-2000s.

Desire to profit from adult-oriented audience Dr. Kawashima’s The giant floating head that brought the DS, Level-5 started working on a title suitable for kids and adults alike. The kind of games your grandma can buy you for Christmas and has a crack in itself after polishing a glass of sherry.

It was during this development that one of the all-time great duos was formed. Like Mario and Luigi, Mario and Sonic, or Mario and, err, Rabbids (?), Akihiro Hino enlisted the help of a real-life and puzzle-book writer. Riddle Akira Tago to help create a franchise that is both fun and (in the loosest sense of the word) educational.

Build a true gentleman

Professor Layton and the Curious Village
Image: Level-5

The finished product is not one, but six games (and a crossover, a feature film, a comic book series, a mobile app, and enough Stove Pipe hat merchandise to send stock over the roof. home). Professor Layton and the Curious Village was released in 2007 to the much-deserved appreciation. Ridiculously puzzling puzzles, a truly enigmatic central mystery, top-notch jazz from Tomohiro Nishiura provides one of the best video game soundtracks of all time, and PA Works provides cutscenes movie level animation. Feature. Movie. Level.

Saving the main theme until the finale is a bold move for Nishiura, but it delights me every time

The original game trilogy was met with such eagerness that the prequel trilogy was quickly released three years later (Professor Layton and the Call of Spector on DS and both Professor Layton and the Magic Mask and Professor Layton and the Azran . Legacy on 3DS). True, each entry is somewhat weirder than the previous one (this is a sequence that actually goes from an inheritance dispute in game one to – ACCESSARY!the dead literally come back to life by the sixth game), but that’s part of the charm of the series. Professor Layton is a household name, and this silly little franchise could last forever, right?

Wrong. To exclude, to expel Professor Layton and Phoenix Wright: Attorney Acedue for release in Japan in 2012 before the western localization landed horribly in late 2014, we didn’t see the Professor wearing the tallest hat, driving a Laytonmobile, drinking our tea for close full eight years.

And, unfortunately, we will never see him again.

Level-5’s rise and fall

You see, after the success of the Layton series and several strong franchises with Inazuma Eleven and Watch Yo-kai, Level-5 has fallen into disarray. Farewell to Layton not after one, but two endings of the trilogy caused emotional damageLevel-5 has been a huge hit with the Yo-kai Watch in Japan, selling over a million units in its first year and starting a culture that’s even matched the likes of Pokémon fans – yes, that’s it. is a big problem.

The problem is that this Japanese folklore series doesn’t have the same effect on Western audiences – who would have thought? While the first game sold a respectable 400,000 units in the US, interest in franchising dwindles with the following sections. This hasn’t helped by the long time that Level-5 will have to localize them – it took over three years for the first game to reach Europe and we’ve almost given up hope. Watch Yo-kai 4 will never appear outside of Japan.

Subsequent financial difficulties and a slew of canceled projects meant Level-5’s hiatus from the Layton series couldn’t have come at a worse time. Tragically, in 2016, Akira Tago’s death means that things look even more bleak.

Without Tago’s iconic puzzles, what would another Layton game even look like?

Layton’s Mysterious Journey

Layton's Mysterious Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires' Conspiracy
Image: Level-5

Well, it will look a lot like Layton’s Mysterious Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaire’s Conspiracy in 2017, which was originally released on 3DS and mobile devices before receiving the ‘Deluxe’ Switch port a few years later. .

The game is an empty shell of everything that makes the Layton series great. The puzzles, now designed by Kuniaki Iwanami, are not puzzling, no mystery is found mysteriously, toe tapping jazz is replaced by particularly jerky jazz, and above all, no Layton.

While playing Layton’s Mysterious Journey, I try to convince myself that maybe the Layton franchise has always been this way and I’ve just grown up – pfft, these puzzles aren’t easier, I’m the better one. This is simply not true. Certainly, the inclusion of Layton’s name in the title is enough to tie the release tangentially with those that came before it, even though the game shares a lot of DNA compared to the original like Pokémon Dash do with Pokémon Red and Blue.

There’s such a notable drop with the loss of Tago’s genius and the entire game suffers because of it. Even Hino’s writing doesn’t reach the level here. Splitting the central mystery into a number of smaller cases means there’s no accumulation for the end, and who signed off on adding a talking dog to the game? I can’t believe a town full of robots in the Layton series, but Come on.

It may not be fair to attribute all the blame to Layton’s death in The Mysterious Journey. The game did well enough for Hino to write a 50-episode spin-off anime – and if that’s not a clear sign of success, I don’t know what is. What is clear, however, is that it has failed to rekindle the puzzling passion of its predecessors for most Layton lovers.

So what now?

Professor Layton and the Azran . Legacy
Image: Level-5

In 2020, one GamesIndustry.biz . Report announced that Level-5 would cease all operations outside of Japan, with the possibility of future Western localization operations being extremely unlikely. In Japan, the studio continues to release Switch titles – Yo-kai Watch Jam: Yo-kai Academy Y – Waiwai Gakuen Seikatsu, Megaton Musashiand Cross of Megaton Musashi in 2020-2022, and Inazuma Eleven: Victory Road of Heroes is expected to be released next year. The last Level 5 game we saw getting a release in the West was Snack World: The Dungeon Crawl – Gold back in 2020 – hardly any fireworks ends from the studio that developed some of the most popular franchises on Nintendo’s previous generation handhelds.

So where will this leave Layton? A studio in turmoil and a previous entry that left a bitter taste in your mouth is hardly the ideal place to find a franchise these days, but this doesn’t mean Layton is necessarily dead. Level-5 is one of those studios that desperate fans time and again implore Nintendo to buy back. Big-N has published each of Layton’s localizations in the past, and each has enjoyed a good degree of success. Opportunity – not sure though – yes, but even if it magically happens and Nintendo sponsors a return, there’s still the case of Akira Tago’s absence. Maybe Layton is really gone.

The sign of a great mystery lies in how you end it, and Layton’s Mysterious Journey isn’t revealed by Agatha Christie. Honestly, the chances of Level-5 releasing another Layton game at the moment are as slim as Luke ever changing into that little blue coat – seriously, how many of them does he own? ? – but to see the polite professor return and wash away the sour taste of Layton’s Mysterious Journey would be the most awe-inspiring, and would bring his case to a close.


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