The Conceptualization Of The Professor Layton Series

By Ishaan . February 10, 2011 . 8:17am

A new edition of Nintendo’s “Iwata Asks” interview series features Level 5 president, Akihiro Hino, and delves into the history of both Level 5 as well as their flagship Professor Layton series, and how the two came to be.


Hino reveals to Nintendo president, Satoru Iwata, that Professor Layton and the Curious Village was created as a spiritual successor of sorts, to Nintendo’s Brain Age series of games on the Nintendo DS. This was because Hino felt that, at the time (back in 2005), several people that owned a Nintendo DS owned it because it was a popular item, rather than because they liked to play video games.


Level 5 did further analysis into the Brain Age audience and tried to gain an understanding of what aspects of the game they might have been dissatisfied with. As a result, Professor Layton was conceived with the intent of filling the gaps left by Brain Age, and acting as an extension of Nintendo’s series.


Since Professor Layton was conceived as a portable game from the very beginning, Hino felt that they needed to account for the fact that people would play it in bursts, sometimes returning to the game only after a gap of several days. For this reason, the Professor Layton games are intentionally linear and always tell the player where to go next. The final step was to market the actual product.


Women were considered be in high numbers amongst the casual DS-owning audience, and so, in order to appeal to them, Level 5 contracted a bunch of TV personalities to voice the characters, hoping their inclusion in the game would help generate buzz. To complement this were the high-quality anime cutscenes that are now associated with the series. Finally, the box art for Professor Layton and the Curious Village was inspired by women’s magazines.


Hino revealed that whereas the back of a game box would usually feature screenshots, the back of Professor Layton’s box featured photos of the TV personalities voicing the characters and interviews with them. This concept was modeled after the content found in women’s magazines so that the end product wouldn’t feel like a “game” and people would be encouraged to buy it regardless of whether they were interested in games or not.


When Professor Layton and the Curious Village was localized and published by Nintendo, similar thought was given to the box art in the U.S. and Europe. While Nintendo of America used box art similar to the Japanese cover, Nintendo of Europe, much to Hino’s chagrin, decided to go with a box that focused on the puzzles, rather than the story and characters.


At the time, Hino argued the decision with NOE, but the Nintendo subsidiary felt they were using a concept that Europeans would accept. Ultimately, their decision paid off: Professor Layton’s largest following overseas following is in Europe, and all localized box art thereafter was inspired by NOE’s design. As a result, Hino now lets NOE take the lead with regard to the Professor Layton localizations.

  • I actually like that European cover more.

  • Yeap. “Professor Layton” games in Europe are HUGE!

    Even in countries like Spain they sell around 300.000 copies, which in those countries is totally crazy.

    And NOE localizations for these games are top notch. Not only the translations are among the best you can get in Europe, but they also dub them into every language they translate to, which in rare in NOE (normally is only English VA, if any at all). Even rarer is the fact that it is with top quality voice acting. Layton voices sound great, no matter which language you pick.

    Anyway, the box covers of the second and third games are closer to the Japanese ones, so Hino should be happier about it.

    • malek86

      I’m pretty sure The Curious Village was only dubbed in english. I don’t know about the sequels though.

  • It damn worked. Professor Layton is really popular in the UK with Unwound Future staying in the top 10 for a while (if you saw what populated the charts for how long you’d understand why it’s quite amazing).

    Professor Layton pulled the the Brain Age crowd here and gave them charm, beautiful visuals and a well told story on top of a challenge. Also our love of shows of detective/mysterious probably helped lol.

  • Icon

    The European cover is devoid of any personality, so I can see why Hino argued. I’m sure the reason behind its success is because the game itself is great.

    • puchinri

      I was thinking the same. It’s a nice looking cover, but it doesn’t really say too much. I wonder how much it had to do with people actually being interested in the game.

    • I think sometimes having a stylistic, simple cover achieves more than putting characters all over it, you only have to look at Ico or the PS1 Final Fantasies to see that.

      • Icon

        Yeah, I agree, sometimes. Just not this time, in my opinion.

  • puchinri

    That’s really cool. They seemed to have put a lot of work and research into Prof. Layton, more than I thought, and that makes me happy and impressed. It’s good that they’re dedicated to not just bringing in people, but also ensuring they’ll actually enjoy the product.

  • malek86

    I like the european cover better. I’m not a fan of covers where you see the characters of the game – they look too much like movie posters. I prefer more artsy stuff.

    However, it seems americans like character covers instead: there are contless examples, but FF easily springs to mind first. What’s wrong with the white-background-logo-only japanese and europeans use? The american FF9 cover was horrible.

    • Croix

      Agree that FF9’s cover wasn’t the most appealing, but I think single character covers are okay. FF7’s and FFX’s covers are now iconic, and I don’t even like the main character of FFX.

    • Joanna

      I like and prefer the simple logo covers for FFs too, but I actually prefer the North American/Japanese Layton covers. I love the art, so I don’t mind that the covers are a bit busier. I think the only well made North American FF cover was X. It wasn’t busy at all and it was a nice scenic shot of Tidus.

  • I think NOE did a good job there. It’s advertised for its puzzles but I found the story to be really interesting, that’s what made me try to rush through the puzzles to see what happened next.

    It really is a fantastic series.

  • Croix

    “Europe Loves Professor Layton”

    More like EVERYONE loves Professor Layton. I know I do, and I know my girlfriend does, which is always a plus. I would love to see its sales increase in the States as well.

  • Aoshi00

    I prefer the Jpn/US covers for the first four games, question is did Hino approve the latest one? I can’t stand the cover for the first 3DS entry, there’s good simplistic and then there’s lazy and uninspiring simplistic..

    The Jpn VAs for Layton aren’t the greatest, but Ooizumi You is a very good Layton. Before that I’ve only seen one drama he was in. I’m still wondering if this is the game that is worth getting a Jpn 3DS for…

    • Croix

      Normally, game covers are something I’m pretty apathetic about, but you’re right, this cover just doesn’t look right. What gets me is that it doesn’t match the image of a Layton game the way they’ve been established over the past four games. I’m really hoping this is just a placeholder image…or that we at least get something more stylistically in line with the series when the game is localized. A lot of times, boxart really does sell.

      • Aoshi00

        hehe I’m pretty picky w/ cover arts in general if I could pick from several choices.

        Exactly, this “5th” cover looks nothing like the first 4.. and shouldn’t the first 3DS game have a very snazzy cover to make it stand out even more, maybe a sleeve w/ 3D effect like those Blu-ray movies? From the looks of it, this seems like the finalized ver and not preliminary, I mean the game is 2 weeks from release.. and we’ve seen the cover of all the other games being displayed together alrdy. So far the US covers have just copied the Jpn counterparts because they look good and don’t need messing around, maybe the eventual US release would pick better arts for the cover. Frankly, I would love this illustration to be the cover for this game, or something to that effect..

        I know one shouldn’t cry over spilled milk, but if Hino is as picky as they say, I find it strange he would OK this at all. If he thinks the Euro cover looks bad, then this one just plain sucks (like someone pointed out, like a pic from one of those cheap coloring books), and usually Jpn games have good covers, most of the time. If they go thru the lengths of making a good game, why go sloppy on the cover..

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