Parting Is A Sweet, Sweet Sorrow In Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy

By Ethan . February 27, 2014 . 5:30pm

Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy is the last game to star Professor Layton.  Level 5 made that clear when they announced the title, and this reality hung over and colored my entire experience with the game.  I find it nigh impossible to separate the contents of the game from my personal feelings about saying goodbye to the professor, but maybe that’s okay.  This final Layton game hardly deviates from the formula iterated on over the previous five games, and nobody needs a thousandth Layton critique on the Internet describing the mixture of puzzles, side games, and narrative that defines the franchise.  Let it be enough to say that Layton did not reinvent himself for his final adventure, and really I don’t feel like it would have been appropriate if he had.

 

Layton has always been good at send offs.  The conclusion to his prior trilogy, Professor Layton and the Unwound Future, has stood as a high water mark for the franchise.  Even going back to The Curious Village these games have possessed an air of melancholy that, while never overwhelming, has grounded the characters through even the most absurd plot twists.  This feeling became more pronounced when the franchise moved to the 3DS and the more powerful hardware allowed Level 5 to realize their aesthetic more vividly.  When appropriate these games elicit a wistfulness, and never more so than in The Azran Legacy.  This is a game about parting, both within the plot and within the franchise, and I’ve never played a video game that said goodbye better.

 

Professor Layton is one of a kind in the video game space—not the games (although they are, too) but the character.  Since the games themselves eschew the standard crutch of constant open conflict to engage the player, it was possible for the leading role to go to a character quite unlike other videogame protagonists.  Professor Layton is erudite, charming, and polite.  He is always composed, and always happy to help others when the opportunity arises.  He has a super uncool name that would NEVER get past committee in most studios (I mean, Hershel?) and he wears a dull orange shirt to match.  He is, perhaps, the very best role model in video games.

 

It’s worth considering that this franchise shares a name with the main character.  Though once upon a time games like Sonic and Spyro and Klonoa let their protagonists give name to the franchise, that practice fell out of favor before Layton ever began development.  It’s Uncharted, not Drake.  It’s Yakuza, not Kazuma.  But Professor Layton games are all called “Professor Layton”.  I think that’s appropriate.  Would you want to play a Professor Layton game without him?  Without Layton present to meet every deformed NPC and nonsense plot twist with a smile and a puzzle solution, I feel like there wouldn’t be much to tether the player to the universe.  Considering that these games could be reductively called nothing but short puzzles tethered together by dialogue and tapping static environment screens, having the investment in the characters who do that talking and places where you do that tapping is vital.

 

Basically, what I’m saying is that I cried.  Just a little bit.  Not because the script is some revelatory jump beyond what other Layton games have provided. No, it’s still quite silly.  It was because when it came time for the characters to say goodbye at the end of their adventure, it was time for me to say goodbye, too.  And for all that I get mad at the puzzles, for all that the six games probably released more rapidly than they should have, I didn’t want to say goodbye to Professor Layton.  Not yet.

 

I’ll miss you Professor.  Through video games I’ve come to know a double handful of patriotic soldiers, dozens of loose cannons with nothing to lose, and probably a hundred Japanese teenagers tasked to save the world by now.  Some of those characters I have affection for, some I actively avoid, most just get lost in the shuffle.  But you, you are in a class of your own.  Goodbye.

 

Random Thoughts:

 

1. Probably the biggest change in The Azran Legacy specifically is that there’s a broader selection of places to visit than ever before and the player can visit them as he or she sees fit.  This makes the game feel a little bit episodic, as the bulk of the game is in six different locations each containing its own little arc.  There are connections between them, but they can be enjoyed independently and in any order.  I chose to interpret this as a microcosm of the Professor Layton franchise as a whole, going through the whole thing one last time before the grand finale.  I would respect the opinion that I’m reading a little further into it than I really ought to though.

 

2. The music in Professor Layton games is and always has been fantastic.  This new game does not disappoint, and key tracks in the final third really drive home the important emotional notes.  For all that Layton looks great on the 3DS and 3D made hint coin hunting more fun, I think the improved audio quality benefitted the franchise even more.  I will probably always associate the accordion with the strange faux London where Layton lived these past seven years.

 

3. Even if it isn’t quite the same thing, I will absolutely be tracking down Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney.  I guess that’s the power of the crossover— at this point, I would probably be first in line for Professor Layton X Devil May Cry 2.


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  • flameraver64

    Haven’t started the 2nd trilogy precisely because I wanted to play all three games in one shot, but absolutely agree: Professor Layton hits that weird joyful, charming, whimsical, but melancholy spot for me. The puzzles are fun, but honestly if it was just a visual novel without the puzzles I’d still adore the characters. The music, the art, the characters, and the stories all mesh together so well. Based on this review, it seems like he gets a good sendoff, but even if it’s a bittersweet one it’ll be perfect

    • GH56734

      Good for you. The storylines for all three games are directly connected (even though it’s more obvious with the two final games) .. you’re in for a treat.

    • Lucky Dan

      Everything is quite related to one another this how you should be playing them.

      Lost Village –> Pandora Box –> Unwound Future –> (QUITE IMPORTANT IF YOU DONT WANT TO MISS OUT THE STORY) Watch Eternal Diva –> Last Spectre –> Miracle Mask –> Azran Legacy –> then Phoenix wright and layton happens after it (was a hint at the ending).

      Last Spectre and Eternal Diva are both relevant to the miracle mask if you don’t want to miss any part of the story

      The puzzles are tricky in Lost Village and Pandora Box due to mistranslations and have very rigid solutions (some have 2 solutions) but the get much easier and allow for alternative solutions in the later games

      • flameraver64

        Haha, I actually already completed the first trilogy (so Curious Village, Pandora’s Box, and Unwound Future). Just need the 2nd trilogy and the movie

      • mikebrand83

        Pretty sure it was supposed to be Last Spectre first, then Eternal Diva, not the other way around.

  • Serge

    I know i’ll cry when i finish this game. I’ve grown fond of the characters and is really sad to say goodbye to these games… Even the soundtrack is sad (and perfect).

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMJiZtrNpMI

    • GH56734

      Considering all the events and flashbacks happening during the game, it’s quite fitting to the general mood.
      Poor Layton, he sure did go through a lot

      I think it’s for the better they’re leaving the series on a high note, and not running the risk of making the puzzles more stale.

      • Lucky Dan

        Did you see how he mentions about the witch’s case at the end of the Azran Legacy after the credits?

        • D-Omen

          You’re wrong. There’s no mention of Professor Layton vs Ace Attorney or its plot after the credits of The Azran Legacy. In fact, that game isn’t canon to either series.

          • Lucky Dan

            I should of said hinted.

          • D-Omen

            But there are no hints to that. I don’t want to spoil it for US players here, but what you’re referring to is a mention to something else entirely. Nothing of the crossover game is acknowledged or “hinted at” in The Azran Legacy.

  • Clairis Cannon

    i can’t wait for this game, but i know i’ll be really sad when i beat it

  • Kazekage Gaara

    Oh well….i’ll miss you Layton :(

  • Slickyslacker

    It’s hard to believe that the Layton series has ended, after all these years.

  • Göran Isacson

    When I was… a young boy… the professah, took me into a village, to find a lost heirlooom.
    He said “Luke my boy, this reminds me… of a puzzle… that I once solved, involving tweeelve matchsteeeeks!
    *bridge into the refrain aaand que the WE’LL CAAARRY OOON, WE’LL CAAAARRY OOOON- part.*

    Jests aside, man. Last Professor Layton game. This and Phoenix Wright man, they were my DS adventurejams. At least with Ace Attourney there’s a sense that the adventure is ongoing and all, but this? To finally stand at the end?

    It’s a powerful feeling. And this article does a very good job of describing why. Charming scripts, charming characters, charming art… charm all around. That’ll do, Level 5. That’ll do.

  • katamari damacy

    Unfortunately in terms of story, since this was a prequel trilogy we KNOW what happens to Layton afterwards. His story essentially ended at the end of Unwound future, where he spends his days idling with luke and flora. I’d like it if they made an OVA or something that just has a final epilogue chapter that really make it seem Layton is satisfied no longer going on adventures or something.

    • D-Omen

      I think there’s no need to ever show Layton ending his adventures. I like to think the good professor kept being an awesome teacher and making crazy discoveries all throughout the rest of his life. That is certainly what a gentleman would do, isn’t it? ;-)

      Also, The Azran Legacy, like all the prequel trilogy, deals with the past of the professor, not his future. The revelations in this game are the most shocking in the series.

  • Shippoyasha

    This is really sad for me considering I consider it to be easily on the short list of the best new franchises this past decade and definitely my personal favorite. Not often do we get a major epic based on puzzles and brain twister gameplay. And definitely not with this level of craft and charm.

    I hope maybe there can be some type of a spiritual sequel or maybe an odd throwback sequel down the line. But I definitely wish Level 5 doesn’t abandon this unique combination of interweaving stories with puzzle solving. I would really love for a whole new spiritual sequel series to take the reins.

  • chronocide

    Yeah, okay, let me admit that this post made me a little teary too. Here’s hoping for a compilation release sometime in the future. Make it happen, Level 5.

  • J_Joestar

    LaytonXDMC?

    How about Professor Layton X Street Fighter?

    • D-Omen

      Now imagining his Ultra.

      “SORE WA… ANATA DA!”

  • http://keiserone.tumblr.com/ KeiserOne

    It really feels like an end of an era. When it released no one predicted the success of the franchise, and yet it contributed immensely to the DS diverse library. Layton really deserves his status as a video game icon and I hope he makes a return/cameo in future releases *sniffles*

  • Mugiwara

    Layton, you need to make your last debut in Super Smash Bros!

  • http://buriedunderromance.blogspot.com/ Mary Chen@Buried Under Romance

    I spent my entire weekend just playing this game. I really enjoyed the music too, and am so sad that I won’t see more of Professor Layton! T.T

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