In an Iwata Asks interview for Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney, Level 5 CEO, Akihiro Hino, reveals that the idea for a crossover between the two series has long been in the wings.
In fact, Hino says, it has been one of his dreams to be able to collaborate with Ace Attorney and its creator, Shu Takumi, ever since the conception of Professor Layton. While Nintendo’s Brain Age games served as Layton’s inspiration, Ace Attorney has always held its place in Hino’s mind as the Layton series’ rival.
Hino admired the series’ charm and the flow of the Ace Attorney games—two things that heavily influenced Layton’s design. In fact, Hino feels that the two series are actually rather similar.
“From the outside, Professor Layton and Ace Attorney appear to be made with completely opposite game designs in mind,” Hino says. “ Professor Layton was created to go in a direction games don’t usually go, and Ace Attorney was created to appeal to the fans. However, even though the superficial interfaces are incredibly different, the core wrapped inside the package is essentially the same game.”
Before the idea of a crossover could even be considered, however, Hino knew that Layton had to establish itself as a franchise to be reckoned with, so it was only in January 2010 that the idea was presented to Capcom.
Takumi stated that he first heard of the news while he was still working on Ghost Trick for the Nintendo DS. Because of his responsibilities on that project, he wasn’t on the team when development of Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney began. Then, in May, he was called out to a yakiniku restaurant by the producer of the project in what Iwata termed the “Capcom tradition”—the practice where a superior takes hapless subordinates out for food when they want to reorganize existing projects.
Admitting that he was rather reluctant at first to work on the project, Takumi noted that, in his mind, Ace Attorney has always been its own little world. It was what it was and he had no desire to expand beyond it. However, when the phrase “witch trials” came up during a brainstorming session held in Level 5’s Tokyo office over the first half year, he started thinking: “What would it be like for Phoenix to hold trials in a world where magic exists?”
The most important factor in changing his mind, Takumi says, was that if he was going to do a crossover, he wanted to do something that would’ve been impossible in just the Ace Attorney world.
The idea took such a hold that before he knew it, that Takumi found himself working on the script when he’d merely gone over to bounce some ideas off of the staff. Running with the idea of magic and witch trials, Level 5’s team put out the idea of having an “ultimate criminal, one where anything he writes would become true”.
Iwata noted that usually, one company takes the leadership role in collaborations; having two companies work together to write and compose the music together was unusual. In general, the programming was left up to Level 5, while the art direction was Capcom’s job. The music was equally divided between Layton and Ace Attorney tracks.
The art, on the other hand, required more wrangling, especially on Professor Layton’s end. Ultimately, effort was made to adapt the Professor Layton style of art to Ace Attorney’s.
This isn’t to say that the Ace Attorney characters were left alone, however. The “fresh” aspect for the Ace Attorney series was, according to Takumi, the transformation from 2D to 3D, and also the transformation of the characters into anime cutscenes, both of which took quite a bit of time.
Other characters in the game are a mix of both styles (although Hino admits that Mahone is drawn completely in the Ace Attorney style), and Takumi noted that if you look carefully, you can tell which side the characters fall, but that the blending of the two styles is still very natural.
For his part, Hino was especially proud of the city’s design and graphics. Because the setting was medieval, he found it especially interesting to note the differences between Labyrinth City (the setting for the crossover) and Layton’s fantasy London. He aimed for a world that was balanced between realism and fantasy. Takumi enjoyed the 3D effect in the cities, which gave them a sense of awe.
As parting words, Takumi notes that the game has an extensive amount of content packed into it—easily 30 hours, he says—and that Professor Layton fans will enjoy seeing a new, more playful side to the Professor. Meanwhile, Ace Attorney fans will enjoy both the nostalgia of seeing Phoenix and Maya interact again, as well as the newness of the situation. In addition, Takumi adds: “The logic and scientific investigation that’s held up in the series up until now won’t apply to this world where magic exists, so you’ll have to put together a new logic.”
Hino feels that the game encompasses the best of both series. The crossover shouldn’t be viewed as just a side-story (with its implied throwaway, subpar quality), but as a fusion that embodies the feel of both games. He also suggests that players listen to the ending song once they finish the game, which is a hybrid of the two main themes played by a symphony.