The Conceptualization Of The Professor Layton Series

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.

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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.

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Ishaan Sahdev
Ishaan specializes in game design/sales analysis. He's the former managing editor of Siliconera and wrote the book "The Legend of Zelda - A Complete Development History". He also used to moonlight as a professional manga editor. These days, his day job has nothing to do with games, but the two inform each other nonetheless.