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Professor Layton And The Lost Franchise: Where Did The Beloved Puzzle Series Go? – Talking Point

Level-5 Layton
Image: Nintendo Life

From the late 2000s to the mid-2010s, my gaming expertise was all about studying to change into a gentleman. This was a central matter which ran all through the Professor Layton sequence. If Professor Hershel Layton wore a trench coat, I wore a trench coat; if he drank fruity tea, I drank fruity tea; if he was reminded of a puzzle throughout probably the most inappropriate of instances…effectively, you get the thought. This is to say that the Professor Layton video games have been an enormous a part of my formative gaming and certainly, my self-education. So why is it that, immediately, my views of the sequence are so typically tainted?

The reply could also be discovered within the final title of the sequence: Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy. This a recreation that, no matter its deserves, by no means sat effectively with me. There was no Hershel, no Luke, no aggressively good jazz rating. It wasn’t a Professor Layton recreation — to my thoughts, at the least.

This week marked the five-year anniversary of Layton’s Mystery Journey’s US and European 3DS launch. It additionally signifies that it has been 5 years since we final had an unique Professor Layton title on console – longer nonetheless if, like me, you wrestle to incorporate Mystery Journey with the opposite mainline video games.

Is it truthful to say that every one hope of one other Layton entry is gone and, if that’s the case, is it truthful responsible Mystery Journey? This is a puzzle certainly, and, as I discovered from the grasp of etiquette himself, a real gentleman leaves no puzzle unsolved…

Level one among Level-5

Level-5 Logo
Image: Level-5

In order to unravel the thriller of the misplaced franchise, we should return to the start. The yr was 1998 and former Rivershillsoft worker Akihiro Hino fashioned a partnership with Sony Computer Entertainment to work on tasks for the PlayStation 2, if he did so below his personal firm model. Choosing a reputation to reference the best mark on a Japanese report card, Level-5 Inc. was born and, after engaged on tasks equivalent to Dark Cloud, Dragon Quest VIII and Rogue Galaxy with Sony, the studio started self-publishing video games by the mid-2000s.

Keen to money in on the adult-oriented audiences that Dr. Kawashima’s big floating head had dropped at the DS, Level-5 started engaged on a title that may work for youngsters and adults alike. The type of recreation that your Grandma can purchase you for Christmas and have a crack at herself after sharpening off a glass of sherry.

It was on this technique of improvement that one of many all-time nice duos have been fashioned. Much like Mario and Luigi, Mario and Sonic, or Mario and, err, Rabbids (?), Akihiro Hino enlisted the assistance of puzzle guide author and real-life quizard Akira Tago to assist beginning a franchise that was each enjoyable and (within the loosest sense of the phrase) academic.

Building a real gentleman

Professor Layton and the Curious Village
Image: Level-5

The completed product was not only one, however six video games (and a crossover, a function movie, a manga sequence, cellular app, and sufficient Stove Pipe hat merchandise to ship shares by way of the roof). Professor Layton and the Curious Village was launched in 2007 to deservedly excessive acclaim. The puzzles have been fiendishly puzzling, the central thriller was genuinely mysterious, the top-tapping jazz rating from Tomohiro Nishiura supplies one of many biggest online game soundtracks of all time, and P.A. Works supplied function film-level animated cutscenes. Feature. Film. Level.

Saving the principle theme till the massive finale is a daring transfer Nishiura, but it surely will get me each time

The unique trilogy was so eagerly met that the trio of prequel video games was shortly launched within the following three years (Professor Layton and the Spector’s Call on DS, and each Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask and Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy on 3DS). It is true, every entry does get considerably wackier than that which preceded it (this can be a sequence that genuinely strikes from an inheritance dispute in recreation one to — SPOILERS!actually resurrecting the lifeless by recreation six), however that was a part of the sequence’ allure. Professor Layton was a family identify, and this foolish little franchise may run endlessly, proper?

Wrong. Excluding Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, which might launch in Japan in 2012 earlier than a Western localisation landed monstrously late in 2014, we haven’t seen our high hat-wearing, Laytonmobile-driving, tea-drinking Professor in close to sufficient eight years.

And, sadly, it’s unlikely that we are going to ever see him once more.

The rise and fall of Level-5

You see, following the success of the Layton sequence and a few robust franchises with Inazuma Eleven and Yo-kai Watch, Level-5 had fallen into disarray. Taking a break from Layton after not one, however two trilogy endings which precipitated emotional harm, Level-5 hit massive with Yo-kai Watch in Japan, promoting over a million items in its first yr and starting a cultural following that even rivalled the likes of Pokémon – yeah, it was a giant deal.

The difficulty was that this Japanese folklore-heavy sequence simply didn’t have the identical impact on Western audiences – who would have thought it? While the primary recreation offered a decent 400,000 items within the US, curiosity within the franchise steadily waned with the sequels. This wasn’t helped by the lengthy durations that it will take for Level-5 to localise them – it took over three years for the primary recreation to achieve Europe, and now we have near-given up hope Yo-kai Watch 4 will ever seem exterior of Japan.

The ensuing monetary difficulties and slew of cancelled tasks meant that Level-5’s hiatus from the Layton sequence couldn’t have come at a worse time. Tragically, in 2016, the dying of Akira Tago meant that issues appeared bleaker nonetheless.

Without Tago’s iconic puzzles, what would one other Layton recreation even appear to be?

Layton’s Mystery Journey

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

Well, it will look loads like 2017’s Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy, which initially launched on 3DS and cellular earlier than receiving a ‘Deluxe’ Switch port just a few years later.

The recreation is a hole shell of all the pieces that made the Layton sequence nice. The puzzles, now designed by Kuniaki Iwanami, will not be puzzling, there isn’t any thriller to be discovered mysterious, the toe-tapping jazz is changed by jazz which is notably un-tappy, and, to high all of it off, there’s no Layton.

Playing Layton’s Mystery Journey, I attempted to persuade myself that maybe the Layton franchise had at all times been this fashion and I had simply grown up – pfft, these puzzles aren’t simpler, it’s me who has gotten higher. This merely isn’t true. Sure, placing Layton’s identify within the title is sufficient to tangentially hyperlink the discharge to these which had come earlier than it, although the sport shares about as a lot DNA to the unique as Pokémon Dash does to Pokémon Red and Blue.

There is such a noticeable downgrade with the lack of Tago’s genius and the entire recreation suffers due to it. Even Hino’s writing isn’t on top of things right here. Splitting the central thriller down into a number of smaller circumstances signifies that there isn’t any build-up to the finale and who the heck signed off on including a speaking canine to the sport? A city filled with robots within the Layton sequence I can imagine, however come on.

It is likely to be unfair to attribute all of the blame for Layton’s demise on Mystery Journey. The recreation did effectively sufficient for Hino to write down a 50-episode anime spinoff – and if that isn’t a transparent signal of success then I don’t know what’s. What is obvious, nonetheless, is that it did not reignite the puzzling ardour of its predecessors for many Layton lovers.

So, what now?

Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy
Image: Level-5

In 2020, a Video report said that Level-5 could be ceasing all operations exterior of Japan, with the possibilities of future Western localisations being extraordinarily unlikely. In Japan, the studio continues to launch Switch titles — Yo-kai Watch Jam: Yo-kai Academy Y – Waiwai Gakuen Seikatsu, Megaton Musashi, and Megaton Musashi Cross in 2020-2022, and Inazuma Eleven: Victory Road of Heroes is anticipated to launch subsequent yr. The final Level-5 recreation that we noticed obtain a Western launch was Snack World: The Dungeon Crawl – Gold again in 2020 – hardly the firework ending from the studio that developed a number of the hottest franchises on Nintendo’s previous-gen handhelds.

So the place does this depart Layton? A studio in disarray and a previous entry to go away a bitter style within the mouth is hardly a perfect place to search out the franchise immediately, however this isn’t to say that Layton is essentially lifeless simply but. Level-5 is without doubt one of the studios that, repeatedly, determined followers name on Nintendo to accumulate. The big-N has revealed every Layton localisation previously and every to a superb stage of success. The alternative — nonetheless unlikely — is there, however even when that miraculously occurred and Nintendo bankrolled a comeback, there’s nonetheless the case of Akira Tago’s absence. Perhaps Layton is actually gone.

The signal of an excellent thriller is all in the way you wrap it up, and Layton’s Mystery Journey supplied no Agatha Christie reveal. In good religion, the possibilities of Level-5 releasing one other Layton recreation in the mean time are about as slim as Luke ever altering out of that little blue jumper — critically, what number of of them does he personal? — however to see the gentlemanly professor return and wash away the bitter style of Layton’s Mystery Journey could be most edifying, and would carry his case to a correct shut.



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