Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy (3DS) Review

Hello there! We've two more days until August, so why don't we have two more reviews? Perfect! The first review is for Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy, the final entry in the Professor Layton games as we know them. Here's the review.

The Professor Layton series' swan song
satisfies and surprises.

Since his debut on the Nintendo DS, Level 5's Professor Layton series has shown players an amazing amount of humor, charm, perplexing puzzles, and enchanting mysteries throughout its previous five installments. Now, Professor Layton is taking to the proverbial stage one last time for one last adventure. Does the Professor Layton series end on a high note with Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy, or is the last puzzle to solve why the series ended on a low point?

Professor Layton's latest and last brings him, his faithful apprentice Luke, capable assistant Emmy, and newcomer Professor Sycamore on a globe-trotting journey to hunt for a series of mystical eggs left behind by the long-gone Azran civilization. However, an organization known as Targent is also after the same thing and will do anything to get what it wants.

Animated scenes like this are
like little prizes as you play along.
Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy starts off like a rocket, introducing the groundwork that leads to the adventure around the world, and had its pace continued throughout the game, it would have been one of, if not, the best entry in the series. However, upon reaching the portion of the game where you're tracking down the Azran eggs, the story hits a speed bump. Instead of following the very interesting and captivating overarching plot, Professor Layton's party ventures to five unique locations, each housing an egg. While the ability to take Professor Sycamore's Bostonius airship to any destination you'd like opens up the game immensely, offering an unprecedented amount of freedom in a Professor Layton game, the main plot of the game takes a backseat to a bunch of self-contained miniature stories for each of the five locations.

There's an incredible amount
of locations to journey to this time around.
It's not until all of the eggs have been located that the main story continues and there's a greater motivation to play through the game in bigger bursts. With each of the five self-contained plots and areas, I would just feel like making it through to the conclusion of one or two plots would be enough of a gaming session. I didn't feel a need to push on, which is a high contrast to the rest of the game.

The plot and game progresses through typical Professor Layton fashion. You talk to various NPC's, which usually won't part with their piece of information to further progression through the game until you solve a puzzle. These puzzles are brain teasers that involve logic puzzles, mathematical equations, and some trickery here and there put inside for good measure. Whether you're tasked with lighting up all of a city's streets while following a specific rule where no light of the same color can intersect, or fitting differently shaped squares into a puzzle without overlapping any pieces, the sheer variety and amount of puzzles available are staggering.

In this puzzle, no two flowers of the same
color can be touching.
Each puzzle is worth a certain amount of Picarats. The higher the amount, the more difficult the game's developers have decided that puzzle is. Getting the puzzle's solution correct on the first try nets the maximum amount of Picarats, while failed attempts lowers the amount available through solving it. These Picarats are used for late game puzzles that are only available through earning a high total of Picarats, and these puzzles are the toughest of the tough in Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy.

Thankfully, you're not thrown to the puzzle wolves in this game. As series veterans know, each puzzle houses four hints that can be paid for using hint coins. Hint coins are found by investigating the various environments of the game. As more hint coins are used on a puzzle, the solution usually presents itself in a much clearer, less abstract way. While it's fun to come to a solution on your own, it's not worth frustrating yourself, so using hint coins is a nice compromise between getting some helpful nudging in the right direction and just giving up and looking up the solution online on a walkthrough or something.

Aw, just hitch a ride with the guy
in the white van marked "CANDY."
Problem solved.
A most welcome addition is the World Times. Using locations already ventured to in Professor Layton and company's worldwide adventure, the World Times newspaper reports on little happenings and mysteries in these places. Not only do these open up humorous side stories, but they also reveal new environments of old places to explore and new puzzles to solve.

The longevity of Layton's sixth game is further expanded upon through three side games. Nut Roller has you helping a squirrel roll his walnut around a course strewn with obstacles in hopes of reaching the goal. Blooms and Shrooms puts a puzzling twist on a green thumb's favorite hobby, gardening. Finally, Dress Up is the most involved side game in Azran Legacy. It gives Professor Layton and his apprentice a job they've no doubt dreamed about diving into, fashion consulting. Through carefully listening through each NPC's very particular tastes, Layton and Luke must come up with an ensemble that adheres to their desires. The reason this is the most involved side game is that it requires accumulating an entire wardrobe of clothing pieces, all found by progressing through the story.

Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy uses the 3DS's features in an overall lovely way. First and foremost, the stereoscopic 3D effect is incredibly pronounced, and it makes the characters come out and at you in a most impressive display. The puzzle portions of the game themselves don't use 3D particularly well or at all, but the effect shines brightly everywhere else, especially a specific flight segment early on in the game.

The stylus can be sole method of controlling Azran Legacy, just like every other past entry. Whether it's moving a magnifying glass around the environment for investigation or for handwriting in numbers, the touch control aspect of the game works splendidly.

Funny and charming characters
both new and returning greet players.
StreetPass is also featured in Azran Legacy, offering treasure hunts. Through coming across various items and objects within the backgrounds of areas, players can come up with a list for other players to find. Successful treasure hunts reward players with cool 3D dioramas, objects, and more that I won't spoil as much as I have already.

Playing through Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy feels like a wonderful interactive storybook. The polish is beyond compare, the illustrations and attention to detail are amazing, and the various intricacies from little eccentricities in character movement to the way characters speak is phenomenal. Sure, the designers could have called it a day and phoned it in on puzzle pages, but even these feature stunning polish and details, such as cute animations and little humorous effects.

For a final entry in the franchise, Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy continues the impeccable quality and standards of the series. It won't leave as big an impression as the stupendous Unwound Future, but it will get you a bit teary eyed as you bid farewell to the wonderful world and cast of characters that the Professor Layton series possessed. Housing an immense number of entertaining puzzles and side content, Professor Layton's last full-length adventure is one worth experiencing. Take your final bow, Professor Hershel Layton. You have most certainly deserved it.

[SPC Says: 8.75/10]

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