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Psychotic Reviews: Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

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One of my favorite series on the original DS was Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. Each game was serious and completely whimsical at the same time. The characters are over the top and blown out of proportion in some cases, which only serve to make the courtroom scenes incredibly memorable as all of these personalities clash. The mystery element meant that the full picture of what happened was never entirely clear to the player until the trial and the investigations leading up to the courtroom scenes slowly reveal the whole story, or could also go down the rabbit hole at times. Its really a perfect blend of point and click puzzle adventure games with the narrative style of a visual novel, making the series stand out as the sum of its parts.

In contrast I’ve only played the first game in the Professor Layton series. I enjoy the game but can never sit down and play it for too long in any one sitting. Its really a gauntlet of puzzles. There are some point and click elements involved in this game as well, but they mainly serve as a way to find hint coins and hidden puzzles. The game is more of a slow burner compared to the Ace Attorney series, which will mix in dramatic courtroom scenes with the slower investigation to mix the pacing up.

These two series in terms of gameplay actually make sense putting together, and when I first heard about the crossover I was rather excited since I knew of Layton at the time and am a massive Ace Attorney fan. Despite only playing the first Layton game I was impressed by this game! The Ace Attorney style investigations mixed well with Layton style exploration and puzzle solving. It never felt like the gauntlet of Layton’s puzzles was getting to be too much of a grind since there is plenty more to enjoy and move through in the game.

In terms of story the world and area feel much more inspired by Layton. There is a village filled with magic where witches are burned after being found guilty at a trial. Professor Layton, Luke, Phoenix Wright, and Maya Fey all find themselves brought to this village. As Phoenix you play through a witch trial and work to get the first exoneration of a witch in the village’s memory! This case introduces a unique twist to the system of cross examination that was standard throughout the Ace Attorney series. In the courtroom scenes the witness testimony is all done at once, the witnesses line up and Phoenix cross examines them one after the other. This does allow the witnesses to collaborate with their stories and add in information that fills in any holes on the fly. This style feels stacked against you. No wonder there were so many guilty verdicts in a row before Nick and Maya showed up here!

After the two pairs meet up the overall goal of the game becomes to uncover the secret of the village and keep working to get rid of this stigma against witches. After all, magic shouldn’t exist in our rational, modern world of science right? This games does a fantastic job of leading you along through the story, with twists and turns helping to guide you. The drama of the courtroom spills out into the streets and these strangers soon become well known for their alien idea of ‘logic’. That’s right, this village has not been enlightened to the basic Western ideas of Greek logic.

Once again Capcom shows that they are the complete master of the crossover, but they had plenty of help from Level-5. Both companies worked together to add the elements from their respective games, and then to polish it up and make it presentable for the player. As a result of this the game is incredibly strong. If you’re interested in either series you’ll be pleased with the results here since Layton is more of the same and Phoenix has a nice change to make this game feel like a unique entry to the Ace Attorney series. Despite their differences the characters work well, but I feel like Layton himself solves these major puzzles because of hazy and unexplained reasons. This difference could be a result of Phoenix taking details in one at a time since everything in his series is evidence based, and only one piece is usually relevant at any one time. If you have a 3DS and are looking for a story based adventure jam packed with fun and wit, check this game out!

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Composer Compendium: Iwadare Chapter 2 AND LP

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[Originally posted on on June 26th, 2013.]

Noriyuki Iwadare: Chapter 2

When we last left off with Iwadare’s career we just stopped at Der Langrisser, and covered the big Lunar games and one remake, now its time for a new series to rise, and Lunar to continue with its remake train.

In 1996 Iwadare and Pack-In-Video worked together to make Monstania, a short tactical RPG for the Super Famicom that you guessed it, was never localized anywhere. It was quite late in the Super’s lifecycle by then and Japan already had the Nintendo 64 to play with. Also, Pack-In-Video almost never localized their games anyway.

In the same year Iwadare and Game Arts released the Playstation remake of the first Lunar, adding Story to the end of the title for some reason. Anyway, this is more than just a simple remake, since the Playstation has more power than a Sega CD the developers were able to upgrade graphics, sound, music, everything, and with the upgrades came new songs.

A year later saw the Japanese exclusive release of Langrisser IV for the Sega Saturn, Iwadare worked with a couple of others to produce the music for the game. The aforementioned remake of Lunar Walking School, Magic School Lunar, also released for the Saturn and only for Japan in 1997.

What the rest of us got from the wonderful year of 1997 is another work from Iwadare and Game Arts, a new project, one that’s not Lunar. Grandia. Grandia originally came out in 1997 for the Sega Saturn (for Japan only of course), but it was ported to the Playstation and released internationally in 1999 (2000 for the Euros out there). Because of its similarity to Xenogears in appearance and camera control it is the cause for some finger pointing ire amongst RPG fanboys, or did back when people cared.

1998 would see a couple more big projects from Iwadare. Langrisser V would release for the Saturn and Playstation (what geographical area do you think it was released in?) This is currently the latest game of the Langrisser series until Schwarz releases. Iwadare is credited as the composer for this upcoming game as well. But, the big news, at least internationally, was the remake of Lunar 2, getting the full Playstation treatment just like the first game got.

The next year was fairly quiet for the international Iwadare fan. None of the games would release outside of Japan but one did start a brand new series. Well, it is a new game in a way. Growlanser released in Japan only in 1999, but we would get some of the later games in the series.

In 2000 the world of role playing would be shaken to its core, or it should have been if it didn’t, because Game Arts and Iwadare came out with an all new Grandia for the new at the time Sega Dreamcast! I consider this game to be in the Holy Trinity of Dreamcast RPGs alongside Skies of Arcadia and Phantasy Star Online. Just ignore the PS2 port and get the DC version!

Let us start the 21st century by saying that the next couple games had no chance of releasing outside of Japan. Mercurius Pretty is a remake of an old Japanese PC-98 game, there was no exposure when it was originally released and most likely not going to attract even a niche fanbase at the time. True Love Story 3 is a dating sim, that’s about it for that one.

So the next music the international crowd was introduced to is a Grandia spin off, Grandia Xtreme. I have not played this game yet as I have never owned it and did not rent it back in the day, it is on my hunting list though as I have been digging the music.

Another True Love Story would come out along with an… ‘adult’ visual novel called Wind: A Breath of Heart. All the good stuff is in the PC version as it was cut for the console market. 2003 would see Iwadare work on that timeless PS2 classic Mega Man X7 with an entire music crew. Counting him, there are 9 credited composers for that game. Yikes!

Anyway I’ll skip the Mega Man X7 for now and move onto something else completely awesome. Lawyers. Namely, Capcom’s resident lawyer Nick Wright and crew. Yes, Iwadare started in the Ace Attorney series with the 3rd game, which we know as Trials and Tribulations. These games originally released as Game Boy Advance games. They were later remade for the Nintendo DS and released internationally a few years later, when I got in on the series.

Iwadare finally got to work for the big name in console RPGs, Square Enix, to compose the soundtrack to Radiata Stories before going back to compose the music for the Grandia I wish I could forget, Grandia III. After this he went back to making music for some Japanese exclusive sims primarily he made a return to the Ace Attorney series with Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth in 2009, and its UNLOCALIZED sequel Gyakuten Kenji 2 in 2011.

Alongside the new Ace Attorney spin off Game Arts and Iwadare made ANOTHER Lunar remake for the Playstation Portable. Lunar: Silver Star Harmony came out in 2009. The awesome Limited Edition has some sexy Lunar girl cards and a sweet CD soundtrack of all the music in the game! This is more of a slight enhancement to the PS1 remake than a different overhaul of the Sega CD original.

Grandia Online released in 2010 with Iwadare composing the entire soundtrack. Yes, this MMO is exclusive to Japan. I think its getting quite clear why Noriyuki Iwadare might not be as well known as he should be. Half his music never made it across any body of water!

The most recent games that Iwadare has worked on are the aforementioned Grandia Online, Gyakuten Kenji 2, and Kid Icarus: Uprising. Upcoming games with his music are the newest Ace Attorney game and Nick’s return; Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies, as well as Langrisser Schwarz.

Composer Compendium LP – Stewart Copeland

Introducing the Composer Compendium Limited Play, or LP for short. The idea behind the LP is to highlight a short career in video games. Perhaps a life was tragically cut short, or an artist made music for a handful of games and moved on, or, and this is the most common one, they exist as a popular entity outside of video games already. They have a made name with clout behind it, whether the person was in a famous band, does Broadway music, movie and TV soundtracks, whatever else they were doing beforehand does not matter.

As an extra to the conclusion of Noriyuki Iwadare here is the Limited Play of The Police’s drummer Stewart Copeland’s work in the video game industry.

Sadly, he only worked on one series of games and one other random game, but the best games in that series. Mr. Copeland composed the music for the first four Spyro games. He started work on the very first one for the Playstation, and finished with Enter the Dragonfly on PS2.

This time coincided with many musicians outside of the realm of video games entering the medium in the West. They no longer needed in depth knowledge of a system’s sound capabilities with the rise of CD gaming. The CD brought incredibly high quality music with it since NEC first introduced the Turbo CD as an add-on to the Turbografx-16. You did not need to be Yuzo Koshiro and create your own music coding language just to create high quality music. This brought many new audio styles to the world of mid-late 90’s gaming.

I love me some Insomniac, and part of that reason is that I grew up with the PS1 trilogy of games and this music. I still like to try and play through them every other summer for some fun and nostalgia. Even back then I thought the music was much different from anything I had played on the Super Nintendo and PS1 beforehand. This may have to do with Copeland’s lack of experience with the overall gaming market. He wasn’t listening to the soundtracks of other games to get a style of what a game should sound like, he just made great music to fit the style of the one game he was working on at the time.

The one non-Spyro game soundtrack Copeland did is Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare. I have not played this game so I don’t know how it holds up, but I know its supposed to at least be creepy and mildly scary at times. I’ll leave you with this nice, pleasant, limited little Spyro sample and this interview footage of the man himself.

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