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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!

Psychotic Reviews: Ni no Kuni

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I am unsure if Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is the RPG I would use to introduce the genre to a child or not. I was planning on showing my eventual offspring the classics first, maybe start with some Dragon Quest and lead into some SNES Squaresoft. I am still leaning towards Ni no Kuni as a launchpad as it throws Dragon Quest, Monster Rancher, Pokemon, and My Neighbor Totoro in a blender and just lets it all puree for hours. Glorious hours. Level-5 and Studio Ghibli have crafted a beautiful world with wonderful characters that show a child’s journey from the worst circumstances you could imagine into a strong and independent leader.

Oliver is a resident of the post-war Americana inspired peaceful town of Motorville. Early on in the game Oliver’s mother dies, saving her son from drowning after he test drives his friend Phillip’s hand made car. He holds onto a stuffed animal that his mother made for him and begins to cry on it. When his tears hit the stuffed doll Studio Ghibli happens and the stuffed animal is granted life, becoming Lord High Lord of the Fairies Drippy. Drippy gives a bunch of information to Oliver about another world where people’s hearts are connected. If somebody exists in Motorville, they will exist in this world, so his mother could still be alive there!

Not long into the adventure in this new world Oliver is granted the spell to create a familiar from the power of his heart. Oliver creates the Milites Mitey Mite. You as the player have the ability to feed and grow your familiars as you see fit, and get the ability to catch your own once Esthar is recruited into the party later. Swaine has the ability to steal items and cause status ailments with his gun. Marcassin is recruited late in the game and is another powerful spellcaster to add to the mix of Oliver and Esthar.


That’s a tidy pose, ent’it?

You’ll really get your power from familiars, as they can take up roles that just don’t fit your main characters. Early on Mitey is a pretty good tank and does decent damage, but attacks slowly. Mitey is not very useful after the halfway point, his stats start to flatten. There will be plenty of options for a replacement though, assuming you’ve been singing to catchable familiars with Esthar! This is a Level-5 game, so expect item alchemy as well.

Combat itself is fairly straightforward, attack, use skills and magic, and you can stagger your enemies and cancel their attacks with proper timing. Familiars with fast attack speed are better at staggering and canceling than slow attackers like Mitey. Staggering can lead to a possible golden glim, which gives the familiar a form of super ability. It could be an offensive ability, healing, or a buff. The combat is turn based, so the feel of attacking and the experience gains give the feeling of Dragon Quest influence.

The music is fantastic, being composed by Studio Ghibli veteran Joe Hisaishi and Rei Kendoh. All the music was performed by the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra. The music was first compressed so it could fit on a DS cart, a 4 gig cart though. The PS3 soundtrack is the full orchestral performance.

The world really feels like an old school RPG world though. For every kingdom or large landmass there only seems to be one town to visit. There you stock up on items, move the story forward, run errands for people for items and money, and take monster bounties. For the most part of the game I found the errands and bounties to be the best way to stock up on money, as monsters just didn’t seem to drop enough. It really felt more balanced around the fact that you do run all the errands while playing through the game.

This really slows down the midgame, as you end up devoting entire play sessions, multiple hours each time, to simply running errands and taking out bounties. Otherwise you can’t afford new weapons and armor and lag even further behind! Eventually the errands start to bottleneck as you’re running out of new pieces of heart to take and give to other people, so it doesn’t take long towards the endgame.

The game quickens pace towards the end and leads straight to the final showdown with the White Witch. After completing the game the player has the option of creating a cleared save file and returning to the world to complete more errands, bounties. You can also do some more side quests like win stuff at the casino, finish the Solosseum, and make all the hidden and powerful alchemy recipes. As sweet and magical as this game is, this post game content might just be hard to resist.

I would give a strong recommendation to this game for anybody that is an RPG fan and has been looking for a classic styled game that is just modern enough, challenging, and tells a strong enough story to keep you hooked. The characters in this game are not the same tired clichs that have been running rampant in the genre for the past decade, so their performances and development should leave you satisfied.

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