At the risk of repeating myself, if you’re a fan of the Professor Layton franchise, you don’t really need to be reading this review. You know what you’re going to find here, and you probably don’t need my recommendation to pick up the sixth and final(?) chapter in the Professor’s puzzling adventures.
If you’re choosing now, of all times, to just get into the series? You might just be picking up the best iteration yet at the worst possible time.
Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy is the conclusion of the “prequel” trilogy that began in Last Specter, continued into Miracle Mask and also included the animated feature Eternal Diva, which receives a quick shout-out early on in Azran Legacy. (The post-credits scene even brings the story full circle in a nice touch.) You don’t need to know everything that went on in those previous titles to appreciate this one, but you will probably be confused, as the always-insane plotline unravels in the final act. Fortunately, you don’t need to follow the plot to enjoy the puzzles, which is the real point to any of the Layton titles.
Azran Legacy uses StreetPass to share mini-scavenger hunts of various odd objects of interest. As you discover them, they get added to your list of objects you can select for your own hunt offering. If you don’t get a lot of tags, you can also use Play Coins to acquire new hunts. It’s cute, but it’s a minor diversion at best.
As before, the main narrative has 150 mind-bending puzzles hidden within, plus three mini-games that ultimately unlock a further 15 puzzles in bonus content. The mix here feels as good as it has ever been. You will be tested in logic, spacial reasoning, pattern recognition, mazes, and a host of other mental skills. While a few puzzles will return with harder versions as always, Azran Legacy mercifully limits these recurring challenges to a maximum of three total iterations, as opposed to previous titles that could feature seven or eight variants of the same puzzle. Also lacking from this edition are the odd Zelda-like dungeons found in Miracle Mask, which were an interesting experiment but certainly not anything I miss. If you get stuck, feel free to spend some hint coins you’ve discovered to get progressively-more-explicit clues. A gentleman is never afraid to ask for assistance, after all!
You find these puzzles mostly by chatting with the odd inhabitants of the various locations you visit in your archeological quest. Azran Legacy has a bounty of beautifully-illustrated locations to explore, using the same navigation as Miracle Mask in which you use the stylus on the bottom screen to move a context-sensitive cursor on the upper screen. This method allows the oversized backgrounds to expand beyond the confines of the normal screen resolution, and gives you a better sense of being right there with the Professor and his group. Additionally, it makes finding hidden puzzles, hint coins and other points of interest a snap when compared to the blind hunt-and-tap of the four non-3DS titles.
As with Miracle Mask, Azran Legacy contains a Daily Puzzle feature. That’s another 365 puzzles to test your wits over the next year, plus this time an extra 40 just for kicks. If you’re familiar with the feature from Miracle Mask (and I am), you’ll encounter a few familiar challenges, a few tweaked versions of classics, and some all-new stumpers.
Speaking of 3D, I feel that the third dimension was put to better use this time around. I can’t really put my finger on what, if anything, has actually changed between these two titles, but the 3D models looked far less jarring to me than those in Miracle Mask. Maybe I just got used to them? They certainly don’t seem as… bizarrely cartoonish as they have been, with the possible exception of the unique hairstyles of the residents of Phong Gi.
Attentive puzzlers might be able to use those unique character models to predict a late-game plot twist, in fact. That said? The four or five twists that follow that one will definitely blindside you, so don’t think you’ve got everything figured out just because you’ve noticed this one! The story doesn’t get as ridiculously far-fetched as just about every other Layton title, thankfully, but the places it does go are deeper and darker than you might expect.
On the whole, Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy is a fitting finale to the Layton saga, if a little melancholy. I’m going to miss my yearly adventure with Professor Hershel Layton, his apprentice Luke Triton and prequel trilogy standout Emmy Altavia.
Then again, I guess there’s still Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney…
Pros: Globe-spanning adventure filled with hundreds of puzzles, Daily Puzzle expands to 405 total offerings
Cons: The final Layton? Say it ain’t so!