Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy | Principal Platforms: Nintendo 3DS | Developer: Level-5 | Publisher: Level-5, Nintendo | Genre: Puzzle | Year: 2013
Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy is the closing chapter of Layton’s second trilogy, and from a presentation standpoint at least, what we have here is a team of developers in total control of their craft. This is a beautifully made game; a treasure trove of mysteries and varied puzzles; all supported by subtle UI enhancements and graphical flourishes to help bring things together.
During the finale of Miracle Mask, we learnt that the Azran Legacies are relics being held by a sinister individual called Leon Bronev and his criminal organisation, Targent. Bronev is trying to unlock an Azran chamber; a mystical McGuffin that will presumably unleash some sort of mayhem upon the world. Now it’s up to Layton and his posse to recover the relics, solve the Azran mystery and ultimately avert a global disaster.
The integration of storytelling and puzzle solving is fairly effective in the early going. It’s a plot-heavy tale that’s starting to resemble The Adventures of Tin Tin as Professor Layton & co. scour the globe in search of the titular trinkets. The plot is peppered with several minor mysteries to help build momentum going into the finale, but the main draw is the variety of locations that players get to visit.
This globe-trotting quality makes Azran Legacy the most visually diverse of Layton’s adventures. There are wide open environments with lots of room to admire the view. It’s a welcome break from those old chapters that saw Layton chasing animals and scraps of paper through the previously visited neighbourhoods of some quirky town.
And for the most part, the game’s puzzle-themed credentials hold up well. There are plenty of new brainteasers, mini games and related challenges for fans to enjoy here. However, at the heart of Azran Legacy is the laboured breathing of a tired franchise. It doesn’t take long before Layton is on the trail of a yet another kidnapped girl, and things only get more lacklustre from there.
This particular adventure plays out in a somewhat heatless fashion. For each relic discovered, the Layton posse flies out to some remote part of the globe, solves a local mystery and then leaves (only to inevitably lose all the relics to Leon Bronev and his cronies anyway). It may be a visually splendid journey at times, but this lead up feels like we’re killing time before the main event gets underway.
When the finale does begin though, it fails for many of the same reasons that Miracle Mask did. The twists either feel forced or unsurprising, and the moments that do have storytelling potential fizzle out almost immediately because the writers don’t go all in on them. Unlike previous games, the plot here doesn’t benefit from the drama of any one big mystery. Any intrigue that the story develops in the early stages dissolves into sentimental anime-inspired drivel, full of stalled character beats and overly familiar set pieces.
Throw in some uninteresting villains, a lame final puzzle, and one very jarring marriage subplot, and you end up with a recipe for disappointment. At this point it must have been clear that Professor Layton was a big name in need of a long rest.