Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney, the Nintendo 3DS crossover between Level-5 and Capcom's respective adventure game heroes, wasn't some crass money grab. The way Level-5 head Akihiro Hino and Capcom director Shu Takumi put it to Famitsu this week, it came out because Hino was really that much of an Ace Attorney maniac.
"The Ace Attorney games were the ones I went to the most for inspiration when designing the first game, Professor Layton and the Curious Village," Hino said. "It was largely by default, because at the time, Ace Attorney was about the only real hit adventure game on portable systems. I made notes on how the game felt, and the surprising ways the story went, and I added my own originality to gradually mold Layton to what it was."
The crossover, as the interview depicts it, was entirely Hino's idea from the start. "As a gamer, I really liked the series," he told Famitsu. "I always thought it'd be nice if we could recognize each other's talents and maybe work together on something. So once Layton became a stable series, I figured Capcom must have noticed us by that point, so I made the pitch to them and I said I really wanted to work with Takumi on this."
"When I first got involved with this," Takumi added, "the idea was that I would be supervising the script. I was brought along more to discuss what exactly Ace Attorney was all about with the rest of the team, but as we got talking, the producer [Hironobu Takeshita] started putting the pressure on me to get more directly involved. So I got to talking with Hino once or twice a month, and we had the initial flow worked about in about half a year's time. The original setting came pretty quickly, but we went through a lot of rewrites trying to get the world right and how Layton and Phoenix Wright should exist together. It took a while, but this wasn't something we were approaching lightly."
The way Layton vs. Ace Attorney worked in Hino's mind, there was no possible way the project would possibly work without Takumi's hand-on participation. "Getting the team working based on Takumi's idea was how we were going to get his style into the game," he explained. "So first I wanted to get Takumi enthused about making the game; then I wanted it to go from there. It took a little time for him to get fully involved, but if you consider that as a sort of preliminary to Layton vs. Ace Attorney getting really started, I think it worked out well in the end. I have things I wanted in the script, since I'm the one writing Layton, but in a way I felt like I had to have this so Takumi was doing what he wanted. He writes interesting stories, and if he isn't flowing, then that's not going to happen."
So what got Takumi, who admitted to not being too enthused to the idea at first (in part because he was working on Ghost Trick at the time), serious about the collaboration? "It was when the 'witch hunt trial' plot idea came around," he responded. "I figured we needed to do something that you couldn't with Ace Attorney by itself. With that keyword, that builds the image of a world where magic exists and common sense doesn't apply any longer. Ace Attorney has to follow the laws of real-world physics and science, but none of that applies to this game. You have murders being conducted with fire spells and such. Imagining Phoenix being thrust into this world made me think that this could be really fun."
"It's kind of an anything's-possible atmosphere," Hino added. "We aren't just making a side project that throws the two games together, but like a really high-budget movie version of both games, the kind of thing where one plus one winds up equaling three. That's why we wanted the character to be adventuring in a more flashy world than before and get Phoenix in a more dangerous situation."
Now Layton vs. Ace Attorney is out, to mostly glowing reviews in Japan, and Takumi seems more than happy with the effort. "To be honest, I didn't know how to react a little when I first heard the idea of a collaboration," he told Famitsu. "But it wound up resulting in some neat ideas, and as I kept talking with Hino, I started to want to really mold this into something that worked, and the attitude I took to the game started to change. The 'witch hunt' keyword had this dangerous kind of aspect to it, so I was worried about Hino's reaction, but he was really receptive to it."
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