Come my children, and listen to an epic tale. A tale of pursuit, close calls, failures and victories, or alternatively known as, how I finally got the last Professor Layton game. The story of getting the game is almost as interesting as playing it and started two years ago when the game was first released. At the time, I had just finished Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask, the fifth game in the series, and was still hunting the fourth game, The Last Specter. For some weird reason, some Professor Layton games are harder to find than others. When I first starting playing the series, around the time the third game came out, the price for used copies in the US were all under 20 dollars. After waiting a few months after Unwound Future came out, I too found that game on sale for 17 bucks. Then I waited for the fourth game to drop in price...and I kept stalling getting it by buying all sorts of other games for my PSOne and 2. Then the price started creeping up.
I seemingly missed my window! I’d stalk the game on Amazon nearly every day, and checked my local stores to see if any copies got overlooked. Moron that I was, I still managed to overlook a 20 dollar copy at my local Toys R Us, and after YEARS of hunting the game, I finally got it by a dumb fluke. A single store in my state had one copy of Last Specter on clearance and I had them move it to my location.
I was determined not to repeat the same mistake with any other games.
The first time I saw Miracle Mask for 20 bucks I didn’t even hesitate, and as soon as Azran Legacy was released I waited for a sale. And waited. And waited. The game was released in February 2014, and from February to December, the lowest I had ever seen the game go on sale was 27 dollars. In December, when the price finally did dip down to 27 dollars I thought, finally! Just a matter of time until it gets cheap enough to buy! But then when the price went back to 40 dollars a few days later a funny thing happened: the price started going higher. From the end of 2014 to the beginning of 2016 I saw Azran Legacy creep from 40 dollars for a used copy, 29 for used, to 50 dollars, than 60, with the game topping out at 70 dollars a copy for new and 45 for used on Amazon. I started using the same avenues to look for a local copy, but to my dismal, all the stores sold out! My last bastion was a Walmart across town that still had about six copies left in stock, but by Christmas last year, those suckers were gone too. I had practically given up at that point, though I’d peruse the local used game stores out of habit more than any real hope I’d actually find it. The Professor Layton games rarely made it to the used places, Gamestop or otherwise. As though the universe was mocking me, I did stumble across a used copy in a nearby Gamestop...but without case, and for 24 dollars.
Then a couple of weeks ago my mom was in that crosstown Walmart that had sold out in December, and she called me to ask which of the Professor Layton games was the one I was searching for, when I told her Azran Legacy, she said, they had four copies in stock, and they were on sale for 24 dollars. When she asked if I was willing to break my 20 dollar game rule for it, I didn’t even hesitate. I was not about to lose out again when this stupid game was so close to my grasp! As the fastest Layton game to go out of print, and the last Hershel Layton game in the series, was it worth my epic quest to finally possess the game?
Yes and no.
I think this game was seriously hyped for me by both my desperate search to find is, as well as some of the reviews. It is in no way shape or form a terrible game: it has that classic Layton formula of an intriguing mystery, charming character designs and music, challenging puzzles, and a surprisingly dark and emotional current to the story. It is every bit a Layton game, and in the best possible way. The system is smoother and less jerky than Miracle Mask, which had some problems controlling the stylus as the games moved from the DS to the 3DS, the graphics feel more natural since the character models seem more illustrated instead of polygonal, and the puzzles had less illogical traps than some of the earlier games fell victim to. But as not only the last game in the trilogy that ties the 4-6th games with the 1st through 3rd, but also the farewell to Hershel Layton, the conclusion felt a bit...lacking.
At the end of Miracle Mask, an after credits cut scene set up a final confrontation, as we learn that arch nemesis Jean Descole is not the only thorn in Layton’s side, but a mysterious second group also has an interest in the Azran, the culture whose ruins had been stumbled across in the first two games in the secondary trilogy, as well as the canonical animated film, Eternal Diva (which, I will now need to buy and watch.) The game opens up as Layton’s colleague Professor Sycamore invites the Professor to view his latest discover: a frozen mummy that may actually still be alive. This girl revives and reveals herself to be the emissary of the Azran, placed by her people to guide the people of the future to the knowledge and understanding of her culture. This sets off a quest around the world for Aura Stones, artifacts said to unlock the Azran’s secrets. But interfering in their mission is Targent, a maniacal group with an obsession with the ancient culture. The first two acts of the game are great, but it loses a lot of momentum when it opens up to the around the world quests. They can be done in any order, and the individual stories of the various countries are good, but it gave me too much of an impression of a sidequest in an RPG.
The game picks back up after the aura stones are collected, Descole reveals himself, and you learn the truth of the Azran Legacy, but the conclusion, while bittersweet, felt like it lacked the emotional gut punch like Unwound Future, or the real hopefulness of Miracle Mask. The storyline of Descole and Sycamore felt a little muddled as well, since both characters hated Targent, but for very different reasons, and the game never quite clarified how they connected, unless it was implied that one character lost a whole hell of a lot of family members to Targent. The final puzzle also wasn’t as clever or endearing like Diabolical Box, it was okay, but it didn’t feel as immersive as previous games. It’s not to say the game was a letdown, it gave a good solid connection between the end of this trilogy and Curious Village, which chronologically comes after, and gave a good reason why character Emmy doesn’t appear in all the games. I think I just hoped the game was something it couldn’t be, and wanted a lot more than it could offer. Minus a few niggling plot holes and a slowdown in the third act, it was a good game that gave a satisfying conclusion that leads to the more heartbreaking Unwound Future.