March 26, 2014
Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy is the sixth and final entry of the series that will feature the titular character, Professor Layton. It is also the end of the prequel trilogy that explores Layton's past and his connection with the Azran civilisation. In this installment Herschel, Luke and Emmy are contacted by Professor Sycamore who reveals the discovery of an Azran fossil in the snowy city of Froenborg. The fossil turns out to be an actual living Azran woman named Aurora who tells the crew that they need to find five Azran eggs in five different locations to uncover the secrets of the dead civilization.
The gameplay of Azran Legacy is exactly what you would expect from a Layton game: a point-and-click adventure where you have a magnifying glass as a cursor that’s used it to examine your environments. When you find something of interest the magnifying glass will change its lens color to let you know there's something there for you to check out. These usually result in additional titbits of dialogue, giving you some insight into the locale you're currently in or revealing a hidden puzzle.
For those unfamiliar with how the Layton series works, it puts you in a universe where puzzles make the world go round. Almost everyone you meet in the game is obsessed with puzzles and are usually only willing to help with your quest if you solve a puzzle for them. The bad guys you encounter will often throw a puzzle in your face and if you solve it, they'll get out of your way. Don't question it too much, it's part of the charm of this series.
There are a few types of puzzles available for you to solve, some being riddles, some require visual interpretation, while others are more classic maze and slider puzzles. These various types of puzzles were also present in the past Layton games but Azran Legacy generally manages to keep things fresh by offering new takes and twists on them. There are a total of 150 puzzles available in the main game for you to solve, but you only need to solve 75 of them to beat the story, so if you ever get stuck on a particularly difficult one you don't need to worry; you can always come back to it later.
Alternatively, you can also spend hint coins that you find hidden in the environments to buy hints on how to solve the puzzle. These prove to be really helpful as it is essentially a way for you to lower the difficulty of the puzzles. The only gripe with this gameplay formula is that the game insists on throwing a ton of puzzles at you each time you get close to discovering an egg or anything of importance. While this is great fun initially, it can get a bit tiresome especially as you approach the endgame when all you want to do is watch the climactic ending.
What sets Azran Legacy apart from its predecessors is its decision to go open world once you get past the first two chapters of the game. As you're required to find the five Azran eggs, the game gives you five completely different locales to explore in any order you choose. These include a windy town, a lovely island by the beach, and an ancient walled city. These five areas require you to complete a mini quest, usually involving the intriguing folk culture of the locale, before you can get to the egg. Once you've found the five eggs you can put the main story on hold and continue exploring the different areas, should you so choose. This sense of exploration is incentivized by a new World Times section available in Herschel's trunk that contains various articles from the world newspaper. Reading these articles will open up new puzzles in new hidden areas of the locales you've already been to. This is a rather ingenious way of encouraging players to keep exploring the world because of the new characters you'll get to meet and the harder puzzles to solve.
The trunk also provides you with three additional mini games which you can play to take a break from the main story. These include Dress Up, Nutty Roller, and Bloom Burst. Dress Up involves putting together fashionable outfits according to your client's request and this is made fun by the variety of clothing you unlock as you progress in the game. Nutty Roller and Bloom Burst are more of puzzle games that require some degree of visualization and imagination on the player’s part to solve. Bloom Burst for instance, involves planting different types of flowers that will spark a chain reaction with each other, thus causing the entire garden to be covered in flowers. You'll have to be aware of how planting a flower in a specific position will affect a flower in another, and so on and so forth. These mini games are a good break from the regular puzzles in the game and are great fun to attempt while you're on the go.
The engaging puzzles and the great amount of content already make Azran Legacy a must-have title for 3DS, but I haven't even talked about the game's true shining point yet: its soundtrack. Anyone who's ever picked up a Layton game will know that each entry is accompanied by beautiful and serene music pieces that fit the mood of the game. Azran Legacy is no different. In fact, I might even go as far as to say that Azran Legacy has the best soundtrack in the series so far. Each set piece in the game has a different theme that suits the atmosphere perfectly. The theme that plays in your airship Bostonius while you're airborne, for example, is a poignant one that really gives you a great sense of adventure. The music hits all the right notes and is extremely memorable.
As the final epic adventure of Herschel Layton, coupled with the outstanding musical score, this is an adventure that is sure to leave a lasting impression on players.
Azran Legacy is arguably the best entry in the series thus far and it closes out everything nicely by giving us a glimpse of Curious Village right after the credits have finished rolling. The only complaint I have is that the game's formula of bombarding the player with challenging puzzles gets rather irksome towards the end; Level 5 has yet to find the perfect balance between mandatory puzzle-solving and storytelling but Azran Legacy comes pretty close. This game is another shining gem to be added to the ever-growing repertoire of quality games for the 3DS and should not be missed by puzzle enthusiasts or gamers looking for a unique adventure experience. The quest with Herschel, Emmy and Luke is an unforgettable one and I look forward to whatever Level 5 has planned for us next. Maybe an adventure with Emmy and Luke as the sole protagonists? That'd be pretty amusing.