Talking Point: The Future of Professor Layton

A puzzle yet to be solved

Thanks to its unique control interface and dual-screens, the DS generation has paved the way for some of the most diverse games ever committed to cartridge, perhaps none more so than the Professor Layton series. Ask a number of people ten years ago whether they would be interested in playing a game that tasks you with completing brain-teasers to advance a story and, possibly, you’d struggle to find many supporters. But that’s exactly what Level 5’s Professor Layton series is, a game that is part puzzler, part adventure, ultimately resulting in an enjoyable experience loved by a huge number of devoted fans. And now it would appear it is coming to an end, at least in the guise we've come to recognise.

According to Level 5’s CEO, Akihiro Hino, Layton 6, tentatively titled Professor Layton and the Remains of an Advanced Civilisation, will be the last game to star Hershel Layton as the primary protagonist, potentially throwing the future of the franchise into doubt. So if this is to be Hershel Layton’s last starring role, does this mean the end of the Professor Layton franchise, or are there still more Laytonesque stories to tell?

First suggested by Level 5 around the time of the prequel trilogy’s announcement and supported by the “To Be Continued” at the end of Professor Layton and the Unwound Future, a potential sequel trilogy would appear to be a natural progression for the franchise. While Hino did say that Layton 6 would be Hershel Layton’s final adventure, there remains the possibility that his meaning was lost in translation, and that he meant that this game would close off the prequel trilogy.

If that is the case, the final puzzle of Unwound Future seems a natural jumping-off point for a potential new trilogy and a fan-pleasing reunion between Layton and Luke. But perhaps there was some truth in Hino’s words, and the next game in the series will not feature Hershel Layton as the primary protagonist.

With Luke and Layton separated, perhaps this is the time for the Apprentice to take the lead. With Layton directing the investigation from London, the player could be left in charge of Luke as he solves puzzles and explores new areas, occasionally reporting in to the Professor for a fresh angle on the mystery.

Of course before this there is the case of Professor Layton vs Ace Attorney to solve, so regardless of whether the sequel trilogy exists there will at least be one more story to tell.

As we speculated before in our DS Games We Want on Wii U feature, thanks to its similarities to the DS touch-screen set-up the Wii U could be an ideal home for future Layton titles. In fact, in an interview with Famitsu, Akihiro Hino said that a Wii U Layton game would be “interesting” and praised the principle of the GamePad, so perhaps this idea isn’t that unlikely.

The obvious route would to create a brand new Layton adventure on Wii U, perhaps even taking the series into fully 3D environments for the first time and allowing for a free-roaming Layton adventure. The Wii U also offers the potential for Nintendo to implement cross-play between it and 3DS, allowing for puzzles to be taken away and solved whilst travelling. Perhaps when visiting Granny Riddleton you could send the puzzles to your 3DS, and then return the following day with solved puzzles to receive Picarats? Given the 3DS’s obvious ability to play Layton games, it would be a shame to completely ignore this potential.

The Wii U could also prove a great place to offer a Collector’s Edition of each trilogy. Much like the recently announced Ace Attorney HD collection, a HD bundle of each trilogy on Wii U that features updated graphics and additional dialogue could prove popular with fans, especially if it came with some form of collectible.

If Layton 6 is to be Hershel Layton’s final adventure before he hangs up his hat, then Level 5 has no shortage of other stories to tell thanks to the wonderfully detailed and vibrant world it's created. As already mentioned, a Luke spin-off would work well as he moves on from the role of Apprentice, but there are plenty of other characters just waiting for a moment in the spotlight.

Although we are yet to discover just why she doesn’t appear in Professor Layton and the Curious Village, Layton’s assistant Emmy Altava has surely learnt enough from the Professor to allow her to perform investigations on her own, so perhaps a spin-off could work with her in the lead? Then there are the always funny Inspectors Grosky and Chelmy, who aside from being the comic relief of the series are apparently brilliant detectives. While the franchise has never been much of a detective thriller, there’s potential for a Scotland Yard spin-off with the Inspectors at the helm.

And that’s just to name a few. Every character in the franchise has a story to tell, so with Layton relaxing with a nice cup of tea this could be the perfect time to tell them. Maybe we’ll even get an origin story for Stachenscarfen?

For a series that only started in 2007, the rise of the Professor Layton series as a franchise has been remarkable, and that has been echoed by the range of expanded media that is now coming out of Japan. The franchise now boasts a movie, a trilogy of novels, a manga and a mobile game, and these are areas that could hold the series over if Level 5 decides to give it a break for a few years.

While perhaps not as popular as in Japan, the release of the DVD movie Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva certainly struck a chord with many fans of the series, and given the love that the cutscenes and voice acting have always received, the often rumoured second movie could be the perfect way to continue the franchise outside of the games. The Japanese market is also home to a trilogy of Layton novels, which considering they are already written could be translated and released in the West.

And finally there are the mobile games, something Level 5 appears to be keen to move into. Currently only available in Japan, 2008’s Mansion of the Deadly Mirror is a bite-sized version of the typical Layton formula, but with Layton Brothers and the recently announced Seven Phantom Thieves releasing soon, it's clear Level 5 sees mobile as an area to expand the potential of the series, rather than simply replacing the core entries on Nintendo platforms.

More is surely on the way

The popularity of the Professor Layton franchise took many by surprise, but with its unique mix of puzzling and adventure exploration it's a franchise that's won over the hearts of many gamers. While we still don’t know the true extent of Hino’s statement, it's difficult to believe that Level 5 would simply abandon the franchise at its height; while Layton 6 might be the last Layton game as we know it, it’s doubtful this will be the last time we see Hershel Layton and Luke Triton solving a mystery together.

In the meantime, Western audiences have at least two further Professor Layton adventures to enjoy, with Professor Layton and the Mask of Miracle releasing next month as the series makes its 3DS debut.

What do you think the future holds for the Professor Layton series, on Nintendo and other media? Would you like the series to move onto Wii U, or would you prefer more handheld entries? Let us know in the comments below.