Puzzle 001: How do you adapt a best-selling puzzle series for the big screen? The answer? Bring the puzzles along for the ride.
For most movies, shoehorning in memorable gameplay elements hasn't always worked out as planned — the first-person shooting segment from Doom was lampooned by many viewers, and Guile's Flash Kick from Street Fighter lacked that (dare we say it) 'flash' from its console counterpart. Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva attempts to bridge the gap between game and movie with puzzles and riddles, and while the film never fully capitalizes on the addicting puzzles and head-scratches, it successfully builds on the characters and universe that we have all come to know and love.
If there's one thing that Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva does get right, it's the setting. The series' distinct brand of Anglophile remains intact, with an opening set-piece set atop Big Ben in London, as Layton and apprentice Luke attempt to foil Don Paolo's evil plans once more. Soon after, the movie flashes back to one of Layton's first cases, set a bit after the famous professor first met Luke in Professor Layton and the Last Specter. The intrepid duo are called upon by Jenis Quatlane, an old acquaintance who is performing in a new opera set aboard the grand cruise ship called the Crown Petone. It would be ungentlemanly to spoil the rest of the story, but fear not! The rather absurd plot twists that you would expect from the handheld games are present, and while the ending feels a bit too rushed for its own good, the set-pieces and action scenes more than make up for it.
Aerial sequences, sword fighting, and a battle against a giant mech (which were also featured in the first three games, respectively) look great in motion, though it would have been nice to have seen some new moments. Nonetheless, the action looks great on a bigger screen, and the series trademark blend of European and Japanese animation styles (think Sylvain Chomet's Les Triplettes de Belleville mixed with any one of Miyazaki's newer films) creates a unique look that helps the series find its own identity amongst the handful of animated films that Japan releases year after year. Similarly, the charming characters from the games return in all their glory, with Emmy Altava, Andrew Schrader, and Flora making appearances. However, the stand-out character is Inspector Grosky, a bonafide bad-ass who manages to perform incredible feats of strength, (from out-swimming mechanically enhanced sharks to climbing up the side of a cruise liner) while keeping his hair, and more importantly his chest hair, intact.
And it's memorable moments like these that elevate Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva beyond mere 'average' status. While it might not offer the same compelling story or top production values of your favourite anime, it's a serviceable, 90 minute romp that gamers will enjoy, regardless of the time they've spent solving mysteries with Layton and friends.
Review copy provided by Viz Media