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Level-5's President Discusses Professor Layton's Origins and Plans for More "Unique" Games in the Series

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

"We wanted to offer two intelligent characters"

Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy has now arrived in stores around the world, bringing a close to the prequel trilogy and, it seems, the adventures of the iconic Professor Hershel Layton. It was a fantastic finale that was also tinged with sadness, as it closed the door on the top hat wearing gentleman.

Through four games on DS and two on 3DS, the core Professor Layton series represented the break-out success for Level-5 and endeared itself to a broad audience. Its charming mix of an old-fashioned world that's half-real and half-fantasy along with extravagant tales has helped it stand out, with gorgeous animations and music also contributing to make it more than a simple puzzle game. Yet Akihiro Hino, president of Level-5, has explained to Eurogamer how the original title began as a collection of puzzles based on the Atama no Taisou series of puzzle books in Japan; these were written by Professor Akira Tago. When denied permission to use the brand, the demo of the first game — Professor Layton and the Curious Village — was already well on its way, so a bonus mode that based some puzzles around a story became the core concept. From that point, the focus shifted to creating the protagonists.

We wanted to offer two intelligent characters who could bounce ideas off each other. When I saw the illustrations I temporarily named them Professor Layton and Luke. The names seemed to fit perfectly and before I knew it they'd stuck. The characters stayed just as I had conceived them at the beginning.

The story in each game began as an initial "world view and game concept" before being expanded into a full script. The puzzles, meanwhile, were put together for each game by Professor Tago and a dedicated team, with Hino-san explaining how they were brought together and emphasizing the importance of finding the right balance in the end result.

To this day we design the puzzles via a process we call 'Puzzle Camp'. The puzzle team, headed by Professor Tago, and the game development team spend several days' together away designing puzzles. We are all extremely passionate about the puzzles and often our discussions become pretty heated.

Math-based puzzles are especially tricky as it is easy to see them as something right out of say a calculus class. We use descriptive text and illustrations to make these puzzles look and feel interesting - even at a glance, they rely heavily on a flash of inspiration.

The design of the games deliberately stripped away gameplay that could be considered essential in other genres, as Level-5 tapped into the "Touch Generation" of the DS years.

We worked hard to identify game components that are generally considered integral to games but are inessential and which could be set aside. For example, in the Professor Layton series, you can progress in the game without solving a difficult puzzle and choose to solve it later on instead. This is an unusual approach in game design, but it was quite deliberate.

Of course the main series, or at least the part of it focused on Professor Hershel Layton, has ended. That's a source of sadness for fans, of course, but also for Christopher Robin Miller — who we spoke to last year — as the lead character's voice actor since the beginning. He admits that he'll miss the almost-yearly routine of a new adventure.

I will miss the reveal of a new story of adventure each year. Not to mention working with the producers and developers, and seeing the adoration of the fans of this delightful series. People care about the characters and their relationships. I hope that the creators will change their minds and decide to keep going... but right now I have to let go.

Hino-san does give some encouragement for those that want to see the series continue in some form. The question is how it'll evolve, with a previously released smartphone spin-off being one area, while not much has been seen of Layton 7 since its peculiar and unimpressive reveal last year.

I don't plan on letting Layton end here. While Hershel Layton's personal story is now finished, we intend to continue on with the challenge of adding more unique Professor Layton titles to the overall series.

While a refresh could be a positive for the franchise, there's certainly scope to continue with the core principles of the series to date — charming storytelling with plenty of challenging puzzles. There are certainly enough characters and branches of lore to utilise, too.

We'd recommend the full interview feature (linked below) for all Layton fans. Let us know what you think of the series origins and what you'd like to see in the future; meanwhile, Professor Layton Vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney arrives on 28th March in Europe, with a North American release date yet to be confirmed.


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User Comments (21)



Geonjaha said:

I really don't get where they're planning on going with their franchise. They made six good games with Layton, and then decided to quit while they were ahead (at least that's what I'm assuming they did). A seemingly smart decision as it is a formula that gets more tired with time, and while I've only played three of the games so far, I left at least 6 months between each of them.

If however they are planning on continuing the franchise, why are they taking the spotlight off the main character, who also happens be the name of the franchise? None of the other characters are that great on their own imo, but I guess we will have to wait and see.



JadedGamer said:

I just finished miracle mask. My first in the series. I'm buying curious village,and am anxious to experience the series from the beginning. Hopefully finish it all by the time Mario kart 8 comes along. I just got yoshis new island. But came away unimpressed. I'd rather sink a couple months into this series instead



unrandomsam said:

3 games is enough in a series most of the time for me. (At least without say a 10 year gap).

If the quality drops at any time it spoils the series for me. (Because if I do like then I play all the entries and I would rather not play games that drop in quality).

If they were huge story arc's (That only make sense started at the beginning) I might be interested in some of that type. (Problem is even with books those type of things never seem to actually be available complete or even finished with very few exceptions).



MrGawain said:

I loved the first, but the following ones just rehashed a lot of puzzles and he storylines were stretched out artificially wandering back and forth. It was only when I started the 4th game that I actually noticed I wasn't enjoying them, but slogging through them in some sort of loyalty to the first game.

Personally I would have preferred another Ace Attorney solo game more than the team up.



GamerGleek47 said:

I will never forget Professor Layton. Curious Village was the first game that made me careabout the character. And with every entry taht feeling would grow to the point where, in The Last Specter, I cried because some parts were so cruel and real. Can't say the same for Miracle Mask (I love it but it didn't stick with me like The Last Specter)
And with Azran Legacy it was just sad. My emotions were all over the place. And that final cutscene! Aurora saying goodbye to Luke and Emmy to Layton! It is beyond me why some friends of mine don't understand it or just hate it.
But I refuse to accept Layton 7. That is NOT a Layton game. It doesn't seem to have any of the elements of the past games and is a sin (?) to call that a Layton game -.-



HollowGrapeJ said:

I really want to get into this series but idk.. It looks kind of.. boring. With all of the puzzles and stuff. :



RawkHawk013 said:

Huge fan of the series, mostly the story, music, and characters. The puzzles tend to be very tricky and challenging, but sometimes a little repetitive. Definitely recommend taking a decent sized break in between each (which I really didn't, playing 5 within little over a year). I'm towards the end of Miracle Mask right now, having finished the previous others. Professor Layton has become one of my favorite video game characters of all time without a doubt, I love everything about his character. I really hope he returns in some way, shape or form. Layton 7 has not impressed me in the slightest with what little I have seen of it! The series is one to not be missed, I strongly believe (started playing because my grandpa loved the series and let me borrow each of the four for the DS). That's my story about Professor Layton, a series about a true gentleman.



Tops said:

Definitely one of my favourite gaming series ever! Love the emphasis on story, and honestly, even if some puzzles seem like repeats I always want to know what happens next. Wish I could say the series was ending with as much grace and class as the gentleman himself has, but unfortunately it looks like Level-5 might start looking to use the Layton name for its cash-in value if "Layton 7" is any indication.



ShadJV said:

R.I.P. Professor Hershel Layton. As one of my favorite series of all time, the finishing the final entry this week was quite sad for me. I don't know if I should expect much for the future of the series, but saying goodbye has been hard, this was my most looked forward to game every year.

At least I have the lessons I've learned from him. Valuable insight such as a gentleman never removes his hat, never leaves a puzzle unsolved, and never bounces on the sofa.



PuzzleMaster7 said:

I've just replayed Miracle Mask again (my second favorite entry so far), and I can't wait to delve into Azran Legacy! The professor is definitely one of my favorite video game characters, so I know without a doubt once that once I reach the final cutscene, I'll be bawling away. However, I have heard a rumor that another movie will be produced, but, unfortunately, it has not yet been confirmed. Until we meet again in PL vs. PW, farewell Hershel Layton.



mamp said:

I'm gonna miss you Hershel Hopefully the next series entry is just as amazing.



AJWolfTill said:

I'm sure we are going to end up with Professor/Investigator Triton games when he is about the age that Clive was and has stepped out of Layton's shadow. It just seems like a logical progression to me.



Ralizah said:

What a fantastic series. Easily one of my favorite for Nintendo handhelds. I'm just glad the main series is at least retiring with some dignity.




The Layton Brothers on iOS (And Android, I think) was fun. Hope they continue with that and get them on 3DS.



Tops said:

@AJWolfTill That's what I was thinking. Hopefully if they do that Luke teams up with Flora, I think they'd make a good team



LittleIrves said:

SCOOP: Simon Parkin (author of Eurogamer piece) is the next Professor Layton. The man gets it done.



Darkness3131 said:

I just finished Azran yesterday, and the moment I finished it I truly realized how happy I was each year waiting for a Layton game. I will love this series forever.

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