Professor Layton and the New World of Steam Speculation
Image: Nintendo Life

It's been a couple of weeks now since February's Nintendo Direct and you want to know the one thing that we are still not quite over? There's a new Professor Layton game coming our way! It almost doesn't sound right saying that out loud: "a new Professor Layton game". Not a remaster. Not a rerelease. Something new. So new, in fact, that the team at Level-5 has even stuck it in the title: Professor Layton and the New World of Steam.

What do we know about the game at the moment? Well, not a lot if we're being honest.

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Hang on now. Don't you remember the phrase "a true gentleman leaves no puzzle unsolved"? We can't just sit back and wait for more information on the game to be sent our way (potentially in Level-5's upcoming "Vision 2023" showcase), oh no. We must don our stovepipe hats, sip our fruity tea and prepare to face the unexpected.

Yes, the Direct teaser (below) did not give us a lot to go on, so this will be a little tricky — but aren't all the best puzzles this way? We have no Hint Coins to cash in on this one, so we've opened up the Memo tab and started jotting down our theories.

Oh, and just to be clear, we do discuss the endings to a number of Layton games in this one, so watch out for spoilers ahead if you do still want to stay in the dark.

Let the speculayton begin...

Everything we know about the new Layton game so far

What do we know so far? Well, Professor Layton and the New World of Steam is definitely happening, but what exactly it will entail is another mystery entirely.

Fortunately, we have the above teaser to go on — hardly the most revealing piece of evidence, is it? — but enough room to spin some theories all the same. Starting with...

That title

Professor Layton and the New World of Steam
Image: Nintendo

Professor Layton and the New World of Steam, huh? What exactly is going on there?

Well, for starters, we love how the word "New" has managed to worm its way into this one. Look, it's even emphasised in a different shade of red when the title appears on screen! It's as if Level-5 is saying "remember that Katrielle game from a few years back? No you don't! This is nothing to do with that one!" and we respect that. There will be plenty of Katrielle chat to come, but from the title, at least, it looks like this entry will be making the most of its status away from the events of The Millionaire's Conspiracy.

As for the "World of Steam", we immediately went back to the ending of The Lost Future and the emotional damage that caused us. Those spinning cogs in the lead-up to the title reveal must speak to something, and which game in the series is more cog-based than all of the time-travelling shenanigans in the third entry?

So not a prequel then? Hmm, time for a timeline deep dive we think.

When in the world?

Professor Layton and the Lost Future
Image: Nintendo

If you were to look at a Venn diagram of Professor Layton and Star Wars fandoms, one of the few points that you would find in the middle section (alongside a fair amount of dad denial) is an obsession with non-linear timelines. After all, where's the fun in making episode four follow the narrative of episode three?

For Professor Layton (like Star Wars) there's the original trilogy, then the prequel trilogy, then a series of stragglers that fit in wherever they can (the Rogue Ones and Solos of the puzzler world, since we're insisting on pushing this analogy further). By the looks of all those cogs and the emphasis on new, we'd think that the next entry is set to follow the original trilogy, but this isn't the only option by any means.

Do you see the animation on ol' Hershel's back there? This is certainly closer to the 3D visual style of the final two mainline games, so might we be looking at another in-between story crammed betwixt The Azran Legacy and The Curious Village?

Based on how the former ends with the detective duo pulling up at the site of the latter, we'd be tempted to say no. But then again, road diversions exist, right? There's a world of possibilities to be found by following the 'Diverted Traffic' signs around a ring road just East of St. Mystere...

Who's the helper?

Professor Layton and the Spectre's Call
Image: Nintendo

So we reckon that the New World of Steam is taking place in a post-Lost Future world, then, so who will be helping Hershel out this time around? Emmy took her leave in disgrace at the end of Azran Legacy with the potential to one day return, Luke sets sail with his parents following the events of The Lost Future, and Flora isn't typically held up as the kind of character to do, we don't know, anything, so who will it be?

Fortunately, we have an actual clue for this one (we know, it's about time)! The official @LaytonSeries Twitter account posted the teaser trailer on Direct day and we couldn't help but notice the caption describe the game as "a brand new adventure for Layton and Luke".

Of course, The Lost Future does finish with Hershel all alone (easy now, you'll set us off again), though an epilogue cutscene shows the Professor receiving a letter from Luke inviting him to investigate another mystery. For 15 years now that promise of "To Be Continued" has hung over us all. Now that we know Luke's on board, could The New World of Steam be that very mystery?


Professor Layton and the Curious Village
Image: Nintendo

It's never spelled out exactly where Luke took off to at the end of the series' third entry, but there's every chance that this could be the "New World" to which the title refers. The Professor is typically British throughout each of the games and Luke generally follows suit (despite his changing accents across the regional variants). In the six mainline games, the action has therefore remained tied to England: mysteries happen in the tea-drinking countryside while the central hub of activity is up in cor blimey London. So what would be the largest possible change for Hershel? A trip to the "New World" of America.

That was a pretty big ship that Luke was boarding at the end of The Lost Future, more than capable of making the leap across the pond. Perhaps there's some more shifty goings-on happening in the US of A in regard to, we don't know, the development of trains (that Steam link has to slip in somewhere) and only the great Hershel Layton can sort it all out.

Then again, that's not very Layton, is it? If the past entries are anything to go by, then this is going to be a literal 'new world'. Probably built under the sea or somehow suspended in the sky (notice all the airships in the teaser), the franchise has never been one to do things by halves. Chances are that the narrative will end with the Professor and Luke being chased by this 'world' after the entire structure reveals giant mechanical legs and is subsequently piloted by a villain named something like Clarence Angré — yet another long-lost relative bent on revenge.

Adding to this theory is the single shot of setting that we get in the teaser. It doesn't look a lot like London, we'll admit, but that isn't immediately screaming America to us either.

Steam trains, cars, and... elephants?

Professor Layton and the New World of Steam
Image: Nintendo

We were all so caught up with looking at Layton himself during the Direct teaser that we had to go back a couple of times to take in his surroundings. That environment sure is looking sufficiently steam punk-y, but what's going on with all that transport? It looks like the 'World of Steam' has its name for a reason, just check out the funnel on that car!

Looking closer at the above image, isn't that a steam-powered elephant in the bottom right? Ah weird Laytonverse, how we've missed you.

Perhaps this will spawn a series following Hershel's movement to greener energy. Things can only get better when you are starting out with coal-powered cars...

Katrielle and the Forgotten Franchise Entry

Katrielle and the Millionaire's Conspiracy
Image: Nintendo

Of course, we couldn't talk all things speculayton (yes, we're very happy with that and we're going to keep saying it) without addressing the (non-mechanical) elephant in the room — will we see Katrielle back? In the humble opinion of this writer, we hope not, although the failures of The Millionaire's Conspiracy were not down to Katrielle alone.

While the majority of the action in the franchise-adjacent entry was little to do with Professor Layton himself, it seemed like things were heading that way just as the Katrielle narrative was rounding out.

The Millionaire's Conspiracy ends with Katrielle discovering that Hershel isn't, in fact, her biological father, setting up one of the key storylines for the 50-episode anime, Layton Mystery Detective Agency: Kat's Mystery-Solving Files. Not many people caught the show, it's true, but the chances of the next game covering that time period again seem slim to us. After all, where's the New in that?

Our guess is that The New World of Steam will fall before the Katrielle storyline. It's the best way to stay out of tricky plot threads and besides, who really wants to see more of that creepy grown-up Luke?


Prof Lay
Image: Nintendo

Let us be clear, we know very little about Professor Layton and the New World of Steam for the moment, but that isn't going to stop the speculation train any time soon.

The presence of Luke and not Emmy suggests that we are looking at a game set in the post-Lost Future world, potentially picking up on that mystery epilogue at the end of the third game. One thing that the series has always done well is leaving the door open for more, so there's no guarantee that we won't see Emmy, Flora, or (dare we say it?) Katrielle make an appearance, though we would be surprised if this takes a jump too far into the future.

With all that steam power, it sure looks like the same old Professor Layton that we have come to expect — here's hoping it's just as unexpected a ride.

Is there anything that our speculayton has missed? Share your top theories in the comments below.