Over 17 million units shipped. A hit theatrical movie and 50 episode anime series. A stellar crossover game with a beloved Capcom franchise. All of these accomplishments in under 15 years, and yet, Professor Layton’s still waiting on his Smash invite.
But let’s back up a second. It’s 2007, and Nintendo’s riding high from the success of both the Wii and the DS. Both consoles have managed to not only entrance core gamers, but have also enraptured a pretty sizable casual audience as well. Grandparents are mystified by bowling in Wii Sports, and kids are tricking their parents into buying them a DS because Brain Age is on it. It’s a good time for the company, a few short years before the Wii U would spell disaster for them.
In the midst of this boom, boutique publisher Level-5 is angling for a hit. Their previous game, the wonderful PSP gem Jeanne d’Arc, was a modest success – at least, as far as “PSP-exclusive JRPGs about the Hundred Years War” go – but far from the developer’s early successes with the beloved Dark Cloud series. Level-5’s been a successful studio, but not exactly a hitmaker.
That all changes when the studio ships Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box. The game is an immediate success, and by 2010, both it and its three sequels have sold over 10 million copies. This success slows down with the 3DS, but it’s still a bankable property, with over 17 million units sold by 2018. To this day, even if you haven’t touched a Layton game, you’ve at least heard of the series.
A large part of that success, to me, is due to how the series perfectly encapsulated Nintendo’s elevator pitch for the DS. Core gamers were entranced by the franchise’s narratives and production values – all top-notch, thanks to a team of seasoned industry veterans. Meanwhile, that everyday audience Nintendo banks on fell in love with the charming aesthetic and fun brainteasers.
In a time before mobile gaming truly took off, Nintendo offered a portable collection of bite-sized puzzles and a cute story that tied it all together. It was the very capitulation of the DS’s goal: replicating the early crossover appeal of the Game Boy. The success of Layton, truly, is intrinsically bound to the DS – and, to an extent, the inverse is true.
So why, then, hasn’t the good professor appeared in Nintendo’s flagship crossover game?
It seems like a glaring oversight. While the series has undeniably sagged in recent years, following the lukewarm reception to 2017’s Layton’s Mystery Journey, it’s still a ubiquitous property in the Nintendo canon. As a franchise, it was the embodiment of Nintendo’s ethos – high-quality games for every possible audience. From that standpoint alone, it deserves a place on the roster – especially since we’re talking about a game that has fucking R.O.B.
Plus, he’d be a fun character to play. This is a character who’s proficient in swordsmanship and once turned a slot machine into a machine gun, so we know he’s a capable combatant. Imagine a Final Smash that directly references the franchise’s iconic puzzle-solving animation, or a move where Luke… uh, kicks somebody in the shins or something! There are so many possibilities here, and it’d be interesting to see what the game did with him.
So c’mon, Nintendo – this isn’t a tough one to crack. Bring everybody’s favorite gentlemen puzzle enthusiast to the masses – he needs it.
Next: Level-5’s International Team Is Reportedly A ‘Skeleton Crew’
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Bella Blondeau is a lovable miscreant with a heart of gold… or so she says.
She likes long walks in dingy arcades, loves horror good and bad, and has a passion for anime girls of any and all varieties. Her favorite game is Nier: Automata, because she loves both robots and being sad.
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