New Professor Layton Game Slated for Summer 2018

New Professor Layton Game Slated for 2018 1

Fans of the Professor Layton series can look forward to another title in 2018.

In an interview with License! Global magazine Simon Waldron, senior vice president of marketing and licensing for Level-5, mentions a new “Layton” game scheduled for late summer 2018.

Level-5 released the latest game for the Professor Layton series, Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy, on July 20 for the iOS and Android. A modified version of the game is slated for October 6 for the Nintendo 3DS. The 3DS version features an exclusive character in Flora Reinhold. Players will recognize Flora as one of the main characters of the Professor Layton series, playing an instrumental role in nearly all of the previous games.

New Professor Layton Game Slated for Summer 2018

The Professor Layton series is also expanding past the video game medium. Level-5 ran a worldwide puzzle-solving campaign for the series earlier this year. The promotional campaign for Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy was a collaboration with the company SCRAP Entertainment. The company is well-known from creating real escape games worldwide with famous collaborations like the Zero Escape: Trust on Trial event last year in Los Angeles or the Final Fantasy XIV Trials of Bahamut escape game that’s running in multiple locations in America this year.

Layton’s Mystery Journey: Real World Puzzle Solving challenged players to solve 50 puzzles in ten countries between June 20 and September 21. The Canadian location featured the 40th puzzle in Toronto’s renowned Casa Loma.

The Professor Layton series originally launched in in 2007 with Professor Layton and the Curious Village for the Nintendo DS. The game spawned several sequels for the DS, 3DS, iOS and Android. Level-5 also collaborated with Capcom in 2012 to release the crossover series Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. The series inspired an animated film adaptation Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva in 2009.

The Professor Layton Saga Continues With Lady Layton

The Professor Layton Saga Continues With Lady Layton 1

When Level-5 released Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask in 2011, they announced that its successor, Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy would be the final game to feature the puzzle-loving Archaeologist, but the series would continue. Finally, a new contender has thrown their top-hat into the ring with Lady Layton.

Announced during the Level-5 Vision 2016 eventLady Layton: The Millionaire Ariadone’s Conspiracy stars the daughter of Hershel Layton, Katrielle “Kat”Layton and her, apparently, talking dog “Sharo” as they travel around London solving mysteries. Unlike her Professor father, Kat will be taking a more active roll in solving puzzles, working as an actual detective.

The Professor Layton Saga Continues With Lady Layton

Supposedly, Lady Layton will focus less on dynamic problem-solving and more on solving multiple mystery cases, making the game more fast paced than its predecessors and adding a more comical tone to the series.

Following the tragic passing of the series’ puzzle creator Akira Tago, Kuniaki Iwanami will be designing the game’s puzzles, bringing new challenges and core-mechanics to the franchise.

Speculation is circulating like wild-fire on just who Lady Layton is. Whether or not this will tie into the Layton Brothers mobile spin-off — having Kat be the sister of Alfendi Layton — who Kat’s mother will be, or even if Hershel will make an appearance within the are among a few of the questions fans want answered.

Lady Layton: The Millionaire Ariadone’s Conspiracy will be released for 3DS and mobile and is targeting a Western release in 2017.

Level-5 also announced a new spin-off entry in the Professor Layton franchise titled Layton 7 (which refers to the number of players, not its place in the series.) Players, who are randomly and discretely assigned a role from: Villager, Knight, Oracle, Traitor, or Vampire use an integrated instant messaging system to try to determine the identity of the Vampire amongst them.

Players can easily communicate through messages by choosing and combining preset statements and keywords. Characters each have their own unique abilities, such as the ability to see through the Traitor’s deceit.

Hand-Drawn Visuals are a Breath of Fresh Air

Hand-Drawn Visuals are a Breath of Fresh Air 1

When the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 were announced last year, a large part of their respective reveals focused on the new consoles’ technological prowess. Microsoft and Sony were quick to identify just how advanced their hardware was, showcasing the two machines’ ability to render realistic guns, cars, and faces through clips of games like Forza Motorsport 5 and Battlefield 4. Watching the light reflect off the hood of a nearly lifelike Lamborghini and seeing a perfectly rendered version of Michael K. William escape a sinking car is impressive, but it was hardly the most exciting thing in the world. Videogame technology improves all the time, after all, and the kind of visual improvements that our current crop of new consoles afford are far less drastic than they have been in the past.

Last week, on the other hand, saw the release of two long-awaited games that are bound to be remembered in large part for their exceptional looks, even if they aren’t technologically astounding. Both Double Fine Production’s Broken Age and Stoic’s The Banner Saga were funded through Kickstarter campaigns, their releases eagerly awaited by project backers and interested players. The two games don’t have a tremendous amount in common — The Banner Saga is a Viking inspired strategy/role-playing game while Broken Age is a point-and-click adventure — yet they share a love for organic, hand-drawn animation that isn’t seen all too often.

The Banner Saga

Broken Age‘s aesthetic is largely the result of Nathan “Bagel” Stapley, an artist who has contributed to the look of most Double Fine games to date. The mainly static environments of the game are based on original paintings, giving the cloud cities and spaceship interiors explored by the two hand-drawn protagonists a warm, lived-in feeling that would be difficult, if not impossible, to accomplish through computer-generated polygons. Stoic’s Arnie Jorgensen pulled off something similar with his role as the artist behind The Banner Saga. Heavily inspired by Eyvind Earle’s work on 1950’s Disney films like Sleeping Beauty, the Nordic world imagined by Jorgensen is captivating for the strength of its environmental design — snowy plains and icy mountains dotted with enormous pagan “god stones” — and memorable character design.

Both of the games are very well written, but it’s their visual style that makes the most immediate impression. Videogame graphics are often judged purely by their technical fidelity with little consideration paid to the art direction that gives their characters and settings life. Broken Age and The Banner Saga are incredibly endearing because it’s impossible to ignore the hand of the artists who created them. The presence of visible line work and brush strokes makes each of the games feel essentially human. Just as a fantastic 2D animated short can still inspire awe, we connect more readily to the visuals in a hand-drawn videogame when we can identify a person’s touch.

Broken Age

The cel-shaded effect employed in the similarly beautiful Okami and Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch have proved the validity of a more organic aesthetic approach in the past, but games like these are still few and far between. Ultimately, it’s probably safer, when millions of development and marketing dollars are on the line, to seek the largest audience possible by sticking to art styles without so distinct a personality. After all, Insomniac Games famously overhauled 2013’s Fuse visuals before release, replacing its unique cartoon style with a more generic, realistic look, in order to hedge its financial bets. Even Nintendo, a developer/publisher with immensely devoted fans, seemed wary of repeating The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker’s gorgeous cel-shaded aesthetic when it came time to create the next installment of the series. The resulting sequel, Twilight Princess, featured a less colourful world and a Link with more natural proportions.

Of course, none of this is to say that realistic, high-fidelity graphics are somehow undesirable, only that hand drawn visuals are a welcome change of pace that it would be nice to see more of. It’s understandable, given how expensive games are to create, that not every title can feature art styles as distinct as those employed in Broken Age and The Banner Saga. My only hope is that these games will demonstrate just how successful a hand-drawn approach can be to developers considering that path in future.

Ni no Kuni and Kids’ Games: Simplicity without Patronizing

Ni no Kuni and Kids' Games: Simplicity without Patronizing

Over the last few years my brothers have started to have kids. Becoming an uncle has not only made me feel, suddenly, a great deal older, but it has also made me think differently about the kind of choices I would make if I were to be a parent, too. It’s scary to consider the kind of lifestyle changes that that would entail, so I prefer to concentrate on one of the easiest ones: the sort of videogames that would be appropriate with a kid around.

Taking this viewpoint forces you to reconsider a lot of what you currently take for granted. It makes the violent content many of us have grown accustomed to seem a lot more suspect for one thing. I mean, I sure wouldn’t play The Last of Us, Assassin’s Creed, or even one of the Batman: Arkham games with a child in the same room. So, in a lot of cases that doesn’t leave much on the table save for so-called “kids’ games.” Unfortunately, a good many of the titles that fall within this category aren’t very good. Media Molecule, developer of Tearaway and the LittleBigPlanet series, offer a few exceptions. Nintendo’s various Mario games provide several others. But what do you play if you want something with a lot of lasting substance you can dig into with a kid around? Or, for that matter, when you want to pass the controller back and forth without worrying about objectionable content?

I’ve been playing Level-5 and Studio Ghibli’s Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch lately. Aside from finding the incredible visuals and refreshingly straightforward gameplay enjoyable, spending time with Ni no Kuni has made me want to buy a copy of the game for every parent with young children in my life. There aren’t many games with the type of charm that it has, let alone the willingness to engage with the complicated subject matter that is so often missing from children’s stories.

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Ni no Kuni opens with the death of its child protagonist’s mother and continues onward to navigate sadly commonplace problems like emotionally abusive parents. Like most classic children’s stories, though, the game provides rays of light amidst this sort of darkness. There are lessons to learn, truly awful situations to overcome, and recognition that trying to be a good person often requires coming face to face with terrible things. Kids’ entertainment is often unnecessarily toothless, as if children aren’t capable of processing anything darker than a frowning adult. The fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm and the allegorical fables that have endured centuries of telling have always offered a counterpoint to this idea. The stories that have passed the test of time aren’t relentlessly cheerful. They’re willing to show children that the world is complicated — that bad and sad things are unavoidable — while offering ways to deal with it. Ni no Kuni remembers that childhood isn’t as extraordinarily happy as we choose to idealize it. For the great majority of kids, growing up is a bit melancholy. The death or divorce of parents, the fear that comes from hyperactive imaginations running amok in the dark, the realization that some people just aren’t nice — these experiences are just as much a part of childhood as the pure happiness of playing with a friend or celebrating a holiday.

It’s testament to Ni no Kuni‘s quality that it captures childhood in much the same way as Studio Ghibli’s highly acclaimed animated features. Next to the ridiculous amount of imagination on display in movies like Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away, it’s the fact that the characters in Ghibli’s stories must overcome fear and death that makes them stand out amongst animated features aimed at children. Ni no Kuni fits in with these films because it also refuses to talk down to kids, instead offering them a story that they can understand even if it can be emotionally challenging. That’s the kind of entertainment that children should be exposed to if their minds are going to grow and their sense of empathy is going to develop. Ni no Kuni will have the same type of staying power that our most cherished fables possess because it isn’t simpler than it needs to be. At different points in its narrative it’s scary, it’s sad, it’s funny, and it’s uplifting. It’s a good story that, ultimately, has a lot to say about living in the real world, even if it takes place in a very colourfully imagined one.