New York City, NY, USA. October 13 – October 16, 2011.
This past weekend, at New York Comic Con, I got the wonderful opportunity to attend a special event run by Nintendo: a screening of Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva, the first Professor Layton movie which will be released by Viz in the United States on November 8. It chronologically links the two trilogies of games, so it includes some characters that will be introduced in Professor Layton and the Last Specter, which was released by Nintendo this past week.
The event was very well put together; guests were supplied with light refreshments that set up the theme of the event – bottled water labeled “Eternal Life”, and a quaint popcorn machine that, for me at least, recalled the tone of the Layton games, even if unintentionally. Guests were also given gigantic foam Layton hats that were almost half their height, leading to a lot of laughs and a lot of posing in Layton’s iconic “aha!” finger point. As guests filed in and waited for the movie to start, Nintendo volunteers walked around with DSes with a demo copy of Last Specter for guests to play. Being a huge Layton fan, I of course participated.
The demo was a puzzle-only one, and from the puzzles I played, by this time, Layton fans will know what to expect. You’ve got your sliding puzzles, your hidden object puzzles, the split-em’-up puzzles, the dimensional thinking puzzles, riddles, and that’s just what I saw before I handed it off for someone else to give a try. Puzzle features are the same as the third game: a memo screen where you can doodle notes, hint coins, and the like. The waiting screen, where we all wait with bated breath to realize whether or not our answer is correct gives a hint a little earlier than before, I think, and the final screen also now gives you how many hints you used to solve the puzzle. By this time, the fourth game, you hopefully know what you’re getting into with the gameplay, and it doesn’t look like anything should really be a surprise there – we’ll leave it to Mask of Miracles on the 3DS to give us new surprises.
Once we’d all had time to eat, talk, and play a little, there was a trivia game, with questions both general and nitpickingly specific from the first three games, for guests to try and win a copy of Last Specter to be sent to them when it releases. That done, it was time for the movie.
The movie is almost exactly what you’d think a Professor Layton movie would be like. We start out in London, with a mysterious request for help (not so mysterious this time; Layton knows the requestor, and it seems to simply be tickets to an opera she is performing in, but as we’ll see things are not always what they seem), and then Luke and Layton head out on their journey. However, this time, they’re joined by Emmy Altava, (my personal favorite character – for reasons seen in the movie, but expanded on in the second trilogy) Layton’s assistant at the university, and Inspector Clamp Grosky, who fights sharks barehanded. Many of the characters will be more familiar after playing the fourth game, especially the villain, so it’s a good thing there will be a few weeks between the release of the game and the release of the movie. There are plenty of twists and turns, and even some puzzles built very cleverly into the movie. As you’d expect with a title like Eternal Diva, as well as from an effort from the Layton team, the music is astounding and gorgeous, and I had the final song stuck in my head all the rest of the night (it probably helped that I own the soundtrack and had listened to it repeatedly, but there’s a reason I own the soundtrack). Animation-wise, if you’ve played a Layton game, you’ve seen the cutscenes, and you’ll know what to expect here. It’s smooth, the CGI elements are well-done, while the coloring is flat and designs are on the cute side, even for things like vicious sharks and wolves. As one of my friends said, it’s exactly like a movie-length Layton cutscene, and for a Professor Layton movie, that’s pretty much exactly what we want. It’s a cute, fun, slightly tearjerking movie with a varied cast of characters, and a great way to spend an hour and a half. Viz has done a great job localizing it, so play Last Specter (it’s out now!) and watch Eternal Diva when it comes out in November.