The Professor Layton and Ace Attorney series are popular staples in Nintendo’s library. Featured in multiple games on multiple consoles both series have grown up alongside their longtime fans, but what if you’re new to the party?

Diving into two series of games, both with their own unique history, cast of characters and difficulty level can be daunting. Newly released (in NA), Professor Layton Vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is a great entry point to both series and the world of handheld puzzle games. Here’s why:

(For simplicity’s sake, Professor Layton Vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney will also be referred to as ‘Vs.’ in the rest of the post.)

Professor Layton Vs. Phoenix Wright Puzzle

1) A Game Mechanic Here & a Game Mechanic There

Exploration and problem solving are key components in the Professor Layton series, while deduction and investigation drive the gameplay in Ace Attorney. As Vs. proves, when these  game mechanics meet, its a match made in heaven.

There is an even distribution of puzzles, trials and areas to explore throughout the game. Staggered and triggered alternately, the player isn’t bombarded with puzzle after puzzle after puzzle. Instead, they’ll find themselves rotating through different mechanics, getting a good feel for and experience with each.

2) Meet the Professor and the Attorney

Professor Layton Vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is a perfect introduction to the personality and motivations behind each series’ leading character. The titular characters (and their sidekicks) are introduced right off the bat, and their idiosyncrasies and relationships are quickly, but not too obviously, established. A player being able to come into a game and immediately feel as though they have significant knowledge about the cast is invaluable if a developer values gamers connecting with the characters they are piloting.

3) Art and a Story, all Neatly Gift Wrapped

Vs. is a great looking game with a story that will appeal to a large selection of gamers. Fueled by a mystery that has it all; intrigue, magic, murder and impossible possibilities, there is something for (almost) everyone interested in a game that has it’s fair share of text.

The world design borrows from that of the Layton games, whimsical and fantastical, while stepping into the courtroom seamlessly merges the Layton world with the art of the Ace Attorney games. The bright colors, sharp angles and anatomically correct character designs contrast in a way that shouldn’t work, but do in execution. Paired with numerous, gorgeously animated cutscenes that help to tell the story, VS. is easy on the eyes and a pleasure to spend time with.

4) The Appeal of the Pick up and Play

Because it requires no previous knowledge of the Phoenix Wright or Professor Layton series to play, this installment is the perfect game to pick up for a friend or for a long trip. Worried the casual player in your life won’t power through the game in one shot? No worries. A recap of past events, outcomes and findings will play each time the game is picked up again.

Professor Layton Vs. Phoenix Wright Screenshot
5) The Learning Curve

Gamers unfamiliar with puzzle-based games may be worried about skill level, after all, two series built on the same foundation coming together in one must equal a game for veterans, right? Happily, that is not the case. Vs. presents each puzzle type at an introductory level to start, slowly building to a medium-ish level of difficulty. While probably not enough of a challenge for seasoned players, is great for new players as it takes away the frustration of constant failure, letting them build up some confidence in the gameplay while genuinely enjoying the content.

The game also features quasi-failsafe systems. Phoenix’s trials can be restarted at any point and Hint Coins found while exploring with Professor Layton can be used to help get through puzzles. This “no gamer left behind” approach can save a game for a player who finds themselves struggling.

Professor Layton Vs. Phoenix Wright Cutscene
So, if no previous experience, knowledge or fan badge is required, who is this game REALLY for? It’s for the curious to dabble with, it’s for the oldtimers to revisit old favorites and for anyone who is looking to solve mysteries, fight for justice and have a fun time doing so.

Professor Layton Vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is out now for the 3DS.