Music to enjoy while reading:
- All Professor Layton Puzzle Themes
- Professor Layton Main Theme
- Theme of the Last Battle (Last Specter)
- Puzzle Battle Theme (Unwound Future)
- Shooting (Azran Legacy)
- Professor Layton Curious Village Remix (Layton Remashed)
*Disclaimer: This is an opinion article.
*All Layton sprites can be found here.
*Layton sprite font can be found here.
Previously, I discussed the positives of Bayonetta getting into Smash (See the negatives here). This time, I’m very excited to share with you my thoughts on Layton’s chances of getting in as DLC. There are quite a number of notable things about the Professor Layton franchise that you may not know about. With that said, let’s investigate this matter!
The Professor Layton series is one of Level-5’s biggest franchises. It has sold over 15 million copies since its inception, making Layton one of the most successful franchises on the DS. This success gave Layton the chance expand his horizons with manga, a film, novels, and many spin-offs including a crossover with the iconic Phoenix Wright.
The professor himself is often mistaken as a Nintendo character outside of Japan. This is largely due to the fact that 7 of his main games were published by Nintendo itself. The games have largely been exclusive to Nintendo’s portables since his 2007 debut. Layton and Level-5 have been very close to Nintendo for many years, as the big N does work on translating, publishing, and advertising the majority of Level-5’s games in the Americas and Europe. Level-5 and Nintendo are among the closest I have ever seen out of any other company. This franchise has garnered a lot of attention, but you might be surprised at the audience it attracts the most.
The Professor Layton franchise garners the most attention in Europe. Iwata acknowledges that it has sold strong in that region due to the game being heavily inspired by its culture, noting that NoE contributed very much with its packaging recommendation and advertising. The Layton games are the most advertised in the United Kingdom, with Layton advertised alongside big Nintendo names. I would imagine his votes in the ballot would be way higher in Europe because of this, even if most unofficial ballot polls don’t show Layton among the top 5 ballot characters.
More surprisingly, the Layton series also attracts a large female demographic, with 51% of Layton players being female:
We do know that Sakurai does note the importance of catering to a variety of audiences, as he can easily use the female demographic and European audience to get Layton to sell. Although he talks specifically about competitive play, the same would apply to the characters too since most of the newcomers added in the game come from various genres and audiences.
You may be wondering, what made the Layton series successful? Many players point out the mental challenges it provides, namely the puzzles. These aren’t just your average puzzles though:
These puzzles are brain-tickling. Each puzzle is different and gets more challenging than the last. The games will sometimes force the players to alternate between thinking outside the box in one puzzle and then hitting them with a simple puzzle that they overthink next. It’s one of the clever ways that the Layton series will challenge players, as the games encourage them to use critical thinking. All of these puzzles were created by Akira Tago, who is famous for the best-selling Mental Gymnastics series.
There are over 100 puzzles to solve in each of the games. Combine the story, interesting characters, and European aspects and players are provided a puzzle game that made the series stand out. Akira was responsible for the puzzles, but who was the one who created Layton in the first place?
The one who created Professor Layton was Akihiro Hino, who is the current CEO of Level-5 and the one who started the company in 1988. His very first game was called Dark Cloud under the contract of Sony Computer Entertainment, which was an immediate success for Level-5. His small company began to get more recognition with the development of three high profile titles (True Fantasy Live Online, Dragon Quest VIII, and Rogue Galaxy), growing from a small studio to a premier developer for Japan. With the large success, they were able to self-publish and fund their own games. The first of these published titles was none other than Professor Layton, which became a huge hit in Japan, North America, and Europe.
The series soon became a phenomenon. As the Layton franchise grew, many interviewers began to approach Akihiro with questions about series, from the puzzles to how they chose the voice actors for the characters. In one of these interviews, Cubed3’s Adam Riley asked if he would like to see Layton appear as a guest character in Smash Bros. Rest assured, his answer was positive:
“AR: Do you think Hershel or Luke would make good special guest characters in something like a new Mario Kart or Smash Bros.?
Hino-san: That would certainly be a wonderful opportunity!”
Even before that 2009 interview, Sakurai and Akihiro were at one point together in a gaming talk show in 2008. One of the moderators asked that he wants him in Smash with his fencing sword, with Sakurai and the audience responding with a positive laugh.
It certainly shows that Sakurai knows about the franchise and Level-5 in general, and the familiarity brings a nice contribution to Layton’s chances.
With Level-5’s (and Layton’s) close relationship with Nintendo (and potentially Sakurai) and the huge success of the puzzle games, his merits would certainly convince Sakurai to negotiate the rights of Layton in Smash. It’s no wonder why Layton gets a noticeable amount of ballot support and appears commonly in many wishlists now (if you were to search on Google, you’ll see him commonly appear in many top 10 ballot character lists).
Layton shows that he does have many things in his favor. However, there there are challenges that he will have to overcome that could block his inclusion. It’s a barrage of puzzles, but there is a solution for every one of them.
One obstacle brought up by people is that Layton is no longer appearing as the main character for future Layton games. This has been directly confirmed by Akihiro Hino himself, as he has said that Azran Legacy will be the last adventure people have with Professor Layton, closing the 2nd trilogy and his personal story. This led many to assume that he has no chance to get in Smash at that point. While it may be the end for Layton, thankfully Akihiro has stated that he plans to continue the series:
“I don’t plan on letting Layton end here. While Hershel Layton’s personal story is now finished, we intend to continue on with the challenge of adding more unique Professor Layton titles to the overall series.”
Rest assured, his franchise does have a bright future. Akihiro did keep his word, as Layton getting a new mobile game game called Layton 7. It keeps Layton as strong of a franchise as it has been with the professor being in Smash as possible as it has been. He’s still the face of the franchise, and if any of the franchise’s character got in Smash, it would most likely be Professor Layton since he’s the representative of the franchise.
Another challenge he could face is his creating a moveset. While it is true that the Layton games don’t involve much combat, there are times in the game when Layton needs to use combat when it’s absolutely necessary. As I have mentioned, Sakurai could bring up his fencing sword for his main use of combat. It wouldn’t be the first time Sakurai has based a moveset off something that’s not completely comparable to the character’s main game as Captain Falcon, and Fox both have unique movesets.
In fencing, there are a lot of defensive and counter strategies involved. Each of the players concentrate hard to strike the opponent’s target area without leaving themselves open to hitting.
This can translate to his being a more defensive character that has a variety of ways to counter the opponent. Layton is known to think and solve puzzles in as many ways as he can, so it certainly stays true to his character while keeping him interesting and making him stand out from other characters currently in the game. It’s something I definitely see happening if he’s planned since a fan did mention fencing to Sakurai in a gaming talk show. He is also known to be a skilled craftsman, from creating a slot machine gun, to a catapult, to a hang glider. This could be used for defensive strategies and to make his moveset stand-out more. I recommend going to the support thread to see more moveset ideas.
Many compare the success to the iconic Pokemon franchise and it’s similar gameplay of catching monsters. Unlike Professor Layton, Yokai Watch has expanded its commercial success far more with loads of merchandise, an anime, manga, a very successful movie that sold $55 million in the Japanese box office, a Yokai Watch 2 Nintendo Direct, and even an upcoming Universal attraction. All of that was accomplished in just 2 years. Not only that, Jibanyan is notably requested in Japan too, likely being heavily requested by casual Japanese kids. With this success and requests in mind, Level-5 and Sakurai may be lenient towards Jibanyan since he’s a very marketable character. Does it mean the end of Layton’s chances?
Despite the competition Layton faces, Jibanyan and Layton both getting in is possible, since both of them are notably supported choices in the ballot and were created by Akihiro Hino. Sakurai makes the character choices, if he wanted both in, he could do that with Level-5’s permission. There is no “one character per third party” rule, especially after Ryu broke this fan-rule. It really depends on the the agreement or deal Level-5 is pursuing with Nintendo, but I can see Level-5 recommending this option. It is a better business move for the company, as it’s basically free publicity for both of Level-5’s franchises.
With everything summed up, I think Professor Layton doesn’t have much blocking his inclusion. Yes he is definitely competing with Jibanyan and he is a 3rd party, but that only means that it would require more hoops to get the rights for the character, which would be pretty easy given the relationship between Level-5 and Nintendo. When you combine the large success of his franchise, his large number of Nintendo exclusives, the audience he can cater to, and the Level-5 CEO wanting him in Smash, he does have a better shot than some of the other third-party characters being voted on the ballot. There are certainly plenty of reasons to hope for this fine gentleman. For Layton fans, let’s just hope Nintendo and Level-5 have the puzzle solved.