Interview | Level-5 Discusses Professor Layton (Nintendo DS)

By Adam Riley 09.11.2009 6

Professor Layton has quickly turned into a massive worldwide force to be reckoned with. The first title, Curious Village, continues to sell well in the US, Europe and Australia, whilst the fourth entry is about to hit Japan. With the second game, Pandora's Box (review here), now out in Europe, Cubed3 decided to catch up with Level-5's President, Akihiro Hino, to discuss the series in more detail, find out if the Atamania spin-off collections will hit Europe and see if a Western version of the critically praised football RPG, Inazuma Eleven, has been completely forgotten about.
Image for Interview | Level-5 Discusses Professor Layton (Nintendo DS)

Cubed3's Adam Riley: Professor Layton and Luke are both extremely English, whilst the setting of the game is predominantly French. Why did you choose these two differing styles and was the initial concept actually much different?

Mr. Akihiro Hino, Producer of Professor Layton and Pandora's Box and President of LEVEL-5, Inc.: We did not intend to apply both English and French styles alone. Even though the story takes place in the United Kingdom, for the development we referred to landscapes or videos of various cities in Europe, including French ones. I believe the Layton style - an English style with a bit of difference from the actual United Kingdom - will look fresh and curious even for players in Europe. And I also believe that difference gives the Layton series a curious fantasy atmosphere.

AR: Whilst the first game was hailed as a great success, some critics commented on how the puzzles were not always integrated smoothly into the story. What have you done to improve upon the integration in the second and third games?

Hino-san: Actually I admit some of the puzzles in the first game were less relevant to the story. As for the second game, though, we tried to make all the puzzles relevant and to deliver them in the right manner, according to the story. As for the third one, The Last Time Travel, all the puzzles were created from scratch and there are none from Mr. Akira Tago's Atama-no-Taiso (Brain Exercises) books. I believe it has strengthened the tie between the story and the puzzles!


AR: Are there many new ideas incorporated into Pandora's Box to keep the game feeling 'fresh and new'?

Hino-san: For Pandora's Box we are using a ROM with a capacity that is twice as large as that of Curious Village. Thus, all the story, videos and puzzles have been expanded in terms of volume. Three mini-games have been devised as well, which can be accessed via Layton's Bag, so I believe you can also enjoy the experience even after the story has been completed. As for the story itself, in Pandora's Box it takes place in much wider territory than in Curious Village, which was only set in one specific town. This time Layton and Luke take the Molentary Express and can visit various towns in order to solve the puzzles.

AR: What sort of issues have you had with puzzles that relied purely on Japanese knowledge or answers that involved writing kanji? How have you resolved this issue for the Western release?

Hino-san: When developing the overseas versions of Layton, puzzles that have strong connections to Japanese language, culture or customs have been totally reviewed, and we have replaced or redesigned those kinds of puzzles for each foreign territory.

AR: Are all of the puzzles in Pandora's Box from Akira Tago's books, or did he create any specifically new ones for the game? Have any of the team at Level-5 been tempted to contribute their own ideas to puzzles?

Hino-san: Although there are also other puzzles that are arranged from ones in Brain Exercises, all the primary puzzles have been invented totally from scratch. For one example of the puzzles that were designed to be integrated smoothly into the story, we have included one that focuses on a key when at a point where you have to unlock a door in the story. On inventing those types of puzzles, we, the planning staff at LEVEL-5 and Mr Tago, gathered together to form a group called 'The Puzzle Camp.' It is literally a camp where we try to invent puzzles throughout the day, for a couple of days at a time. Based on the puzzles invented by the puzzle team at LEVEL-5 and Mr Tago, we discussed how we could fit those puzzles into the storyline and design them to be perfectly suitable for the Layton games' atmosphere.

AR: How difficult was it to find the right voice actors for the various characters?

Hino-san: Even when making the Japanese version, we always have to work hard to find the best voice actor for each character. At LEVEL-5, developers and promoters discuss again and again who would be the best actor or actress for the character. As for the foreign versions, the best actors and actresses to play the characters are carefully chosen, just as we did with the Japanese game. I was really surprised to hear their voices for the first time!


AR: Why do you think the first Professor Layton game was such a massive success in Japan and Europe, but did not originally do as well in the US?

Hino-san: Even though I do not believe it was less successful in the U.S., I certainly know that the European audience loved it more, probably as the story takes place in the United Kingdom.

AR: It was recently revealed that Brownie Brown is creating an RPG mode for the fourth DS Layton game. Would you consider making a standalone Layton RPG or maybe doing something like a platform adventure with Hershel Layton and Luke working together?

Hino-san: Although we have no specific projects like those under way, hopefully the 'Professor Layton' brand will broaden its horizons considerably, and not only in the world of video gaming!

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!

AR: Considering how successful the first Professor Layton has been in Europe, will you also be bringing the two Sloane & MacHale puzzle games to Europe? Also, what about the Atamania puzzle collections as well - will they be translated?

Hino-san: In terms of the international release for the entire 'Atamania' series, we are looking forward to specifically announcing all of these games when the time is ripe.


AR: Inazuma Eleven is a fantastic mix of clever touch-screen football and an engrossing RPG experience that would definitely appeal to the European market. Will the first DS game ever be released here? Or are you waiting for the anime show to come on European TV first?

Hino-san: The anime show for 'Inazuma Eleven' is already signed up and under way, ready to go on air across Europe and we are now planning the on-air timetable, considering the FIFA World Cup 2010 period for launch. As for the first DS video game, we will make the announcement when we are ready to.

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Matt (guest) 10.11.2009#1

Layton in Super Smash would be awesome!!Smilie8)

I love these games.
Not sure Id want a full RPG, just continue to build more fluid puzzle integration.
Story, charm and wit are all perfect already though.

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Fantastic stuff, love Level-5's efforts, definitely one of the more talented bunch of game creators these days. Izauma Eleven sounds pretty neat too, great idea to pump it out during the World Cup season too.

Cubed3 Admin/Founder & Designer

I've been wondering for a while if Layton was actually a Nintendo franchise with Level 5 as the main developer, but I guess its just a 3rd party game with a preference for the DS!

Seeing him in Smash Bros or Mario Kart would be fantastic. I can't wait to see where this series goes.

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Just finished the Diabolical Box last night, lot's of fun. Not much different from the Curious Village, but if it ain't broken, right?

I like the sound of all the puzzles in the Last Time Travel are made specifically to tie in to the story, can only make the game better.

Oh, and yes for Layton in Smash Bros.

SuperLink said:
I've been wondering for a while if Layton was actually a Nintendo franchise with Level 5 as the main developer, but I guess its just a 3rd party game with a preference for the DS!

Seeing him in Smash Bros or Mario Kart would be fantastic. I can't wait to see where this series goes.


Yeah, Level-5 is completely independent. It's putting a version of Layton on its own mobile service in Japan, ROID.

Kangaroo_Kid said:
Oh, and yes for Layton in Smash Bros.

I thought that might be a popular question - glad he gave the response he did. I definitely think Layton would be a great choice for a new game like Smash or Mario Kart Smilie

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

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