I love Professor Layton games. Loooooooooove them. When I got my paws on the first one, I totally failed to notice that I had stayed up all night poking at it until the sun started trying to sneak in between the slats on the blinds. They're some combination of thinky and quaint and comforting and rewarding that apparently functions much like crack cocaine, as far as my brain is concerned.

It probably has to do with the way the things are structured. The series was originally inspired by a collection of puzzle books by Akira Togo, and the fact that the Brain Age games for DS had sold surprisingly well, so at heart they're really nothing more than a long sequence of brainteasers from a wide variety of genres. Solve a puzzle, get told I'm right! Solve enough puzzles, get to see more cut scenes! It's very Pavlovian.

The story, I thought would be a nice little lagniappe, but rather to my surprise, it can get quite involving. The adventures of Professor Layton and his apprentice Luke are like bits of an utterly charming series of children's books, complete with simple but emotive illustrations. They can also get unexpectedly bittersweet. If you tear up at the end of Miyazaki films, expect to cry at least once per game. The ending sequence of Professor Layton and the Unwound Future is particularly heart-wrenching, although the final moments are once again upbeat.

I will mention that if you're from the UK, you probably want to stick to the European releases, rather than importing the US ones. The script is exactly the same, and aside from removing the bonus game Professor Layton's London Life from the EU version (on the grounds that translating it into all of the required languages would take much too long and delay the release past any reasonable point), I'm unaware of any gameplay changes -- but Luke's lines have all been redubbed, on the grounds that the original voice actress's attempt at the accent was appalling to the point where none of the UK playtesters could stand it. I'm American and I grew up entirely in the US, and I recognize that as a sort of symbolic attempt at making him sound English, but I concede that it really is that terrible, and if you're used to hearing the real thing all the time, it will drive you bats.

The rest of the cast, I'm not sure. Some of the supporting characters are also not great at sounding British, but they can at least hang onto an accent that's consistently bad in the same way, as Luke's American VA can't. Many of them simply use their natural American/Canadian accents. Others are voicing characters who have English accents that Americans can usually get a better grip on, usually some variation on "intentionally hilarious quasi-Cockney".

All of the main males whose accent I find reasonably convincing are actually done by the same voice artist, a man named Christopher Robin Miller, who IMDb tells me is originally from Cambridge, Massachusetts. I'm curious as to what my UK readers think -- his primary role is Professor Layton himself, who sounds to me at points uncannily like Peter Davison as the Fifth Doctor. You can hear quite a lot of him here, in the English dub of the movie Professor Layton and The Eternal Diva:



No worries for your ears or your sanity -- they use the UK voice artists for Luke and other supporting characters who might otherwise make you wince. This movie is one of the vanishingly few cases where I like the English dub soundtrack as much as the original Japanese. The translation is quite good, and the voices match well. Anime uses a lot of vocal archetypes when casting; Layton's Japanese voice is also low and gentle, as befitting a character who falls into the category of 'kindly adult mentor (male)'. The amount of localization done was surprisingly minimal, and the opera upon which the plot rests was appropriately left in not-English, as operas often are in the real world.

In the meantime, I am going to continue to be annoyed at Nintendo for region-locking the 3DS. Even if I could afford one right now, I'd have to figure out how to chip it or crack it in order to play all of the whopping three games I actually care about, as two of them are coming to the US, and one of them is stuck in character-rights hell and probably never getting localized. What they think they're accomplishing with this, I don't know. DVD distributors region-code things because movies are generally released on DVD in one region -- usually the US -- when they're still in theaters in other regions -- usually Asia or the EU -- and they want to protect ticket sales. Why Nintendo gives two-tenths of a damn if people in the US mail order games from Japan, I will never figure out. Most people won't, on account of Japanese is a Byzantine and unnecessarily complicated language to learn and the entire (lucrative) market for RPGs and puzzle/adventure games is pretty unplayable if you don't know what anybody's saying.

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