Image: IGDB/Level-5

Music Box: ‘Professor Layton’ part four – mysterious future – ‘Mystery Room’, ‘Mystery Journey’, Katrielle and conclusions

Now we reach the last parts of the Layton world. Each main game has minigames for you to play, and each have their own quaint themes. Each ending theme for the main series, if you’ve listened to them, have been instrumental tracks. But in the original Japanese release they were an actual vocal song, worth listening to for any Layton fan who didn’t know of this quirk of localisation.

The mobile game Layton Brothers: Mystery Room that follows Alfendi Layton also has its own music – dare I say that it has actually good jazz music? For being a mobile game that isn’t that long and was never intended to be a Layton title – Alfendi’s existence really messes with the timeline, and he was confirmed canon with a mention in Mystery Journey – the music is rather good. It does appear to be the sole Layton project whose music isn’t helmed by Tomohito Nishiura: instead, Yuzo Koshiro and Takeshi Yanagawa are the listed composers, but they do a fine job.

It is just a real shame that the music for this game focusing on Layton’s daughter is just so flat, it lacks the charm and character and joy and emotional weight

There is also Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy – except the music for this game is rather lacking as compared to previous entries. It’s a shame to be honest, but much of it can be put down to the whole project lacking the polish and feel of a proper Layton game, from the redesign of the story structure, the lacklustre quality of many of the puzzles (thanks to the sad death of puzzle master Akira Tago in 2016), and the fact it ends just as you expect the plot to kick in. But this doesn’t mean it is all bad. Ernest is an interesting character and there is some promise. If only they had stuck more to the Layton ‘formula’!

On the music front, ‘Katrielle’s Theme’ (which has call-backs to the ‘Folsense’ theme from Pandora’s Box) does, however, deliver a very enjoyable Layton theme with Katrielle’s own personal twists. ‘Puzzle-Solving Piece’ and ‘London Town Reprise – City Workers’ Waltz’ both give their own takes on classic staples of Layton music – the latter is a favourite. The same goes for ‘Mysteries‘. Then there are the ‘Layton Museum’ tracks within this game, where the title music from each of the six main Layton games make a reappearance. This reminds you that it has been a decade since the DS era of Layton, making it even more astounding how amazing the music is and how Layton’s music has become a timeless classic. It is just a real shame that the music for this game focusing on Layton’s daughter is just so flat – it lacks the charm and character and joy and emotional weight of the other seven handheld games and tie-in media – even the film did better than this.

The Katrielle anime, however, is the better Katrielle media as it is charming, quirky, and actually deals with the storyline of Layton’s disappearance

The Katrielle anime, however, is the better Katrielle media, as it is charming, quirky, and actually deals with the storyline of Layton’s disappearance which the game only gets started as the credits roll. This is also what is rumoured to be the subject of any future sequel to the Katrielle 3DS game (which also got a Switch port, yet the main games haven’t, yet) according to Level-5. Tomohito Nishiura did the music for the anime as well as the games and film, and it certainly captures the Layton feel for a TV series. This is the first opening and this is the second, and if you want to know the plot of what happens to Layton, grown-up Luke, and Katrielle and Ernest then I would recommend you watch it – although this never got an English dub, unlike Eternal Diva – it’s a shame as while more laid back and less serious this series is, it’s still better than Katrielle’s game.

I would like to see more adaptations of Layton, not least to see more of grown-up Luke if they make sequels or more ‘New Layton’ era media. But I would love to see the stories of the main series brought to the small (or big) screen, as there is so much detail lost in the compression of the DS screen and there is so much going for it which would make a great adaptation. The Eternal Diva is one of the best game-to-film adaptations out there, so they have the skill to do it and the audience to lap it up. Don’t forget that anime studio P.A. Works did the cut scenes for the Layton games from the very beginning with Curious Village.

The Layton engine prints money, but more than that, they are fundamentally fun and beautiful games with some of the best video game OSTs out there

There is less to talk about with Mystery Journey, as it just isn’t the same without Hershel Layton being involved (hence why the anime TV series is better) and brings me to the issue Level-5 needs to address. I previously spoke about the problems facing Level-5 and their history and I reiterate they need to re-think what they want to do. If they are to continue the Mystery Journey line, they desperately need to bring the characters, legacy, and musical tradition they removed back in, otherwise they cannot in good faith continue calling it a Layton game. Level-5 have also essentially shut up shop in America and the West, winding up most of their office and localisation team, which is a grave concern for any future titles. The localisation of the Ace Attorney crossover was basically a miracle even that many years ago.

It appears the worldwide obsession with lockdowns that crush businesses has even taken a toll on Level-5, as it has on everyone trying to live and make a living. It may be the death of Layton as a series – at least in the West for some time, if not for good. If they do manage to stay afloat, then pushing the music and characters are the best bet in the meantime. They have ported the original trilogy to mobile – what they need to do is remaster and upgrade each of the seven DS/3DS titles and bring them to the Switch – it is a recipe to print money and bring back fans. Even get back on the Layton concert stuff too.

Puzzles, great music, great characters, amazing art, and pure English gentlemanly wholesomeness – this is what makes Layton so enduring, and hopefully, we get to see this all again someday soon, surely someday

The Layton engine prints money, but more than that, they are fundamentally fun and beautiful games with some of the best video game OSTs out there – one need only look at the number of fan compilations to see how popular it still is. The progression from accordion French-style music and the rudimentary hardware of the DS to a full orchestra playing some of the most iconic video game music is an astounding achievement that Tomohito Nishiura, who has been at the helm for the entire journey, should be proud of. To keep this quality of music through four DS games, four 3DS games, an anime film, an anime series, and create some of the most enduring music and one of the best crossover games and soundtracks is testament to his skill. For the Layton franchise to expand so far even onto mobile and film and never lose its signature charm is proof of this being a timeless classic.

Puzzles, great music, great characters, amazing art, and pure English gentlemanly wholesomeness – this is what makes Layton so enduring, and hopefully, we get to see this all again someday soon, surely someday. Either way, this series has stood the test of time, and its music is one of the best parts. If nothing else from their series and this series of Music Box articles, I implore you to go listen to this compilation or this orchestral arrangement (with accordion!) of the main Layton music – just excuse the poor quality audio recording on the latter. My favourite compilation, which is my go-to for hard times, as the journey it takes you through begins nostalgic then progresses to solemn and ends triumphant (a great pick-me-up journey), is sadly no longer on YouTube, but the Layton fandom is so dedicated we get new ones very often. May this little corner of the internet never die. So, for the love of Layton, I wish Level-5 would take the initiative and breathe new life into this series and give the gentleman, the puzzles, and the amazing music another outing.

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