At the 2010 Level-5 Vision press conference, the company shocked fans everywhere by announcing a dream crossover title that no one had ever expected. That game was Professor Layton vs. Gyakuten Saiban. An exclusive title for the Nintendo 3DS, the game combined the puzzle solving adventure gameplay of Professor Layton, and the visual novel styled courtroom trials of Gyakuten Saiban. Two long years passed until the game was finally released, but the wait was well worth it. While PL vs. GS is still awaiting an international release, early reviews have been positive. Critics immensely praised the title’s perfect combination of both series’ gameplay and in-depth story. Much attention was also given to the high production values, anime cutscenes by Japanese animation studio Bones, and cast of well-known seiyuu such as Yo Oizumi, Maki Horikita, Hiroki Narimiya, and Mamoru Miyano.
The in-game soundtrack was a joint effort between Layton composer Tomohito Nishiura, Gyakuten Saiban composer Masakazu Sugimori, and newcomer Yasumasa Kitagawa. Unlike previous games from both series, the synth was of much higher quality and live instrumentation was utilized as well. Many tracks from both characters’ respective universes were re-arranged and new music was composed, while the orchestral cutscene music was performed by the Layton Grand Caravan Orchestra. At first, the only available copy of this soundtrack was a very short five-track promotional album that came with early pre-orders of the game. Fortunately, Capcom’s record label Suleputer finally came through with a full release entitled “Professor Layton vs. Gyakuten Saiban Magical Mystery Music.” Is this the ultimate soundtrack that fans have been waiting for?
"The Opening Theme of Professor Layton vs. Gyakuten Saiban" has Nishiura's fingerprints all over it. I could recognize his melodic style immediately when hearing this theme. The opening bars begin with a music-box introduction and a solo violin that leads in with the elegant classically-tinged main theme. This shortly blooms into the full orchestra featuring sonorous string leads and bold brass accompaniment. Nishiura's signature use of the accordion and piano can still be heard in the background. Simply put, this theme is just beautiful as Nishiura's previous Professor Layton main themes and ranks highly among some of his best compositions in his entire career.
The first disc contains all the Professor Layton related music, with the re-arranged versions of previous Layton tracks being noticeably a huge step up from the originals. The titular professor’s theme “Professor Layton’s Theme 1” is given a remix utilizing all of Nishiura’s signature instruments: rustic violin, French-styled accordion, deep bass, and piano; though it is unfortunately underdeveloped. The famous background tune from Curious Village, “About Town,” is remixed with live clarinet, strings, and piano; creating a lively atmosphere that simply wasn’t there in the original. Although no other tracks from Curious Village are featured here, the ones originally from the Diabolical Box are given a much needed improvement. “An Uneasy Atmosphere” and “Suspense” both provides an even more effective mood than their predecessors. The use of harp, steady strings, brass, woodwinds, and booming timpani simply blow the original DS’ primitive synth out of the water. “The Lost Forest” takes the original melody and enhances it with violin, harp, and clarinet. “The Town’s History” is also much improved with the use of higher quality strings, as opposed to the more basic synth from the original.
We also have several tracks taken from Unwound Future. “Tension” is just what the title suggests: a tense melody used for the more suspenseful parts of the game. The industrial-like horn provides the main theme, while the strings provide subtle backing. “Pinch!” utilizes deep brass and low bass in accompaniment to its organ melody, while “Suspicion” replaces the mysterious bells and xylophone with a stranger sounding (and even slightly comedic) style of bass and accordion.“The Professor’s Deductions” was one of my favorite tracks from the original game. The jazz-inspired melody is still here, this time performed with a much more satisfying cello section. I can already imagine how effective these tracks will be when the Professor points out suspects and gathers evidence.
Finally, various tracks from The Last Specter have also been lovingly re-arranged. “A Strange Story” retains the mysterious atmosphere of the original with its charming bells and warm string section. “A Calm Afternoon” also from Last Specter replaces the original accordion sound with softer flutes, guitars, and piano. “A Quite Time” works off the melancholic style from the original accordion-based track by using slow-paced piano and strings. “Puzzles 5” utilizes a delicate flute melody that is later handed to the strings, with the overall atmosphere being both beautiful and haunting. “Puzzles 6” has the same basic theme, but is instead a jazzy piece that expertly has the piano, strings, and woodwinds all effectively contributing with their respective sections.
Of course, there are plenty of new tracks here as well. We have a brand new puzzle theme composed especially for the game with “Puzzles 8.” The track seems to be a combination of sorts featuring both the jazzy and mysterious vibes that series has brought forth previously. “Labyrinth City” likely the background piece for the eponymous medieval city, has a similar theme to “Puzzles 8” but is in a baroque style with harpsichord, accordion, and plucked strings; reflecting on the time period that our heroes have been sent to. “Ink Workshop” and “Reunion” both also feel baroque-like in the same vein. In contrast, “The City at Night” is mellower utilizing quieter piano, strings, and bells. “Forest” and “The Buried Ruins” are subtle background tracks that set the appropriate mood with cello and piano. “Mahoney's Theme ~Memory” is the theme for a character in the game accused of being a witch. The track is a simple music box piece that really doesn’t have that much development. Another disappointing track is “Audience” which I felt lacks the punch and presence that it should probably have had. “The Story Teller’s Tower” remediates this by taking the same melody and re-arranging it into a more bombastic rendition. “Barroom” completely changes style by being a light and airy acoustic track with traditional Spanish guitar. “LINK” is also drastically different, with it having fast moving piano bars, electric bass, and a drum kit. The first disc closes off with the harp-flavored “The Hidden Garden,” a track that reminds me a lot of Nishiura’s own “The Legendary Paradise” from the Last Specter.
We momentarily leave Professor Layton and his apprentice Luke to find Phoenix Wright and his co-council Maya Fey in the middle of a trial in a foreign country. The second disc contains all the Gyakuten Saiban related music. The first ten tracks are new versions of Masakazu Sugimori’s original courtroom tracks from the very first Gyakuten Saiban game on GBA. Yasumasa Kitagawa has successfully re-arranged these pieces with live instruments and synth. These ten tracks make up one large “medley” entitled the “English Court Suite.” At this point in the game, Phoenix Wright and Maya Fey are in London for a lawyer’s convention; but find themselves in the middle of a case with a girl named Mahoney as the defendant. Phoenix is out of his own country, and unfamiliar with the laws of London. Despite this, he agrees to take Mahoney’s case.
In “Courtroom Lobby ~Beginning Overture” Wright is preparing for the trial. He’s been through many cases before, but the tense mood is still apparent. The bass and other strings carry the main haunting melody, while the percussion provides excellent beat. After a few moments of preparing evidence and statements, the trial begins with “Gyakuten Saiban – Trial.” Jazzier than the original version, the piano gives some delicious bars of melody; while the strings reverberate right on cue along with the synth. Now is where things get a bit confusing. The original track “Logic and Trick” has been incorrectly labeled as “Suspense” and vice-versa. I’ll refer to them by their proper track titles. “Logic and Trick” utilizes a delicate and mysterious bell melody that’s later handed to the piano, while the cello provides backing. The layout of the crime scene is explained to the court, through diagrams and other evidence. “Suspense” evokes a tense atmosphere in the court with deep rolling piano chords, along with andante strings. Phoenix knows that the trial ahead will be difficult, but is confident that he will emerge victorious.
The questioning of the witness begins with “Cross-Examination ~Moderato.” The track may be repetitive, but it’s so catchy and memorable; that hardly matters. The piano plays a simple, but subtle melody; while the strings reverberate with their own chords. Phoenix listens to the testimony carefully, when he finds something vital. A contradiction! He raises an objection with “Ryuichi Naruhodo ~Objection!” Perhaps the most well-known and famous tune from the series, the arrangement gives the listener a bombastic track full of energy and determination. The witness amends their testimony, but the entire courtroom is now tense with suspicion. “Cross-Examination ~Allegro” plays the previous cross-examination theme at a much faster tempo, reflecting upon the situation. “Tell the Truth” is another cross-examination theme, though this time the witness produces more revealing facts. The arrangement’s use of organ, harpsichord, and heavy strings is particularly effective. After Phoenix finds the holes in the witness’s testimony, he exposes all the contradictions with piece of evidence after evidence. The resulting track is one of my personal favorites in the series. As a sort of “action theme;” “Pursuit ~Cornered” relies on an infectious beat, fast-paced tempo, and pulse-pounding melody. Phoenix has won the trial, and is now in celebration. Originally a marvel of GBA/DS synth capabilities, “Victory! ~The First Victory” sounds even better than before with live instrumentation. As a baroque-esque piece, the overall melody almost reminds me of chamber music. Overall, these ten tracks are simply amazing. The original melodies are left intact, while the arrangements only make them even better.
The trial doesn’t end here, though. Phoenix and Maya are mysteriously transported to the medieval Labyrinth City. Soon they get caught up in the “witch trials” and must investigate reports of the Story Teller, a mysterious writer whose stories seem to come true whenever he writes them. In my original review of the PL vs. GS promo soundtrack, I mistakenly assumed that Tomohito Nishiura composed the new courtroom and character themes; due to lack of a composer credit. Now it’s known that Yasumasa Kitagawa from Capcom was responsible for the majority of the Gyakuten Saiban related music in the game. “In the Dark ~The Witches' Overture” feels right at home with the other GS courtroom lobby themes. Dark, subtle, serious, but also hopeful; Kitagawa sets the right mood as we see Phoenix unfamiliar with his new legal surroundings. “Witch Trial – Trial” utilizes progressive scales from the lower bass sections, but the use of harpsichord and pan flute make this piece stand out as once again baroque inspired. “The Great Witch's Judgment – Trial” later expands upon this by being much grander in its orchestration and melody.
PL vs. GS is notable for introducing new trial mechanics by being able to cross-examine multiple witnesses at the same time. Players must find which statements contradict each other, while also paying attention to each witness’ reactions. “The Stake's Witnesses” really shines with its use of guitar plucks, xylophone notes, and accordion. We’ve also got the standard “Moderato” and “Allegro” themes for the track “Mob Cross-Examination.” Kitagawa pays great homage to previous cross-examination themes in the series, but also provides a more satisfying experience with the pieces being more developed. The Moderato version takes a slower, more subtle approach. The harp and piano play a melodic duet of sorts, while the lower strings provide backing. The Allegro version obviously takes things at a faster tempo, and additionally inserts accordion and more dynamic sounding strings. “Logic and Baroque” is just like the title suggests; a subtle Baroque theme used when evidence is shown. The strings and distant synth make up the “Logic” portion, while the harpsichord provides the “Baroque” portion. “Straying ~Suspense” is what I believe to be one of the strongest “tense moment” themes in the series. While repetitive, the rolling piano bars, booming timpani, and deep bass convey a haunting atmosphere.
Speaking of strong pieces, I must talk about “Ryuichi Naruhodo ~Objection! 2012.” In this piece, everything just works. It takes the original theme found in the first Gyakuten Saiban, and adds tons of great orchestration, percussion, and harpsichord accompaniment. It feels familiar, but all new at the same time. The effective "Pursuit ~ Casting Magic" is filled fast-paced loops and an action-oriented melody. “Tell the Truth 2012” is also particularly notable with its use of organ, harpsichord, and strings. "The Courtroom's Magician" sounds like a combination between Eastern and French styles of music. Kitagawa’s use of guitar and accordion is characteristically well done. “Seal ~Locked-Away Darkness" also utilizes the same organ instrument in addition to dramatic strings for effect. “Turnabout Sisters' Theme ~Music Box ver.” is exactly what the title is. While the music box doesn’t really add that much to the original melody, I still found it to be effective, if not slightly sad.
Gyakuten Saiban is known for its quirky characters, and PL vs. GS introduces a few new ones. “Jeeken Barnrod ~Labyrinth Knight” is the theme for the main prosecutor in the game. Voiced by star seiyuu Mamoru Miyano of Death Note and Steins;Gate fame, Barnrod has a marching militaristic theme of presence and vigor; representing the character perfectly. “Mist Belduke ~Twilight Memories” is a melancholic theme for the eponymous chemist of Labyrinth City. The woodwinds and the strings give off depressing emotions without being too melodramatic. “The Ruler and the Alchemist” begins with plucked notes from the bass, but later develops into a more melodic piece with a warmer sound coming from the strings.
Several “Recollection Themes” are also used. “Recollection ~Bewitched Fate” has its delicate melody performed on a harp, and the rest of the strings responding with their own melodies. “Recollection ~Golden Revelation” uses piano bars along with woodwinds and some strings. “Recollection ~The Legendary Great Fire” is tenser with its build-up of the strings and bells, but otherwise doesn’t develop much more than that. “Omen ~Footfalls of Turnabout” also falls into this problem by having a lot of build-up, but no real payoff. Other miscellaneous themes include “Theme of the United Front” which sounds broodingly militaristic and even hints at the main theme a bit. There’s “Farce ~Naive People” a comedic theme utilizing accordion and short string bowings along with percussion. It really does feels out of place though, with the rest of the soundtrack’s darker themes. Lastly, “The Final Witness” revisits the theme found in “Ryuichi Naruhodo ~Objection! 2012,” but also adds in heavy orchestration and whirling woodwinds. The piece sounds serious and dire; symbolizing that this truly is Phoenix’s last shot to prove Mahoney’s innocence.
The third and final disc contains all the music used during the cutscenes. Rather than using a small ensemble of solo instruments like the rest of the album, most of these tracks are large orchestral pieces performed by the Layton Grand Caravan Orchestra. Unfortunately, the majority of them don’t even make it to the one minute mark; likely due to the short length of the cutscenes themselves. Still, the orchestrations are of the highest quality and there are a few highlights to be found here.
“The Witches' Theme ~Chase” begins with a piano melody, and later shifts into a fast paced buildup of strings, percussion, and even choir. The brass plays a short motif before the piece cuts off abruptly. “The Witches' Theme ~Assault” later revisits the same theme, in a more or less similar fashion. “Escape” is similar in composition, but it’s merely a repetitive chase theme that sees little development musically. “Rescue and Retribution” is alike in style, but again suffers from lack of real development. “RAINY NIGHT” is jazz like with its mournful piano and sleazy accordion, while “OPENING” simply repeats the opening portion of the game’s main theme. Similarly “Judgment ~Witch Trial” is only a small excerpt from “The Courtroom’s Magician,” while “In-Flight” merely is an orchestral version of the “Turnabout Sisters” theme from the original Gyakuten Saiban. This piece has seen many arrangements, but nothing in particular really stands out with this one other than the original synth has been replaced with live strings.
“THE MAGIC BOOK” is a rather simple piece that has the strings playing a broad stroke melody, while the accordion and piano add in jazz flavor. “That Case” is more serious, using brooding strings and piano chords in attempt to create some tension, but falls short only running at 0:28. “The Story Teller's Theme ~Parade” is a march-styled riff that utilizes snare drum percussion and bold brass with its Baroque inspired composition. “A Faint Voice” and “Garyuu ~Roar,” while short, at least keep things interesting with the organ and the strings. “Sealed Memories” is also notable for mainly utilizing a small choir. The same chorale theme re-appears in “Garyuu ~Creation” in addition to some organ accompaniment. “A Mysterious Fire” conveys feeling of suspicion and intrigue, but again only runs under thirty seconds. If I’m sounding repetitive here, that’s because many of the tracks here are only underdeveloped cues that likely work in context with the cutscenes; but really can’t stand on their own. I’ll save paragraph space and simply group together “The Bell Tower's Arrival,” “Sorrowful Golden Statue,” “A Familiar Face,” “Into the Ruins,” and “Confrontation ~The Titanic Knights” under this category.
Luckily, things do pull through as we enter the latter portion of the disc. “Professor Layton's Theme 2 ~VS Arrange ver.” expands upon the arrangement found on the first disc with more lively strings and expanded instrumentation. “Confrontation” is a dark suspense piece that makes great use of the lower octave string instruments and timpani percussion. “Festival” is a more developed version of the Story Teller’s theme. I really enjoyed the solo violin and snapping beats used in this piece. “Mahoney's Theme ~Truth” feels sad, but hopeful use of the piano and strings. The final tracks are simply a joy to listen to. “Lostoria!!” and “The Light of the Truth” are short, but powerful symphonic cues; while “PRELUDE” sounds waltz-like. The opening string and piano bars of “DENOUMOUNT” later bloom into a fuller orchestral sound. I can really imagine these tracks as being particularly effective during the game’s final emotional scenes.
Tomohito Nishiura pulls no stops with the masterful ending theme. It begins with a grand rendition of Phoenix Wright’s “Objection!” theme performed by the bold brass section, which then smoothly transitions into Professor Layton’s main theme at 0:47. The strings and brass provide much energy and the right amounts of gusto to this piece. Following this, the next portion is the original puzzle theme from Curious Village. Haunting and subtle, I particularly enjoyed the section where the clarinet handles the melody. At 2:40, we hear a successful fusion of the previously mentioned “Objection!” and Layton main themes. Next, “Cross Examination ~Moderato” and “Pursuit ~Cornered” are splendidly performed by the brass sections with full emotion. After some improvised orchestral passages, an andante version of the “Turnabout Sisters' Theme” makes an appearance at 4:24. The piece reaches its grand conclusion with full force from the orchestra.
Simply put, Professor Layton vs. Gyakuten Saiban Magical Mystery Music is the soundtrack that fans of both series have been wanting for years. No longer hindered by hardware limitations, the team of composers goes full out with their composition. Between Tomohito Nishiura’s amazing orchestrations, Masakazu Sugimori’s lovingly re-arranged original themes, and Yasumasa Kitagawa’s newly composed pieces; this is one impressive soundtrack from start to finish. Some themes fall flat, and the majority of the tracks on the third disc are sorely underdeveloped, but that hardly matters in the long run. The few tracks that fail are so short and forgettable; they get buried by the masterpieces in the end. For the most part, I enjoyed listening and re-listening to this epic soundtrack. The original themes have never sounded better, the composition is amazing, and the orchestra gives off an emotional passion that simply can’t be conveyed with the usual standard synth. If you’ve ever been a fan of either series, this is the soundtrack to pick up. All that we need now is a localized release of the game!