As reported last week, Akira Tago, mastermind behind the puzzles of the popular Professor Layton series, passed away at the age of 90. He compiled Atama no Taisou (meaning Head Gymnastics), that went on to spawn 23 regular volumes with the first one coming out back in 1966. The series has sold over 12 million copies. But within the gaming community, he may be better known for being credited as the ‘Puzzle Master’ in the Professor Layton series of games for the Nintendo DS and Nintendo 3DS systems, itself selling over 15.5 million copies as a franchise.
The Professor Layton is one of my favourite gaming faces of all time, if not certainly one of most important in my life. Even though the character of Hershel Layton has influenced how act towards others (or at least I hope that I am being a ‘true’ gentleman), the puzzles were such a critical factor that made the game so enjoyable. Hearing the little fanfare and exclamation mark was always satisfying as I anxiously awaited what challenge was in store for me. Sure, not every one was fun, but most certainly made me think, and possibly made me think for about how to solve problems (or at least that’s what I like to think!). And sometimes, they would even come with explanations, describing the puzzle’s backstory, or how it would have been solved if you just happened to guess! At times I challenge friends to the ‘Four Digits’ puzzle from Curious Village, and I love seeing how everybody manages to work it out and explaining how I got the answer for myself (although I become furious when they just guess)! The puzzles made the Professor Layton games so enjoyable to me from Curious Village to Azran Legacy, so hearing the passing of the one who introduced me to them is truly disheartening.
After hearing the news, I reached out on Twitter to @LaytonSmash, an account that had been pushing for the top-hat professor to be in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U as DLC. As you might suggest, this is no ordinary fan of brain-teasers. I remember reading how much the series meant to him last summer too. This is what he had to say on Tago-san’s passing:
I cannot express what a great tragedy it is to have lost Akira Tago, one of the brightest puzzling minds in the world. It always astounded me when I considered how one man could spearhead a series of puzzle books, the seven Professor Layton games, Layton Brothers Mystery Room, and the Atamania series, and always have his inventions come across interesting and unique. It takes a level of creativity and intellect beyond compare to achieve that.
When I heard the news, the person sitting beside me had been playing Unwound Future. I watched as he worked through the puzzles, reminiscing the countless hours I had spent solving Tago’s incredible, unique puzzles. He has provided so much enjoyment (and frustration!) through his creations, and I wish I had had the opportunity to thank him for that on behalf of Layton fans everywhere. I offer my condolences to his friends, his family, and his countless fans, and may he rest in peace.
Thoughts and prayers go out to Akira Tago’s family, friends, past colleagues, and all of those who have been inspired by his amazing puzzles. May he rest in peace.