Little Witch Academia is one of those series that gives me that warm feeling inside, from its original conception as part of the Young Animator Training Project in 2013 up until its first full television series airing last year. The idea of a Little Witch Academia video game had me more than a little excited. The anime’s setting seems like prime material for a magic-filled RPG or a mysterious adventure and yet I can’t help but feel underwhelmed by what Little Witch Academia: Chamber of Time has to offer.
Release Date: May 15, 2018 (WW)
Platform: PlayStation 4, Steam
Genre: Action, Adventure, RPG
Player(s): Single-player, Multiplayer
Rating: PEGI 7
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Developer: A+ Games
It’s the start of Summer vacation at Luna Nova Academy and Akko finds herself tasked with organising all of the books in the library as punishment from Professor Finnelan for breaking school equipment. A large but simple task you would assume. That is until Akko unknowingly opens a secret door leading to the Horologium Room one of the “Seven Wonders of Luna Nova”. This, of course, leads to a mysterious shift in time in which those that have entered the room realise that the same day is being repeated over and over and have to work together to solve this mystery.
While the old time-loop troupe has been annoyingly overused in storytelling at least Little Witch Academia does have a colourful cast of characters to draw from. This is actually one of the highlights of the game and a real draw for fans of the anime series. With a cast of characters likeable and fun as with LWA it’s hard to dislike your time with the game. Characters are faithful to their anime counterparts making for some really enjoyable and entertaining interactions throughout the game even though the story ultimately lacks any real depth.
The game is a bit of a mixed bag in terms of its mechanics as its mostly a 2.5D brawler style game, which looks great but navigation is more complicated than it needs to be. This is mixed with RPG elements with full-on levels and stat distribution, equipment, skills and a neat Horoscope-based skill tree. It’s like two games unevenly welded together. The RPG elements are more than you could want from a game but the brawler combat system is lacklustre and button mashy. It’s a shame given how much you can customise and build up your characters but without challenging combat it feels pointless.
The combat, however, is only one part of the game and a rather simple part at that. You move from one screen to the next taking out enemies, picking up drops and moving on until the boss at the end Streets of Rage style. Most of the exploration comes in the form of trying to navigate Luna Nova and the awful combination of map and radar on a 2.5D plane that doesn’t quite follow logic leaving you on the opposite side of where you want to be. Not to mention Luna Nova is pretty vast with multiple floors and different ways to get to them, and Quick Travel, when unlocked, costs so even the simple things are not quite so simple.
If there’s one thing that Chamber of Time does well it’s the visuals. While the game might not be the most stunning game out there it’s use of 2.5D character models are a joy to witness. They add a level of character to the cast that I think only this style can bring and it works really well with the source material. Speaking of, the game is sprinkled with animated cutscenes by Studio Trigger making that transition from anime to video game all the smoother, visually at least. No English voice-acting unfortunately especially given how good of a performance the anime saw, so it’s a shame. The Japanese voice work it more than adequate though.
Little Witch Academia: Chamber of Time is an underwhelming experience made all the more frustrating by that feeling of how it could have been so much better. The characters and visuals are a highlight throughout and for fans of the series may be enough to see the game through. Expectations are a powerful thing and unfortunately, Chamber of Time just doesn’t live up to mine.
This title was reviewed using a PlayStation 4 review copy provided by BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment Europe.