Platform: PlayStation®3 system
Genre: Action RPG
Publisher: NIS America, Inc.
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software, Inc.
Release Dates: March 21, 2014 (EU) , March 25, 2014 (US)
The Witch and the Hundred Knight is an Action RPG with Dungeon Crawler elements, more akin to PC offerings such as Bastion than other J Crawlers like the Megami Tensei series, The Witch and the Hundred Knight marks a short departure from the Strategy RPGs that NIS are known for. You play as the legendary demon ‘Hundred Knight’, a small, monkey-like creature that doesn’t quite live up to the legend in terms of appearance. The Hundred Knight is in the service of The Swamp Witch Metallia and must help her expand her Swamp to take over the world and defeat the other witches.
As you start the game the menu and dialogue scenes look great, with beautiful character designs and backgrounds. Sadly the same cannot be said for the rest of the game, while the graphics aren’t exactly bad, they do feel slightly dated. Coupled with the style of gameplay I could not help but feel that this title would have been more at home on the PlayStation Vita rather than the PlayStation 3.
The characters are fully voiced and you have the option to choose the English or Japanese language, something you think would be standard in all localised Japanese games by now, but still too often fans are left disappointed, good call NIS America, good call. Speaking of the audio, the soundtrack is catchy and perfectly sets the mood of the game, be warned though you’ll be humming along for hours as you play.
While tutorials that consist of walls of text are the bane of my existence, tutorials that leave out vital information make me rage. In the tutorial the basics of battle are covered as you play through a prologue mission, the rest are available via ‘Tip Cards’ of which there are 50 and appear during loading screens, while this makes the wait more bearable, the tips are totally random, you may keep getting tips for features and abilities that you don’t have access to yet while important information such as how to use your items may not show up for a while.
With a story this linear progressing from chapter to chapter can be tedious with prolonged dialogue scenes, that only serve to progress the story a tiny bit, but the true essence of the game is in the exploration of the new areas that open up with each new chapter. While some games that follow this formula can be very samey with each new stage (.hack springs to mind) here we see vastly different stages stylised around where they are on the world map and the Witch that is in control of that area, however they aren’t as stunning or as memorable as they should be.
The main bulk of the game takes place in stages, as with most dungeon crawlers the aim is to explore the area, take on enemies and search for hidden places that will contain high level items and in this case Pillars. Pillars are like giant flowers that you are tasked to find and make bloom, at each pillar in a field you can do a variety of things including distributing Grade Points, returning to your base or setting that pillar as your spawn point. The aim in each stage is to find the main Pillar, defeat its protector and progress on with the story. Going from stage to stage isn’t as easy as it sounds, you will be required to do quite a bit of grinding in order to get your little Knight ready for the challenges that lie ahead, however this can be a fun and rewarding experience as you take on previously explored locations and find new paths to take.
There are a few things to remember, GigaCals are basically your stamina or energy which decreases as you move and fight, essentially giving you a time limit in that field. Through fighting you can gain Grade Points these can be used at a Pillar to increase your stats while in the field or to replenish your GigaCals. When you have completed that stage or decide to return to base, a score screen will appear and you will level up, as well as receive items, depending on the amount of points you have accumulated during that run.
The battle system is unique in that you can equip 5 weapons at once allowing you to customise and combo your way through your enemies. Similar to Borderlands, weapons and other equipment can come in a variety of different rarities with each higher rarity offering better stats and allowing you to level them further. As you progress through the game, abilities known as Totchka will become available to you, these enable you to use traps that capture creatures and bombs to blow up boulders that block your path to pieces.
One of the biggest issues with the action side of the game is the camera angles, with trees covering paths, chests and enemies it can get a little frustrating and make you want to throw your controller at the wall. There are also a few features in the game that appear to do very little, such as the ability to raid a house, rewarding you with treasure, usually an item that you have too many of already, followed by the words ‘Witch Domination’ appearing on the screen when you have been successful. The feature does very little except increase your karma, meaning residents will view you badly and prices in shops will rise, even with a price increase you’re not going to face many hardships considering you will rarely use shops as you can get most of the items while exploring the field.
Even with faults, The Witch and the Hundred Knight is a fun game for those who enjoy dungeon crawlers, the action RPG elements also bring something different to the table, so the gameplay feels like a unique experience. The saving graces are definitely the option to have Japanese audio and an awesome soundtrack which helps create a great atmosphere while playing. It does get several things right and when it does it is a real joy to play, however given the nature of the game it would've been better suited for the PlayStation Vita.