The charming yet challenging world of Little Witch Nobeta

Little Witch Nobeta is an action RPG currently available in Early Access on Steam. The developer Pupuya Games and publisher SimonCreative — the latter of whom brought us the delightful Food Girls a while back — have expressed an interest in bringing the game to consoles, and hope that the full version of the game will be with us by April of next year.

That’s still a long way off, but in the meantime the Early Access version on Steam still provides a decent amount of game to enjoy. So I thought it was high time we took a closer look at it — particularly after Lilia included it in her comprehensive list of wholesome games a while back.

Little Witch Nobeta

In Little Witch Nobeta, you take on the role of Nobeta, who is both little and a witch — complete with big pointy hat. As the game opens, we’re given little context as to what is going on, largely because Nobeta doesn’t seem to know much about what is going on either. She knows that she needs to look for a “throne”, and that it’s somewhere in the castle that stands before her; she also knows that a “black cat” will point her in the right direction. But beyond that, she’s as clueless as we are. And thus begins the adventure.

Little Witch Nobeta unfolds as a real-time action RPG with a combination of deliberately paced, stamina management-based melee combat and ranged magical combat — with a strong emphasis on the latter. At the start of the game, Nobeta is able to shoot arcane bolts from her staff or spend some time charging up to fire a piercing arcane cannon blast; she can also whack enemies with her staff, which has the convenient side-effect of restoring her mana more quickly.

As is commonly the case with games that feature distinctively weighty combat, Little Witch Nobeta is about taking your time to deal with enemies rather than flailing around wildly hoping to hit something. There’s a strong emphasis on causing hitstun effects on enemies — even your basic arcane shots will typically stagger an enemy briefly — and on avoiding getting hit as much as possible. Nobeta is a fairly fragile little girl, so keeping out of the way of things that want to hurt her is essential!

Little Witch Nobeta

To that end, she has a few mobility options at her disposal. She can jump in the air and continue to levitate by striking with her staff while airborne — if you perform this move while moving, you can clear much larger gaps than you would otherwise be able to. She can hop backwards or dodge-roll out of the way. And she can sprint.

Most of these moves take stamina, but this is a resource that restores itself quite quickly. Of greater concern is the mana bar, which it’s easy to drain quite quickly in the heat of combat. Thankfully, there are a number of ways to restore it, including the aforementioned melee attacks plus carefully timed dodges out of the way of enemy strikes.

The first area of Little Witch Nobeta is a well-paced tutorial area that mostly provides you with practical examples of the sort of situations you will subsequently find yourself in throughout the game. There are rooms where you need to prioritise enemy targets carefully; powerful enemies who need the charged cannon shot to defeat; areas where treasures are out of normal reach and thus require the “levitation” move; and, of course, some tricks and traps to avoid and/or deal with.

Little Witch Nobeta

Controlling Nobeta is straightforward and intuitive and follows most of the conventions of this type of game, with ranged combat handled by the triggers on the controller and melee attacks on the bumpers. Enemies can be locked on to with a click of the right stick, and the left trigger’s “aim” function for ranged magic also has some generous auto-aim snapping — though this is sometimes counterbalanced by the amount of recoil our heroine suffers at the start of Little Witch Nobeta.

Yes, Little Witch Nobeta is a game that acknowledges the use of magic is something that would likely require a certain amount of physical fitness as well as mental acuity. At the start of the game, shooting a single bolt from Nobeta’s staff causes enough recoil to throw your aim right off, but upgrading her strength stat allows her to steady herself more effectively — as well as providing the expected effect of making her staff strikes more powerful, too.

Besides upgrading her basic statistics, which can be performed at the goddess statues that act as save points and checkpoints, Nobeta also acquires grimoires with special abilities over the course of the game. Initially, she acquires a Wind grimoire which allows her to double-jump and a Counter-Magic grimoire, which is self-explanatory, but there are more to discover as the game progresses.

Little Witch Nobeta

The nice thing about Little Witch Nobeta is that it feels like a pleasant blend between the energetic, frantic nature of many anime hack-and-slash games and the more deliberate pace of titles with more weighty combat. The addition of moves such as the double jump and levitation give a fun feeling of fluidity to movement — but the boss fights emphasise the fact that combat is often as much about watching, waiting and being economical with your movements as it is about unleashing your full fury in the hope that big numbers will pop out of your foe.

There’s a really nice atmosphere to the game as a whole, too. Nobeta is delightfully cute, beautifully animated and, through the awesome power of moe, will almost certainly make every player absolutely desperate to ensure she comes to as little harm as possible. The background music in the initial area provides a sombre yet oddly relaxing atmosphere. And the muted yet broad colour palette provides an appropriately dusty, musty atmosphere to the castle without resorting to making the whole thing look completely drab.

Thus far, Little Witch Nobeta is looking extremely promising. The present Early Access version incorporates roughly half of what is intended to be the full game content, covering three main “areas”, and provides a decent challenge. At the same time, the game’s emphasis on ranged combat over melee strikes makes it a fair bit more accessible than games that share some mechanical and stylistic similarities — particularly if you play on the “Standard” mode that buffs up Nobeta’s power a little bit.

Little Witch Nobeta

If you’re someone who typically eschews Early Access titles in favour of waiting for the full game that is, of course, your prerogative — but it’s worth noting in the case of this game specifically that it likely wouldn’t have got as far along as it is now without the support of Early Access purchasers and supporters on Patreon. It’s clearly a passion project — and if you think it sounds like something you want to see more of, it’s worth your support.

And whew, I got through all of that without saying “Dark Souls” once! Go me.

Wait. Fu–

Little Witch Nobeta is available now on Steam.

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Pete Davison
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