Don’t let the tedious lolicon memelords put you off Little Witch Nobeta – it’s fab

Little Witch Nobeta from Pupuya Games has been on the radar of a lot of people for quite some time now. A convincing Early Access version of the game made it look very good — and the developer has been working hard to get it noticed by recruiting voice talent from Hololive for several of the boss characters, as well as encouraging a lively (and often delightfully provocative) fanart scene — including some saucy fanart from its own official social accounts.

Unfortunately, this has also had the side-effect of attracting some of the most tedious people on the western Internet, who have been crapping up the game’s Steam reviews by parroting “uoooh” and “cunny” memes ad nauseam because they think comedy is all about repeating things people got tired of hearing months ago.

Don’t let that put you off trying Little Witch Nobeta now that the full version has finally been released, however, because it’s an excellent game. So, trying to avoid the dribbling idiots in the corner, let’s wade in and take a first look at this charming, playable and well-polished action RPG.

Little Witch Nobeta

In Little Witch Nobeta, you take on the role of Nobeta, who is a little witch. At the outset of the game, she doesn’t really know who she is, but has felt drawn to a strange castle where she believes seeking “the throne” will provide some answers as to her true identity. She also finds herself following a mysterious black cat, who subsequently reveals themselves to be the servant of the “Great Witch Nobeta” — but who is also keen for Nobeta to figure things out for herself rather than simply handing them to her on a plate.

What then follows is often compared to a Souls game, but the comparison there isn’t particularly accurate. There are elements in common, sure — most notably a sharp difficulty curve, substantial gaps between checkpoints and the necessity to learn enemy formations and attack patterns in order to succeed — but in terms of overall execution, Little Witch Nobeta is rather different to your average Souls game.

The main reason for this is that rather than prioritising melee combat as most Souls-like games do, Little Witch Nobeta instead focuses primarily on ranged magical combat. Nobeta can strike enemies in melee combat, yes — and indeed doing so is a reliable means of keeping her mana reserves topped up — but for the most part you’ll be wanting to try and keep your distance from enemies, making good use of your magic in order to defeat your foes.

Little Witch Nobeta

Nobeta starts with an Arcane spell, which can either be fired off a single relatively weak shot at a time, or charged up for a piercing blast that can hit multiple targets in a line. As you progress through the game, you’ll acquire other varieties of spell, each of which act quite differently — for example, the ice spell can either be fired rapidly like a machine gun, or channelled to lock on to multiple targets and rain icicle death down on them from above.

If anything, the way the different spells work almost give Little Witch Nobeta as much in common with a third-person shooter as a stamina management action RPG. In the more complex battles the game offers, you’ll need to find a good balance between moving around, charging and channelling spells, firing off quick blasts, dodging enemy attacks and occasionally getting in close to give the baddies a bonk on the nose with your staff. It’s challenging — even the regular enemies can put up quite a fight, and the boss fights are genuinely tough right from the outset — but also very rewarding.

What’s particularly nice about Little Witch Nobeta is that the magic isn’t just about combat. You’ll unlock spells that provide more passive abilities such as a double jump and a counterattack facility, and in many cases the attacking spells can also be used in other creative ways. Charging up the ice spell, for example, infuses Nobeta with the ice element, allowing her to walk through fire unscathed while the spell lasts. In this way, the game adds a pinch of exploration-based platformer to the mix alongside stamina-management action RPG combat and third-person shooting action.

Little Witch Nobeta

Progression in Little Witch Nobeta involves making it to checkpoints — in this case goddess statues scattered around the castle — and then spending the fragments she acquires from combat on upgrading various abilities. There’s rather less flexibility in building Nobeta than there is in your typical Souls game, but that’s a side-effect of the game making you play a specific character rather than a custom one. Nobeta is a caster-type character, and thus all her upgrades tend to relate to that in some way — though according to your own play style and skills you can, of course, decide to make her a little more tanky or melee-focused in favour of her magical skills if you so desire.

Spells can be upgraded through finding grimoires of the same type rather than spending points on them, which encourages exploration. The game starts off feeling fairly linear, but an hour or two in the game starts providing alternate routes and shortcuts around the place, emphasising how the castle as a whole is all interconnected. It’s an interesting place to explore from a level design perspective, for sure, even though the environmental art can be a little samey at times.

On top of that, the story is intriguing. Kicking off with an amnesiac protagonist is a cliché, sure, but as you gradually acquire lore objects through exploration and discover new parts of the narrative by defeating bosses and reaching key events, we start to get a good sense of context. Nobeta may be an adorable little witch, but the world in which she lives is a dark and sinister one where, as is often the case in games like this, the Church is up to no good.

Little Witch Nobeta

In this instance, it appears that the God squad have been looking for ways to separate the soul and body, transferring the former into doll-like shells for various purposes. As you progress through the game, the enemies you’ll encounter change from being ill-defined dark shapes to naked mannequins, to more recognisable dolls. A lot is left unsaid, but through a combination of the lore objects, the explicitly delivered narrative and some little hints that Nobeta and her feline companion drop, you can start to put a few things together. And it’s not a pretty picture.

Little Witch Nobeta is a quality game that deserves to do well. It’s a pity The Internet had to happen all over its Steam reviews, but try and ignore the stench and just enjoy the game on its own merits. It’s a well-crafted, challenging but accessible game with solid mechanics, an intriguing story and plenty of things to discover across multiple playthroughs. And I’d love to see plenty more games like this.

Little Witch Nobeta is available now for PC via Steam, and has console releases in certain territories. The western Switch release has been temporarily delayed while the game’s optional swimsuit costume is awaiting approval from Nintendo, and the PlayStation 4 version presently only appears to be available in certain locations. Play-Asia has a physical Switch version up for preorder.

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Pete Davison
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