Until the release of Diablo III late last year, console gamers didn’t exactly have a lot of similar titles to choose from. Brought by NIS America the Witch and The Hundred Knight tries to fill in this void. At the same time it adds enough charm to keep it feeling different enough from Blizzard’s title.
The story begins with the swamp witch, Metallia (or Metallica in the Japanese version), summoning the Hundred knight, a cute mascot like character that is said to be a legendary demon. You quickly prove that looks can be deceiving and are then tasked to spread the swamp throughout the lands. And only once the whole world is covered in swamp will you be released from the contract.
You will meet a variety of interesting characters during your play. From the butler Arlecchino who always seems like he is plotting something sinister, to Visco a female inquisitor cursed to look like a dog. The various villain witches are also fun to hear bickering, which had me giggle more than once. On the other hand, sometimes there’s way too much pointless babbling, but this is not unusual especially considering how similar the atmosphere is to a Disgaea title.
Unfortunately the game can be distasteful at times, as it features a slew of profanities and some really questionable scenes. In one part Metallia kicks the dying body of her mother and then turns her into a mouse, after which she summons a group of horny mice to “make her a bunch of brothers and sisters”. There is also a scene where Metallia ties up Visco and leaves her naked in the swamp water, after which Metallia proceeds to drug her by cramming various stuff up her butt.
With that said, this title has a surprisingly deep combat system for its genre. You have direct control over the Hundred Knight, allowing you to dodge, defend and attack in any direction. While combat does end up being the typical mash the attack button to do a combo and dodge from time to time, correctly timing these as well as effectively using the equipment combo system make the combat rewarding.
The game makes use of all the buttons available on the DualShock 3 and in addition still requires a lot of button combinations using L1 and R1 buttons. It will take some time getting used to, but once you manage to conquer the controls the combat will start to shine, rewarding you for skilful play.
You equip weapons in five slots. Each one of these slots correspond to a specific attack in the combo. Equipping a correct combination of weapons grants you an additional damage boost, greatly increasing that weapon’s power. This means that you will be placing stronger weapons at the end of a combo in order to make even better use of them.
There is a variety of weapons to choose from, including: swords, staffs, hammers, spears and lances. Despite this each weapon still falls into one of three categories: slash, blunt and magic type. Since enemies are resistant to specific types and weak to others, having a diverse pallet of equipped weapons ensures that you will have at least one weapon that is effective against a different types of foes.
This title wouldn’t have been nearly as enjoyable if it didn’t have all the looting common for this genre. The Hundred Knight gobbles up everything you find on the field, including useless garbage from consuming enemies. Since you have a limited stomach capacity you need to keep constantly returning to your home base in order to retrieve the useful item and sell off the things you don’t need.
The game also features elements you might have come to know from other NIS titles. Like in Z.H.P. Unlosing Ranger VS Darkdeath Evilman and The Guided Fate Paradox. You only level up once you leave the current level. During the stage you will earn grade points which can be used up at any pillar in order to boost your stats just for that stage. You have the ability to fast travel between revealed pillars or you can use them to return back to the world map.
Also like in both mentioned titles you have a Gcal, or hunger meter. The Gcal meter drops even when you are just standing still. Moving around unexplored areas will reduce your Gcal at a faster rate, as will regeneration which occurs automatically if you are missing any HP. What makes this game harder than the previously mentioned games is the fact that the Gcal bar is a lot tougher to fill up. Items that refill Gcal are extremely rare and even if you find them they only manage to fill up a mere 10%. Another way to fill up your Gcal is by consuming weakened foes. Gobbling up an enemy has its downsides, since you will also eat up garbage, filling up your stomach in the process. You can also spend grade points at pillars in order to either boost a stat for that map or refill 10% of your Gcal gauge. All of these make for a great risk reward system. Will you use up your grade points in order to have more Gcal at the price of being weaker during the upcoming boss battle, or will you consume an enemy and risk not being able to pick up any useful items that you may come across.
The maps here are ridiculously large, which dwarf other RPGs in comparison. These maps are often open giving you the ability to explore any way you want. During your journeys you will travel through a lot of different places. Some places even have hidden areas not accessible until you unlock the corresponding Tochka skills.
Throughout the levels you might stumble upon villages. Here aside from the standard chatting with townsfolk and purchasing items, you can raid houses for loot. Once you raid a place you can visit that house later for additional bonuses without having to worry of getting kicked out by the residents.
Unfortunately the game is far from perfect and there are quite a bit of issues that keep The Witch and the Hundred Knight from being a great game. Some elements are explained multiple times, while others are left totally untouched. This wouldn’t be a problem if some of these weren’t imperative for surviving. The only way you are going to get past these areas is either by figuring things out yourself or by reading the Tips found during the loading screen which more often then not show you something you already knew. Another issue is the bad camera angles. This is most evident in the earlier sections of the game as the forests are so dense that the trees block your whole view forcing you to fiddle around with the camera. While only some areas suffer from this it still makes combat needlessly difficult. The game also doesn’t allow you to zoom in or out which is a shame since most of the places you visit look absolutely lovely. Another problem is that some elements are underused like village raiding and Tochka skills which are only needed to progress through some areas of the map.
The visuals look absolutely adorable. Every level is bustling in detail, from the magical forests to medieval towns. Everything is colorful and lively, just like you stepped into a fairytale. The effects and lighting are also quite good. The Hundred Knight’s flame lights up your path and the magic you cast looks especially impressive.
In the audio department you might come across some tunes that sound very similar to the classic Disgaea tracks. The game has also a nice amount of original tunes which perfectly complement the levels you will be exploring. Overall the soundtrack is pretty good, as more than once I have found myself humming the songs. Like the majority of NIS titles you can select both English and Japanese voices, but not everything is voiced if you select the English voice work.
The Witch and the Hundred Knight is a weird title. While it uses the classic Diablo formula, it adds more than enough to make it feel fresh. It’s a surprisingly deep game with a lot to offer and it is sure to scratch that itch console gamers might have. It definitely isn’t for everyone, as some of its jokes may leave you feeling a bit uncomfortable and a few elements feel like they needed a bit more refinement, but on the whole this is a title worth trying out. I for one am eagerly anticipating the sequel.