Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Publisher: Nippon Ichi Software
Platform: PlayStation 3
Release Date: March 25, 2014
ESRB: T for Teen
Sometimes a game is more than the sum of its parts. There are titles out there that may have drab mechanics and a dull story, but everything blends together so well that the game is better for it. Whether it's the result of a clever designer or some voodoo programming magic, a game that would normally be considered boring or bad is now suddenly playable and, dare I say, fun. Normally these types of games don't really end up being masterpieces or classics, but instead are pleasant surprises—a neat little game that was just a little bit better than expected.
Is The Witch and The Hundred Knight greater than the sum of its parts? Not quite, but this is a title that requires you to look past just its disjointed pieces and judge it as a whole, because while no particular part of this game is stand-out, it is still an enjoyable (if obtuse) experience.
In The Witch and The Hundred Knight, you control the Hundred Knight, a legendary creature that is capable of spreading death and destruction around the world. Unfortunately for the summoner, however, the legends were a little exaggerated, and instead of a giant world destroyer, the Hundred Knight is a puny monster incapable of even human speech. This doesn't deter the self-appointed Great Witch of the Swamp, Metallia, however. Menacing or not, she plans on controlling and using the Hundred Knight to her own evil deeds, and take over the world with a sea of swamp water and muck.
The thing is, Metallia is evil. Not "evil" in the typical fashion that you might expect a Disgaea protagonist to be, but flat out demonic. She does not simply stop trying to take over the world because of some wonderful revelation, nor admit to doing so to achieve some vaguely noble cause; Metallia is pretty mad at the world, and she'll do whatever she wants in order to take her revenge. The game doesn't show you the Swamp Witch's torturous acts in action as the graphics aren't really up to that challenge, but it doesn't pull any punches in describing these acts to you. The fact that this title dares to have such an evil, mostly unlikeable protagonist is pretty impressive on its own, but when you add on the game's ability to balance these gruesome scenes with touches of humor and light-heartedness, you've got quite the intriguing plot on your hands.
However, intriguing doesn't always equal perfect. Many jokes in The Witch and the Hundred Knight fall flat, and the writers made Metallia so despicable it can be truly hard to care about her plight, and by extension, the story itself. Also, the storytelling is pretty uneven, in terms of how it meshes with the gameplay. There are long stretches of fighting with only a few quick lines to break it up, and then there are long scenes that shove far too many plot points in twenty minute stretches. Had the storytelling been better disbursed amongst the chapters, rather than dumped inelegantly at the beginning and end, The Witch and the Hundred Knight would have stood a lot better on the story front.
When not wading through cutscenes, you'll be wading through the blood of Metallia's enemies, as well as any wildlife that happens to get in your way. The Witch and The Hundred Knight is an Action RPG with some dungeon crawling mixed in, and frankly the game makes the oddly named and various systems it implements sound way more complicated than it is.
When exploring the various fields the Hundred Knight will be sent out to, the first thing you'll notice is a number in the upper-left hand corner of the screen. The Hundred Knight's GigaCal meter, which starts at 100%, will constantly go down while exploring. Every single action the Hundred Knight takes will deplete the GigaCal gauge (even if it's miniscule), and if the Hundred Knight runs out of GigaCals while out on the field, you'll be sent back to Metallia's home with some hefty penalties.
While it seems like you'll always have to keep an eye on GigaCals, it's really not as troublesome as it sounds, though. The game gives you some very clear indicators when you're running low, and even if you happen to run dry, you'll be able to scurry back to a checkpoint-like Pillar to return to base... as long as you have enough HP to survive the constant drain, that is. There's also various ways to restore your GigaCals, and the presence of said Pillars allows you to go back to base and rest up fairly frequently.
Like most Action RPGs, the Hundred Knight can equip a variety of different weapons to take down his foes. The thing that makes The Witch and the Hundred Knight different from other RPGs, however, is how weapon combos work. Instead of a weapon having a canned combo, the weapon itself is the combo, and you can customize it to your needs and situation. You have fives slots to equip weapons in, and where you equip your weapons will effect how your combo plays out depending on the weapon type. For example, Hammers are slow but very powerful, so they tend to be better at the end of a combo. However, they also have a high chance to stun the enemy, so they could also go well at the beginning of a combo so you can get a full round of hits off before an enemy can retaliate. It all depends on your playstyle, but it's also important to keep track of enemy weaknesses.
If it all sounds overwhelming, it really isn't. The Witch and the Hundred Knight is a bit on the easy side, barring some random, small difficulty bumps. Enemies scale to your level, but only to a certain point; it's supposed to encourage leveling the really-not-that-different Facets evenly, but it ends up make the adventure simply a task of equipping the right weapon at the right time. There are other small mechanics and tricks that help the player succeed, but for the most part these mechanics can be ignored.
That's one of the larger problems with the gameplay, really. For all the intricacies and nuances the game has, little of it really matters when you're going through the game. This isn't helped by the fact that many of these aren't alluded to in the game itself. Instead, they are briefly mentioned in the tips displayed when the game is loading. Since the tips come up randomly and out of order, it could be chapters before you learn of certain aspects of the game. Therefore, they mostly become throwaway mechanics—neat when you learn about them, but ultimately having no real impact on the gameplay.
The Witch and the Hundred Knight is far from perfect, but it is still a title that's worth a look for those with an interest with a different storyline. It has its quirks, and even its stretches of boredom in between cutscenes, but can be worth powering through in order to see what happens next.
- Intriguing characters give you reason to see the plot until the end
- Weapon combo system allows for a lot of customization
- Tenpei Sato's soundtrack is exceptional
- Uneven storytelling makes battle and dialogue alike drag on
- Many of the mechanics throughout the game are throwaway
Overall Score: 6.5 (out of 10)
The Witch and The Hundred Knight is going to be one of those 'love it or hate it' games with Nippon Ichi fans. The title has a lot of interesting concepts, but are haphazardly implemented and weaken the overall package.
Disclaimer: This game was reviewed using PS3 downloadable code provided by the publisher.