So if you’ve spent much time on the Playstation network, or you’re just a fan of Japanese RPG’s in general, you’ve probably come to know the art style of “Nippon Ichi Software.” NIS is a Japanese game developer who had most of their fame on the ps2 with titles like Phantom Brave, La Pucelle, and of course the Disgaea titles that continue on to the ps3 today. “The Witch and the Hundred Knight,” is an absolutely perfect example of this art style, with cut scenes and scenery that are simply unmistakable and beautiful to look at, all throughout your journey as the exploring knight.
This strange graphic difference is off-putting all the way through, especially since the game itself seems to forget. Later in the game these specific character sprites are revamped at least slightly, certainly better shaded for their environments. The overall graphics however, are in fact very good and very stylized, once everything fits; Later on the player is greeted with oil painted shop screens, a polished as all hell start configuration screen with individual sounds for every action, and the occasional area so well crafted and utilized that it may cause one to stop and stare awhile. While the visual differences fall flat at times, this is definitely a game that will stick with the player for the bright and highly detailed art style.
Now on to the story. “The Witch and the Hundred Knight” follows a witch’s (Metallia or “lia” (Was changed from Melallica in Japan)) quest for conquest over the land, and her tiny but ancient magic spirit’s (the Hundred Knight) various fights, as he is summoned to assist her. The player takes control over the Hundred Knight, who levels up and combines rare item drops to form combos that improve in power over time. Metallia needs the Hundred Knight to defeat her enemies and do her evil bidding outside of the swamp, where she is bound by magic. This leads to some casual murder, stalking, and torture on the players part. She is Assisted by a strangely homicidal “frankenstein’s robot” like companion, and a growing cast of unique characters, the player of course will be powerless for the ride, fighting and exploring while the cut scenes give purpose and humor to an otherwise bland story-line. NIS uses the formula with some flare, their attitude fueled writing, making all the characters have at least some personality, even if it becomes overdone and unlikable at times. No matter how much they touch it up it’s still a bit boring at heart however, and unless you’re a fan of the humor and gameplay, it’s unlikely this RPG will hold up without a solid story experience that the genre is known for.
A great thing about the set maps is that they allow the individual areas to be better designed, which is apparent in both map shape and visual appeal. Here the player progresses through each map objectively, as they are tasked with blooming towers of swamp life and spreading Metallia’s influence. These will act as checkpoints for the player, and a MOBA-esque leveling system base, to teleport between sections of each level and power up based on actions thus far in a specific map. According to INS this was utilized differently in the game’s initial state, where an open world connected these towers more fluidly. Towers do feel a bit excessive in the early game. As such this makes the levels feel less engaging at times. I’m not asking for a harder game here, but when the player can handle a level, they can handle plenty of it at once. Finding a high level item is really a game changing experience after all, and can add to the combo complexity that makes the game fun when exploring a large map full of new challenges and few checkpoints. Since exploring the map reduces a timer between these checkpoints, it slows down the players movement and smartly ads thought to the direction of which they explore.
The core gameplay comes down to a hack and slash overhead RPG. This has been done before of course, most recently in “Diablo 3,” or less recently “Dungeon Siege 3” pretty effectively. This loot and fight system is actually kind of being done to death lately right? So why talk about “The Witch and the Hundred Knight”‘s system? Well it has a lot of interesting and well utilized mechanics that make it fun, which quite frankly, is a bit of a surprising novelty. “Diablo 3” to use the popular example, got kind of boring when one decided on a couple of attacks they liked. They’d just be pushing the same buttons from then on and waiting for levels. In “The Witch and the Hundred Knight,” the player can find tons of different weapons with different classes, effects, leveling caps, and play style adjustments. Not only that, but the player can decide how these items are used together in a combination of fighting, and change their damage based on combo placement. With the upgrade damage stats in between checkpoints, after levels, at home and anywhere mid fight through weapon leveling, this game really feels like it has the depth and hit weight needed to make it stand out as a fun and innovative action RPG. It’s just as accessible as a title like Diablo, but at least twice as fun to play during combat.
It’s time to talk about the issues with this game, and of course from such a polished developer, these would usually be unheard of. The camera is just terrible, when at it’s best it feels uncomfortable. It sets itself between the overhead, and over the shoulder 3rd person game, with no happy medium. If the player is behind a tree or tree branch they could be fought with no knowledge and killed, or if the game wants the player to look somewhere, the camera could be unable to tilt quite far enough to see. Both of these were issues the game appeared to be designed with no knowledge of, and had me frustrated because they were unavoidable when there. The other big issue (that turned many critics away immediately), is the strong language and brutal offense. The evil characters are evil in a childish way, still evil none the less with very cruel actions, but never out of the playful characters that NIS intends to build. I mention this because what is taken as poor writing, may just be word structure that a less thoughtful character would say when acting out of brash anger. However this may not be the case either. Take in to consideration the history of the teams writing with dynamic and loud outspoken characters such as the intelligent and brave, but somewhat silly vampire lord of “Disgaea 4.” Where he was loud he also had well written characterization, and the difference is that defining aspect, that makes a characters speech relevant and not unnecessarily offensive.
The third and final issue to address is the overwhelming amount of attacking possibilities and item usage, simply because it is brought up by fans and critics alike when browsing related forums. This problem was criticized for the uselessness later on in “Kingdom hearts 2,” and loved for the versatility in the later game by fans of “Dark Souls 1/2.” In “The Witch and the Hundred Knight” this availability is fantastic, because not only can everything be used, but nothing too complex is absolutely required to win. If a player wants to stick to the basics they can, but if they’re up for more depth or challenge it is available and helpful. This adds to replay ability as well, should a player want to try out a different class and strategy when there time with one is exhausted.
In the end, “The Witch and the Hundred Knight” left a good impression on me for what it was and It deserves a solid 7/10. The story was a bit bland, but by the end I liked the characters, and while the combat grew somewhat tedious at first, I had fun learning new depths as I improved. I’d say this game is worth playing then completing for the fun gameplay complementing beautiful art, making up the world it invites the player to explore.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 3 code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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