Over the years, we have had some bizarre combinations of gameplay styles, with perhaps the most famous being a collaboration between Metroid and Castlevania in 1997’s Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night, coining the term ‘Metroidvania’. 2010’s The Legend Of Dark Witch, developed by CIRCLE, takes a strange, but fitting turn by combining the gameplay of the Mega Man and Gradius games.
The story involves a Goddess (of what is never explained) named Zizou, who is tasked to retrieve the stolen source of all magical energy used by humans called the Syega Crystals. Who the thief is however, is something else that Zizou will need to figure out. But in order to reach the culprit, she has to battle against six magical girls that do not serve any amount of purpose to the plot, and are only there just for the sake of having boss fights at the end of each level. Zizou tries to get some answers out of the girls before and after each fight, but almost none of the girls have a good excuse for battling her.
Even when you defeat each of the girls, they will mostly explain that they do not have much of a clue of the thief’s whereabouts. Fighting these girls makes for some fun and interesting boss battles, but their existence is entirely questionable throughout the entire journey. We did not need the robot masters in Mega Man to tell players why they were built or why they were at the end of each level. All we had to know was that Dr. Wily created these evil robots that Mega Man must destroy before heading into his fortress.
Zizou on the battlefield plays almost exactly like Mega Man. She only moves left and right and for some contrived reason can only shoot horizontally. Like in Gradius however, she can choose to activate certain power ups to make her move faster, have an ability to briefly float, further upgrade her two default blasters in the game, or increase her attack power. Activating these upgrades costs of certain of Tres, this game’s currency in the form of purple butterflies that drop from all enemies, filling up a meter at the bottom of the screen, holding all of Zizou’s power ups. Whatever part of the bar is filled will operate that highlighted upgrade, with her increased attack power requiring the most amount of Tres to use.
Players can choose whatever level they want to start with, and before beginning a level, they also have the option of using Tres to purchase permanent upgrades for Zizou, including absorbing more Tres from enemies, an increased number of hearts or lives, or everlastingly boosting up the blasters’ offense. The structure of each level is very basic and just simply asks the player to travel from left to right, with enemies and obstacles obscuring your path, and a boss to fight at the end. Once all of the girls have been defeated, then you can move on to the last two levels with the final two bosses and a boss rush mode.
Just like in Mega Man, when you defeat a boss, you obtain its ability that help as weaknesses to certain other bosses. Before the bosses however, I never once used these abilities to get through the level, as the default ones do a fine enough job when upgraded. The other abilities you get in the game are no more than situational, which drastically negates that same feeling you get in Mega Man, where you can use specific powers on specific enemies weak to it, or as another means of progressing through the level.
Unfortunately, you also may need a bit of patience to get further in the game. Especially for first time players, it is extremely difficult to get anywhere in The Legend Of Dark Witch without grinding for tres and buying permanent upgrades before starting a level. Zizou does not at all play well when you start a new game. Her attack power is laughable and she can’t take that many hits. Needless to say, you will most likely get a game over before even reaching the your first boss. This is sadly not any better when you unlock a new playable character upon completing the game. Her weapon is utterly useless, as it takes the NES Metroid route and has her begin with an abnormally short beam weapon, with the only way you can make it travel further is by selecting the ability to do so. The best you can do with this weapon is charge it up for a stronger blast, similar to Mega Man’s MegaBuster.
The Legend Of Dark Witch overall has really surprised me as to how much pleasure I got out of it. It ticks all of the boxes as to what made the Mega Man and Gradius games popular, while at the same time having its own identity. The music can be fairly catchy at times, particularly the boss music, and while the graphics are basic, it suits the cartoonish look the game has going for it.
I also quite like the look of the character portraits and the designs of the characters are rather unique. Strangely on the 3DS eShop version that I was playing, there was no amount of 3D to be found, which you may either see as a good thing or a bad thing. Alas, first time players will probably complete the main campaign within a few hours, and there is not much replay value afterwards, unless you are interested in playing as the unlockable character, or are willing to spend enough time collecting the two Syega Crystals hidden in each level.
The Legend Of Dark Witch is a game you can play if you do not want to get yourself involved in a lengthy 10-15 hour action adventure or a 30-50 hour RPG. Just something to keep you entertained for a short while. It has some flaws that need addressing and it may not be completely accessible, but for those that can stick with it, you will get a bit of enjoyment out of this title.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo 3DS code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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