NIS America has found a nice niche in America by translating heavily inspired Japanese games and selling them to us. The Witch and the Hundred Knight is no different, as this game literally drips of Japanese lore and culture with a little twist on Americanism. Just imagine if Banjo Kazooie, Katamari Damacy, Diablo III, Lord of the Rings and the goofiest anime you’ve ever seen have had a baby. That game would be born as The Witch and the Hundred Knight, and you would enjoy it just as much as you enjoy those things separately. Unfortunately this game has the opportunity to be overlooked by the casual or the close minded gamer just because it isn’t a first person shooter or an Activision game. Games like this need to be played and enjoyed because they are fun, different, engaging and unique, and sadly we are seeing less and less of them on the market. Thankfully companies like NIS America and Atlus are sending these gems to us, but if we don’t play them, they’ll soon be lost to us.
The story in this game is a very different one than I’ve ever before encountered, which is what makes it most enjoyable. Of course I’m going to be spoiler free because I would have been disappointed had anyone told me any key elements to the plot. I will however give you a little insight to the story. When you start the game you begin a 45 minute tutorial, so make sure you have some time to spare because you won’t be able to save until the tutorial is over. The tutorial goes over the basic gameplay, which I will go over in a later paragraph, but it also lets you in on a little secret: you aren’t the witch in this game, you are her pawn. She summoned you to do her evil bidding and she makes sure she lets you know at every turn. Once you beat the tutorial you get to meet Metallia in the flesh along with her butler Alrekino, who is a majority of the comic relief. They tell you that you have been summoned and bound to this world in order to cover it in swamp land so that Metallia can travel as she wishes. To do this your character must destroy “Pillars” in the world and by destroying them more swamp land is created, which mean Metallia can move more freely. There is a caveat now though, since you are bound to this world and to Metallia you cannot be too far from the swamp without your “Contract Flame” losing strength. So basically this game is one huge timed mission, which is generally a turn off for me, but the time constraint is yet to hinder my enjoyment or progress.
The story, dialogue and voice acting are very well done. From the moment Metallia brings you into the world to the time where she’s cussing at you to cut off another witches head, you are enthralled by the writing and acting. These voice actors did not phone in their performance, they gave their characters heart, their lines conviction and the gamer a connection to them. The music is a throwback to older more “cult classic” games; it sounds as if the composers of Katamari Damacy and Banjo Kazooie had some fun while making music. The cut scene music fits and isn’t too overwhelming, the music while running around in a level seems to channel that of old N64 classics and the battle music reminds me of rolling up kitty cats to save the universe. Imitation is the best form of a compliment, and this game compliments those composers immensely. Every time I wandered into the forest I know I had a goofy smile on my face while the music took me back to good times, and gave me current ones to look back on in another decade.
The graphics and art direction are a sight to behold. When you first see the world map, The Lord of Rings comes to mind if you are a fan of fantasy. Mordor is on the map, the white city of Minas Tirith is there, and I spied with my little eye, Lothlorien as well. It’s nice to know that I will be venturing into those places and seeing how the developer has made them their own, the only other game that has hooked me like that in the past was Overlord. However, you are not going to purchase this game due to the map, so let’s talk about the cut scenes and the gameplay visuals. The cut scenes are two dimensional and look like they’ve been pulled from a high quality anime show, which is a good thing. The characters look crisp and colorful and seem to pop off the screen at you, and you won’t mind that when you see Metallia. The graphics when you are in control of the character are a bit muddy, but they explain that in the game. Since you are Metallia’s minion she’s the one watching you as you fight through the forests and destroy “Pillars,” even the edges of the television screen are rounded so that it seems as if you are gazing through a crystal ball. While this would be a detriment to other games that demand clarity and super high rez graphics, this decision fits the game seeing as you’re looking in on a witch, that’s also looking in.
These “Pillars” are very important in the game, with the little ones you find during the stage allowing you to add points to your character, but sadly these only last for the duration of the stage. Once you clear the stage or beat the level those are removed, but you do level up by killing foes, so hack away. The “Pillar of Fools” are little ones that you find scattered around the levels. Those let you use the points you’ve gained to help you in these, they let you warp between pillars you’ve destroyed, and they warp you back to Metallia’s house. The warp is very useful if you are running low on time as you can warp back, refill your meter and start again, plus while you are at her house you can save as well. Saving is very smart seeing as a big boss encounter can happen at anytime, and take your life. Then you lose some of your goods and have to fight them again.
The controls are surprisingly not very difficult, seeing as this is a JRPG. The square button controls the attack for the character, and by mashing it you can chain combos together before your stamina meter runs out. The stamina meter also ties in with running and you can run while holding X, but you’ll tire fairly easily, so use this ability wisely. You are allowed to equip five weapons that will make your combos in battle. You can also equip “facets,” which will change your appearance, weapon proficiencies and stats. If you hit L1 a circle comes up and you can pick certain items that will fill your health meter, or help you add time to your meter as well. Once you get the hang of the controls you are set, just think of it like a hack and slash dungeon crawler with lots and lots of flare and some sick humor. Hopefully you’re in for some toilet humor, because this game surprisingly has a lot of it.
Replayability isn’t a huge factor in this game, it’s one of those games that when you’re done, you’re done. However, that is not a detriment at all seeing as there is so much to do in the game. Each level can be explored to the 100 percentile, and when you scroll over a certain warp spot in the map it will tell you how much left you have to explore. Plus, being a JRPG, we all know the amount of hours we will have to put into the game to see the final credits roll, days of hours I’m sure. You can also upgrade all your equipment, and find all the facets so that the Hundred Knight is as strong as possible. Plus, you can raid towns and villages and make the Witch dominate them, which are some fun little side-quests. I do doubt that you’ll want to replay the game once you see the credits on your screen; you’ll want to play something else, but that something else will definitely not be as unique as The Witch and the Hundred Knight.
This title is a must buy for the niche gamer, the gamer who enjoys the outputs of Atlus, Suda 51 and any weird off the wall Japanese titles that not everyone is always privy to. That gamer must pick this up, as not only will they be purchasing a very unique and enjoyable experience, they’ll also be encouraging NIS America to publish more of these one of kind beauties in the States. The Witch and The Hundred Knight won’t appeal to the masses but for anyone who wants a great dungeon crawler or a JRPG, then you should go grab this title and let the gaming industry know that we still want them to take chances and be creative: less FPS and more JRPG!