Review | The Witch and the Hundred Knight (PS3)
A witch who wants to envelope the world in swamp. A cute, lovable, and dumb summoned monster who eats garbage and ABC (already been chewed) gum. A snide, scheming butler who kills his master. A knight cursed with the head and tail of a dog. More weapons and action than you can shake multiple sticks at. Accordion music. Foul, foul language. An exceptionally unlikable protagonist. Fans of the Disgaea series will definitely be ready for what this game offers, and if these sound like the makings of an appealing game to you, then strap in for NIS America’s latest action-RPG, The Witch and the Hundred Knight.
You’ll take the helm of the Hundred Knight, an evil, multi-armed monster capable of some of the most horrendous atrocities ever imagined by a living being…at least, that’s what the legends say. In reality, you’ll be taking hold of a knee-high, helmet-wearing, loveable-yet-dumb Deku-looking fella who eats whatever’s handed to him and sounds like a speech-limited moogle. He’s also a very hungry fella, and you’ll need to keep him energized in each level; you’ll start each stage with a number of Gigacals, and every action you take decreases the energy Hundred Knight has. You can eat bad guys or get to midpoint totems in the stage to regain some Gigacals, but run out and you’ll take a big hit to your attack and defense until you get more food or leave the stage. All that being said, the Hundred Knight still packs a wallop; you can equip up to five different weapons ranging from magic staves to swords and spears to deliver custom combos and deal damage.
In addition to the basic weapons, you’ll have multiple armors, magic summons (called “Tochkas”), and other tools to defeat baddies and take down bosses. Combat itself is simple, a combination of mashing the square button while occasionally dodging with X. The item management system starts out feeling fairly complicated since there are multiple items, rarities, status effects, and combo potentials to sort through for each weapon. But more often than not simply determining discovering a particular enemy’s weakness by hitting with a random weapon, then spamming an effective attack to take down any difficult foes, making some of the customization and scavenging feel a little unnecessary.
That doesn’t mean combat’s not fun, and it doesn’t mean that you’ll find the game a complete breeze all the time. Again, like Disgaea, you’ll find yourself doing a bit of grinding in The Witch and the Hundred Knight to level the Hundred Knight and its weapons, but the line between “underpowered” and “way overpowered” ends up being much too slim. Confronting enemies feels like either completely destroying the competition or getting completely destroyed, with sections of comfortable difficult taking place too rarely. Incidentally, the game offers you the option to turn down the difficulty without punishment from the beginning, but it doesn’t give you the ability to turn it up, which is a shame since the gameplay is the only real draw to push through the game.
I was a little surprised when I started up my copy of the game and saw my TV screen flash, then saw “720p” display in the upper-right corner. The Witch has lots of great, lush colors in its environments, but they tend to wash together whenever the screen is moving as you travel, and it’s a shame they’re not in 1080p. As pretty as some areas are, the game definitely doesn’t look like it’s taking advantage of a system in the prime of its development. The music, while catchy for a bit, tends to drag on when you go through some of the longer stages. And the story…well, the story might be one of the lowest parts. Metallia’s overtly evil-without-reason personality is fine for a random NPC, but nothing in the early parts of her story develops to make her character interesting. In fact, her character is so overwhelmingly unlikable for no reason during the beginning of the game that I found myself calling it “The Bitch and the Hundred Knight” and went out of my way to try to find ways to not follow her orders. Thus, reading through pages and pages of cutscenes meant to tell a story about her feels like a waste of time, the characters interacting with her feel unimportant, and the game itself feels hollow. If you’re a story-centric gamer like myself, it’s going to be really hard for you to push through the first few hours of the game in particular.
There are traits to appreciate about The Witch and the Hundred Knight. One of 50 tips will appear for each loading screen, some giving critical information to succeed that you won’t find in the manual or anywhere else in the game, which makes the loading screens feel less obtrusive. Each weapon comes with its own “die number,” and using weapons in the create sequence allows you to cause major damage increases and provides incentives for item farming. But without gripping characters or a story to really care about, the game feels shallow.
Even though I don’t enjoy most of the characters in Disgaea, the core conflict and bickering dialog between people is usually enough to keep things interesting; The Witch and the Hundred Knight unfortunately tends to lack both. If you’re looking for an action game to tide you over until the next Disgaea, or if you’re less concerned with story and just want to bash monsters and level weapons aimlessly, then give this one a whirl. Otherwise, hop on a broom and fly elsewhere.
Final Score: 3.0 out of 5