I have played games since I was very young, probably around 4 years old or so, thus I’m well acquainted with retro games, be they old games or new games with that classic flavor. Witch and Hero looked to be a bright, colorful adventure that allowed me to play as two characters simultaneously – hey, I did like The World Ends With You, so this could be awesome! Were my enthusiastic expectations met? Let’s jump right in and see, shall we?
The story of Witch and Hero is simple and starts out pretty charming. Medusa, evil gorgon that she is, is terrorizing the land and two saviors storm her keep to put an end to her: the titular Witch and Hero. They finally come face to face with their enemy when suddenly Medusa turns Witch to stone and both heroes are soundly defeated, leaving only with their lives. They also lose their experience and drop back to level one for the beginning of the game. Not one to give up, Hero carries the stone Witch along with him on his trek to gain new strength to defeat Medusa.
So how does the game play? Witch and Hero is a tower defense game with the promise of simultaneous character gameplay that isn’t actually realized until a few levels in, but I’ll get to that in a minute. Hero is controlled solely with the circle pad to move around and crash into a variety of enemies such as bats, scorpions, snowmen, sharks, and other crazy critters that fill the lower screen in waves. Fighting enemies rewards you with experience point items – dropped green diamonds that must be picked up in order to acquire the experience, and money. But fighting also depletes Hero’s HP bar, and when it reaches zero he faints. After some time (and vicious thumb pad spinning) he reawakens to fight once again. How do you lose? You lose when the stone Witch at the center of the battlefield takes too much damage and her HP bar reaches zero, resulting in a pile of pebbles and some sad music.
After making it through a few stages you also gain control of Witch by collecting blood dropped by slain monsters. Your blood meter transfers to the Witch when you come into contact with her. Once her meter fills she returns to her non-sedimentary form and can fire out two different spells: fireballs and whirlwinds – the selection of which is done with the X button and aiming is handled with the L and R triggers to swing the witch’s aim left and right respectively. After a short period of time however, her blood meter runs out and it’s back to stone.
About halfway through Witch and Hero you’ll gain a new ability that invigorates both characters, granting damage resistance, reviving the witch, and strengthening their stats, making them machines of destruction for a short period of time. It’s a nice enough twist that can help turn the tide at a crucial moment with swarms of enemies or lumbering bosses converging on the helpless stone Witch, and is relatively balanced to not make every level thereafter a breeze.
Gaining experience, of course, eventually results in both Witch and Hero leveling up and increasing their stats, but there is another way you can beef your characters up: buying upgrades. Before you enter a level you can spend accumulated money to upgrade Hero’s attack, defense, and speed and for Witch you can upgrade the damage, frequency, and spread of her whirlwind and fireball spells. Each new upgrade costs more and more, but everything maxes out at level twenty.
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