The Witch and the Hundred Knight is a dungeon-crawling action RPG. Though this title looked quite a bit different than other NIS titles I had played previously, being a longtime fan of dungeon crawlers, I was pretty excited to see how this would turn out. Let’s see if it was worth the wait or a major letdown.
The story centers around the self-proclaimed Swamp Witch Metallia. Metallia has been in isolation in the swamp for many years, since she will die if she leaves. Yearning to explore the world, she summons the legendary familiar known as the Hundred Knight. With his help, she can then open all the Pillars throughout the land and spread the swamp.
Metallia and pretty much all the other witches in the game are some of crudest, meanest and cruelest characters you will ever see in a video game. This game has a very dark atmosphere, and the characters and locations lend to this nicely. Some will likely be turned off by its harsh language and crude humor, though I have to say I personally enjoyed it and even sympathized with her in some ways. The story itself is very interesting, with plenty of twists and sobering moments as you travel around the world. I mean, a half-human, half-bug princess falling in love with a human prince is still a better love story than Twilight.
Graphically speaking, everything looks really good. The dark world is well-represented with some pretty evil-looking artwork. The colors are bright, at times, to show off some of the forest beauty. The character models are pretty basic, with nothing to write home about, and the monster models are reused quite a bit. This is a dungeon crawler, so that is really to be expected. The only minor issue I have here is that sometimes, in boss battles, the camera would try to look through something big around the combat area and obstruct your view for precious seconds.
The music sounds like it is straight from a Disgaea game, and, well, it should, since the same team worked on it. It fits this game very well, with darker tunes for the more somber moments and more upbeat and happy tunes for those upbeat moments of the characters playing around. The sound effects are a pretty standard affair, though the Hundred Knight himself has a cute little voice. The English dub is pretty much a NISA standard. The voice work fits the story and the characters. There is also Japanese audio available if you’d prefer that. If you decide to use the the Japanese audio, they will call Metallia by her Japanese name, Metallica. (Please don’t sue me now.)
The gameplay is where things start to get a little messy. One major factor is the GIGAcal meter you will notice in the top-right corner of the screen. As the Hundred Knight ventures further away from the swamp, Metallia’s magic, which fuels the Knight, will become weaker, resulting in this lovely meter. GIGAcals will be depleted as you walk around the map. It will decrease faster in unmapped areas because the torch on top of the knight’s head will be lighting the darkness and auto-mapping the world. Never fear, though—in each stage, there are several pillars you can open. These work as checkpoints on the map in case you’re running low and need to head out to refill.
As you fight, you will also earn grade points. You can spend these points at the pillars for various effects. You can raise your HP, attack, defense or even restore some of your GIGAcals. This will be very helpful in some of the larger stages. If you run out of GIGAcals on a map, the Knight will be reduced to a weakened state and lose 30% of his attack and defense. If you are knocked out on a map, 10% of the items in your stomach and a good portion of GIGAcals will be lost, and you will respawn at the checkpoint pillar with any EXP you have earned. This system is pretty fair in most respects, although it’s really crappy when you get downed by some stupid little enemy getting in a lucky attack and lose something you picked up that was really good. But I’m not bitter at all.
The basic controls are that of a hack-’n’-slash dungeon crawler. You move with the left analog stick while controlling the camera with the right analog stick. Pressing Square will attack; you can attack with up to five different equipped weapons by pressing Square five times in a row. As you attack, your stamina gauge will deplete, but you can usually do a couple of full five-attack combos before it is depleted, and it refills pretty quickly.
Holding L1 will allow you to block; also, you will hold L1 with the other face buttons to perform other actions we will get into in a moment. Pressing and holding X while the character is stopped will allow you to sprint, while tapping X will roll to dodge attacks. If you dodge an attack right before it hits, you it will start a mystical dodge. Time will slow way down, allowing you some free hits on your enemies. All the basic controls work pretty well, and it’s fun to run around dispatching tons of enemies.
One other important ability the Knight has is the Chaos Revelation. This will burn up GIGAcals really fast, but it will greatly increase the Knight’s attack and defense. This is very helpful against bosses. Each area will usually end in a boss battle, and while some of these battles will be easy peasy, others will push your skills to their limit. One boss in particular, found right in the middle of the game, is just outrageous and one of the most unnecessarily hard difficulty spikes in gaming history.
What is a good dungeon crawler without lots of loot, right? Well, there’s plenty to be had here. Treasure chests will be scattered around the map, and enemies will drop plenty of weapons and other goodies, as well. The Knight will eat any items he finds, and they will be stored in his stomach.
Sometimes, while exploring a map, you will run into a village. You can visit the houses in these villages, or you can raid them and try to steal the residents’ treasures, which are usually pretty good items. A box at the top of the screen will show the level of the house and the odds of winning at the top of the screen. It lies, though—it’ll say you have good odds, but this isn’t always the case. If you are not successful, you will take some massive damage. You will also build up karma for such actions. When it reaches a certain level, villagers will attack you for no reason. You can relieve some of this karma via the bucket list at Metallia’s house in the swamp.
There is also a bonus system that works pretty much like Disgaea’s. You will gain bonus points from slaying monsters in an area; when you exit the area, you will be rewarded based on the number of points you have.
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