Witch and Hero

Witch and Hero is styled after the retro games of yore, with large pixels and bright color palettes. The characters animate as would be expected of something for the Gameboy or the NES, and are clear and readable. While the detail is that of an 8-bit system, the color details are closer to what is available for the SNES, resulting in a mishmash of styles that works but left me wondering why the character and enemy sprites couldn’t have been a bit more detailed with their pixel sizes reduced just a tiny bit. Backgrounds are plain landscapes with a prop here or there to give a better indication of the locale on the map. They work, but I wouldn’t say they are anything outstanding.

Keeping in the 8-bit spirit, the music consists of simple, barely polyphonic chiptunes. While I played it seemed like there was only a handful of songs on offer with the battlegrounds only having 2-3 tracks normally, but switching up once the big bad boss of each stage stomps into the fray. The songs did a good enough job of working with the rest of the game’s style, but only one of the battle tracks really sticks out in my mind as memorable. Fitting, but not the kind of music that you’d pick the game up again just to hear.

The game is composed of 20 different stages with varying degrees of difficulty depending on your level, purchased upgrades, and strategy. Twenty might seem a bit on the short side for a game costing $3.99 on the eShop, but you will be grinding through the same level over and over again to gain some levels and the cash to boost your characters’ stats even further in hopes of finally beating that new stage you just unlocked. The game took me four hours and change to defeat, but most of that was repeatedly playing one level and grinding,which felt a bit on the tedious and annoying side. After defeating the game you are rewarded with a controller input code to unlock hard mode for a bigger challenge. Odd that you aren’t just given the ability to choose the new difficulty but instead have to put in a string of button presses, a code that I could not get to work for the life of me, since it has been many a year since I’ve had to input such a code.

 Witch and Hero - Menu and World map

So is the game good as a whole? I wrestled with this question each session I booted the game up and, as you might have heard on the most recent couple episodes of the Downpour Podcast, I shared my differing thoughts at times.

There is nothing quite like the rewarding rush of FINALLY overcoming that troublesome level after extensive retries and grinding, or the feeling of ultimate power when you move on to the next stage only to decimate all in your path with little trouble. But there are some key gripes I have besides some of the lackluster notes above. Being a fan of JRPGs since I was an adolescent, I know of grinding all too well, but that doesn’t make it okay in every instance. I had to do a lot of grinding in this game and at points almost wished it was a freemium title on a mobile platform so I could just shell out a couple extra bucks to get leveled and geared up to decimate the hordes of enemies, and just get on with the game.

The opening of the game was charming and conveyed a simple story that was there just to give me a reason to fight and kill monsters with my two little medieval characters, but after that there wasn’t much in terms of character or charm, with the end coming somewhat abruptly. One stage gave me some hope with the title of “Find the Holy Sword”, a sword which could not be found on the battlefield or held within a monster or boss. I beat the stage and simply moved on to the next feeling like the game wanted to say that there is a story, but wasn’t not going to show that here. Luckily, down the road I was given the “holy sword” and that vigorous power up described earlier, so not all was lost.

Speaking of power ups, let’s talk about the last stage of the game. Don’t worry, no story spoilers here, but this is something that bothered me and didn’t make much sense. After four hours of enduring the army of monsters and training my characters, the last stage consists of you controlling only the Hero, leaving the Witch and all the upgrades you’ve gained for her behind, including the desperation power-up you obtained later in the game. Since she’s not around, suddenly the Hero’s HP reaching zero causes a Game Over. This turns the gameplay mechanics you’ve learned this whole time completely on their heads and made me wonder what the point was in raising these characters if you couldn’t benefit from all that training. The only redeeming factor is that last fight has a surprise mechanic introduced that helps give you a slight advantage in the, admittedly very difficult, battle for glory.

Overall I felt the game wasn’t as good as it could have been. The exciting feelings of accomplishment sprinkled throughout the experience don’t make up for the all the grinding you’ll do or the cost of the game. The gameplay is simple, yet easy to grasp but with only the shallowest of strategy required it does not call for the time to master. With the recent success of retro-styled games I feel that maybe CIRCLE Entertainment was looking to capitalize on that trend without packing the quality experience along with it that those successful retro-style games also brought to the table. Perhaps if it’s on sale for 50% or, better yet, a dollar, it would be a neat little title you could boot up when you’re feeling like playing something a little different, but at full price I think there are better titles that are worth your money.

Review Score

Game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. 

Randy Thompson
[Former Staff] Just a normal nerd who loves his computer, video games, anime, manga, and the like. I love to draw and graduated from the Art Institutes for animation so I could bring my drawings to life. As an author at oprainfall, I write up news articles and such as well as review new and current anime. I also love Dragon Ball (subbed)—it’s kind of my own pet obsession.