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The Witch and the Hundred Knight

Platform(s): PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Release Date: March 1, 2016 (US), March 4, 2016 (EU)

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


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PS4 Review - 'The Witch and the Hundred Knight: Revival Edition'

by Brian Dumlao on April 21, 2016 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

Adopting high-res, fully 3-D environments and characters, and a dark fantasy world brought to life by Takehito Harada, The Witch and the Hundred Knight delivers a new action RPG experience.

Titles like Phantom Brave and Disgaea have cemented Nippon Ichi's reputation as strategy RPG experts, so it's  a surprise to see the developer come up with something a little out of its wheelhouse with The Witch and the Hundred Knight, an action RPG in the vein of Diablo. The original PS3 release in 2014 wasn't met with a warm response. Sensing a second chance, the developer tried again with the PS4 version, which is subtitled Revival Edition. Unfortunately, the second time isn't the charm.

You play the role of the Hundred Knight, a larger-than-life character that is both feared and revered by all — when you were alive. Now you're nothing more than a diminutive spirit whose intelligence is matched by your strength, a polite way of saying that you're both very dumb and very weak. You're resurrected by a swamp witch named Metallia, who is initially disappointed by your newfound status, but it doesn't take long before she decides to use you to exact revenge on those who have wronged her.

Though the developer has a knack for weaving stories about evil characters, this one just isn't as endearing. Side characters like Metallia's butler are decent but not as memorable as Prinny, but the fault really lies with Metallia. Her actions exemplify evil well, but they fall too far into disturbing territory. It's unsettling to have one witch get kicked in the stomach repeatedly until she vomits blood. It's also disturbing to  transform another witch into a rat and then hear about her getting attacked by a gang of rodents. These things, along with the constant insults you're forced to withstand, are played off as humor, but unless you enjoy the bleak kind of humor that is being served up, you'll likely be turned off by this title.

The hack-and-slash title is presented from an isometric perspective. You have a strong attack, but you'll mainly stick to your basic one, which offers more in terms of delivering damage to your enemies. It also helps that your basic attack delivers combos, so you may forget that a stronger attack exists. You also have a dash move that lets you run faster than your normal speed, and the dodge slows down time. Aside from leveling up your character, you can also learn magic spells to even the odds in the game.

Beyond that, The Witch and the Hundred Knight offers plenty of mechanics and features. You can get lots of items from the field, but you can't use them right away. Instead, you ingest them and store them in your stomach. Your stomach starts with a limited amount of space, and only a few items let you expand that space.

The unusual weapon system makes combat interesting. For some reason, your character can't just use one weapon and perform combos with it. Instead, he swings it once and is done. The game balances this out by having you equip up to five weapons at a time, and your character can create combos. For example, you can first swing with a sword and then follow it up with a hammer and then a spear, etc. Aside from determining the weapons you use based on their strengths, the placement order also determines the kinds of attacks. You'll be able to create three sets and switch between them freely, something you'll do often since enemies have certain strengths and weaknesses toward sharp and blunt objects.

Throughout your journey, you'll encounter pillars that serve a multitude of purposes and reveal some of the more interesting mechanics. By default, activating a pillar serves as an automatic checkpoint for your progress in a level. It also acts as portal points between the swamp and the level, so you can go home in the middle of a mission; it's useful if you want to keep everything you've gathered in your stomach at that moment.

From there, you find out that you've been earning two sets of points each time you defeat enemies. The first set governs stat augments that can be performed at pillars. The augments are temporary, so going to a new stage or returning means losing those benefits. The second set of points refers to bonuses you get for leaving and/or finishing a stage. You're given a list of what you'll get as you earn more points, so staying around and killing foes often means getting better items by the time you go home. Like the temporary upgrades, you start from square one on the bonus meter, but you can also convert those augment points into bonus points, taking the risk to hopefully get a better item in the process.

The most interesting feature has to do with meters. The first is your stamina, which is spent whenever you dash or attack. Though the game isn't strict about maintaining a cadence to attack properly, it's a decent buffer to prevent you from initiating mindless button-mashing. The second meter is your GigaCal meter, which is the most important of all since it's essentially your level timer. The minute you leave the swamp, this meter starts to deplete. Everything you do depletes the meter, and the depletion rate depends on your actions. It speeds up if you go into a frenzy mode for higher attack power or if you need to regenerate your health. You can refill this meter through item consumption or by spending points at pillars, but it is rarely enough to bring it back to a full meter unless you return to the swamp.

The combination of all of these things makes the fighting sound rather complicated, albeit in a good way. Reading all of the above, you get the impression that a careful balance would be your route to success. In truth, you can ignore almost everything and still be fine. You won't be able to take advantage of the multiple weapon sets until later in the game, and even then, you'll be so accustomed to one weapon set that making others no longer becomes a priority. You may come across enemies that are mostly resistant to some of your attacks, but you'll generally be fine sticking with one weapon set until you reach the later game bosses. The temporary upgrades rarely feel like they make a difference, and the bonus items don't feel that special compared to what can be obtained in the field. Your GigaCal meter is the only thing that matters, and even if you're careful about not wasting moves, that meter drops so quickly that you'll dump all of your points into filling it up at pillars instead of trying other options. As such, what starts as a game where you might want to explore every nook and cranny of a stage transforms into a title where you simply want to find the fastest possible route to a boss.

Aside from combat, you have the ability to raid towns in the name of converting the inhabitants to supporting Metallia. Unless you make the mistake of fighting the townspeople you meet, the only resistance you'll face is when you raid a house. Even then, you'll likely win that battle unless you go against someone of a higher ranking. Successfully completing a raid gets you items, as does visiting that house a second time, and unlike items on the field, you can actually use these right away. It is simplistic and suffers from needless screen transitions, but it's a nice break from combat.

There are plenty of mechanics to keep track of, but that usually isn't a problem in most modern JRPGs since they do a good job of giving you tutorials, often to the point where it takes some time before the title stops explaining things. That isn't the case in The Witch and the Hundred Knight. Your opening moments are constantly interrupted by a combination of story and tutorial, and it occurs often enough that you'll likely zone out before the game slows down on the info dump. The tutorial absolutely misses on some of the basic but necessary buttons. For example, you never learn that pressing on the touch pad allows you to access a menu of items, which can't be found if you hit the Options button and view the items that way. Compared to the other games that Nippon Ichi has worked on, it's sad to see that this title can't get the basics right.

For those who have already experienced the game on the PS3, the Revival Edition offers two new things. The first is the Tower of Illusion, a challenge mode with 100 randomly generated floors. Unlike the normal game, the tower is focused squarely on combat, as you're only asked to clear floors of enemies in the hopes that you'll obtain better loot. At the end of each floor, you'll be asked if you want to keep going or leave with the risk that you'll lose some of the loot if you die. You also have the added option of letting Metallia fight in this mode, giving the combat some variety.

While it sounds like something that's just tacked on to make the game seem like more than a re-issue on a different platform, the tower does a good job of making things easier. The game isn't shy about giving you powerful weapons in the tower, and it does so quite often. The other new thing is the alchemy system, which essentially gives you an alternate way of powering up the weapons. Savvy players who go after the tower early on will have enough of a cache of great weaponry that the game is imbalanced.

Graphically, the game is a little better than the PS3 original. This is mostly due to the added lighting effects and shadows as well as a smoother frame rate. Otherwise, everything else is rather basic. From the character designs to the monsters, nothing seems like it was built using the power of the PS3, much less the PS4. This is especially true of the townspeople, who are so woefully basic that they look like they came from an early PS2 title. The environments benefit from the extra lighting mentioned earlier but are otherwise bland. Their biggest sin is a lack of transparency for some of the objects that are close to the camera. With the camera lacking zoom and being very restricted in the angles it can display, you'll often be bslindsided by trees and pillars.

The overall sound can be best described as fully embracing the Nippon Ichi signature style. The music is happy and bouncy, which can contrast in some spots but are fine overall since that theme is maintained throughout the title. It sounds eerily similar to the soundtracks of other Nippon Ichi titles, so you'll often wonder if those tracks have been recycled or slightly modified. The effects are fine, and the voice acting is quite good. There is a bit of a disconnect when using the Japanese soundtrack since Metallia was known there as Metallica, but otherwise, the performances for both languages are fine, even if the characters aren't.

The Witch and the Hundred Knight: Revival Edition is a difficult game to like. It has a battle system that is challenging but boring to use since it fails to take advantage of the gameplay mechanics. It has a decent story that is bogged down by uninteresting and unlikeable characters. It also doesn't have much for older players who want to find an excuse to return to the game. If you don't mind the quirks and rough attempts at humor, then you may enjoy The Witch and the Hundred Knight.

Score: 6.0/10

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