A Witch’s Tale Review for Nintendo DS

A Witch’s Tale Review for Nintendo DS

A Wicked Case of Déjà vu

I’ve played a lot of JRPGs in my life. I’ve also watched a lot of anime. I understand that, in both of these mediums, there are a fair amount of clichés and conventions that are employed to make the media feel familiar and comfortable for its intended audience. While I don’t mind the occasional repeated element or cliché, sometimes too many of these familiar elements are jam-packed into a game, and it starts to lose its originality. A Witch’s Tale is one such title.

A Witch's Tale screenshot

In fact, after playing A Witch’s Tale, I began to think that the writers behind it just copied and pasted clichés and then filled in some dialog. The story in the game goes like this: You start your adventure off as a spoiled, bratty magical girl who wants to become the best witch in the world without any effort. Sound familiar? Let’s keep going. She finds a magical dungeon, which houses an ancient evil, and then accidentally sets it free. At first, she takes no responsibility, but with the help of a bishie-style vampire, she is able to become a more mature magical girl and grow her powers to… well… I won’t spoil the ending, but I’m sure you know where this is going.

Although the story is basically a paint-by-numbers collage of anime and JRPG clichés, I have no doubt that there is an audience for this type of story. Sure, it’s predictable, but if you know someone who likes that sort of thing, then they’ll probably eat it up. What they might not like so much, however, is the game’s insane difficulty. And by insane, I mean insanely easy.

While there are certainly plenty of RPGs that are made for kids, (My World, My Way springs to mind) this one, while certainly appropriate for the younger sect, distills the RPG format down to such a basic level that its hard to imagine even a tween finding much enjoyment from this title. Each level has several linear areas you can traverse through, and your goal for each level will be to clear a series of barriers to save the ruler of the land from a curse that was put upon them by the great evil the witch unleashed in the beginning.

A Witch's Tale screenshot

While this sounds mildly interesting, the game doesn’t even allow you to try and figure out the basics of each level. Characters and well-placed signs will give you nothing short of step by step directions for how to clear each level, and you’ll rarely have to figure anything out by yourself.

Unfortunately, this extreme simplicity extends past the unchallenging levels. The battle system is also exceedingly simple, and it will probably be the most annoying facet of the game for those who pick it up based on their affection for other NIS titles (looking at you, Disgaea!) When you enter battle, the game has you dragging physical or magic attacks into a tray that represents all the enemies. Once you have deposited your chosen attack, the attacks will connect with the enemy, and then they will be able to retaliate.

A Witch's Tale screenshot

The only interesting facet about the battle system is a customizable doll mechanic. In a move that should not be all that surprising, the main character is able to use a plushy that can also use magic (another cliché, surprise!). This doll can be upgraded and outfitted with its own special attacks and powers. You can also purchase other dolls, with varying powers, which can actually be pretty interesting.

Aside from the doll factor, pretty much everything else about the battle system (and the gameplay in general) is just plain boring. The magic attacks follow an elemental system, but the enemies do not, which means that you’ll just have to guess which attack is most effective against an enemy. Of course, by the time you figure it out, the enemy is probably already defeated, as the majority of your opponents are ridiculously underpowered.

A Witch's Tale screenshot

Control for the game continues the mediocre trend, and is, unfortunately, completely stylus-based. You can drag your character around with the stylus, and you’ll be able to interact with the environment by touching anything that sparkles. While this works well enough most of the time, in complex environments it can be tough to navigate with the stylus, and when you are trying to touch a shiny object that is close to another shiny object, the control can get a little confusing.

The only real redeeming quality in A Witch’s Tale has to be the art style. If this game played as good as it looked, it would certainly achieve a “Must-Buy” ranking. The game has a visual style similar to Disgaea, complete with big-eyed heroines and fantastically designed, otherworldly creatures. The characters are made of very high-quality sprites, and although the levels are also pixel-based, they feature plenty of vivid colors and detail.

One thing that really stood out to me was the Halloween-centric style of the game. The central hub area looks just like Halloween Town in A Nightmare Before Christmas, complete with talking pumpkins lining fences and dark, shadowy ghouls populating the streets. Since this is an October release, it certainly makes sense, and if you are looking for a handheld title to celebrate Halloween with, you won’t be disappointed. Although plot scenes consist of little more than stoic pictures, the in-game visuals more than make up for this shortcoming and are among the best I’ve seen for this genre on the DS.

A Witch’s Tale isn’t a bad game. However, it is a generic game. In fact, if being generic was an Olympic sport, A Witch’s Tale would definitely be a gold medalist. With all its clichés and conventions packed in to one package, A Witch’s Tale definitely exceeds expectations for being predictable. Unfortunately, expectations aren’t exceeded anywhere else. If you’re looking for a short romp through a magical girl’s world, and you don’t mind the amazingly easy gameplay, then you might get a kick out of this one. If not, then just leave this witch in her own time.

High quality sprites and pixel-based environments ooze charm and atmosphere. 2.5 Control
The exclusive point-and-click stylus control is simple enough, but it feels imprecise in crowded environments. 3.7 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Themes accompanying each level are cute and fun to listen to, but the lack of a voiceover makes this one fall considerably short of auditory glory. 2.1

Play Value
The game is entirely too easy, and the plot is so cliché-filled that it’s a struggle to even finish.

3.0 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Seven unique fairy tale worlds inspired by Western and Eastern folklore.
  • Beautiful character designs and environments.
  • Solve puzzles to earn key items and collect magical dolls.
  • Dark pop-style soundtrack.

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