The Witch and the Hundred Knight Review for PlayStation 3 (PS3)

The Witch and the Hundred Knight Review for PlayStation 3 (PS3)

A Great Big Marshy Mess

Let me begin these proceedings by noting that I’m a big fan of Nippon Ichi Software, the company that brought us the Disgaea series and several more of my favorite strategic RPGs. So it is with a mix of affection and frustration that I write this review of a title that managed to tick almost all of my rage buttons. The Witch and the Hundred Knight takes NIS out of its familiar turn-based territory as the company has attempted to create an action RPG with strategic depth. I’m normally all for seeing companies spread their wings, especially since NIS has faced some criticism for being a bit of a one-trick pony. This game, however, convinced me that perhaps the company should stay in its wheelhouse.

The Witch and the Hundred Knight casts the player as a cute little blob of darkness that has been enslaved by a wicked swamp witch named Metallia. She names it the Hundred Knight for reasons that aren’t quite clear in English, and tasks it with coating the world in swamp muck by defeating her enemies and activating a series of magical pillars. The Hundred Knight is largely mute, though it can express itself occasionally through a series of emotes. Mostly, however, it just has to go along with the story in a game that feels a bit like hiking through Metallia’s marsh.

The Witch and the Hundred Knight Screenshot

The slog begins during the game’s tutorial, which painstakingly teaches the player how to move the left stick, press square to attack, and press the button that flashes helpfully on the screen to interact with the environment. Those of us who play a lot of JRPGs are, to some extent, used to tutorials that treat us like we’re brain-dead or have never seen one of those funny controller things before. When said tutorial ends, however, this game takes a strange turn. It says, “Oh, there’s a lot more to learn, and you can get it from the text on the loading screens. OK, bye-bye!”

It turns out that The Witch and the Hundred Knight is a confusing maze of systems piled upon systems, and there is no reliable way to learn how any of it works. The instruction manual is sparse. There is no in-game help menu. There is nothing but a pile of instructions doled out randomly whenever the game is loading a new level. I consider myself a fairly independent-minded gamer, but this game’s sheer refusal to assist players who are honestly looking to understand it goes beyond absurdity.

The Witch and the Hundred Knight Screenshot

If there’s any good news to be had from this, it’s that most of the systems in the game can be largely ignored, and it might even behoove the player to do so. At its heart, this is a fairly simplistic top-down action RPG, in which the player equips up to five weapons and then mashes the square button to point the ouchy end at the enemy, cycling through weapon attacks in a nice chain if the player has equipped them in the proper order. There are block and dodge buttons, of course, and various special attacks to learn. The Knight can cycle through a series of “facets” to alter its strengths and weaknesses somewhat, and the player will need to pay attention to enemy weaknesses and exploit them accordingly.

Much of the fun of this kind of action RPG is sucked away, however, by the Gigacal system, a combination of a time limit and resource management challenge that governs every one of the Hundred Knight’s actions. Everything, from standing still to attacking to healing to performing special moves, costs Gigacals. If the Hundred Knight loses all his Gigacals, he starts rapidly losing hit points instead until he’s dead. Healing up after being injured and using special moves burns through Gigacals particularly swiftly.

The Witch and the Hundred Knight Screenshot

In the interest of full disclosure, I will mention that I hate this kind of time/resource limit system with a burning hot passion. Putting that personal response aside, however, I believe that this game has implemented said system particularly poorly by tying it into every single thing the Knight does. The Gigacal counter can be reset at any time by teleporting back to base from a conquered pillar, so it’s not an incentive to play intelligently so much as an incentive to play overly conservatively, eschewing the Knight’s special moves and simply hammering the square button to defeat as many enemies as possible while wasting as few Gigacals as possible. The system discourages exploration and does little but cause frustration should you happen to stumble onto a boss battle with a low Gigacal count.

It wasn’t long before I began to get the feeling that this game simply dislikes its players. Early levels feature enemies that are highly resistant to all but one or two types of damage, so players who have been unlucky with the random loot system will have to go back, grind, and hope for better luck. The scenery actively gets in the way as much as possible, with trees and branches obscuring the view no matter which way you turn the camera. Even the stamina meter that floats around the Hundred Knight can obscure enemy attack tells. Dubiously helpful text flies rapidly out from the battles. What does “Blunt!” mean? Is this guy doing blunt damage? Is he vulnerable to blunt? Should I smoke a blunt? The ever-mocking load screen instructions fail to illuminate.

The Witch and the Hundred Knight Screenshot

This is NIS, though, so at least the story should be amusing, right? Unfortunately, no. Unlike the company’s humorous “bad guy” heroes such as Laharl, Etna, and Overlord Zetta, Metallia is just straight-up mean and nasty. Other than her supposedly-loyal butler, who has a few mildly amusing moments, the rest of the cast fails to make much of an impression. There’s no real satire or silly humor here, just attempts to shock that end up being generally offensive to humanity. If you don’t find sexual assault to be a laughing matter, for example, the game will lose you early on. Frankly, it all just made me angry.

The cute creepy-pop soundtrack that is Nippon Ichi’s calling card doesn’t help here, setting the mood for lighthearted wickedness when nothing of the sort is happening on-screen. The voice actors do a fine job with the material they’ve been given, there’s just not a lot they could have done to save the script.

Frankly, Nippon Ichi is better than this. If the company hopes to continue making action RPGs, it needs to learn the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) principle. I enjoy complexity as much as the next gamer (or perhaps more than, being an RPG fan), but this was the wrong kind of complexity for the wrong kind of game. As for the painfully unfunny story and characters, I’m just going to hope they aren’t a sign of things to come. Everybody takes a swing that misses sometimes, and The Witch and the Hundred Knight is a big old strikeout.

They’re just all right, and the scenery actively hates the player. 2.4 Control
Needlessly overcomplicated additions tied to an overly simple combo system and hampered by Gigacals. 3.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The poppy/creepy music and comedic voice acting that work so well for Disgaea feels out of place here. 1.5 Play Value
This game is muddled systemically and its storyline is generally offensive to humanity. 2.0 Overall Rating – Poor
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • Saving the world doesn’t have to be the world of a saint! Players can choose whether they want to save the innocent or take part in looting and pillaging. On the quest to defeat the Forest Witch and restore peace and stability, be as good and virtuous or brutal and evil as you wish!
  • As players progress through this colorful, accessible isometric action RPG, they’ll come across an assortment of NPCs that can, using sophisticated AI, react differently to the player based on the decisions and actions taken. Being good or bad has real consequences!
  • From the team responsible for one of the most popular Japanese role- playing game series of all time (including lead designer Takehito Harada), The Witch and the Hundred Knights is a laugh-out-loud fantasy adventure full of mischievous characters and exciting environments.

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