Title: The Witch and the Hundred Knight
Release Date: March 25, 2014
Publisher (Developer): NIS America (Nippon Ichi Software)
ESRB Rating: “Teen” for Blood, Crude Humor, Fantasy Violence, Language, Partial Nudity, and Sexual Themes.
When it comes to games developed by Nippon Ichi Software (NIS), you have a pretty good idea of what you’re going to get. It’ll probably be some kind of strategic RPG, most likely with 2D, HD character sprites and an isometric world. Usually a turn-based affair, but occasionally a roguelike. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll see a visual novel sometimes too. But you have an idea in mind. The Witch and the Hundred Knight is the first attempt to break out of a mold NIS has perfected with a 3D, action RPG. And, while The Witch and the Hundred Knight is definitely a learning experience for the developer, it’s a good first step.
A contract has been made.
Would you want to live in a foul, dangerous, poisonous swamp for a year? How about for 100 years? Knowing the entire time, you’re trapped. There’s a whole world around you, filled with forests and towns, but you can’t leave and see them. That’s what life’s like for Metalia, the Swamp Witch. (Though, she seems okay with the foul, dangerous, and poisonous part.) Still, being confined isn’t fun, especially after 100 years, so she decides she wants out.
But she can’t leave the swamp. Which means there’s only one option. Make a contract with the infamous, super destructive demon, the Hundred Knight.
Who turns out to be rather small and puny. But, he’s got potential. He can actually attack pillars and make them bloom, causing the swamp to expand to other areas. Which means Metallia can go on tour, taking her reign of terror everywhere with the help of her newest minion.
Yet, despite being just one Hundred Knight, there’s an opportunity for growth. Once his intelligence is high enough, the Hundred Knight can question or defy orders. If a player wants, he can blindly follow Metallia, or be his own man. He might even grow strong enough to not only raid and invade homes in villages, but to even take over Metallia’s own home. Who knows how your Hundred Knight story will go.
Keeping track of everything while hacking and slashing.
The Witch and the Hundred Knight is best described as being a Diablo kind of game with some roguelike elements. The Hundred Knight can equip up to five weapons at once, which he will use one after another in combination attacks against foes. Each kind of weapon deals a specific sort of damage, and naturally some enemies are weak against some and strong against others. His goal is to find major pillars in the area, stopping at minor ones along the way to create warp points. Defeating the guardians of major pillars, then making the pillars themselves bloom, expands Metallia’s swamp. However, you can’t just go running around everywhere. As part of the contract, the Hundred Knight is stick with a Giga Calorie system that burns energy as he moves around. If he gets too hungry, his health falls. If he completely runs out of health and stamina, it’s all over.
Of course, outside of the rather comprehensive, introductory tutorial, you’re pretty much left to your own devices. Which is a shame. There’s a lot to explain once The Witch and the Hundred Knight gets started. There’s the summoning of the other knights, which can help make boss battles so much easier. Something more getting into the Quick Time Eating (QTEs) to restore Giga Calories (Gcal) by noshing on items enemies dropped would have been super too. Though honestly, I’d have really liked a better initial explanation of the Gcal system itself, as I was terrified for the first two areas that my Hundred Knight would starve, drop, and die.
Fortunately, the lack of tutorials isn’t too detrimental. I noticed, after a while, that I stopped worry about the Gcal gauge because, as the game said, it all wasn’t as complicated as it appeared. Still, another five minutes explaining what players should and shouldn’t worry about would have been nice. Especially since you aren’t guaranteed the informative tip loading screen will offer the exact information you need at the time.
Though, the The Witch and the Hundred Knight not being as complicated as it seems does lead in to another issue. Considering this is NIS’ very first, 3D, action RPG, it doesn’t look too bad. However, it can’t really compare to similar games on the PS3. The graphics are very dated. Which is understandable, given the nature of the game. It definitely feels like a first attempt and, while it never looks really horrible, we’ve come to expect better from our JRPGs. Just, after I’d adapted to all of the in-game systems, I found I had time to really nitpick and notice how different it looked compared to other games.
Fortunately, the writing does compare, and occasionally surpass, other JRPGs. As expected, this is another darkly funny NIS America game. NIS is known for putting gamers in strange situations, and The Witch and the Hundred Knight does not disappoint. The dialogue is well written (and translated), as usual, and there are more than a few reasons to grin, or perhaps even laugh while playing. Still, despite it being an enjoyable romp, it felt like something was missing. The Hundred Knight and Metallia aren’t like Laharl, Etna, Marona, or Prier. They don’t stick with you and, while I was curious to see how Metallia’s great swamp expansion project was going to turn out, I didn’t find myself rooting for her.
The prelude to something bigger and better.
While The Witch and the Hundred Knight does have its moments, it wasn’t quite “there” for me, yet. The concept is sound, but it didn’t seem to have the same soul as other NIS games. It felt more like The Witch and the Hundred Knight is an experiment, and an example of bigger and better things to come. Fans can expect an entertaining, if sometimes complicated, adventure where at least the script has remarkable moments. But, even when enjoying oneself, there’s always a sense that The Witch and the Hundred Knight could have been something more, and that the lessons NIS has learned here will be put towards making a bigger and better game.