Review: The Witch and the Hundred Knight (PS3)

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Title: The Witch and the Hundred Knight
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (3.2 GB)
Release Date: March 25, 2014 (US) / March 21, 2014 (EU)
Publisher: NIS America, Inc.
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software, Inc.
Original MSRP: $49.99 (US), £34.85 (UK), €49.99 (EU)
ESRB Rating: T
The Witch and the Hundred Knight is exclusive to PlayStation 3.
The PlayStation Network download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy.

The Witch and the Hundred Knight is an Action Japanese RPG, where you play the role of the legendary Hundred Knight. You have been summoned by Metallia, the infamous Swamp Witch, to aid her in expanding her Swamp domain across the world and becoming the biggest baddest witch ever.

The story starts out as a black screen. You see yourself as a small black blob-looking creature and a large pair of eyes are peering down at you, then a mysterious voice summons you. You are asked for your name by the mysterious voice, which quickly decides that she will call you Hundred Knight from that point forward.

For such a seemingly simple game, there are just an enormous amount of intricacies to the gameplay, as well as an enormous amount of content. The game is chock-full of slapstick humor and eyeroll-inducing punchlines; however, if you’re a fan of the Disgaea series, you will know what to expect.

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Gameplay:
The game is divided into two distinct visual styles, much like a Disgaea game. The first, and main battle portion of the game, is a ¾ top-down isometric view with 3D character models. The second is a hand-drawn anime style which is slightly animated (i.e., mouths move when character is speaking, and characters will occasionally blink). The 2D portions of the game are overlaid on top of the 3D isometric view and are where the majority of the plot and story is presented to you. The controls are very simple, consisting of a single button to attack, a button to dash, R1 to lock on, left analog to move, right analog to move the camera, and some various button combos for special attacks.

Once you have finished a lengthy tutorial, you walk through a portal into the swamp realm which becomes your main hub for the rest of the game. From this point, after a lengthy story section, you are taken to a world map where you can pick the location to which you wish to travel. As you progress through the story, new locations will be opened up, and you are free to exit a location and enter a different one at any time.

Once you choose a destination on the world map, you will enter the main 3D isometric action portion of the game, referred to as a stage. This is where all of the battles and your character progression takes place. Each area is an open 3D space with re-spawning enemies that freely move around. You have a mini map as well as a full sized map that shows your direction and position. When you enter a world for the first time, the entire map will be obscured by purple clouds. As you move around the area, the map clouds will disappear where you have already been. The D-pad is used as a shortcut to four menu options, one of which allows you to open the map and see where you have explored. On the large map screen, you can move the cursor around and zoom in and out with the left analog stick and the square button, respectively.

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The entire time you are in a stage, you have a large counter called your GigaCal that counts down from 99.99% and decreases with each step you take until it reaches zero. Once the GigaCal reaches zero, your attack and defenses will be reduced by 30%, and if it’s at zero for too long, you will forfeit the stage—so you want to manage your time wisely. Additionally, each time you get take damage from an enemy, or trap, you will lose health points. This is important because your health gauge will automatically replenish by using GigaCal points, so be careful! The GigaCal aspect of the game could cause one some concern, but don’t worry, you can leave the area and re-enter it at any time from a checkpoint and your GigaCal and health will be fully replenished.

The checkpoints you come across in each stage appear as large pillars. As you get close to them you will hear a large repeating gong-like sound which keeps growing louder the closer you get. Once you reach the checkpoint, you need to attack it repeatedly to activate it. Once activated, a checkpoint blooms into a large green flower, and from here you can hit the circle button to perform several options, including leaving the stage (going back to base or world map), spending your grade points, turning the current checkpoint into your next spawn point, or warping between previously activated checkpoints.

Your end goal of most stages is a large pillar, called a Pillar of Temperance, which you must destroy to complete the stage. Upon destroying the Pillar of Temperance, it releases the Swamp, which then expands Metallia’s domain (it seems Metallia is trapped in her Swamp domain and must expand it to move about the world). As you may have guessed, each Pillar of Temperance is guarded by a boss that must be defeated before you can reveal the pillar.

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As you progress through a stage, you will accumulate grade from battling enemies. The more combos you perform, and damage you inflict on an enemy, will net you grade points. There is a visible gauge next to your GigaCal indicator that displays how much grade you have acquired and how much you must accumulate to earn the next grade point. From here, you can go to the checkpoints, hit circle to open a menu, and you will have an opportunity to spend/distribute your grade points in the grade menu. At the grade menu, you are presented with a dialog screen that shows HP, Attack, Defense, AP, and TP.

You can spend grade points attained on a particular stage to increase any of the aforementioned properties, up to a set number of upgrades for each property. Once you buff your character using grade, it remains in effect until you leave the stage. Additionally, you can spend grade points to refill your GigaCal gauge by 10% or to boost your bonus points by 15 for 1 grade point apiece.

After you finish, or leave a stage, you are then awarded all of the experience points that you have earned within that stage. You don’t have control over how your power-ups are applied, but later in the game you have different facets, which can be equipped and swapped at will. Facets are kind of like alternate player builds/classes that have different stats; for example, one facet is a tank-like class that emphasizes defense and attack, while another facet has an emphasis on magic attacks. You will unlock more facets as you progress through the game and they must be equipped back at Metallia’s house. When you complete the level, your experience points earned in that level are distributed to each facet you have equipped. Your main facet will get 100% of the experience earned, and each sub-facet will get about 30% (experience is applied separately to each facet).

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To save your progress, you must return to the swamp hub area where there is a single save point. Any time you die in a stage, you are taken back to the last checkpoint, where your health is fully recharged by your GigaCal. Also, when you die in a stage you can lose some of the loot items that you’ve picked up, so if you find a very important drop, you have to balance between leaving the level prematurely to go save and staying in the level to gain more experience and bonus items.

Bonus items, which are awarded at the end of a stage (or if you leave the stage via a checkpoint), seem to be awarded for how many enemies you kill during the stage. I’m not quite sure about this, but it seems that I gain a bonus level each time I fight off a group of 5 enemies at once. There are about 12 tiers of bonus points, and each tier will award you with random weapons, armor, items, and consumables. Each time you enter a stage, new items are assigned to the bonus tiers. You can check what bonus tier you have attained, and also what the bonus items are, at any time by pressing left on the D-pad. I always do this when I start a level, because sometimes there are rare or legendary items that will be given to you – so you may want to hang around and battle enemies to get these free items.

As if there aren’t enough things to do in each stage, one more thing that you can level up is your stomach. Each time you come across some loot in the game, the item you pick up is put into your stomach until the end of the stage. You can check the contents of your stomach at any time by hitting up on the D-pad and you will be presented with a side view of a giant stomach filled with little slots. Some of the stomach slots are filled with a box, indicating that they cannot be used, and some are open. As you progress through the various stages, you will come across black chests that will give you an item that will unlock a stomach slot. There are also items in the game that allow you to remove the common items in your stomach, leaving only rare and epic items, or to remove garbage from your stomach.

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When you fight enemies and they get within about 10% of their health, you will see a triangle icon which goes into an eating sequence where you have to button-mash the square button to fill up a gauge before time runs out. After you fill up the gauge you are awarded a number of items, some of which include garbage, as well as a partial refill to your GigaCal. Garbage takes up stomach slots and once you are out of slots, any items you pick up after this will be forfeit. Just like the other special items mentioned before, you can find bowel dump items that clear out all of the garbage in your stomach, leaving all other non-garbage items.

The Witch and the Hundred Knight offers a surprising amount of customization options for your knight; you can equip up to 5 weapons at a time, plus two armors and two special items, all of which change your player stats (i.e., attack, defense, etc.). There is an enormous amount of loot to pick up in each of the levels/stages, so you are constantly in and out of your weapon configuration screen equipping and moving around your newly acquired weapons and armor.

To attack, you press the square button, and with each subsequent press of the button, Hundred Knight will use the next weapon in your 5-weapon queue until your attack gauge is completely depleted (which is represented as a 355° semicircle that surrounds your character). When the attack gauge is depleted, you will have to wait for approximately 1 to 2 seconds for it to refill, and from there you can begin a new attack.

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As you attack monsters, some will drop loot in the form of items, weapons, armor, and special items. The loot drops will appear as little cubes and a text bubble will appear telling you the name of the item; from there you need to press the circle button to pick the item up, and they will be placed in your stomach. Around the environment, there are also wooden, silver, and special black chests that contain loot and power-ups which can be used/equipped immediately.

Weapons are divided into 5 different types: swords, hammers/axes, spears, magic staffs, and lances. Each individual weapon has its own unique number property, rarity, and attack power. As you equip your weapons, you will notice a number that is represented by a small triangle icon, called a Magic Die, with one to five yellow circles on it. If equip your weapons in a sequential die order, it will award each subsequent weapons slot a multiplier going from 1X, in 20% increments, to a maximum of 2X attack rate for your fifth weapon in sequence.

Along the way, you will pick up several of the same weapon, but with different Magic Die numbers—this allows you to mix and match different weapon combinations to get the best multiplier for your equipped weapons. As you use weapons, they level up, increasing the attack points as the level increases (you can also level up weapons manually at Metallia’s house using special items and Mana). A weapon’s rarity ranges between common, rare, epic and legendary and each level of rarity has its own maximum level. Common weapons can be leveled up to a maximum level 10, rare weapons to level 30, epic weapons to level 50, and legendary weapons to level 99.

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Armor and special items are obtained in the same way as weapons: as loot or from chests and they also have a rarity and level indicator. So far I have spent about 40 hours with the game, and to this point the armor is not upgradeable, though there is a level indicator, so armor may be upgradeable later in the game. You are able to equip two pieces of armor and two special items. Unlike weapons, armor and special equipment items do not have an ordering system or multiplier. The more rare an armor item is, the more defense or special condition property it will have; for example, some armors and items give you special defense against poison, sleep, curses or other types of enemy attacks. The armor and weapon stats are cumulatively stacked, so you can check out your character status in the menu screen to check how these attributes affect your character.

Regular weapon attacks are not the only type of attacks, there are also special attacks called Tochkas. Tochkas are used throughout the game to unlock puzzles and do other special maneuvers. For example, there’s a bomb Tochka that blows up a large boulder and a special capture Tochka that captures and kills an enemy, leaving a special item that is only attainable by using this special attack. Many times you will see different areas in a stage that are only accessible by use of one of these Tochkas so there is a lot of exploring that has to wait until later in the game when you obtain more of them.

There are more game elements that I cannot go into within this review, but as you can already tell, this game has so many features it’s almost excessive. However, even with all of the different facets of gameplay, you really are button mashing your way through each stage. There were a few tricky parts, where you have to figure out how to use your attacks to hit a switch or something, but aside from that, the gameplay is pretty repetitive—which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if you like that kind of game. I happen to like the gameplay, but the game is just massive, so if this is a problem for you, you might want to steer clear of this one or wait for a price drop.

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Visuals:
The visuals in The Witch and the Hundred Knight are a big sticking point for me. At this late stage in the PS3 lifecycle, I would expect the game to have a lot more polish, run a lot smoother, and have faster loading times between each stage. The artwork in the Anime style portions of the game are gorgeous with sharp lines and bright, bold colors; yet, the 3D portions are fuzzy and not too detailed. The lighting looks pre-rendered and just isn’t as appealing as it could be. Also, the game crashed on me several times during different stages, and it seemed like fighting a lot of enemies or having a lot of action on the screen induced the crashes. Since you can only save in the hub world, when the game crashes during a stage, you lose all of your progress since your last save. A few times, I had picked up some really cool weapon only to lose it when the game crashed—so save early and save often. I deleted the game file and reinstalled it, and it seems to have resolved the crashing issue so far, but be aware of the possibility.

The real ironic thing about the 3D visuals not being up to par, the long load times, and the game crashing, is that there doesn’t seem to be a lot going on in the 3D stages that would tax the system’s resources as much as the game seems to. The Witch and the Hundred Knight really is a fun game, and I really do like the other aesthetics of the game, but it just seems like such a missed opportunity to not have smooth 60fps gameplay and vivid colors like 3D Dot Game Heroes or other isometric 3D games.

Audio:
The music in the game is really good. I really liked the soundtrack, but the use of surround sound for both the music and sound effects is average. Surround sound does come in handy for finding the checkpoints, since you can use the sound they make to locate them for the first time. One gripe that I had however, is the use of the same track over and over again on the hub and first couple of stages. Not until you progress the story quite a bit does the music change, so the first several hours of the game you’ll have to get used to the same couple of songs. The game also doesn’t support custom soundtracks, so it could get a little grating to hear the same song over and over.

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Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single player only.

Conclusion:
If you’re into cheesy, zany, one-dimensional plots and simple button-mashy action, then The Witch and the Hundred Knight is for you. There is just so much content in the game that I think the price is about right, having clocked 40 hours on the game in total and I’m about halfway through. I found it humorous that after each and every Act (series of stages) the credits would roll (perhaps this is normal for these types of games, I do not know).

Overall though, aside from the loading times and slightly monotonous gameplay, I do think this game is a lot of fun and worth picking up; I certainly enjoyed the game and plan to complete it. However, if you are easily irritated with repetitive gameplay, but otherwise love this genre, you may want to hold off for a price drop.

Score:
7.5

* All screenshots used in this review were provided by the publisher.

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Written by Jason Honaker

Jason Honaker

A software developer for over 15 years, originally from St. Louis, MO and currently living in Seattle, WA. Started gaming in 1979 on the Atari 800 8-bit PC. I play all sorts of games, but am partial to RPGs and 3rd person brawlers and shooters.

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