By CAITLIN PIPER
I really wanted to enjoy “The Witch and the Hundred Knight.” It has many of the elements fans have come to expect from games developed by Nippon Ichi Software: colorful, handpainted visuals, lush fantasy locales and a wide variety of weapons and attacks for players to acquire at their leisure.
However, it seems the transition from the developer’s popular strategy RPG gameplay format to the far more derivative hack ’n slash experience present in “The Witch and the Hundred Knight” has brought its own slew of problems.
Featuring repetitive gameplay, absurdly long cutscenes and one of the most unlikeable protagonists I’ve seen in recent memory, only the most hardcore fans of Nippon Ichi’s work will draw any enjoyment from this dull and oftentimes downright unpleasant disappointment.
“The Witch and the Hundred Knight” begins with the introduction of the titular duo: the abrasive and foul-mouthed witch Metallia and her adorable familiar, the Hundred Knight. After Metallia is freed from a years-long imprisonment in her own swamp, she summons the Knight to enact vengeance on the world.
The two present an interesting dichotomy over the course of the game. The contrast between the Hundred Knight’s squat and innocent appearance and Metallia’s deplorable acts of violence provides a bizarre juxtaposition with the game’s cutesy visuals.
To get an idea of the jarring experience I am talking about, I will relay an early scene that almost caused me to drop the game completely.
After defeating one of her foes and beating her within an inch of her life, Metallia transforms the woman into a mouse and commands a wave of male mice to chase after her, leaving the strong implication that they will sexually assault her. This scene is one of many that left a bitter taste in my mouth, and Metallia is not the only character to put such vile behavior on display over the course of the game.
Playing as the villain can be fun sometimes, but none of Metallia’s actions carry the unique sort of strange humor we’ve come to expect from Nippon Ichi’s villains. Humorless and cruel, much of her dialogue makes her sound like an awkward pre-teen who has just discovered curse words.
Carrying out her demands as the Hundred Knight left me feeling rather uncomfortable, as many of these actions, like Metallia’s cursing, seemed to be inserted into the game’s narrative solely for shock value.
The game just seems to be trying way too hard to be edgy and mature. An attempt to redeem Metallia’s character is made late in the game, but it is far too little, far too late.
This is not helped by a number of intrusive cutscenes that could have relayed the same amount of information in half the time.
Gameplay is a bizarre hybrid of isometric combat reminiscent of the “Diablo” series and a more traditional menu-scrolling RPG. Players can combine hundreds of weapons to form special attacks, allowing for some variety, but what little fun that can be found in this system is weighed down considerably by the GigaCal meter.
The GigaCal meter sounds all right on paper. It puts a limit on the amount of time the Hundred Knight can spend in combat, and while this can theoretically add an element of strategy to gameplay, it ultimately becomes an arbitrary source of frustration for players.
Combine this with the aforementioned absurd length of many of the cutscenes, and you have some of the worst pacing problems I’ve ever seen in a game.
“The Witch and the Hundred Knight” isn’t horrible. It looks nice, has several utterly insane, but ultimately memorable scenes, and some players might find the combat enjoyable. It will have fans.
But it just wasn’t for me. I couldn’t get past the unlikeable protagonist and tiresome combat. It’s sad, really, because this could have been a fantastic game with some minor adjustments.