The Witch and the Hundred Knight: Revival Edition
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Release Date: 03/04/2016
Japanese developer/publisher Nippon Ichi is known for creating and releasing games around the world with very interesting and quirky concepts that are unique to the developer, regardless of what they release to the market. 2014’s The Witch and The Hundred Knight on PS3 was certainly no exception, and in my opinion, it’s easily the most quirky and unconventional game the developer has released, pound for pound. If you missed the game the first time around, NISA has recently released the Revival Edition on PS4, which gives you the option to experience the game for all its bizarre and off the wall action RPG goodness, along with enhanced graphics and a few new features. Is it really worth your time if you missed out on playing it the first time around, though? Further, if you did play through the game already on the PS3, is the updated PS4 release worth looking into, or are the extras included less than worthwhile for those who’ve burned through the original from top to bottom? Let’s take a look and find out.
The Witch and The Hundred Knight, which for the purposes of simplicity will be referred to from here on as Witch, takes place in a fantasy world known as Medea (no relation to the play of the same name). The story centers itself around a swamp witch, Metalia, and her ongoing struggle to expand the glowing green goo of her swamp to all corners far and wide in Medea; through doing this, she will expand her power base, and ultimately become the most powerful witch in all the realm. At the start of the game, Metalia summons the legendary and powerful Hundred Knight from an ancient text, but instead of summoning up a tall beast of flame and death… she summons up a tiny, singular minion-sized monster, which is the actual Hundred Knight in all its… glory. To say she’s put out by this would be an understatement, but not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, Metalia puts the Knight (that is, the player) to work, and it’s here that the plot picks up.
The story itself is told through the standard Nippon Ichi presentation style, with character cutouts and dialogue boxes galore. There are a good number of interesting characters to meet during the game, and the writing and English voice acting are spot on for the story the game is trying to tell. Metalia as a character can take some time to get used to, especially since you work directly for her, and she’s… not the most pleasant of characters. She’s written as an egotistical, self-centered, foul-mouthed, generally detestable human being, and this in no way changes for the vast majority of the game. Fortunately, the remainder of the cast picks up the slack when it comes to character development and growth, as the majority of the important characters in Witch grow and develop in various ways as the story progresses, so while Metalia isn’t the best character, if you can overlook her, the majority of the cast more than carries the story despite her personality.
Actually playing the game effectively is where most players are likely to get hung up, honestly, as there are certain elements that, while familiar, make for an experience that’s hard to pin down. At the game’s core, it’s essentially a Diablo style skinner-box dungeon crawler, meaning that there’s a lot here based around the idea of smearing monsters and collecting loot. However, pretty much all the mechanics attached to this framework are based around a set of unorthodox and quirky rules which can put a bit of a learning curve on the game right from the start. Among the most troublesome is the knight’s GCAL meter. Via the magic helmet he wears, the knight expends G Calories whenever he moves or attacks in any way. There are specific rules to this cost, however, depending on each action you perform, which can be challenging to manage at first but make sense over time. For example, when moving around, exploring areas that you’ve never been to before will expend more G Calories from the knight’s reserves, while treading through areas you have already mapped will consume less. Attacking will consume portions of the knight’s stamina bar, which regenerates over time… by burning a portion of the knight’s G Calorie stock to do so. In other words, the game expects players to make actions count, and the more actions you waste, the more it will hit your G Calorie reserves. There are a number of ways the knight can restore his G Calories while navigating a dungeon, fortunately, so you’re not without options. Eating food, for example, will replenish G Calories, and the knight can also replenish his G Calories at checkpoint pillars which can be found sporadically on the map. If the knight runs out of G Calories, though, the torch on his helmet goes out, and any movement or action will deplete his HP, which means exactly what you’d think. This has some similarities to roguelike mechanics based around food management, but it’s handled somewhat uniquely here, and it can be challenging to adjust to at first.
Equipping the knight to attack is an unusual affair as well. In order to put together a combo attack, you have to equip a different weapon in each of the knight’s five available slots. Depending on the markings of the prior equipped weapon in the chain, it’s possible to link attacks together for more damage, assuming you equip the proper weapons in the proper order. Enemies have resistances to any and all kinds of attacks, as well, so putting together an arsenal of different weapons is usually the best idea. While this can potentially be confusing and convoluted at first, if you find yourself liking the game on a base level, you’ll learn to roll with its odd systems after a short while. The game would definitely have been better off employing some mechanics that were more conventional and less steeped in novelty; for instance, when the knight eats food (or enemies, in some cases) to replenish G Calories, garbage accumulates in his stomach, and purging it requires the player to (seriously) use a laxative to remove it, which is just silly. Overall, though, most of what’s in place works, and although the weird premise and plot are easily enough to make the game memorable, the wonky gameplay makes it even more so.
The Revival Edition itself features a bunch of added new elements for those who’ve played the game already, the most obvious of which are the enhanced visuals for the PS4. Having played through the entirety of the PS3 version, I could definitely see a difference in the overall visual quality, as polygon counts are higher and lighting effects look noticeably improved from the original release. Also added to this version is the Tower of Illusion, a mode that lets you scale the many floors of a tower, fighting increasingly harder enemies along the way… and finding better and better treasures in the process. You can also call up the actual witch Metalia herself in this mode to bust out some super attacks for clearing out enemies in a hurry. This is definitely something I would have liked to see in the original game, so I’m glad they implemented it here. It might not be enough to sell someone on playing through the game a second time, especially if you’ve done everything there was to do with the first game, but it’s definitely a worthwhile addition in its own right, and if you did enjoy the original it’s enough to at least make the Revival Edition worth a look.
Short Attention Span Summary:
The Witch and The Hundred Knight is one of the most unique and unconventional action RPGs to be released in the US in a long time, and it’s an interesting experience that, in theory, is easy to recommend if you’re someone who loves Diablo-style games and own a PS4. However, the reality is, the many quirks and unusual gameplay mechanics make the game quite an acquired taste, and you’ll really have to be into the odd mechanics, be they roguelike in design or just plain odd, to really “get” the game. If you’re looking for something different, though, Witch is definitely worth a look.