We rarely find ourselves playing as an antagonist in any given game, let alone the evildoer’s right-hand man. The Witch and the Hundred Knight breaks this trend by putting you in the shoes of a mindless slave to a bad-mouthed witch. Metallia the Swamp Witch, has summoned you, The Hundred Knight, from another dimension to do her bidding. Without any personal motivation whatsoever, it’s your job to grind endless dungeon style levels to help Metallia cover the world in swampland. Now, this plot-line doesn’t exactly sound very appealing, but The Witch and the Hundred Knight is able to master some J-RPG elements to save itself from utter failure.
When you first begin your adventure as the Hundred Knight, your past and present are practically a complete mystery. As with many J-RPG storylines, you will uncover more about the game’s universe as the story progresses. The majority of tutorial takes place in an alternate dimension filled with unknowns. The choppy instructional segment contains a random dragon, cryptic old lady, looping music, and an obnoxious voice that’s following you at all times. However, the main issue with this tutorial is that it takes around a half an hour to complete without any save options. Frequent camera panning cut-scenes interrupt you at every turn, and there is enough text being shown to write a brief novel. In fact, there is a fifty page manual embedded within the game’s menu in case you forget any of the more advanced controls or general tips. Too many things to keep track of are being thrown at you all at once from the start. Also, most of the tutorial is just pointless dialogue that haphazardly leads into important instruction. Although the text can be sped up or skipped, it’s very difficult to distinguish what is important to remember and what is meaningless. If the unskippable cut-scenes and dialogue were cut out, I’d say the tutorial could easily be completed in under 15 minutes.
After exiting the tutorial world, you are thrust into a magical kingdom filled with witches and monsters. Missions are provided to you by Metallia through a linear plot with amusing dialogue. There also is a ton of black humor and sarcasm that adds layers of depth to characters. Everything plot related actually comes together pretty naturally after the rough start, and I greatly enjoyed the narrative. I can envision many people playing The Witch and the Hundred Knight solely for its immersive storyline. The 2-D art that appears during story scenes is very vibrant and appealing. The gameplay atmosphere is also beautiful and unique, bringing forth a Zelda-esque feel. I really enjoyed the graphics overall, and would say it’s the game’s strongest point.
Objectives typically involve exploring dungeon-type stages and activating beacons. Missions then culminate with a boss battle that is often very exciting. All the bosses feel different to one another, and are much fun to fight. Unfortunately, I often found myself unable to vanquish these bosses without an hour or two of grinding on standard enemies beforehand. The XP and weapon grind is ridiculous and completely unnecessary. One burden that always weighs you down is the Gigacal mechanic. Gigacals serve as your energy level and will gradually deplete as you run around. Taking damage and simply exploring the map will decrease Gigacals. I found this feature to really take away from the game. All the energy meter does is stress you out and become a distraction. If you run out of Gigacals, some items will be lost and you’ll have to restart from a checkpoint.
The Witch and the Hundred Knight‘s unique combat mechanic is creative, but poorly executed. Instead of equipping one weapon at a time, players are allowed to rig up to five weapons in any arrangement. When fighting enemies, combos are based off of this order. The feature allows for interesting battles with weapons automatically switching as you attack. However, a problem arises when certain enemies are immune to specific weapon types. This prevents you from successfully landing blows in many cases. Weapon combinations have to be constantly altered to fit the situation, and this greatly breaks up combat flow. I learned to prefer using only one weapon type at a time to make things more simple and smooth. If monsters were not immune to any attacks, the issue would be easily solved.
I mentioned earlier that you cannot save at any point during the tutorial. Unfortunately, you are still unable to save even an hour into the game. I actually lost my first fifty minutes or so of progress, thinking that the game had saved automatically. Turns out auto-saving doesn’t kick in until around the two hour mark, and actually has to be manually enabled in the options menu. Also, manual saving requires talking to this one NPC who is only located in your main hub area. This means you can only save the game if you leave or complete your current mission and head to the hub. Wouldn’t it be easier to just be able to save from the menu?
The Witch and the Hundred Knight tries to combine a visual novel with a dungeon exploration game and ends up succeeding on a story level, but lands short in terms of gameplay. Regarding story, it’s interesting to be forced to make some really evil choices since the Hundred Knight has no real independence. Most of your actions are not moral, and I love how the game makes you a little uncomfortable at times. Overall, The Witch and the Hundred Knight plays like a great movie, but gets interrupted by choppy gameplay and seemingly endless grinding.
A PS4 code was provided by NIS America for the purpose of this review.