The Witch and the Hundred Knight is a game that doesn’t want to be played. The gameplay seems like it could be fun. But I’ve now had more cut-scenes and conversations that hinder gameplay that I can’t even be sure that entering a new area will offer me more gameplay than cutscenes. Nippon Ichi Software has written a somewhat interesting story, or, at least I think it was. But I couldn’t enjoy it, because the game was more stop and start than a driving school student’s car.
The game starts off with a dreamworld tutorial where the voice of a feminist god is telling us to run away from a large lizard creature. From there, the well-contextualized tutorial is revealed to have actually been a summoning ritual of a spirit warrior. Legend has overplayed his ability somewhat, but he still works as a dependable minion to her. Think about it like you’re playing a minion in Overloard, except you’re a bit more powerful and was personally summoned to an angsty, thinly veiled and clothed swamp witch named Metallia.
From there, she expects this little knight she’s summoned, aptly named the Hundred Knight, to help her conquer the world and envelop it in swampy goodness, since she can’t step on land that isn’t swamp. Throughout the campaign you’ll be constantly doing something else other than that, though. Metallia sees the outside world like a child sees a candy bar in a candy shoppe, always bouncing between messing with people’s lives, trying to kill other witches, and every now and again realizing that you should probably be creating more swampland.
Swamp areas are created by opening up organic pillars holding in swamp juice and serve as points of respawn, as well as allowing players to teleport between them and temporarily upgrading stats like health, attack, and defense. None of them decrease the amount of cutscenes in the game, though, so nothing too useful.
As well, the Hundred Knight has a certain amount of time he can be out and about, in a very Lost Planet sort of way. Instead of spending temporary upgrade points on stats, you can use them to add more time to your life on that level. Performing actions and healing consume large portions of time, while walking around causes it to only slowly creep down. This timer doesn’t decrease while in cutscenes, which is sort of a blessing since Hundred Knight would probably die before he even gets to kill his first enemy in an area.
You might notice that I keep interrupting every point by mentioning what happens during cutscenes, and you’re probably wondering why I keep mentioning that so much. It’s because this game, in reality, is a test of how many cutscenes you can get through before gameplay occurs or the disc gets popped out of the console. Sure, there’s games Metal Gear series that have whole 30-minute cutscenes, but at least you then play the game for an hour or so. Even during missions Metallia’s constantly gabbing her mouth like she’s got nothing better to do. I don’t think I’ve gone longer than 8 minutes in the game without a cutscene interrupting me, every time it disconnecting me from actually playing the game.
Cutscene for entering a new area, cuts to another cutscene of what’s happening in the area. Gameplay for a few minutes, then another cutscene of Metallia noticing there’s a town at the end of the road. Cutscene when you’re at the end of a level. Cutscene once the level’s ended, then a second or third one just for larks. I’d have to say that most of the time I spent in Witch and the Hundred Knight was just going through cutscenes. And sure, I could just skip them. But then I’m stuck just playing a half-decent anime version of Castle Crashers on single player.
The few things the combat does are pretty interesting, if nothing else. Your Hundred Knight gets three sets of combos that players customize, but instead of the combos being different moves, it’s different weapons. Hitting the attack button once might just use the sword you have, hitting it twice will use your sword then a spear you lined up next, etc. Different enemies have different weaknesses, causing players to create more varied combos. You can also change what type of armor you’re wearing mid-combat, changing how much damage you take/deal with certain weapons.
Bosses were also a bit too simple sometimes, but also pretty varied. Unless they were charging up for an attack, they would take little damage. Once they set up an attack, their defense drops significantly, opening them up for some hard-hitting attacks. It promoted a risk-reward system to boss fighting. Can you get in some hits if she charges up for that move, or should you try dodging first and then taking your chances at the end of the attack? The bosses were varied well enough, but I never felt like I was at any risk of dying from them.
The game’s greatest combo, though, is chaining up multiple cutscenes at once, since it’s been most effective at keeping me from enjoying the game. In the few hours I played, I’ve experienced at least a dozen cutscenes where Metallia talked, told me it sounds like something is happening up ahead, then got in-game, only to walk a few feet forward and be launched into another cutscene. The few times I went back to old areas without any cutscenes were somewhat fun, but trying to progress the plot at all just felt like going over hurdles to try and get to the next playable scene.
After last month’s Gravity Rush, I was interested in trying out another anime-style game. And while there were some positives about The Witch and the Hundred Knight, like Metallia’s characterization, the combat system, and some of the plot, the game sets up too many barriers to progress to enjoy. Either you skip the cutscenes and have no idea what’s going on, or you push through every single one of them, every time, until you give up. Unless you have more patience than a Buddhist monk, are excessively into anime-style games, or are very deeply into feeling like you’re watching a movie that pauses itself every minute or so, I’d skip out on The Witch and the Hundred Knight.