The Witch and the Hundred Knight is an anime-esque JRPG that originally came out a couple of years ago, and has recently gotten a sort of “refurbished release” recently. When the PS3 version of Witch and the Hundred Knight first came out, I picked it up, played it, loved it, and got the platinum trophy for it. That being said, its not like the game was without its fair share of problems, including some rather game breaking bugs that could be downright frustrating. Needless to say, when I heard the Revival was on its way as a precursor to a sequel, I was quite pleased, even more so when I learned you could now play as Metallia.
In Witch and the Hundred Knight, you play not as the titular witch (Metallia), but rather as a summoned familiar, dubbed the Hundred Knight by the witch herself. The Hundred Knight is a beast of legend said to strike fear into the hearts of all who lay eyes on it. You, however, aren’t so big, or intimidating, and quite frankly you seem a little dumb, until the contract with Metallia fully forms and you gain intelligence. This fact is played for gags a great deal, as a large chunk of the cast will constantly question whether or not you truly are the real Hundred Knight. Metallia seems to assert so, however, as such a great and mighty witch such as herself should have an equally impressive servant. Speaking of cast, as the Hundred Knight you can’t actually speak. You just make these cute little “mukyu” noises. While having mute protagonists is nothing new, in the case of Witch and the Hundred Knight, there is a big chunk of the game focused on character banter, making you feel less like a member of the party and more like a useful tool that’s been brought out of the shed, which Metallia seems to think of you as anyways. Your only interactions are selecting from choices to: affirm, ignore, question, or deny. While the choices don’t really impact the plot any (for the most part), some of the dialogue you can get can be pretty funny, especially if you decide you want to do something really stupid.
So what about the other characters? Are they interesting? Do they have depth? Well, first we need to give a brief three-word summary of the world of basically the whole plot: everybody’s a dick. No, really. Metallia is haughty and arrogant, and has no real love for most living creatures, her magical construct butler Arlecchino is basically a walking sass machine, and Viscole Dotrish? Well, she’s okay. Fair warning, this game is not exactly a happy stroll through the meadow. There are a lot of moments in the game where you’ll just sit there and say something along the lines of “Good lord, that man is an ass”. Personally, I found it added to the charm of the game. Life isn’t always going to be sunshine and lollipops, and Metallia is more than willing to tell you as much in the must vulgar or profane way she can think of. It was really refreshing to see a main character that didn’t particularly care about being righteous or just, and who was just looking out for themselves.
Unfortunately, the sporadic plot tracks tend to make you wonder just how much the developers were having rough life patches, and wanted to get at least one cruel event or death in per chapter. You literally go from slaughtering villages, to helping bugs write love letters, to breaking into government buildings, where the only real connecting thread is that you need to “bloom” pillars to spread Metallia’s swamp throughout the world. Despite how sporadic the plot jumps are, each new chapter features characters and scenarios that I enjoyed seeing through to the end. Each feels “completed”, despite having little relation to the last.
So how does one go about blooming these pillars? Well you visit the bulk of the game play. The Hundred Knight is tasked by Metallia to go out into the world and punch or smack pillars in order to release her swamp. Small checkpoint pillars that you can “complete” a stage and leave to the world map or Metallia’s home are scattered throughout the fields, and need to be hit around five times to open. Larger pillars have bosses guarding them that you will need to defeat. NIS did a very interesting job creating the exploration and combat system for Witch and the Hundred Knight. You start each map with 100 giga cals worth of “energy”, and you have to complete your objective within a time limit imposed by your energy consumption. Energy will decrease at a slow rate under normal circumstances, but decreases incredibly fast when either exploring the map or taking damage.
The map starts clouded, and by exploring gets progressively filled in. This will probably be the heaviest energy consumption in an area. If you’ve already got the map filled in, your energy expenditure drops rather fast. Healing injuries comes in two forms: active and passive. By clicking down the left thumbstick, you can use energy to heal, or you can let the passive healing work through your wounds. Both of these methods take a large chunk of energy, however. In addition to energy, the Hundred Knight also has a stamina level. As he runs, attacks or evades his stamina decreases, and will refill automatically as long as he does not run, attack, or evade for a short period of time. In addition, if an enemy has less than ten percent health or so, you have the option to “consume” them by mashing the triangle button in order to restore calories.
Attacking and evading are both very interesting systems. Attacking is done by assigning five weapons (or less) to five open weapon slots (you also have two armour and two accessory slots). Each weapon has a different “element” associated to it: blunt, slash, and magic. Enemies have certain weaknesses to different types of attacks. Additionally, each weapon has a “counter” on it, which will have a number between one to five. If put in sequence, weapons gain additional attack multipliers. You have a number of weapon types to choose from, including: magic staffs, lances, spears, hammers, and swords. Each weapon type has its own benefits and drawbacks, and can be set in whatever order works for you. Each hit in your combo will be with the next weapon set in your equipment screen. There are even certain enemies that are invulnerable to certain damage types, promoting good equipment sense between the three different weapon loadouts you can assign. Obviously enough, most enemies aren’t going to just let you wack away at them. When enemies attack, if you time your evade properly you can “mystic evade”, causing a very brief invulnerable and time slow period with which to clobber your foes.
While I did vastly enjoy playing the game, there are some quirks and aspects that definitely won’t appeal to everyone. First of all, the camera angles. Sometimes I wanted to hurl something at my T.V. because there were so many dang trees in my face. This is especially prevalent in the forested areas and in the “house/mansion” style areas. While on the topic of camera angle, you’re also permanently forced into a bird’s eye view of your environment. While this isn’t so bad since you can still see enemy health bars through the walls/trees, the camera angles do take a lot of getting used to. The use of an energy meter is also very restrictive in your exploration, often necessitating multiple trips back to home base before you can complete an area. While at first this annoyed me, it does a very good job of forcing you to “complete” a stage through pillar rather than boss, which lets you actually use the experience earned and weapons, as opposed to losing all that work because the boss is rather difficult.
At this point I need to bring up an issue with the original game. Occasionally the original game would crash to the main menu, causing a lot of loss, and what I can only imagine is a few broken televisions or controllers. After about two hours of gameplay, I had the game crash on me. While this hasn’t happened to me again since, I can’t say for certain if it was a one time deal or an inherent issue with the game. Interestingly enough, the original crashed at the same time for me back on the PS3. Apart from the initial crash, a lot of the lag that I experienced in the PS3 version seems to have been fixed, as you can now get into fights with a large number of hostile creatures all shooting bullets and I didn’t notice any lag during this time.
Witch and the Hundred Knight: Revival is definitely a NIS game. Large character conversations are done via different character portraits, similar to Trinity Universe or the Disgaea series. All the characters and graphics are done in a similar style, so if you don’t enjoy anime style graphics, the presentation might not be for you. The Revival edition is supposed to have updated graphics, but I was honestly hard pressed to notice much of a difference. Maybe the game looked a little bit sharper, but the difference is not that noticeable. Even the soundtrack radiates traditional NIS sound. This isn’t to say the soundtrack is bad, far from it. Each of the tracks feels tailored to the type of environment you happen to be exploring. Tackling a forest stage? Music feels forest-y, trekking through the dessert? Music sounds like a desert aria. While most of the background themes didn’t particularly stand out to me, the soundtrack properly builds the atmosphere. The boss themes, however, I particularly enjoyed listening to. Especially the songs One Hundred Roses, Foxy Zone and Dear Metallia I really liked to hear. While normally voice acting isn’t really something I’m too concerned with, as long as it’s not really bad, credit has to go to a lot of the voice actors/actresses. A lot of the characters go through some pretty violent mood swings, so hearing the range jumps associated were rather impressive. Pain grunts and death screams still need some work though.
So then, for those who have played the original or those wondering about the differences, what’s new? Well, not too much, unfortunately. The biggest update comes in the form of the Tower of Illusion, which can first be accessed after a few hours of gameplay. The Tower of Illusion is a sort of gauntlet style mode you progress through floors in the tower by clearing the rooms of enemies. At the start of a run through the tower, you must offer an item to the tower. The offered item dictates enemy level and strength, and also impacts rare drop rates. After every ten floors you unlock checkpoints, which will allow you to start a new run from the checkpoint floor, or you can continue your previous run from whatever floor you left off on.
The tower isn’t unlocked all at once, however and sections will only become available after clearing certain conditions in the main story. The reason for this is also one of my favorite aspects of the new tower: actual story in a bonus dungeon. The tower is set in an alternate dimension, so as you progress through the tower you get to meet a bunch of the characters from the main story, albeit with some personality adjustments. The next best reason for the tower is being able to play as Metallia. Yep, that’s right, all the people wishing they could play as Metallia in the original release, now’s your chance. Granted, since it is an alternate dimension Metallia she isn’t as powerful as she would be in the main story, but it’s still fun to use the unique Metallia combat mechanics to mow down hoards of enemies.
The only other change I noticed from the original is the addition of an alchemy system in conjunction with the tower. As you mow your way through the tower, occasionally you will acquire alchemic materials. These materials can be used with other equipment to fuse two pieces of equipment together, giving stat bonuses to your gear.
Overall, Witch and the Hundred Knight has some really good mechanics. The exploration and combat are an interesting take, promoting strategy over brute force when you get into later and tougher fights, and oh boy are some of the fights tough, especially if you don’t have a bosses type weakness. It’s not particularly recommended to use blunt attacks against something incredibly resistant to blunt damage, but when all the weapon drops only give you blunt weapons, sometimes you’ve just got suck it up and get good. You can also set “facets”, which are the equivalent to different job classes, and will provide passive bonuses to both equipment types and battle related mechanics, such as increasing dash speed. One main facet and two sub facets can be equipped, and you are allowed to switch between the main facet on the fly. The main story might be a little slow going, but once it gets going it really is interesting. If you’ve already beaten the original, there might not be too much extra to interest you, but it’s definitely a game worth giving a shot if you like the style.
Nippon Ichi Software
PlayStation 3 (Original)
Article by Richard