The Witch and the Hundred Knight Review
Over the last few years that I have been working with NIS America titles, I have come to realize one thing; NIS simply does not adhere to current gaming trends, and they aren’t out to make a generic “cool” AAA blockbuster.
While that may sound like a negative, I actually consider it a good thing. Without this attitude, the ‘Disagea’ series may never have found its way to North America and while ‘Time and Eternity’ may not have been a perfect game, it was another surprise while I played it. In the end of Time and Eternity, I realized the game ended up being a lot more fun than I had first anticipated.
All these games, and ‘The Witch and the Hundred Knight,’ feature NIS’s signature humor. The games are laced from top to bottom with quirky characters and filled with more sexual innuendos than a person could shake a stick at. These games also include one other element NIS is known for; and that is unforgiving, traditional JRPG grinding.
‘The Witch and the Hundred Knight’ is an interesting addition to the NIS library of games. On one hand it contains all of the elements that make it an instantly recognizable NIS game (JRPG flavoring, wicked humor, bright and cartoonish designs) but it also holds one surprise. This installment has a ‘hack and slash’ mechanic, without the elements of the turn based system that has become so prevalent in JRPGs.
Because of this, Hundred Knight immediately presents itself as a more accessible action oriented game (even if starting on your journey takes a while longer than a niche RPG). Don’t get me wrong, at the game’s heart there is still a full-blooded JRPG experience, it just has more sword swinging to go alongside the talking and grinding.
The story of ‘Hundred Knight’ puts the player in the shoes of the titular character, the Hundred Knight. If you had any visions of a grand, majestic knight on a magnificent steed with shining armor and a terrifying sword, you should push those images out of your mind immediately. The Hundred Knight is nothing more than a small and cutesy, speechless character; one that apparently only exists to do the bidding of his “master”. This master is a loud, and sometimes funny (but mostly annoying) swamp witch named Metallia.
While many games have your character saving the world from a great evil, or at least something along those lines, Metallia’s goals for both herself and the Hundred Knight are less grandiose. Metallia simply wants to make her swampy home and personal kingdom larger, and she wishes to continue to expand it as much as possible. Metallia hopes to achieve this by sending the Hundred Knight out on quests to activate various pillars scattered throughout the world.
Right off the bat players will notice that they are going to be spending a lot of time listening to Metallia talk, all the while the Hundred Knight responds with one word grunts and sounds. I personally grew up on JRPGs and I am no stranger to the standard long-winded textual conversations that they often contain. Even with my experience in the genre, I found myself on more than one occasion getting droopy-eyed reading through all of Metallia’s rantings and stories. It is not the most dramatic plot, and Metallia often comes across as crude; but it does what it needs to do in terms of moving the story forward, even if it does so at a crawling pace.
Visually the game probably won’t impress anyone who has played a PS3 or Xbox 360 game in last decade. It’s not an ugly game by any means; there are rich colors that just pop off the screen and the anime design certainly looks very nice; but this is not exactly uncanny valley stuff. Actual gameplay sequences could have benefited from a more robust design, which is disappointing considering how detailed the cutscenes and dialogue sequences are.
With that said, the gameplay itself is unique and the fact that NIS America has stepped out of their comfort zone with the action-based mechanics, deserves mention. The end product however comes across as somewhat disjointed in nature. Combat is handled with real-time hacking and slashing, but there’s not much depth to the system. You could easily get through the game doing nothing more than button mashing. This is not to say the gameplay itself is “easy” however. If anything is to be said about the mechanic, I felt that way too much information was thrown at you at once during gameplay. The UI often looked like a jumble of information, and at any given time you will need to keep an eye on your HP, weapon gauges, one-time use boosts gauge, GigaCals, bonus points and more. It was just a lot of information to keep track of, even more so when I was dealing with crowds of enemies, or a boss battle.
GigaCals are a particular call-out of mine, as I felt they were the most important factor one had to be aware of during a battle. GigaCals are essentially the fuel/energy units for the Hundred Knight, and once you have depleted your supply, the Hundred Knight will be faced with a number of consequences. These can including being weakened, retaining only half the XP you earn if you die or limit the ability to heal yourself. Most of the actions you can actually perform in the game consume GigaCals; this includes everything from basic running to attacking enemies. You can replenish GigaCals by consuming your enemies or by actually purchasing them with your bonus points.
This takes ‘The Witch and the Hundred Knight’ beyond a simple hack and slash game, but only slightly. The mechanic forces players to keep an eye on the GigaCal meter; while carefully planning actions and strategizing how they will use their GigaCals in batle, of course this is more so in a boss fights. If anything, the GigaCal meter adds an additional layer of strategy to the combat mechanic.
I have always appreciated when a company decides to branch out from their comfort-zone. Whether that means adding something new and taking a risk, or by including other popular mechanics in an attempt to drawn-in a larger fanbase. I have always thought “different,” is always interesting to see. I have reviewed so many of NIS America’s games in the past, and while there are a few rough pebbles amongst the diamonds, I’ve always enjoyed their signature style.
The Witch and the Hundred Knight is not the best game NIS America has offered, but there is enough in the game to warrant a playthrough if you are a fan of JRPGs. The hack and slash combat system definitely adds more action to the game, and while the experience often gets bogged down by a subpar plot (and a ranting Metallia,) I still ended up enjoying the title overall.