Black Magic Woman
Having already cast their potent, hack-and-slash spell on the PlayStation 3 back in 2013 with The Witch and the Hundred Knight, developer Nippon Ichi Software returns to the cauldron with an enhanced version of the game for the PlayStation 4. Appropriately titled “The Witch and the Hundred Knight: Revival Edition”, the game brings new life to the original adventure, tossing a few extra eyes of newt and bat wings into the veritable witch’s brew in the form of an HD visual upgrade, along with a few new additions to the gameplay to spice things up. While it’s good to see this criminally overlooked gem of the last generation resurrected for a modern age, is this caustic concoction a recipe for success, or is NIS America peddling snake oil? Read on and find out!
For those who missed out on The Witch and the Hundred Knight when it first released three years ago, the game’s story centers around the Swamp Witch Metallia, a foul-mouthed forest hag looking to spread her infectious swamp ooze across the land. Stuck in a stalemate with the benevolent Forest Witch Malia for over a hundred years, Metallia is ready to exact her revenge. However, she is incapable of venturing outside of the confines of her festering domain, so she uses her black magic powers to conjure the Hundred Knight, a diminutive warrior who can do her dirty deeds for her. By venturing the wild fantasy world in search of magical pillars, the Hundred Knight can pummel these mysterious, plant-like monoliths until they begin to bleed Metallia’s swamp goop across the world, ever expanding the witch’s dominion on her quest for vengeance.
The premise of the game is certainly interesting, as you’re essentially playing the role of the main villain’s lackey as you taint the world for the game’s petulant titular witch. Metallia is pretty much as vile and sadistic as they come, and has no qualms with serving her own mother up on a sizzling skillet, or kidnapping hapless heroes for her own devious whims. It goes without saying that The Witch and the Hundred Knight isn’t for the faint of heart, and those easily offended will be immediately turned off by the game’s provocative language and questionable content. However, as someone who isn’t bothered by a little bit of digital mischief, I found Metallia to be delightfully devious, and her tumultuous tempter and sailor’s tongue had me laughing until my sides ached.
At it’s core, The Witch and the Hundred Knight: Revival Edition’s gameplay is very similar to other hack-and-slash titles such as Diablo and Gauntlet. Players take control of the Hundred Knight from a top-down perspective as he scours a variety of colorful worlds, battling a wide variety of monsters and Soldiers, spirits controlled by rival witches, as you gains experience, collect shiny new loot and ultimately find each area’s pillars. Pummeling a pillar and spilling its petulant sludge acts as unlocking a checkpoint, from which you can exit an area and return to the game’s main hub, Metallia’s mansion, where you can level up, equip items you’ve gathered in your stomach during your previous outing, and save your game. The combat itself is solid, and offers a good deal of variety, as each press of the button allows you to string together attacks with up two five different weapons, creating some pretty devastating combos. Starting out a combo with a heavy whack of a hammer to stun your enemies, then unleashing a volley of projectiles from a magical staff adds a welcome layer of depth and customization to the game’s hack-and-slash combat, and the ability to swap between various weapon sets on the fly ensures you’ll always have the right tools for the job at your disposal with the simple press of a button. You can’t just button mash your way to victory, though, as Hundred Knight has a stamina meter, which depletes after every attack. That said, you’ll have to stick and move, otherwise your pint-sized protagonist will become winded, leaving you open for some painful payback from the hordes of enemies that populate each dungeon.
Another interesting mechanic is the dodge function, which with a well-timed tap of the X button you can execute a dodge, which will kick off a slow-motion sequence similar to Bayonetta’s Witch Time, allowing you to avoid damage score some extra powerful hits on your enemies while it lasts. Boss fights in particular often revolve around clever use of this ability. Waiting for an enemy to drop their defenses and strike, you can take advantage of the opening with a dodge which will allow you to slow down time and unleash a barrage of punishment on them, changing the tide of the battle.
One other feature that sets The Witch and the Hundred Knight apart from other games in the genre is the Giga Calorie system. Unable to merely run amok around the world indefinitely, Hundred Knight needs to sustain himself by consuming a steady stream of Gigacals. Every action, from running to fighting, drains these precious points. If all of your Gigacals are depleted it’s back to square one, so you’ll have to keep Hundred Knight stocked with cookies and other snacks to keep him going, or consume your opponents once their hit points drop below a certain threshold, which will give you a bit more fuel for the fight. You can also initiate something of a berserk mode, which burns through Gigacals rapidly but allows you to become a force of utter destruction, dealing out serious damage to enemies. This is a great tool to use against bosses, but puts players on a race with the clock to finish the fight before burning out completely, as the mode cannot be canceled once it’s been initiated. Fortunately, you can spend grade points you’ve earned while combating baddies to temporarily upgrade your stats at any pillar, including the amount of GigaCals by a set amount, which can keep you in the fight longer or give you that extra edge needed to overcome a particularly nasty boss.
Of course, much like other hack-and-slash RPGS, sometimes that extra edge isn’t enough, and you’ll spend plenty of time grinding to eke out enough muscle to advance. Thankfully, the combat is entertaining, and drops of rare loot happen frequently enough that this never really becomes too much of a chore.
In addition to your standard hack-and-slash shenanigans, you can also use Witch Domination to send the Hundred Knight to raid and pillage villages, stealing the residents of each hapless hamlet you invades most prized possessions (why so many resident’s treat weed gum and pan-fried fishbugs as priceless heirlooms I’ll never understand). These residents won’t go down without a fight, however, and you’ll need to be of a similar level to the house you’re attempting to ransack’s occupants if you wish to come out unscathed. Failed Domination attempts result in a hefty penalty against those GigaCals, so raid responsibly. While it’s certainly not the deepest system, Witch Domination is still a nice addition to spice things up, and it’s satisfying to steamroll a settlement, relieving its denizens of their valuables while spreading Metallia’s influence across the land.
One of The Witch and the Hundred Knight: Revival Edition’s most welcome additions to the core game is the Tower of Illusion. This new challenge delivers its own unique side story, that allows players to control both the Hundred Witch, as well as the Swamp Witch Metallia herself in a lengthy journey through a towering dungeon. Unlocked after the game’s first chapter, players can visit the tower, offering up weapons they’ve found to gain access to the dungeon – not unlike the Item Worlds found in NISA’s Disgaea series – which will allow you to collect catalysts, which can be used to create even more potent weaponry. Overall, the Tower of Illusion serves as a great place to grind some serious levels as you take on hordes of foes and numerous boss monsters, and playing as Metallia is a ton of fun, as she can utilize her sword and a number of devastating elemental spells to make short work of her foes. It’s just a shame that so many floors of the dungeon repeat so frequently, as more diverse layouts would have injected some welcome variety into this otherwise welcome addition to the overall package.
The Witch and the Hundred Knight: Revival Edition’s jump to the latest generation of consoles definitely benefited the game’s visuals, as the jump in resolution is abundantly noticeable when compared to the original PlayStation 3 release. Character models and the environment itself looks much more vibrant, though it still won’t win any awards for taxing the PS4’s hardware. Even still, everything looks just fine, and the game runs at a steady 60 FPS, even during the most frantic boss encounters, where enemies simply fill the screen.
Fans of the music of the Disgaea series will be instantly familiar with composer Tenpei Sato’s work in The Witch and the Hundred Knight: Revival Edition. The game features the same quirky instrumentation we’ve come to expect from NISA’s SRPG series, which proves instantly infectious as ever. I do wish there were more tracks, however, as you’ll here the same half a dozen pieces of music over and over again over the course of the adventure. That said, what’s on offer is as solid as you’d expect from NIS, but some variety would have gone a long way towards making the game’s score even more memorable.
If you never managed to dive into The Witch and the Hundred Knight when it originally debuted, The Witch and the Hundred Knight: Revival Edition is a fantastic place to start. The game’s blend of hack-and-slash gameplay and addicting exploration is as enticing as ever, and the addition of the enhanced visuals and meaty Tower of Illusion go a long way towards making this the definitive version of the game. The game isn’t for the squeamish, but so long as you’re not put off by some heavy grinding and some pretty sadistic storytelling and liberal innuendo, The Witch and the Hundred Knight: Revival Edition is a unique and often bizarre experience that will keep you busy for hours on end.
Final Verdict: 4 / 5
Available on: PlayStation 4 (Reviewed) ; Publisher: NIS America ; Developer: Nippon Ichi Software ; Release Date: March 1, 2016; ESRB: M for Mature; MSRP: $39.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a review copy of The Witch and the Hundred Wood: Revival Edition provided by the game’s publisher, NIS America.