Summoned by the swamp witch Metallica to take down her witchy foes, you take control of the Hundred Knight and hack n' slash your way across the land. If that sounds like fun, great. It is. But that's not to say there aren't more than a few flaws in The Witch and the Hundred Knight.
Good -- An Oldschool Hack n' Slash Heart
The Witch and the Hundred Knight is a top-down hack n' slash RPG adventure similar in basic gameplay to the classic NES and SNES Zelda games. You roam through forests, swamps, villages, and castles slaying scores of monsters as you work your way towards each level's boss. But beyond the classic hack n' slash core, the game has a combo system that adds a lot to the battles. You are able to equip up to five weapons at once -- one for each strike of your combo -- that can be anything from swords to fireball-throwing wands. There are also scores of special attacks and summons -- not to mention the several classes you can play as -- that add to combat in their own little ways. All in all, the gameplay is a great upgrade of the classic formula.
Good -- Awesome Soundtrack
I've already talked about the music in the game to some extent (as well as listing a few examples showcasing why I enjoy it so much) but to put it simply, much of the soundtrack of The Witch and the Hundred Knight expertly exerts a "Halloweeny" feel. It easily invokes images of witches, monsters, and ghosts as you listen -- and the rest of the soundtrack is no slouch either. All in all, it remains catchy even through hours of grinding.
Mixed -- Grindy
When it comes down to it, the amount of joy you'll get out of this game is directly proportional to how much you enjoy grinding -- be that grinding for loot or grinding for experience points. In a lot of ways, The Witch and the Hundred Knight is very much your average loot-centric dungeon crawler. You go into a level, mass murder some monsters, and gather the treasure they leave behind. But this is just the start. There are strong versions of normal monsters that randomly spawn in each map -- that of course have better drops -- and chests with excellent equipment hidden in every nook and cranny.
Also, each time you visit (or revisit) a stage, you get a randomly generated bonus list that rewards you with weapons and items for each exp threshold you pass. The weapons in the game often have different stats -- even if they share the same name -- and have a different preferred slot in your weapon combo (which boosts your rewards bonus).
That is not to say that you have to grind to win, nor is it to say that there isn't a sizeable story in The Witch and the Hundred Knight to keep you interested. But to really get the most out of this game, you'll need to do some grinding and enjoy doing it.
Bad -- Ugly Level Design
The vast majority of the time The Witch and the Hundred Knight is a somewhat ugly game -- especially in terms of the colour palette. There are lots of bland yellows, greens, and oranges in the general art style; and the forests and swamps you encounter tend to be made of nothing but those three colours. Even when the colours are different, like inside a hot-pink, heart-themed castle, they still seem washed out.
Bad -- Hard to See What's Going On
But the worst part of the game's level design is how hard it is to see what's going on -- be that in or out of battle. When fighting, numerous things are going on which only serve to block your view of the action. To start with, around your character is a circle that empties as you attack, block, or run. Then, each of your attacks and your enemies' attacks gets a little popup showing the name of the attack each time it is used.
Then, on top of the circle and the attack labels are actual weapon and damage effects which range from explosions to spattering blood. And if that wasn't bad enough, both in and out of battle, the trees and interior architecture also conspire to block your view of the battlefield -- forcing you to constantly wrestle with the camera.
All of this combined makes it practically impossible to dodge or block as you can't tell which monster is doing which action at any given moment.
Even in the in-game conversation scenes, it is hard to see what is going on. The characters are viewed from so far away you can't hope to see any facial expressions and, thanks to the top down camera angle, the main character Metallica is completely obscured by her massive witch's hat.
When it comes down to it, The Witch and the Hundred Knight is supported by a fun, customisable gameplay system and an enjoyable little story. And while the game's problems are largely cosmetic, they do negatively affect the gameplay.
Still, if you really like dungeon crawling and/or classic top-down hack n' slash games, you will likely be able to overlook the game's flaws. If not, you may find The Witch and the Hundred Knight equal parts frustrating and boring.
The Witch and the Hundred Knight was released in Japan on July 25, 2013, for the PlayStation 3. While it is scheduled for a Western release, no official date has been set.