The Witch and the Hundred Knight

Hundred Knight banner

The Witch and the Hundred Knight
Playstation 3
The reviewer bought this game himself.

I did not finish this game. For reasons that will become obvious as you progress through this review I could not bear to carry on playing this game, so if you feel a reviewer’s word is only worth hearing if he or she has completed the product, then consider this my disclosure. I got to chapter 5, this is a bad game, I am not going to finish it.

Witches Gone Wild

The Witch and the Hundred Knight is about Metallia, a self-proclaimed great witch that lives in a swamp that she cannot leave. You see, Metallia is the Swamp Witch, and the world is covered with magical pillars that prevent the swamp from spreading. Thus, she summons you, the legendary warrior Hundred Knight, to go out into the world beyond the swamp and break the pillars. Except, you are nothing like the legends said you’d be… in fact, you are kind of tiny and dumb.

Hundred Knight Visco

Just like NIS’ more popular Disgaea series the story of The Witch and the Hundred Knight is cut up into chapters. Each of these chapters introduces a new story development, oftentimes a rival witch that Metallia wants you to defeat, and sends you to a new area that you must clear. Some of these stories have an interesting premise, such as an early rivalry between Metallia and the nearby Forest Witch, but what they all have in common is that the storytelling is awkward.

The various cutscenes are done in the style of visual novels with pictures of the characters accompanying their dialogue, which is sometimes voiced. While sufficient, these scenes are often drawn out and the pacing is all-around off. A moment that stands out for me is an early encounter with an ancient tree that is brought up out of nowhere and disappears just as quickly. The whole five minutes long exchange was baffling in its own right and I had no clue what kind of tone it tried to convey. If it was meant to be funny, then the joke definitely fell flat.

Despite leaning towards the comedic tone common in most NIS games the other big selling point of The Witch and the Hundred Knight is its sadism. Metallia is an evil character and you are her underling. In any other game you might expect some sort of redemption to occur, but for as long as I played it was torture, and rape, and murder, and cruelty all throughout. Many reviewers evidently couldn’t deal with this, but frankly I can; the issue is just that it grows boring after a while. Metallia is a one-note character for far too long and after a while her rude dialogue just blends together into a flurry of insults and complaining. The game has some interesting lore to it, so sometimes I found myself wishing Metallia would shut up just so I can read what the actually interesting characters have to say.

Story score: 3/10

Stabbing, chopping, and cursing

The game is an isometric action-RPG that has you explore large areas filled with monsters. Hundred Knight can hold five weapons at once. The order of these in the equipment menu dictates how your combo plays out as you hammer the attack-button. Enemies can be weak or immune to certain types of damage, so for the best results you’ll find yourself moving your arsenal around quite frequently. It does make some bosses absolute cake, as you can quickly figure out what they are weak too and steamroll the fight from there.

Witch and the Hundred Knight stage

Running around and stabbing monsters with your supply of giant weapons is fun for a while, but when you get past the first few laughs it doesn’t take long to realize that this is all there is to it. There is hours upon hours of running around and killing monsters to do and the combat is nowhere near deep enough to make this interesting. There is more to The Witch and the Hundred Knight, but none of it creates any lasting variety. The various summons you get, for example, only serve to destroy specific obstacles and have limited use in combat. Likewise anima, a resource that has a rare chance to drop when defeating an enemy, is supposedly useful in Metallia’s store, except I found nothing in there that I wanted to buy.

Another factor to keep in mind is that Hundred Knight runs on a timer. Each time you leave the HUB area you’ll have 100 calories to burn through and everything you do makes this tick down. At the pillars you destroy you can exchange some of your score for temporary upgrades and restoring these calories is one of the options. Likewise, you can eat severely-weakened enemies to restore this as well, but it’ll fill your inventory with trash that you can’t throw away while in a stage. This mechanic was fun, I admit. It works well, it has a nice explanation in-universe, and offers a risk versus reward system where spending longer in a stage nets you extra bonuses.

Hundred Knight town

By far the most useless mechanic, which is saying something considering how many there are, was the raiding. Any house you find that has a visible door can be attacked, sending Hundred Knight into a rampage. Without any influence from the player it will decide whether Hundred Knight or the resident wins. If you win, the house is taken over by Metallia and you get a prize. If you lose, you are kicked out and lose health, time, and some calories. So many things are wrong here, so let’s just list them:

  • The prizes are useless. They are often items you find everywhere or which are in no way remarkable.
  • If you have too many of the item already, you’ll lose the prize entirely.
  • It’s rarely just one house. You’ll find entire villages and Metallia encourages you to conquer all of them.
  • Raiding gives you bad karma and if you have too much of that, then the immortal villagers will randomly attack you.
  • You get no experience from any of this and there is no consequence for not doing it. The sooner you stop with it, the better.

At the end of the day, the gameplay of The Witch and the Hundred Knight has an ambitious core idea that it tries to support with a massive amount of mechanics that all lack depth. Even genre staples like gold and shops don’t work because you are loaded down with money and the few, rare shops you do find have nothing even remotely useful to sell.

Gameplay score: 3/10

New and familiar

If you were to close your eyes and listen to the music and voice-acting alone you could conceivably feel like you are playing a Disgaea game. Tenpei Sato’s iconic, crazy music style lends The Witch and the Hundred Knight some much needed praise and the quality of the English dub is remarkably tolerable. Sarah Williams (Sayaka fromĀ Madoka Magica and Jinx fromĀ League of Legends) gives exactly the right personality to the bitchy, rude Metallia and Kaoru Mizuhara lends some cute squeaky noises to the silent protagonist Hundred Knight. I also enjoyed the performance of Xanthe Huynh (Ui from K-ON! and Nagisa from Madoka Magica) as the swamp fairy Mani and whoever voiced Metallia’s deadpan butler.

Hundred Knight in-engine

Graphically, the game leaves a lot to be desired. The 3D art for the characters looks cheap and animations are stilted, which is even worse for the enemies. Some foes are even difficult to see because of their tiny size and color that blends in with the environment. And that’s a sin if you ask me! Takehito Harada’s art is amazing and the designs, when seen as a flat sprite during the dialogue sequences, looks perfectly fine.

The environments look good in comparison, but suffer from a different issue entirely: repetition. Indeed, just like how it gets boring to run around and smack enemies for hours, the various areas the game sends you to are long, empty, and lead to a lot of frustrating backtracking. And when it’s not oversized plains that takes an hour to map out, it’ll be a series of maze-like corridors. My biggest gripe here is that the map is incredibly inefficient and only a small area around the Hundred Knight is considered “explored”, even though you can see much further.

And the nail in the coffin? The game has a crashing issue! Many times I had been exploring for half an hour when the screen turned black and the Playstation rebooted. First it actively encourages you to stay out in the field for a long time, where you can’t save, might I add, and then it just decides to crash back to the Playstation menu. So no, a bit of good voice acting and Tenpei Sato can’t save that, this is not okay.

Presentation score: 3/10

Verdict

Despite everything, I feel that The Witch and the Hundred Knight at least tried. The quality of the sprites, the excellent music score, and dedication to giving each character a unique spin are examples of that, it’s just that everything else didn’t work in practice. The levels are large and barren, filled with annoying enemies and potential for the game to crash on you. Each stage vastly outstays its welcome and your reward for repetitively grinding your way through them is another awkward cutscene. Too many balls were dropped and the final result is a game that is unappealing and broken.

30/100

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