Publisher: NIS America
Developer: NIS/Nora Games
I feel like I should have a stronger opinion about The Witch and the Hundred Knight than I do. It’s got all sorts of things that, in theory, should either be amazing or terrible. A couple of bizarre scenes that strongly imply gang rape and cannibalism (kind of). An insane, nonsensical storyline in which you get to play as the villain. Graphics that would barely be passable on the Wii. Action RPG gameplay that reminds me of one of my favorite franchises, Ys. And, most obviously, a title that’s an affront to grammar.
Instead, I’m just kind of…meh. Not that I don’t have moderately strong opinions on some of those things, of course. But overall, looking at the whole package? “Meh” pretty much covers it.
I blame the fact that, more often than not, The Witch and the Hundred Knight loves to get in the way of itself. Seemingly every few steps, you’re confronted with endless cutscenes, and every time that happens you have to advance through each individual line of dialogue. Admittedly, there is the option to fast-forward, but, as I learned the hard way early on, the plot here is so strange that one fast-forward and you’re almost totally lost.
Not only that, there’s the whole weapon-switching thing. In certain types of RPGs — basically any where the action doesn’t take place in real-time — it’s all well and good to have different types of attacks work against different types of enemies. When the whole point of the game is to hack and slash your way through your opponents, however, it works substantially less well. As if the game’s flow wasn’t disrupted enough by those aforementioned cutscenes, you also have to pause every few seconds to switch from one weapon class to another. (It’s possible, of course, that I just missed the tutorial on how to quick-switch between weapons, but if that’s the case, then the game gets docked points for not making it obvious where to find that info out after the fact.)
What’s unfortunate about these two things is that The Witch and the Hundred Knight has the potential to be a whole lot better — or, at the very least, more distinctive. Parts of the story may be bizarre, to say nothing of offensive, but they still highlight an approach that’s refreshingly weird. I mean, you play as the villain’s henchman, your boss is shockingly foul-mouthed (her insult of choice seems to be “vomiting whore”, and she uses it at every opportunity), and there’s the sequence in which someone gets turned into a mouse, possibly raped by other mice, and then gets eaten.
Like I said: weird, slightly offensive, but highly original. But it’s easy to overlook those things because you’re constantly being bombarded with information and tasks. It doesn’t help, either, that the game doesn’t even have a consistent visual style. One moment you’re wandering around on a fuzzy-looking board and everything looks like it came out of Wii game, the next you’re getting close-ups on the characters and everything looks fine. It’s mostly hideous, but there are enough times when it looks good that you’re just left wondering what the designers were thinking.
Of course, the same could be said about The Witch and the Hundred Knight as a whole. It’s bursting with ideas, but it doesn’t really know what to do with them — and for that reason, unless you really like reading and switching weapons, it’s probably not worth your time.