From its initial reveal, it was clear that The Witch and the Hundred Knight had an interesting premise. After all, it comes from the minds behind the long-running Disgaea franchise and has an evil protagonist similar to that series. It also features the same Japanese-y gothic style its predecessor was known for, but of course, with its own twist. In some it does still end up being quite similar, but there are some glaring issues that detract from what could have been.
Surprisingly, coming from NIS's previous evil-but-likeable protagonists, Hundred Knight's Metallia is far from likable, being downright evil as she assaults her victims in ways that might surprise even the hardcore fans of NIS' work. Usually in a NIS-developed game the actual evil actions are done off-camera or described via text instead of visually, whereas in Hundred Knight's case it takes place where the player can see and hear it.
The story starts off with the witch Metallia attempting to wreak havoc upon the world with the help of the "Hundred Knight" (hint: you) by summoning it into her world. Surprisingly to Metallia, what's supposed to be one of the most powerful familiars of all time turns out to be a creature with a helmet, arms and legs that's more adorable in looks than anything. It creates an amusing rift between the two characters, as the Hundred Knight is an interesting foil to Metallia's vindictive nature.
So you end up living as her servant serving her every whim, most of the time going out to kill, destroy and ransack areas and villages because Metallia's too lazy to wreak havoc herself. It sounds interesting, but there are some issues with how the developers went about implementing it.
Unlike the Disgaea titles, Hundred Knight is straight hack-and-slash gameplay through and through. Similar to the Diablo series, you control the Hundred Knight in top-down view style and can attack and defend. And since just general attacks would be boring, it's pleasing to see some diversity with how the system works.
To start with, there are a couple different weapon types available. If you like one-on-one encounters, you have the hammer. Spears are good for controlling crowds and you can combine weapons so you have the best of both worlds to clear out some of the ranks in the meantime. Add to this more attack types and weapon nuances and a plethora of items to buy: stat nerds will be in heaven.
This sounds fun, being able to try out different approaches on the fly, but NIS added in a "Gigacal" timer that controls how long you can stay out to pillage and plunder by tying your actions to decrease said timer. This does force the player to think first, but it depletes too fast and feels like a nuisance instead of a balancer.
It becomes obvious once you get further in why the developers implemented that timer system, there isn't much new once you get farther in the game. You'll be controlling the Hundred Knight in another similar area fighting enemies as you make your way to the boss and the cut scene that follows. Once you've seen the first few areas you've basically seen it all with only the story to keep you pushing forward.
Said story cut scenes tend to overstay their welcome, as well. Some scenes went on for almost 20 minutes and it's just too much. There is an option to fast-forward through these scenes, though. It's almost as if the developers knew they needed to create breaks between the repetitiveness but went a bit too far in trying to remedy that.
The soundtrack is easily one of the standouts as the composer did a great job matching the music to the action on the screen. The voice acting isn't up to the same standards though in the dub, tolerable at best and grating otherwise.
Visually the game is what you expect from the Disgaea team but in HD, although there's times when the stage layering creates issues where it's hard to either see the Hundred Knight or determine what is the stage and what is added scenery. Like other aspects of the game, reigning in some of the extra fluff would have made a big difference here.
If you enjoy the narrative there will be enough to carry you through the game, but there's a number of nagging issues that detract from the experience. With a little more restraint in some area and expanding in others, this could have been a solid title for NIS America.
|A unique art style that expands on the developerâ€™s prior work.|
|The music is one of the gameâ€™s biggest standouts.|
|The weapon mechanics are an interesting touch.|
|Once youâ€™ve seen the first few hours, youâ€™ve experienced most of what the game has to offer.|
|Voice acting can be quite grating sometimes.|
|The art style could have been a bit more reigned in.|