Metallia is a foul witch. With her dirty mouth and filthy temper her status as the Swamp Witch is particularly fitting. Unfortunately for Metallia, however, she cannot leave the confines of her swamp. Enter the Hundred Knight, an odd little being summoned and consequently commanded by Metallia to do her bidding. It’s your job as the Hundred Knight to spread Metallia’s swamp and influence over the lands before she meets her end in one hundred days. The Witch and the Hundred Knight is a Japanese action RPG first seen on the PS3 and now upgraded with extras for the PS4. But actions RPGs are two a penny, aren’t they? So what differentiates this one from so many others in the genre? Ah, that would be the potty mouth and the fact that you’re with the bad guys.
It becomes obvious almost immediately that you’re playing something slightly dark. You’re a witch’s familiar for a start, and while I won’t spoil any plot points for you, I will say that you’re about to witness some comically unkind behaviour. Metallia really is a piece of work. Personally I found her to be a breath of fresh air. The bleeped-out swearing is hilarious and I love the way her black mind works. If you have the tendency to side with evil characters, it’s likely you’ll enjoy Metallia’s persona straight away. The English voice-acting is exactly what we’ve come to expect from NIS and games like the awesome Disgaea series. Admittedly, the cut scenes do bang on a bit from time to time, but if you’re at all familiar with the complete-a-level-watch-cut-scene formula, you’ll know this is where you can slurp your tea and dunk biscuits at regular intervals. Just make sure you’re stocked-up on the biscuits. The story is, at points, a bit bland and I admit I zoned out a little from time to time and lost a few unfortunate gingers nuts to the bottom of my mug.
Of course in any RPG, gameplay is going to be the driving force and once the game gets going, there’s plenty to think about – lots of lovely stats, numbers, levels, grades, HP, AP, Gcals and stomach space. Yes, you did read that right. I’ll get back to all that in a minute. Let me just get something awkward out of the way first. The tutorial is one of the worst I’ve ever played in any game. It’s slow, it’s tedious, and it spends too long teaching you stuff a village idiot could do in his sleep. Please, just push past it. Once you’re set loose in the wild, as it were, the game’s pacing improves.
There is a lot to learn in The Witch and the Hundred Knight. Metallia will send you out to various locations to find and smash up pillars to spread her swamp. While this is an action RPG, the action part is reasonably simple. It’s really just a matter of mashing buttons. But you only have a limited time on each map governed by your Gcals which begin at 100 and will steadily drop depending on your HP. You can find spawn points which will allow you to assign earned grade points to your attacks and defence etc if you’re planning on continuing through the map or they can take you back to Metallia’s house where your Gcals will reset. It’s an interesting system that essentially means you’re on the clock on every map to reach your goal before the Gcals run down. You’ll need to balance exploration, loot hunting and grade points with getting home safely without losing all your lovely new finds. The other interesting feature here is that any XP you earn on each map will not be given to you until you return home.
Back to the stomach thing. The Hundred Knight will swallow his finds. He will also swallow his victims if he’s in need of the Gcals, although this will begin to fill him up with garbage He’s only got so much room in his stomach so again you’re balancing keeping up your Gcals to stay on the map longer with the desire to find good items which also need space in your stomach. Unless you’re in possession of a Bowel Dump to get rid of all that garbage you may need to return home to empty yourself. Lovely.
Fighting in The Witch and the Hundred Knight is as easy as pushing a button. Locking onto a target will make things even easier. Unfortunately the semi-3D top-down graphics do sometimes get in the way of all the action. It’s quite common for a tree to block your view, so it’s lucky really that fighting is so easy. The tactical part really comes in before you venture onto the map. You have three weapons sets, each of which can equip up to five weapons, and a click of L2 or R2 will swap them over mid-battle. Not only are you searching for powerful weapons on your travels but you are searching for weapons that can be stacked in a particular order to score you chain bonuses. The Hundred Knight will strike with his arsenal in the order that you place them, so if you can stack them with ascending numbers (each one will have a number from one to five) you may score more from weaker weapons than you would from high-end ones that are not in order. Combat is far from sophisticated but once you build your character up, it feels nicely satisfying. It’s almost a reward after all that upgrading, fiddling and slot-swapping, to go out and beat the living daylights out of something.
Graphics on the whole look pretty good. The static foreground animations are excellent, bright and colourful and very Disgaea-like. The backgrounds during cut scenes, however, can be a little murky and fuzzy and it seems to age the game and make you feel like you’re on PS3. The music, however, is awesome. It’s catchy, memorable and supports the weird and perverse ambience the game is going for. It’s a twisted Tim Burton Fairy tale.
If you’ve previously played the PS3 version, you’ll find something new in this ‘Revival Edition’. The Tower of Illusion. Once it opens up you can visit it any time you like and enjoy its random encounters. It’s a great tool to level up either yourself or your weapons. Best of all, though, you can summon and play as Metallia herself, and boy can that girl fight. While the tower is essentially a grind, it is a fun one. The Revival Edition is great for new players, but I would say if you’ve owned and played it on PS3 and unless you’re a superfan, there’s not a lot extra here for you aside from The Tower.
Not shy about being potentially offensive, The Witch and the Hundred Knight knows how to be evil. While the story could use the occasional kick up the backside, it’s still entertaining and, in places, absolutely hilarious. The RPG elements are original enough to make this game stand out. No, it’s not the greatest action RPG to ever hit the known universe, but if you’re a fan of the genre and didn’t catch it on PS3 there is still a lot here to enjoy.
S J Hollis Rating – 7/10