The Witch and the Hundred Knight: Revival Edition Review – PlayStation 4

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The Witch and the Hundred Knight: Revival Edition is the upcycled port of Nippon Ichi’s original release The Witch and the Hundred Knight. Nipppon Ichi is known for its rich lineage of JRPG games including the Disgaea, La Pucelle, and Rhapsody franchises.  Like those titles, The Witch and the Hundred Knight is far from the standard turn-based RPG we have come to expect from the east, and more in tune with the North American action-based isometric RPG classics Diablo and Gauntlet.

In The Witch and the Hundred Knight, gamers take the role of the Hundred Knight – an immortal demon warrior who has been summoned by the Swamp Witch Metallia to help her in her ongoing battle with her rival, the Forest Witch Malia, in taking control of the land of Madea.

The Hundred Knight might look a lot like He-Man’s harmless floating sidekick Orko, but in all reality he is one wicked warrior.   A master of weaponry and magic, the Hundred Knight is tasked by the Witch Metallia to raid the swamp’s neighboring villages and take control of the powerful Pillars of Temperance, which when released allow Metallia to venture out beyond her swampy imprisonment.

The journey would be fairly straightforward if it weren’t for the ingenious gameplay mechanic of GigaCals (or GCals), which are units of energy that the Knight needs to maintain in order to continue with his quest; when the GCal meter is empty, no more respawns can be made within in the given level. This brings up a moral conundrum as GCals are obtained by doing evil deeds – so whether or not the Knight (or gamer for that matter) really wants to support the evil Metallia in her evil plan, he has little choice but to do so in order to survive.

Rather than turn-based attacking and spellcasting, The Witch and the Hundred Knight’s in-game combat is real-time hack and slash fare. It is rewarding to hack through half a dozen minions, absorbing their energy along the way – but boss fights can be a bit trying with the somewhat wonky controls that seem to hang the character up on scenery more often than they should.

The Knight can equip up to five weapons at a time – but in another bold gameplay move, the developers have set it up so the Knight cycles through weapons automatically with each strike. It is an ingenious mechanic that allows gamers to see which weapons inflict the optimum damage on particular species of enemy while building up a massive 5-strike combo.  Don’t think that this system simply hand-holds the gamer through every battle, though, as different arrangements of weapons can lead to either increased or decreased combo multipliers, putting gamers to the task of realizing these optimal combinations.

There are also combat aspects (i.e. raiding homes and businesses) in which the action is entirely controlled by the game and out of view of the screen – in these events the winner is decided upon at random, but the payout in loot is infinitely more rewarding.

The Witch and the Hundred Knight also employs an interesting concept with the townsfolk and other non-playable characters (NPCs) – challenging gamers to first take control through force, then maintain a level of rapport in order to achieve bigger tax payouts. This adds extra dimension to the non-combat play as gamers are continually incentivized to interact with characters many times over.

The rather lackluster visuals of the original release received a significant upscaling for the PS4 – with all-new character models, textures, and lighting, the Revival Edition definitely improves on its predecessor. Even with the improvements, The Witch and the Hundred Knight Revival Edition is fairly low-key on visuals and hardly the game one would use demonstrate the power of the PS4.

Revival Edition’s audio is still the mixed-bag we saw in the original, sporting the same entertaining voiceovers from the witch overlord Metallia, who likes to call out players as “idiots” and “dumbasses” (and worse). Sadly, the voiceovers occur only during cutscenes and certain important in-game scenarios, rather than throughout the game.  The sound effects are lackluster overall, but the Tenpei Sato soundtrack is fantastic.  In the end, it really is hard to fault a proper JRPG port for poor audio, considering how much is lost in translation during importation.

With the original game racking up over 50 hours of gameplay in all, it’s kind of surprising that Nippon Ichi felt compelled to include additional gameplay modes in Revival Edition, but they certainly did. Adding an entire scenario based around the “Tower of Illusion,” gamers are treated to a wave-based combat challenge mode that easily trumps the main gameplay in fun and enjoyment.  In Tower of Illusion, gamers offer up weapons in sacrifice, thereby changing the difficulty of the enemies; the more powerful the weapon offered, the more challenging the enemy waves become.  It may seem backward, but it definitely up the ante on action, and the ability to finally summon the witch Metallia to do your bidding for once (instead of the other way around) makes her somewhat less detesting.

Die hard Nippon Ichi fans are certain to love The Witch and the Hundred Knight Revival Edition. If not simply for the upgraded graphics over the original release, for the infinitely more enjoyable Tower of Illusion mode.  Others should really check out a playable demo before investing in this unique title.

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