The Witch and the Hundred Knight Preview
Nippon Ichi has been giving JRPG fanatics fantastically engaging, wonderfully in-depth productions for years. Granted, you really have to be a confirmed JRPG aficionado to appreciate what this developer brings to the table. However, if you are a member of that extremely passionate albeit niche group, you know all about NIS, which is why you’re anticipating The Witch and the Hundred Knight. A new top-down hack ‘n slash quest that blends old-school Zelda gameplay with role-playing complexity, this one has loads of potential.
Given the odd name, one might assume that the setting and narrative are a tad wacky. …and one would be right. That’s classic NIS, though, so the fans won’t be surprised in the slightest. There’s this witch, see, and she’s destined to remain trapped in a smelly, grimy swamp. We’re not really sure why she’s stuck there and in fact, neither is she. Hence, she sets out to expand the restricting boundaries of her swamp, so she can discover more of the world. She’ll need some help, though, and that’s where the Hundred Knight comes in. Apparently, he’s a single individual that is comprised of a group of 99 other knights, which is why the word “knight” isn’t pluralized in the title. Bizarre, but accurate.
Anyway, combat will be the unexpected centerpiece. It’s a real-time, combo-based system that demands your attention. You can actually equip up to five weapons at any given time; each weapon can land an individual strike during a complex combo attack. Additionally, you’ll have access to killer skills and special summons, and you can change your character class for even more variety. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each class will be critical, as will your timing and execution during enemy encounters. Based on the screenshots and media released thus far, the battles appear a tad chaotic, so keep a close eye on your foes.
The atmosphere seems darker than past NIS efforts. As you might anticipate, the swamp isn’t exactly a sunny setting, and the enemies you face are also dark and forbidding. You’ll encounter all sorts of intimidating monsters, but many of them hearken back to the origins of horror; i.e., witches, ghosts, demons, etc. Essentially, the presentation reminds me of Disgaea mixed with “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” along with a dash of Brave Fencer Musashi. It better be appealing because the developers have admitted that there’s some grinding involved…if you’re up for it, though, the rewards will be well worth the requisite effort.
Treasure and character advancement lie at the core of this experience. Getting stronger, finding better equipment and trouncing tougher and tougher foes is the name of the game. Those who are familiar with the standard dungeon-crawling – or in this case, swamp-crawling – format should feel right at home. However, the added customization and depth will add substance to the hack ‘n slash combat, so you’ll be involved in plenty of micromanagement. As for structure, there are individual levels that you must conquer; at the end of each level waits a difficult boss. The farther you go, the stronger your opponents get, but those opponents will also drop better loot. If the fighting is as entertaining as it sounds, grinding will be fun.
The Witch and the Hundred Knight has a fair amount of singular charm and style. There’s a blend of artistic ingredients here, and the combat is another mix. Provided everything mixes together well and things don’t feel hopelessly muddled, the result should be highly addicting. NIS specializes in that, too, by the way: Addicting games you just can’t seem to stop playing. Again, you have to be a dedicated JRPG lover but if you are, you know where to go. This developer has you covered.
1/17/2014 Ben Dutka