Nippon Ichi created quite the name for themselves when they released the original Disgaea many years ago. The game went on to massive success both in their home nation of Japan and in the west. Due to it’s huge success in the west, a western branch of the company was opened up and would come to be known as NIS America. NIS America would go on to publish games from Nippon Ichi themselves as well as games from other parties such as Gust.
Their offerings from Nippon Ichi themselves normally stayed with the Disgaea series which has seen multiple installments since the original ground breaking game. Witch and the Hundred Knight, which we are looking at today is an original release from the creators of Disgaea and if you didn’t know any better, you would think it was Disgaea from looking at it.
Yes, everything in this game, from the writing, to the visuals, to the music, to the characters themselves screams Disgaea. Those familiar with Disgaea will probably view this as both a good and a bad thing. As far as the visuals go, the characters themselves look great, the models are large and detailed, and the portraits when the characters are talking all look fantastic and show a great range of expressions.
You even get full mouth movements when they are speaking. The negative side is that the game has stuck with the low res and kind of bland looking backgrounds and environments the Disgaea series has always had. This isn’t that big of a deal in a strategy RPG and it honestly isn’t a huge deal here, but in an action focused title with huge elements of exploration, it’s certainly more noticeable.
A quick blurb on the audio before we get into the game proper. The music feels like it was pulled right out of Disgaea and it is exactly what you would expect and just as fantastic as you would expect. The interesting note I have to make concerns the voice acting. As with most of their releases NIS America gave us a dual language option which is always welcome in my eyes. I always prefer the original japanese but the english voice acting is more than passable and is actually quite good.
What isn’t good about the english voice acting and something I found quite odd is that the entire thing isn’t voiced. When you have japanese selected the vast majority of the dialogue is voiced, from the most major story scenes, to minor scenes out on the field. However, with english selected only the major story scenes were voiced. Certainly keep this in mind when deciding what language you want your voices in.
The game starts off with an extended tutorial sequence where you are introduced to the Hundred Knight. It is a magical being that has no will of it’s own to start off with. Throughout the game, the Hundred Knight can make decisions of it’s own and depending on what you pick you can get different scenes.
You are summoned by the swamp witch Metallia who, like Disgaea’s protagonists plays on the bad side of things, however, unlike Disgaea’s protagonists, she is decidedly more evil and ruthless. She enjoys torturing her enemies and some of the scenes can get pretty demented, she also obviously doesn’t treat the Hundred Knight very well.
Your mission is to go to various parts of the world, assault the hidden pillars of temperance, and make the entire world a giant swamp. Metallia can only survive in swamps and she wants total control of the world, hence the giant swamp mission.
Along your quest you will meet a wide range of characters just as you would expect from a Nippon Ichi game and the dialogue between characters is snappy and fresh just like Nippon Ichi’s vaunted tradition.
Now you will notice earlier I said action, yes, this is an action RPG through and through and if it didn’t have that colorful Disgaea-ish anime coat of paint, you just might mistake this for a Diablo game.
The action is very fast paced and very hack and slashy with the enemies dropping tons of loot for you to use, sell, or do whatever you want with. The battle system is very basic on the surface, but there is a ton going on underneath the surface that really adds to it.
The first thing you will notice when you bring up the status screen is that you can equip up to 5 different weapons. Sounds simple enough, but remember, this game works very much like Disgaea, so things aren’t always as they seem.
For instance, if you equip three weapons of five attack each your attack will not be fifteen, it will be five. The game takes the average of all the weapons you have equipped to give you your total attack, so with the above setup, you will attack three times with five attack.
The next thing you will notice is that each weapon has a corresponding type next too it. The three attack types are slash, blunt, and magic. It is actually very important to mix up your equips instead of going heavy on one type if say you really like swords.
The reason for this is that slash attack might not work on some enemies and you might need to use a blunt attack just to inflict any meaningful damage. Some of the magical staffs can even fire projectiles which is a great way to get some attacks in before you charge in with your melee spree.
Then you will notice the numbers next to each weapon you equip. The numbers aren’t anything essential to follow, but you can get some nice bonuses out of it. For instance, you can equip whatever you want in whatever weapon slot and go however you like.
However, the game has a chain bonus system, so if you put a weapon numbered one in the one slot, two in the two slot, and so on, it will increase the bonus you get for executing chain combos. Executing these combos can net you extra mana, grade points, and end of stage bonus points.
The bonus points work very much like Disgaea in that you get items if you reach certain bonus levels and just like how in Disgaea you got huge bonuses for linking geo panels, you get the biggest bonuses for linking chain attacks which if made that much easier if you place your weapons in the correct number order.
Grade points work similar in that you build them up for linking chain attacks, but they can be used during a stage to temporarily increase your stats, restore health, or restore gigacals at the various pillars which basically serve as the checkpoints.
You can get all these bonus increases just based on the way you arrange your weapon slots and it sounds slightly overwhelming at first, but it’s a blast to play around with. Before you know it you will be arranging your weapons for max chain bonuses with the perfect balance between various weapon types for the stage you currently need to tackle.
Preparation isn’t done yet though, before you go into battle you are going to need to make sure you set your master and sub class, known as facet’s in this game. You won’t have any available when you first start but they will unlock as you progress through the game. How they work is that they change the approach to combat you are going to take.
For instance, the first facet you will unlock is called Power Fortress and this class will give you big boosts on attack and defense as well as a damage increase on hammers, unfortunately this class isn’t very good at magic and gets quite a big penalty on magic attacks with staffs. As you play through the game you will unlock ones that give you speed bonuses, magic bonuses, etc.
Each of these classes levels up independently from each other so when you switch facets you are essentially starting from level one all over again. I personally recommend keeping Wonder Knight (the default class, jack of all trades) as your master class and pick one of the more specialized ones for certain situations.
Luckily you don’t need to be actively equipped with a class for it to gain levels, it just needs to be set as your sub. So basically you can rip through enemies with Wonder Knight since it will most likely be your highest leveled class, and build up the others that way.
So you have your weapons organized, your facets selected, finally, it’s time to battle. When you are in action the two most important things to keep in mind are the gigacal meter and the stamina meter. The stamina meter works exactly as you think it would, each action takes a certain amount of stamina.
If you attack you lose stamina, if you dodge, you lose stamina. If you do a magical dodge which slows down time, you lose even more stamina. The meter quickly restores itself when you aren’t performing actions but you still need to keep an eye on it since if you run out of stamina you plop on the ground exhausted and the enemies can get free hits.
The gigacal meter is slightly more complicated. It’s basically a timer that counts down from 100% when you are on the field and this is something you need to be concerned about in new areas as it counts down very quickly in unexplored territory and seems to not move at all in explored territory. If it hits 0% you essentially die, but it’s a little different from just dying by losing all your HP. When you lose your HP you basically just lose a random item in your reserve and spawn at the most recent checkpoint you activated.
When you die by running out of gigacals, you lose ALL the items in your reserve as well as half the experience you earned in that level. I found myself paying a lot more attention to my Gigacal meter than even my HP as the penalties for running out of Gigacals are a lot heavier than dying in the traditional fashion. It also seemed to me that unless you are working on a new facet and are severely under leveled, I rarely had to even worry about my HP running out. When you get hit your replenish it automatically anyway (mind you by consuming gigacals).
Fighting itself is actually very basic as mentioned before. You hit square to execute your combos and go through the various weapons you have equipped. You can dash into enemies and dodge their attacks as well, if you execute a dodge at the right time, it will become a magic dodge which will slow down time allowing you to get the jump on enemies. You will also see an AP bar that is used to execute special attacks. There is a super attack mode that you can initialize which won’t run out until all of your gigacals are depleted and they decrease very quickly in this mode.
I recommend saving this for bosses, hell, the game even tells you that. You can also consume enemies when their HP is under 20% and while you won’t get experience for a consumed enemy, it will restore a portion of your gigacals. Doing this also fills your stomach up with garbage which you can sell for money later.
Outside of battle you will be exploring around, uncovering the land. Other than fighting you will mainly be looking for treasure chests for loot or stomach stones to increase your holding capacity, yes, apparently you store gathered loot in your stomach. There are also towns you can visit on your travels and they are slightly more interesting than usual towns where you just shop and talk to people.
You can certainly do those things, but, you can also invade houses, take them over, and force the inhabitants to give you items. Houses have a level attached to them and if you are kicked out by the owner, your HP will be reduced to one. This won’t be an issue with most places however.
The problem with a lot of these systems is that they sound great on a sell sheet and make the game seem more deep, but a lot of them don’t have a huge effect. For instance, you can get sets of special skills called Tochka, which can be really neat and flashy attacks, however, they are seldom more effective than just wrecking enemies with your standard combo attacks.
This goes for a lot of the game. Few things are more effective than just sticking with your default Facet and attacking things until they are dead. You will never run out of Gigacals if you use the checkpoints and, as I mentioned before, I never really paid attention to the HP at all.
There is a karma system in the game where if you raid houses and attack townspeople they won’t like you and the prices of items in the shops will increase dramatically. But again, I only bought a handful of items in the shops since you find most of the things you will need as regular drops on the field.
I also implore that you save often as I found the game to be quite buggy at times. During my playing I had the game lock up on me a couple times as I was transporting back to my base from the field and even had a disastrous event where I lost 4 hours of gameplay. So yeah, save often.
So all in all the game isn’t nearly as polished as Disgaea, but it is just as fun. I found myself addicted to looting and fighting and stuff as simple as whacking an enemy with a giant hammer never gets old since the attacks feel so visceral, you can really feel the weight behind that hammer.
The game has a lot of deep gameplay mechanics that are a blast to play around with if you choose too, just realize that the rewards aren’t that great for delving into these systems. If you choose to take part in this quest to make the world a swamp though you will get drawn in by the great music, snappy writing, and fun characters.
The game releases on the same day this review is getting published and it’s something I certainly recommend, especially if you are looking for something a little different from the house of Disgaea. It has it’s flaws and it doesn’t necessarily live up to the legacy of Disgaea, but you will enjoy the adventure.