The Witch and the Hundred Knight is the latest from NIS, the creators behind the beloved Disgaea series. In this tale the malevolent Swamp Witch, Metallia, summons the Hundred Knight demon, players, to help her envelop the world with her swamp. Yes, like Disgaea, the perspective is behind the role of the “bad guy” here. Unlike Laharl’s band of rogues, however, there’s not one likable charcters here, least of all Metallia. The dialogue tries to be funny with a surprisingly vulgar tone that lacks charm. The story does evolve, but not much. It’s altogether hard to digest.
Story aside, the gameplay is actually pretty good. It’s a dungeon crawler where the plucky HK dives into areas, hacks monsters apart, opens up pillars to spread the swamp, and so forth. What sets TWATHK apart is that each dungeon has a timer via Gcals, which limits everything HK does. Fear not for every pillar conquered can be used to warp around the map, upgrade temporary abilities, or even exit the stage to return to base to level up, buy/sell items, etc. Another alluring idea comes with the villages spread throughout the maps, which serve as information hubs as well as areas to raid houses in order to gain rare items. It can be a bit much at first, balancing weapons, the Gcal meter, and grinding, but it ultimately clicks despite its somewhat messy integration.
Here’s where we get into another mixed bag. On one hand the hand drawn 2D art is gorgeous. On the other hand the environments are stale, save a few, and the character sprites look a bit blurry and don’t jive with the actual art. And that’s the real crux of TWATHK: messiness. There are some great ideas here with a few occasional moments of bliss in the art, music, and combat, but they are so far and few between that it’s hard to recommend. Plus, to be a stickler, those load times…
The Witch and the Hundred Knight feels like the shell of another NIS masterpiece, but the insides of, well, something fully not there. It’s an unfortunate jumbled mess. For fans of the developer, perhaps it’s worth a try, but it will be surely forgotten by everyone else in the grander scheme of 2014 RPGs.