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Comical games such as "Cotton" and "Trouble Witches Neo," for example, typically present the broom-riding ladies as cute and somewhat misguided characters. Even recently popular manga and anime "Witchcraft Works" presents most of its witches the same way, although it certainly has its share of villainous mistresses of the occult.
Once in a while, though, you get characters that lean closer to the image of those feared witches of old than, say, the mean "witch" who broke your heart in a million pieces or flipped you off at the freeway ramp. One of those is titular swamp witch Metallia in "The Witch and the Hundred Knight." Originally named Metallica before the the U.S. localization team"s legal department got involved, this master of puppets looks like one of those harmless witches from manga and anime lore. It doesn"t take long in the game, however, before players realize that this is one youthful-looking hag who is bad to the bone.
Thanks to a sadistic and cruel personality as well as an overly aggressive English translation that goes beyond the source material, Metallia initially comes off as a pretty unlikable, potty-mouthed character in this action-adventure game. As with all tales, however, you"ll need to commit some time to learn her full story and experience the requisite payoff for the character, though you can play the game as nicely or as ruthlessly as you want.
Gameplay is pretty much based on overhead action as you control Metallia"s underling, the Hundred Knight. Its design almost feels like a roguelike instead of a straight-up action game as you go through various stages and collect items while fighting foes. One interesting feature is the ability to equip various weapons that influence how your attack combos look like. Your knight also has a hunger bar that limits how much time you can spend in dungeons so you have to balance exploration with fulfilling the parameters of your mission while satiating your little warrior"s appetite.
Choice plays a role in the game, whether it be picking decisions for your Knight during key conversations, deciding whether or not to invade people"s homes, or going for its three different endings. The gameplay design has its moments but doesn"t have the same polish that"s seen in Nippon Ichi"s role-playing games. The camera also can be annoying, something that"s exacerbated when stuff like foliage covers your view. The Tim Burton-style soundtrack, on the other hand, is excellent and is a high point for the game. Folks who like dark humor will appreciate the story as well, though certain parts of the dialogue might make some folks uncomfortable. One plus is that you can switch to the Japanese language track if you wish.
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Overall, The Witch and the Hundred Knight sports an intriguing premise that doesn"t quite reach its potential due to its uneven execution. It"s certainly not for everybody, though hardcore fans of quirky games and roguelikes might still enjoy what it has to offer.