Monday, April 14, 2014

Full Review: Witch and Hero (3DS)

First off, apologies that this article is coming out a few days late.  Things happened in the later half of the week that I hadn't anticipated (nothing bad) and I wasn't able to complete this article on time, or even in a form that I could post on Saturday, which is something that I've done in the past.  So now, here is Friday's post today, on Monday.

Witch and Hero is a game that I first saw back in January when the demo became available in Nintendo's eShop, despite the game having been released since April 2013.  The demo was pretty short, coming in at only 19 minutes, but it did everything a demo is supposed to do.  I was introduced to the concepts of the game and played through the first couple of levels.  I was immediately taken with the "retro" visual and musical style, enough so that a week or two later, I bought the game via Nintendo's eShop.  FK Digital, the company behind Witch and Hero have made a game that's charming, fun and can be played in short bursts when you know you'll only have a few minutes while the Top Ramen noodles boil to perfection.

You probably shouldn't be expecting much in the way of story from this game, as it is attempting to emulate the JRPGs of the late 1980s (Dragon Warrior, Final Fantasy, Ultima: Exodus).  The story is something that you find out before the gameplay begins and it's about as bare bones as an RPG story can be, but it's all done with a sense of humor.  You're told in the intro that the Witch and the Hero go off to kill Medusa, but the witch is turned to stone and the Hero is beaten to a pulp.  The Hero manages to escape with the Witch, but he seeks revenge and must kill Medusa to release the curse on the Witch.  How much more of a story do you need?

The game is pretty basic.  You move the Hero with the joystick.  Your mission/goal is to kill of the hordes of enemies that come at you from all over the screen.  You are to protect the Witch who is sitting stationary in the middle of the screen.  You both have your own health meters and while you regenerate health after you reach 0 HP by lying prone, if the Witch loses all her HP, she crumbles.  You attack enemies by running into them and you damage to each other.  If you attack from behind, you are awarded with a different attack sound, you do more and take less damage than from frontal assaults.

Later in the game when you are able to temporarily bring the Witch back to life (with the blood of your enemies), you can change between two spells she continuously casts with "X" and have her face whichever direction you want her to cast her spells in with the "L & R" shoulder buttons.  Even later, after you find the Holy Sword (of course there has to be a holy sword), you can become super charged and do a lot of damage by charging up a meter that fills as you kill enemies in the stage.

As you go through the stages, you earn both experience points and money.  The experience points raise your level (this is an RPG after all), while the money you use to upgrade your Sword, Shield, Boots (speed) or the Witches Fireball or Storm spell.  I do not know if there is a level cap for experience (I reached level 48), but the equipment and spells max out at level 20.

A lot of the reviews online bring up the repetitive gameplay that makes up the majority of Witch and Hero and I cannot argue at all with this observation.  The game is exceedingly repetitive.  You will often find yourself grinding at the last stage you were able to complete so that you can purchase enough upgrades to get you through the next stage.  If you never played any of the late 80s / early 90s RPGs and were used to grinding levels, then this game probably will become very boring to you very quickly.  What I liked was that I could pick the game up, go through a stage which would take no more than two minutes, maybe raise a level and make enough gold to buy an upgrade or two then put the game back down.

As you can tell, the art style is very similar to something that you would find in the early Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy games.  This is something that really drew me into the game.  Just looking at the world map, I knew what it was that F K Digital was trying to get across to the player.  While there is no exploration of the world and each stage is only a single screen with a graphical style that represents the geographical region/area that you are in, I feel that anything more would have felt out of place.

Even the monsters look like they could be found in Dragon Warrior, although as the game progresses, they look more like early SNES era monsters.  And yes, in classic RPG style, a lot of the monster sprites are reused but given a different pallet, meaning they are stronger.  Little touches like this that harken back to established rules for RPGs are very welcome.

I was very pleased with the sound effects in the game.  There was a different tone when you struck an enemy and when you hit them from behind.  It's like the difference between a high five, and one that connects with a satisfying SMACK!  When the Hero gets knocked unconscious, there's a very stereotypical "Wee-wee-wee-woo-woo" sound as you spin away from your last hit and then fall to the ground.  There's even a separate heart crushing sound when the Witch takes too much damage and she crumbles into pieces.  It's a simple sound bite that would be missed if it had not been included.

The music in the game continues to fit with the style set forth by visuals.  During the credits, Sound is credited to PANICPUMPKIN while "Background Chip" is credited to REFMAP.  After some preliminary searching, it appears that PANICPUMPKIN might very well be the composer, but whomever it is that composed the music did a fantastic job.  The overworld and shop themes all sound appropriate for what they are while the battle music is very catchy in the same way that the battle music from Final Fantasy I & II is memorable.  I only wish that I would be able to purchase/acquire the soundtrack.

Witch and Hero is not going to be a game for every person out there.  It is a short game, taking me 5 hours 24 minutes to complete; I reached level 43 and maxed out everything except the Fireball spell.  On one side, I would say that the game is marketed towards those who grew up playing NES era RPGs, but on the other side, it could be aimed at people who are looking for a pick up and play RPG-type game that doesoften  require you to grind for a while just through the next stage.

The only thing that I felt the game lacked was any 3Dness, despite being sold/marketed for the 3DS market.  While any 3D effects would have potentially conflicted with the visual theme, I feel that I would have been a simple endeavor and would have only added to the "charm" factor.  That being said, not have any 3D effects did not in any way detract from the game or my overall feelings towards my enjoyment.

Normally retailing at $3.99, Witch and Hero is currently on sale via the Nintendo eShop for only $2.79 until May 1st (2014).  I find the price to be about right for what the game is, which a single screen combat game stylized after NES era RPGs, and if that's your thing, you will have fun.

With Action Overcomes Death


  1. Are the battles in real time or turn-based?

  2. Whoops. The battles are all in real time, so in that way it differs from typical RPGs. Especially in the later stages, the screen becomes very crowded and you have to realize that you will be knocked unconscious so you have to plan when you'll be knocked out.

    Oh, and there are random health drops (refills your health up to 100%), but random either means that you'll get 5 - 6 during the whole battle or one right at the beginning. It's pretty random.