Unnecessarily Uncouth: A Review of The Witch and the Hundred Knight
Nippon Ichi Software have a good idea about what it means to be evil. Best known for the Disgaea games, which often put you in the shoes of the bad guy, NIS has built a reputation on the macabre and unsettling.
So it’s no surprise that The Witch and the Hundred Knight goes to some dark places. Don’t let the vibrant colors of the cover fool you, this is a very, very, adult game with a very, very, evil protagonist.
The problem is that, in trying to establish the vileness of that main character — the scantily clad Grand Swamp Witch Metallia — The Witch and the Hundred Knight goes too far.
You don’t actually play as Metallia in Witch, you play as the titular (and singular) Hundred Knight, a underwhelming little squirt summoned at the beginning of the game to assist her in soaking the world in delicious florescent green swamp goo. As her faithful familiar, your task is to do everything she says, no matter how horrible and atrocious it is.
And she does some pretty horrific stuff. To start, she’s got a mouth that would make DMX blush — props to Sarah Williams, the voice actress who plays Metallia, for her many delightful uses of motherfucker — and a master’s degree in murderous description. Seriously, some of the stuff she talks about would be better found scrawled into a blood stained composition book than coming out of the mouth of a thin-hipped, busty anime girl.
When she’s not loudly describing the pain she wishes to visit upon her foes, she’s flexing her sadistic magical muscles in ways that would be too much for even something like Corpse Party. Here are some highlights from the game’s first few hours:
- She transforms her helpless female victim into a mouse, then summons a horde of horny male mice to rape her. Said mouse is later fried up and eaten.
- She strips and then ties up a woman using what looks like shibari bondage techniques (I had to Google this) before demanding that the Hundred Knight shove something up a particularly uncomfortable place in the human body.
- She turns a legion of mind-controlled servants against their master, who proceed to describe in graphic detail — and in a cutesy voice, no less — how delicious it is to drink the strange red syrup coming from their master’s neck.
Even more upsetting, most of this is played for comedy relief.
The player-controlled Hundred Knight, firmly under the thrall of Metallia, can do nothing but silently watch. There’s a hint of the old Bioshock in the fact that you’re unable to question your master’s orders, even if the very idea of doing her bidding makes your skin crawl.
It’s kind of a bummer that the opening is so crazed, because once you get past the first few chapters, the story settles into a very comfortable pace. Despite lacking depth and variety, the cast is easy to like in the same way that most anime and manga characters are. Even though stunning revelations are doled out every few hours, nobody changes too much, and everybody follows a well-trodden path towards the end. Even Metallia, the sadistic witch, becomes a decently likeable character by the game’s final act.
If anything, it makes the barrage of upsetting turmoil that’s used to establish her character early on even more upsetting, as it doesn’t exactly need to exist. Much like a teenager loudly spouting profanity when they walk by a little kid, or a smoker lighting up right next to a ‘Don’t Smoke’ sign, the Burgessian “ultraviolence” from the beginning of the game seems more like an immature rebel yell than a necessary plot device. We get it, she’s evil, you don’t need to throw rape into the mix. It felt egregious in Lords of Shadow 2, and he’s the damn Prince of Darkness.
Underneath all the cursing and bloodshed, Witch is a decent little game. Its action RPG systems hearken back to stuff like Secret of Mana, with a sprinkle of randomized loot for flavor. It’s tuned pretty well, with bosses who are just complex enough to require effort but never difficult enough to demand Dark Souls-like precision. There are a few annoyingly oblique puzzles, but it’s nothing too outlandish. Sure, it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it’s an exceptionally solid genre title.
It’s the kind of game that, were it not for a few really poorly planned bits of dialogue, would be a perfect diamond in the rough for fans of clicking buttons and watching numbers climb up — an easy recommendation for people who want a little more Disgaea in their Diablo. Once it gets past the needlessly repugnant opening chapters, it does really become a pretty good game.
But first impressions count for a lot, especially in the case of a 30+ hour story-driven RPG, and Witch makes a really awful one — one that’s so bad I can’t in good conscience recommend it.