By the pricking of our thumbs, something remastered this way comes. Yes, Nippon Ichi Software – the developer of the superb turn-based strategy role-playing Disgaea franchise – has decided to polish up its real-time battler The Witch and the Hundred Knight, adding Revival Edition to its already lengthy name on the PlayStation 4. When we reviewed the PlayStation 3 original, it didn't go down all that well, so the question is: has the Japanese studio managed to improved this genuine oddity, which comes on like a demented love child of Diablo and anime?
The witch of the title is Metallia, a real boo hiss baddie who commands you, as the Hundred Knight, to wage war on her behalf so that she can expand her swamp. Before you know it, you'll be neck deep in isometric action combat, packing multiple weapons at once, watching hugely uncomfortable cutscenes, and grappling with the Gcal resource management system. With so many elements to master, this isn't really one for the pick up and play crowd – even if tutorials do attempt to ease you into things. Nevertheless, for those hardy enough to persevere, there's some battling fun to be had.
The tone of the game is questionable, though, and liable to turn off those who can't deal with strong profanity and generally unpleasant "humour". As far as bosses go, Metallia is a dominatrix who'd scare off even Christian Grey; she's a real tough taskmaster to please and liable to do some really awful things – things that'll haunt you forever once you've witnessed them.
Fortunately, you'll get to spend most of your time fighting, and, as hinted, the combat mechanics work well, using a mix of dodging, defending, and a range of attacks backed up with some special skills to overcome Metallia's enemies. Building up combos from your choice of weapons – including slash, blunt, or magic damage – is key to grabbing the end of level bonuses and taking down the big bad bosses. When you master the combat, there are moments when you find yourself destroying everything and anything in your path, devouring them for fun. At these times, The Witch and the Hundred Knight: Revival Edition is genuinely pleasing, but alas, there's always a long and potentially awkward cutscene around the corner, and these can see you reading through dialogue for many minutes before you can get back into the action.
If you fall on the battlefield, you'll awake back at Metallia's swamp hideout, the downside being that you'll forfeit any items that you picked up since the last save point. With that in mind, it's worth mentioning that a wise knight saves often in order to prevent loss of hard earned – or in some cases stolen – loot.
There are many statistic altering elements and ways to boost your character, but one key thing to mention is anima, a kind of soul essence dropped by defeated enemies. Anima allows you to access a special menu called Metallia's Bucket List, and this gives you the option to trade it in for things like lowering your karma level or unlocking certain skills.
As well as the dungeon levels, where the objectives mostly revolve around clearing out baddies and activating pillars in order to claim the ground for Metallia, there are raids on non-playable character villages which see you kicking in the doors of innocent peoples' houses and making off with items. Be warned, though, that the populace doesn't take kindly to this behaviour. Raiding inversely affects your notoriety – or karma – and if it gets too high, the normally placid NPCs may attack you before you can rob them.
Thanks to this being the Revival Edition, the graphics have been upgraded significantly, and while its last-gen inception still shows, this version veritably sparkles by comparison. In terms of gameplay, the main addition – which ups the ante – is the The Tower of Illusion, a new dungeon where the power of the enemies and the loot are linked to the strength of the weapons that you bring to the party. And, in a nice bonus, you even get to summon up Metallia herself to unleash her special kind of pain up close and personal on your foes.
The Witch and the Hundred Knight: Revival Edition is undoubtedly a Marmite game, even more so than its niche Nippon Ichi siblings. For JRPG fans who missed this on the PS3 and are willing to sink hours into mastering its various systems, menus, and combat skills, it can prove to be a worthwhile battle-'em-up. For everyone else, it may be too much of a commitment – unless being bossed around by a super demanding, foul-mouthed evil witch is your cup of tea.