Welcome to Japanese Hogwarts, where everything is less magical and more comedic than it sounds. Follow the witches-in-training in their first day of summer vacation led by a failure “slash” troublemaker, the four-eyes that talks to inanimate objects, the creepy roommate with a weird fetish on mushrooms, an American delinquent that has a peanut for brains, the techie witch that never speaks, the girl with a bottomless stomach, and the perfect girl that never becomes a main protagonist… ever!
Developed by APLUS Co. Ltd., the same game studio behind A.W.: Phoenix Festa for the Playstation Vita and the 3DS titles Swords & Darkness and River City: Tokyo Rumble, now comes to the big leagues with a PS4 and PC title. And while I do like they stepped it up a notch, I can’t feel the passion when it comes to developing this title in particular and as a fan of the anime, I’m completely and utterly disappointed. First and foremost, the gameplay is clunky, characters get stuck near edges of the battle area, magic spells that covers the entirety of the map, the camera zoom that doesn’t zoom out when an enemy goes out of viewable range which I should mention that gets you stuck in that area until the enemy walks back in the screen or you manage to hit it with your spells or attacks from the edge, an overly simplistic combo chain, enemies become invincible when petrified not sure if that’s a bug but it’s annoying either way as you’d have to wait for them to get out of that state in order to kill them, “interactables” that is bound to the same button as jump making it more stressful to mash, AI that feels so stupid that you’d think “Akko” is a genius and the fact that difficulty curve isn’t exactly a curve but a slightly inclined line. Boss fights, my god, where the hell are they? Because from my whole playthrough, I have never spent more than a minute taking out what seems like bosses to the point I literally kill them with a single tier 2 fire spell on hard difficulty. Luckily, once you actually spent 90% of your time going through the story you get introduced to a slightly stronger difficulty but again, doesn’t actually gave much of a challenge or the fact that completing the whole game gives you an even higher difficulty setting than what you just got which I can honestly, say is just the right setting in my opinion that should’ve been from the get-go, all others feel like child’s play and bear in mind, this is far from done as I only covered the gameplay complaints!
Now moving on to the story, your ears get blasted into the never ending speech of our very own Headmistress Holbrooke but before you can even escape the auditorium you get blocked by your worst nightmare, Finnelan-sensei, which will then task you to organize the stacked books in the library on the very first day of summer because you already messed up before the game even started. FUCK ME! The story itself revolves around the chamber of time and the seven wonders. The core story is predictable and nowhere near unique as you follow a certain pattern to progress the story and making each and every step predictable that lacks the surprise factor. The game also includes time mechanics with events only happening during certain times. However the sub-events within the game feels more like a chore as you run from point A to point B as everybody’s errand girl. A chore that I rather skip any day of the week!
Equipment and gear! My favorite part of any game but apparently this one doesn’t deliver. While I do like the equipment you get, the stats they contain and the uniqueness of one to the other, I can’t help but get frustrated at how terrible the inventory management simulation 2018 is. I play a lot of RPGs and one I can’t stand is where I have to sit… to actually sit through the game ticking one item at a time until I eventually sell everything marked instead of having a lock feature so there won’t be any accidental selling and just marking everything that isn’t locked to sell in one go as it’s going to take a lifetime to sell stuffs if I end up doing one long session on the underground labyrinth whether online or offline. Then equipment order is something I am also quite annoyed at as it resets back to the default order instead of what I set it on. And probably the most annoying thing when I sift through my inventory is the naming sense of each item especially when it comes to ring accessories. “Royal Ring of Molten Rock” you’d expect something to have a huge amount of effects pertaining to the rock element but nah! While it does have at least one rock element stat from cooldown, MP cost or damage it would also contain more things for every other element which at times would be better off being called anything but a ring for “rock” when it ends up having two or three elements for water, fire or wind. Oh hey! There’s also an enchanting system that can be done in the laboratory which happens to be throwing ingredients as well as equipment with enchantable slots in a cauldron to give more effects. It’s a nice idea and something that I have to take advantage for an ever devastating chain of spells.
But moving on to the combat, it’s similar to a beat ’em up with RPG elements like Dragon’s Crown which coincidentally releases the same day. But TBH, Little Witch Academia was a terrible experience because of its simplicity and overpowered magic spells plus the annoying enemies that gets blown away from the viewable range among a few others that I’ve mentioned earlier, it does however have potential to be a decent game if the problems get fixed because at this point in time, I don’t even need to use any normal attacks and just use my spells to clear out waves of enemies if I do hit them of course because more often than not, I miss my shots when I think I should score a direct hit. Now when it comes to the AI, they are terrible at making decisions, not only do I see them using melee attacks without an enemy nearby, I even end up seeing them use spells that doesn’t exactly hit anything! Like what the actual fuck?! That’s a 60-second cooldown spell… at least hit something! And as I mentioned a while ago, it does have a multiplayer co-op mode and also a one-on-one PVP mode. Co-op mode however does not let others progress your story which again I must point out is way too easy anyway but they’ll be able to help in going deeper in the infinite dungeon which is just a long chain of enemies and bosses. Each level having a few areas going straight to the final boss and the option to continue a level further or discontinue to obtain the spoils of the monster massacre.
Graphics-wise it is fairly decent… console-quality but nothing spectacular. A bit cartoony but that’s how it is. Cel shaded character models within Luna Nova although the whole school doesn’t have 3D models and with only one camera angle to go from which changes depending on where you are. Some scenes however are in anime form and I have to admit it’s one that I prefer seeing over the 3D models as it grasps why I loved the show in the first place. Mouth animations are again and probably for most Japanese games follow the same predicament that gets overlooked as it follows a very minimal change in pattern on its movement and doesn’t exactly give the kind of impact a properly animated one does. Something I tend to forgive at this point but can’t help but notice all the same.
Verdict… do I really still need to repeat everything? I think not! So let’s just take this time to talk about replay value. This one in particular is saved for last so we could end on a positive note because I’m not trying to pick a fight here “Akko!” So when it comes to the game’s replay value I find it good because of infinite dungeons and PVP mode, while I never had the opportunity to try the PVP mode, it will be one thing that people may or may not go for but despite all that it’s one feature that could be enjoyed one way or the other. But on another note, the fact that the game’s story is presented the way it is, gives sub-events some value as some of them give different options on how to tackle them even if slightly. And while there is no new game plus or the option to have different endings there are a couple of events I have yet to claim. Something that I may need to find the time to go into further or in this case, turn back time! So with all that, I can’t exactly say it’s worth it but it is a game worth trying as long as improvements are made. And about the bonus game, Magic Knight Grand Charion, I feel like if they actually spent the time to improve the game than make the bonus one, this would’ve had a decent score.