Witch & Hero is a fantastic action role-playing game from CIRCLE Entertainment that has a classic 8-bit look and simple yet addictive gameplay. The game can be played in short bursts and makes you want to come back for more. Defeat simply isn’t an option.
The game starts off with a simple enough premise and gives you a quick and easy setup to the game. Your hero, simply named Hero, is off on a quest to defeat the evil Medusa who has cursed his companion, the witch, and turned her to stone. The only way to break the curse and restore the witch is to kill Medusa.
So the pair start on their quest to reach Medusa’s castle but must travel through treacherous areas filled with monsters. The only catch is that the Witch is helpless since she’s made of stone. Should our hero lose all of his life he will faint temporarily but will recover after a short time. Should the Witch lose all of her life she will crumble and it’ll be game over.
That makes for a neat game mechanic for the game as not only do you have to defeat the hordes of monsters coming at you from all angles but you can’t take your eye off your vulnerable companion for too long of she’ll turn to dust, quite literally.
Witch & Hero has a very simple battle system of bump and recoil. The rounds are all action based but instead of pressing a button to swing your sword all you need to do is run into the monster to both attack and take damage. When you collide with the monster you will bounce off of them and then can attack again. Depending on the difference in your attack power to the enemy’s defenses it may take more than one attack to defeat the monster.
Of course you can also attack from behind, which means that you will take less damage while dealing a stronger blow. It makes sense to do this as much as possible but, when you are being overwhelmed from dozens of monsters from all around the screen, sometimes you have little choice but to take on the monsters head on.
The game has RPG elements in that you can gain levels to increase your HP and MP of the witch (more on that later). Defeating monsters will earn you experience in green gems that some of them monsters drop. Defeated monsters will also drop coins, blood (more on that later too) and some of them will drop health items to restore the Hero’s life to full.
In the first few levels the witch is pretty much helpless and you have to defend her at all costs. But after a few levels you will be able to restore her to life for a short period of time, allowing her to help out and send out magic attacks before she turns back into stone. Each monster defeated will drop a droplet of blood which can be collected by the hero and given to the witch. When her ‘blood’ meter fills up she is restored. The higher her level the longer she can attack before becoming petrified once more.
The witch has a directional fireball attack as well as an area wind attack. The power of these attacks can also be upgraded.
Unlike some RPGs you only increase your HP and MP when you level up. You increase your attack, defense and speed by buying upgrades at a store between levels. You use the money dropped from the monsters to pay for it. Nearly every monster drops money for you to collect, with the stronger foes dropping more than the weaker.
Since the levels themselves are so addictive it was a joy to grind. When you reach a level that has monsters that are too tough, you can replay easier levels as many times as you want to gain experience and earn money for upgrades. At the same time it also pays off to try and tough it out to defeat the latest level. Even if you are defeated you still gain some experience and money, which is halved before you collect. Being persistent can pay off.
Not only does each level have a horde of monsters but also has one or more larger boss monsters that must be defeated in order to win. Beating the boss will win you the level, even if there are remaining little monsters. The levels can also take a bit of strategy to complete. When your health is getting low it is actually a good idea to make sure that the witch has been temporarily resurrected and casting magic before you faint. Collapsing on the ground otherwise will leave the witch defenseless. Another good strategy is to leave the health items unused until you are nearly out of health before grabbing them. Waste not, want not.
Of course all the strategy in the world is hard to do when you are trying to stay alive and protect the witch while being overwhelmed from all angles.
Later on in the levels your hero will discover the holy sword which will allow the pair a powerful attack and temporarily invulnerability, letting you dish out some damage while not taking any. This is great for attacking the boss monster or clearing out some space around the witch. And best of all you can use this after you have fainted to come back instantly and with a vengeance. The witch will also come to life even if her blood meter isn’t yet filled.
Control in the game is very basic and simple with a strict bump and grind approach. Most of the game is controlled with the D-Pad, though the buttons are used to activate the holy sword and select between magic for the Witch. The [L] and [R] buttons are used to direct the Witch’s magic attacks.
VIDEO & AUDIO:
Witch & Hero has a true 8-bit look and feel which looks like it was created by Squaresoft for the Nintendo Entertainment System back in 1988. The graphics look reminiscent of the original NES as is the soundtrack. Transfer what you are seeing and hearing on your 3DS onto your television, put an NES controller in your hand and you would swear you were playing a classic old school game.
The game is a true challenge with each level getting progressively tougher. Each level has more enemies, stronger and faster enemies plus multiple boss monsters. With the increased difficulty it makes grinding through the levels that much more satisfying, especially when you are defeated just before winning the level and feel the absolute need to jump right back into the level and beat it once and for all. Plus the ability to go back and redo easier levels to gain experience, each one with enemies and items that are randomly generated, makes for nearly a new experience each time.
Witch & Hero is a fantastic effort from Circle that is a true homage to the glory 8-bit days of video games. The game is fast paced, addictive and incredibly fun to play. If you’re in the mood for some old school gaming nostalgia, definitely check this title out.