Before I’d even installed the game, Little Witch Nobeta really caught my attention. How could an action-shooter-slash-soulslike starring a cute anime girl and her kitty companion not? I’m glad it did too, because for as weird of a combination as that may seem, it works here. The game is fairly short, but there’s more than enough here to keep things entertaining without feeling drawn out.
First and foremost, Little Witch Nobeta is an action shooter. Players run around the game’s castle and use Nobeta’s staff to shoot spells at enemies. There are four types of unlockable, upgradable attacks that can be effortlessly swapped. While all of them work somewhat similarly, there are differences between them. Arcane, for example, is a mid-range single-shot spell, whereas Fire is close-range multi-shot one. Certain areas of the castle lend themselves better to certain spell types, but you can use whichever type of spell you prefer at pretty much all times. The one exception is that there are a handful of puzzles requiring certain spells to solve. These are quite nice for both making the different types feel useful and teaching you how to use them, but there aren’t a lot of them. Adding a few more puzzles built around using one type or another could have helped spice things up.
Where the spell types have major differences is in their charge attacks. Each spell type has a very unique charge shot, such as Ice’s rain of ice shards that lock onto enemies or Thunder’s AOE thunderbolt that lets players choose where it strikes. These attacks are the main reason for swapping between spell types, and they’re very fun to play around with. More often than not, I found myself using these on even the easiest of foes just because I could.
There are also physical staff attacks, but these tend to be used only when you’re running low on MP. Physical attacks are a lot like dodges in that successful ones regenerate mana, but using them costs stamina, so it’s important to make sure that doesn’t dip too low either. Running out of stamina will cause Nobeta to fall down, leaving her completely vulnerable. The game is a soulslike, after all, and opening yourself up like that can easily spell your death.
Speaking of soulslike elements, Little Witch Nobeta has plenty, and they actually make the game a lot of fun. Players must pray at shrines to set checkpoints in the event that they die, and these shrines also allow for things like enhancements. Nobeta’s HP, MP, and spell damage, among other things, can all be upgraded, and it’s a nice way to give a small extra power creep in addition to learning and upgrading (via a separate system) spells. It’s important to purchase upgrades whenever possible too, as another soulslike element is that the game’s enemies, specifically its bosses, can pose quite the threat.
As mentioned in my preview of Little Witch Nobeta, a lot of its non-boss enemies can feel more like annoying obstacles than challenges to overcome. After spending more time with the game, I think I can chalk that up to the shooter elements. Most enemies that shoot back don’t do a lot of damage and are easy to dispatch, while the majority of the close-range enemies are easy enough to simply dodge, then kill while they recover from their attack and get ready to try again. Playing on the higher of the game’s two difficulty settings does help with this, as enemies deal more damage and take longer to kill, but they still often felt like a chore. Larger areas that housed several enemies of several types did make for fun battles, but I found that those didn’t come as often as I would have liked. A few more sections like that would have been a welcome addition.
Boss fights, on the other hand, were incredibly fun. They deal quite a bit of damage while also needing to take a fair bit to kill, so they really test your ability to use Little Witch Nobeta’s combat system. I found myself dying against several bosses while trying to figure out their attacks on the easier difficulty, to say nothing of what happened on the harder one. The magic system allowing for easy changes to spell type helps make these fights even more fun by allowing you to quickly change up your tactics if you find that the one you’re using isn’t working as well as you would have liked. Bosses are where this game is at its absolute best, and for a game as short as Little Witch Nobeta, there are a good number of them, which is fantastic. I could spend hours running through a boss rush mode if there was one.
Another issue that I brought up in my preview was that I would have liked the world of Little Witch Nobeta to be a little more open, and I am pleased to report that it does feel like it opens up a bit more as you progress through the game. You gain access to earlier areas of the castle as you go, and there’s even an unlockable Teleport ability to help you get around even faster. It’s a great help in finding any treasure chests you may have missed or getting back to puzzles you were previously unable to solve. Personally, I would have liked it to be a bit more open by way of more interconnected passageways, but you are eventually able to travel back to any part of the castle with relative ease, so in reality, it’s not much of an issue. Unlocking Teleport expedites the return process even further, making it even harder to complain.
For a game that would make most anybody do a double take because of its mixture of anime art style, action shooter genre, and soulslike gameplay, Little Witch Nobeta comes together very well as a whole. The shooter components are enjoyable to play with and offer enough diversity to give you several options for battles. The soulslike parts add fun and difficulty, as well as a tiny bit of a strategic element in the upgrade system. And though the story isn’t grandiose or deep, with most of the worldbuilding coming in the form of the stories attached to items found throughout the castle, there’s enough to carry the game forward, which is fine by me. It’s not perfect, but the game is nothing if not fun, and I’ll definitely be coming back to play some more of it.
Little Witch Nobeta releases for Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 on March 7, 2023. It is available now for PC via Steam.