I had a good feeling about Witch & Hero. I dug the retro-fabulous art style, loved the funny trailer and just felt like it was a game I would enjoy. Then, I actually started playing it. There’s nothing better than playing an eShop game you thought would be good, and discovering it’s at least 5x better than you thought.
Witch & Hero greatly exceeded my expectations and, while I don’t want to set the bar too high, I love it even more than my previous, all-time favorite Circle Entertainment game, Bookstore Dream. (Coming from a Kairosoft simulation fanatic, that means a lot.)
Witch & Hero starts out pretty simply. There’s a dangerous Medusa, and she’s been terrorizing the country. Fortunately, there are a Hero and Witch that feel capable of slaying her and saving the day. Except, it doesn’t go that way. They reach her castle, at level 30 no less, and are thoroughly beaten. The Witch is turned to stone, the Hero pulverized, and the Hero barely manages to escape, pushing/dragging the stone Witch along with him.
So, the duo are back at the start of their adventure. They’re at level one again and have to fight their way through 20 levels to reach the Medusa and try again. Hopefully, the second time is the charm.
When it comes to gameplay, Witch & Hero actually reminds me a bit of Ys or Ys II. The Hero attacks by ramming into his opponents. Hitting them from behind deals a bit more damage and keeps him from getting hurt as badly, but with opponents like slimes and menacing jack’o lanterns, it can be difficult to tell the front from the back.
Defeated enemies drop coins, experience, blood and occasionally treasure chests that hold HP restoring items or more money and experience. Don’t worry if the Hero’s knocked out… after a few seconds, he’ll get back up again with his health fully restored.
The blood part is where things get interesting. In Witch & Hero, the Witch is stagnant in the center of the bottom screen. Think of her as bait. If she dies, you lose the level and only get about half of the experience you would have otherwise. The monsters are instinctively drawn to her. However, the hero can collect their blood and give it to her, momentarily restoring her. Once she’s back in action, she’ll start automatically casting one of two spells, which the player switches between with a press of a button. The Storm spell sends two tornados out in an increasing circle around her, hitting every enemy in its path. Fireball shoots fire out in a straight line, the direction of which is controlled by the L button, and is best for dealing with the level’s boss.
The goal in each level is to keep the Witch alive and safe until the oversized boss monster appears, then defeating the boss so the level will end. That is not as easy as it sounds.
I’d say I realized just how difficult Witch & Hero would be around the fourth level. That’s when slimes, jack’o lanterns and snakes appeared as enemies, en masse and even a level 10 Hero was having trouble keeping up with them. Surprising as this may sound, considering most people would see this as a time-sink mobile game, but Witch & Hero is pretty darn hard!
I found the only way to assure my success would be to replay the same level at least three times. That way, I would earn enough experience to level up a few times, as well as enough coins to buy some upgrades.
Yes, Witch & Hero does have a shop. It’s quite streamlined, however. You can put coins towards attack, defense and speed upgrades for the Hero, or to increase the power of the Witch’s Storm and Fireball spells. There are multiple levels of these upgrades, each more expensive, and grabbing them make the Hero and Witch more formidable opponents. I’d recommend grabbing the attack and defense bonuses for the Hero first, then sinking money into the Witch’s spells. Speed is important, but I found it was best to stick close to the Witch to keep her safe and deliver blood faster, which meant I invested more in the other upgrades.
Aside from shopping, occasional, brief story segments also appear after certain quests in Witch & Hero. They’re short and sweet, but also surprisingly descriptive and funny. They cement the game’s position as a light-hearted RPG. It’s silly and sweet, and even though I didn’t know much about the characters beyond Hero and Witch, I admit I rooted for them.
I have to admit, I was really impressed by Witch & Hero. It looked like something I might enjoy from the trailer, but the actual game itself goes above and beyond. It’s like it combines an Android or iOS mentality, but also offers a level of difficulty and taps into nostalgia much like a standard handheld game would. I absolutely enjoyed myself and even though the diligent could probably beat all 20 levels in a single evening, I’d recommend spacing it out and enjoying it over a week or so. Then, keep it on your 3DS to fire up whenever you need to kill fifteen or twenty minutes and want to improve the Hero and Witch even more.
Food for Thought
1. Rotating the circle pad when the Hero was down seemed to make him recover a little faster.
2. The second a boss appears, have the Witch start targeting it with fireballs. If the spell is powerful enough, she can take it out on her own.
3. It’s worth trying to land the final blow on a boss with the Hero, as they drop more experience and gold than standard enemies and if he isn’t right there when the boss falls, you can miss grabbing that when the level ends.
4. To add replay value, you can choose from two different difficulties and unlock Trial and Infinite modes.