Sunday, January 14, 2018

A few thoughts on Witch & Hero III now that I've put about four hours into it

The Witch & Hero series and I go way back (see this old post and this one, too, for proof), so of course I bought Witch & Hero III as soon as it hit the Japanese 3DS eShop late last month.

Since then, I've devoted just under four hours to the game's globe-trotting, witch-protecting adventure. For the curious, that's taken me through around 32 of its single-screen stages. Sadly, I have no idea how many the game contains. If I had to guess, I'd go with 50 or so. Even if it ends up being just 40, though, I'll walk away feeling like Witch & Hero III was worth the 400 Yen (about $4) I spent on it.

That doesn't mean I've found Witch & Hero III to be a perfect game thus far. As is the case with its predecessors, it has its flaws. Overall, though, I'm having a lot of fun with it--to the point I'd say it's my second-favorite of the series' three releases.

What do I like about Witch & Hero III and what do I dislike about it? Here are a few examples of both:

Finally, the action takes place on the 3DS' top screen--I've always found it strange that developer Flyhigh Works put the action of the first two Witch & Hero games on the 3DS' bottom screen. Someone there must've agreed with me, as the action in Witch & Hero III takes place on the 3DS' top screen where it belongs. To be honest, I can't say the game feels all that different as a result, but I'm glad its devs made the switch all the same.

The new enemies and environments are a welcome change of pace--If you thought the enemies and environments in the first two Witch & Hero games seemed a bit samey, you'll love all the new ones that pop up in part three. I especially get a kick out of the humongous boss creatures that appear at the end of certain stages. The series' previous entries occasionally tossed larger-than-usual baddies at you, but they were just blown-up versions of regular enemy sprites. Here, they're completely unique--and beautiful--creations that command your attention by taking up a surprisingly large portion of the screen.

That said, the handful of ice stages can die in a fire--I usually enjoy ice stages in games. Not here. That's mainly because Witch & Hero III's ice stages often feel like you're on a pinball table and stuck between 20 or more bumpers. It's funny the first few times you tackle a stage, but after that it's just annoying. The good news is Witch & Hero III features only a handful of ice stages, so my advice is to grit your teeth and get through them as quickly as you can.

I don't enjoy Witch & Hero III's soundtrack as much as I enjoyed the ones featured in earlier entries--This isn't to suggest the backing tunes that play throughout each Witch & Hero III stage suck. Some of them are pretty darn good, but many others are forgettable at best. I don't consider that to be a huge deal, and I don't think you should either, but I thought it was worth mentioning here anyway.

Thank goodness you don't have to control your partner this time around--At first, being able to move both the hero and the witch at the same time while playing Witch & Hero II was a thrilling change of pace from the series' first release. After a while, though, it seemed more cumbersome than anything else. My biggest fear going into Witch & Hero III was that it would double down on this back-of-the-box bullet point. (All of the game's promotional materials show two heroes, as well as the eponymous witch, on each screen.) Thankfully, it doesn't. Although you're fully able to control both heroes (one using the 3DS' circle pad, the other using its face buttons), you also can hand over control of the second hero to the computer. For me, the latter has been far preferable to the former so far.

These games are more strategic than they initially seem, I swear--If you only play the first 10 or so stages of Witch & Hero III, or the first 10 or so stages of the other two Witch & Hero titles, you'll likely wonder why I like them so much. To understand my fascination with them, you really have to go further than that. Eventually, it becomes pretty clear that to master these games, you have to balance a number of components: the witch's health meter, the health meters of the two heroes, the magic (or "blood") meters of all three characters, the "Holy Power" meter, and more. It all sounds a lot easier in theory than it is in practice, and it's one of the main reasons every new Witch & Hero release excites me a bit more than the last.

Get ready to deal with a lot of slowdown--On the one hand, it's cool that many of Witch & Hero III's stages feature more enemy sprites than ever. On the other hand, all of those slowly creeping sprites cause a lot of slowdown. Bizarrely, it hasn't bothered me much to date, but I have a feeling it will bother many who play the game. So, if slowdown is a deal-breaker for you, think long and hard before you plop down $4 on Witch & Hero III when it makes its way onto your region's 3DS eShop in the coming months.

See also: my Witch & Hero review and my Witch & Hero II review

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