System: Nintendo 3DS
Developer: Flyhigh Works
Publisher: Circle Enterprises
A homage to the Japanese games industry, and an underrated charm in the West.
The game introduces itself as an oddity in the Indie circles, as a shooting platformer game which stands out from the rest. It pays homage to many of the shooter games in the late 16-bit era, and has influences sputtered around in the game.
The story is of a magical substance called Syega, which has gone missing in the Old World. Zizou, a God in charge of managing magic in the world sets out to retrieve the missing Syega from an unknown enemy.
Starting the game, you will notice that there are two characters, one being Zizou, and another locked character later on in the game, who serves as the extra game when the primary game is completed. The game asks you in which boss order you would like to battle in, taking a page out of Mega Man’s books.
Zizou has the ability to fire two main abilities at the start of the game: Liner Shot (Which becomes a spread shot in later levels) and Comet (Which gives a wave-gun like attack). The abilities can be improved by a Gradius influenced system. Defeat enough enemies to gain enough Tres (A currency which you can use for upgrades) to fill up the bar. Once you select the appropriate option, the bar drains and you can refill the bar to whatever abilities you need. At the end of the stage, you lose all the abilities to be put back into a stock mode.
The game features a blocking system which is pixel-perfect and very difficult to pull off, often times failing to even activate if pulled off correctly. There’s an achievement for pulling this off 50 times, which makes you want to block as often as possible. Luckily there is a post-game modifier that can increase the blocking time, but it doesn’t improve it by much.
There are also a special type of Syega to be found: Pura Syega. Pura Syega are special crystals which are hidden in every level (except the final level), which could be found by either shooting the spots where they can be found or jumping where they are. They’re really hard to find and their hitboxes are quite small, providing a greater challenge for those who want to go for 100% of the game. The extra story also shifts the Pura Syega around, so that you don’t exactly know where they are in each stage. The reward for collecting Pura Syega are upgrades to your abilities which can be leveled up, and also provide an extra if you go far enough.
Defeating each of the bosses gives you a primary ability that they use, much like Mega Man. Each ability that you gain can provide strengths and weaknesses to other bosses and their relevant main abilities. I found that using abilities to their opponents’ weaknesses often causes a 2-shot defeat for every boss except for the final one, which has no weaknesses, but a few abilities may be very appropriate for the final room.
The story behind every boss battle encounter have a very quirky writing, and their quarrels are often interesting ranging from not being supposed to be there or searching for relevant information. It tells a story of how to go through the game, and is a quick extra that can give a little more charm and personality to the game. The bosses also take a page from both Touhou and Mega Man, especially for the final battle, with battle patterns and difficult situations to navigate around.
The music sets an appropriate atmosphere to the game, from being in a library, to being in a deserted forest. The music from start to finish is very well-polished, and puts the hardware to good use.
The game adds extra replayability through the use of achievements, and Syega collection. Some are easier than others, but some have an increasing difficulty curve which means you’ll be stuck for hours busy trying to achieve some of them. Syega can be used in the Syega shop, which opens up on completion of the game the first time.
The New Game with the locked character pays even more of a homage to Mega Man, having a charge shot and having an extremely short range at the start of every stage. Playing this New Game seems to be even harder than playing with Zizou, but it is heavily rewarding with the extra story lines given along with it.
The game difficulty can be pulled downwards if the insensitivity is too much, but cannot be pushed back up, meaning that you’ll have to start a new game if you’re wanting the challenge back. It’s neat to start off with, but it shows no other purpose other than easing the blow that comes with defeat on a high difficulty level.
The game provides a Post-game Modifier system from the Syega shop, which can make the game either easier, harder or add aesthetics and extra abilities before starting a new game. These are fun to play around with, but some are extremely expensive and it might be worth it to buy the lower costing ones first, therefore giving you some play extra to work with. There’s also the gambling corner called One-time Challenge!, which for the life of me I don’t get how they got this past QA.
In all, The Legend of Dark Witch is recommended for those who want a Mega Man-like experience with a little something different on the side, A decent story and some challenges for completionists. Other reviews to this game may steer you away from this game, as I’ve noticed considerable bashing towards it, making this game rather underrated and very unappreciated in the West. With the Sequel of The Legend of Dark Witch on its way (Legend of Dark Witch: Episode 2 is slated for 2015), The game provides a prelude of what’s to come in the future of this series.