Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Legend of Dark Witch

I just covered the demo, but as I stated in that post, I was going to buy the full game, and I did.  This post will restate some stuff from that post, just so it's a complete review.  So, with that out of the way, here we go!

The Legend of Dark Witch is a Mega Man-style action platformer.  If you've played a Mega Man game before, you know the drill.  You choose the boss you want to fight, work your way through their stage, and eventually confront and defeat the boss.  Upon defeat, you get their weapon, and another boss is weak to that weapon.  Once all the main bosses have been defeated, special boss stages become available, and getting through all of them gets you the game's ending.  One of the stages is typically a series of re-fights of the main bosses, and that's certainly no exception here.

To set it apart from your average Mega Man-style action platformer, though, the game provides a Gradius-style upgrade system.  Drops from enemies, called Tres in this game, fill up a gauge at the bottom of the screen.  When the upgrade you want is highlighted, you press a button and get the upgrade.  These upgrades will generally help you get through each stage, and certain parts may require you to have upgraded Speed.  If you get hit, you lose progress on this gauge, which can make another upgrade get selected instead of the one you had selected.  So basically, as soon as you can grab the one you want, do it.

The Tres you pick up during a stage are also added to a count shown on the lower screen.  Between stages, you can access a menu and use your saved up Tres to buy permanent upgrades.  One of the permanent upgrades increases the amount of Tres you get from enemies, which I highly recommend getting first.  Each permanent upgrade has three levels that increase in cost, so you'll really want that income multiplier maxed out before buying much of anything else.  The income multiplier also affects how long it takes to get upgrades within each stage, so it's megas useful nyoro.  Combined with one of the other upgrades maxed out, and you start a stage with enough Tres to grab a Speed upgrade right away.

Hidden throughout the six normal stages are crystals you can find.  These crystals increase your maximum upgrade levels.  Each stage has two of them, and once you've gotten all twelve, a secret one appears in the first extra stage, that adds a new upgrade.  For a first playthrough, I fully recommend getting all of them.  They're kind of tricky to find, as they're not visible, but you can shoot them.  So if you fire at a random spot and hear a weird noise, it's a crystal.  You can either shoot it several times to make it appear, or jump at the spot.

The graphics are sort of a halfway-point between NES-style graphics where the pixels are large and in charge, and the high-resolution graphics that we're more familiar with these days.  I guess a good term would be "high resolution pixel graphics", even though "pixel graphics" is a bit redundant because all graphics are composed of pixels.  Anyway.  The stages all have their own look and feel, and anything that needs to stick out sticks out so you'll notice it.  Heck, the game even displays a blinking red "DANGER!!" text on the top or bottom of the screen when there's an enemy just offscreen.

As one of the extras points out, the music sounds like it's a bunch of PCM modules, straight out of the 90s.  That's the style they went for, and I think it turned out well.

The controls are spot-on.  Control isn't slippery like in Mario where you constantly have to adjust with left and right to land your jumps.  You stop pressing the button, your character stops moving.  Period.  Also, the controls on the A, B, X, and Y buttons can be rebound to be more to your liking, which is nice, and unexpected in a handheld game.  There's also an option for how you want your jumps to work.  The default is that your jump height is the same regardless of how long you hold the button for, but you can change it so that pressing the button for less time results in a shorter jump.

As far as the other options go, volume levels of various categories of sounds can be adjusted, the camera distance and speed can be adjusted.  Then, there's the "install mode" setting.  This affects how the Gradius-style upgrade system works.  It defaults to Auto, and there's also Semi-Auto and Manual settings.  I haven't tried Auto or Semi-Auto, because from the start I wanted to be in control of which upgrades I got when.  Besides, if you're used to Gradius, you're going to want to set it to Manual anyway.

When you start the game, you can choose Easy, Normal, or Lunatic difficulty.  Lunatic is only unlocked once you beat the game once.  I hopped straight in on Normal.  Easy has health pickups, Normal and Lunatic don't.

Once you beat the game once, the main menu gains some extra options.  One is a hidden shop with extra upgrades and some unlocks and things, that uses Syega as its currency instead of Tres.  Various things throughout the game, including beating the game, give Syega rewards, to be used here.  Also available is a poker (5-card draw, not that hold'em cancer) minigame where you can bet your Syega and win more.

I originally had a list of frustrations here, but they can be summed up as "I blindly jumped in on Normal difficulty and things got challenging and I had to repeat stages a bunch to learn them".

Overall, it's a great game.  It's $4 on the eShop, and it's well worth the price.  I know for sure that I've gotten more than four dollars' worth of entertainment out of it.

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