My DS collection is about fifty percent RPGs. That's a lot of games to try to spend an extended amount of time on, especially for a hand-held. I got to thinking that lately I just have too much on my plate. There are a number of portable role playing games now available across all hand-held consoles, and it seems like now more than ever you need to rise above the pack on those crowded game store shelves. A Witch's Tale from NIS tries to muscle in some space based on its attempts at being a more newbie friendly entry in the genre, similar to Rhapsody. Unfortunately for A Witch's Tale and developer HitMaker, this game is a far cry from being newbie friendly. While the difficulty may be a walk in the park, the game fails to provide the clear path that an inexperienced gamer would need to follow if they were to continue giving the RPG genre a chance.
A Witch's Tale is about *gasp* a young witch named Liddell who is a precocious little witch in training, dedicated to being the most powerful witch in the world. Being the mischievous little scamp that she is, her quest for power causes her to set free the powerful Eld Witch, an ancient witch who was previously sealed away. Along the way she meets a variety of princesses (who are curiously named after characters in children's fairy tales, especially Alice in Wonderland), whose combined power will allow Liddell to put the Eld Witch back in her place. The story is a pretty lighthearted romp, but it's a bit light on content. Explore a dungeon, run in to a mysterious character, beat a boss, get some story that revolves around Liddell claiming to be unstoppable and learning more about the Eld Witch, get a new power and move on.
Game play is your typical RPG fare, though everything is controlled with the stylus. From movement to combat that stylus is pretty much glued to your hand. For the most part it works but it proves tricky when it comes to map movement, especially when trying to maneuver through tight spaces. In combat, the stylus control is functional but plodding. When you want to perform an icon you need to drag the appropriate icon around the screen to its intended target. To try and justify the use of the stylus even further you have ridiculously powerful spells that require you to trace a glyph on the screen. The problem here is that the game is super finicky about where you can draw the glyph, sure you have to stay inside the lines, which means a five-year-old should be able to succeed, but the lines are poorly defined. Couple this with the fact that using these spells only gives a certain amount of time to draw the glyph and you have to restart if you mess up and you have a less than newbie friendly experience.
The other piece that really drags the game down is the lack of direction this game gives the player. You have a lot of needle in a haystack moments where you need to find just one person or do just one thing that will allow you to proceed to the next part of one of the six worlds. Each world follows the same format, you need to collect three items and then turn them in to get a key to a final dungeon. Again, these items are a pain to collect just because the game does a poor job of outlining what you need to do, and sometimes objectives make no sense. World three had me trying to mend the relationship between two ghosts. One ghost tells me the bring a flower to the other ghost and the text makes it sound like I was handed the item, but that was not the case and I had to go hunt it down. What this winds up doing is leaving you running around, constantly getting in to random battles that take much longer to complete than they should, while accomplishing nothing aside from leveling up.
Graphically this game is nothing special, you've got reasonably large character sprites that are of decent detail with passable animation. Battle has no animation at all aside from spell effects and adds to the plodding pace by having nothing to display. Outside of battle the world is colorful but static, you don't see much movement at all, just a bunch of set pieces. Audio is hardly worth mentioning with the boss battle music being the highlight. There is a little voice acting here and there but for the most part is also a bare-bones production.
A Witch's Tale just feels like a lazy effort. The low difficulty of the title may make this game friendly to new players, but the presentation and pacing of the game kill any goodwill formed by making the game easy. The game is just bland, plain, simple, and not a whole lot of fun. Rhapsody which was released by NIS last year may have been a bug ridden mess but it is a much better title than A Witch's Tale when it comes to introducing players to RPGs.