Game Info:

The Legend of Dark Witch
Developed By: Flyhigh Works
Published By: Circle Entertainment
Release Date: October 16, 2014
Available On: 3DS
Genre: 2D Action Platformer
Number of Players: 1
ESRB Rating: E10+
MSRP: $3.99 (eShop)

Thank you Circle Entertainment for sending us this game to review!

Syega are crystals that were found to have special powers, that enable humans to use magic.  They are also used to power modern conveniences, like start fires, power simple machines, and to help heal people.  When they went missing, Zizou Olympia, a goddess of magic, came down to help people by finding the stolen Syega so that she can restore them to where they belong.

On her way, she starts her investigation in one of six starting locations you can choose.  Each of these has two hidden power-ups inside, and a boss battle at the end, where, if you defeat her, you gain her magic power.  Sound familiar?  It should to most older gamers – it is very reminiscent of the classic Mega Man series.  Like Mega Man, it's a side scrolling 2D platformer/shooter.  

My early nickname for this game was Mega Woman – despite there being very few (if any) robots, the game play feels very similar, especially early on.  And the game is populated almost entirely by women. It helps that it's also a really solid entry into the genre – and it starts to differentiate itself from Mega Man fairly quickly.

The Legend of Dark Witch

Strong Points: Good anime character and pixel art; enjoyable retro styled music; very solid Mega Man style gameplay
Weak Points: At times the translation is a little bit choppy; no stereoscopic 3D
Moral Warnings:  Fantasy violence; magic use; exposed midriffs; polytheism is present, and the main character is a goddess of magic; one level has blocks with pentagrams on them; electronic gambling

While the core 'shoot bad guys until they die – and get powers when you beat a boss to be used on other bosses' is the same as Mega Man, it also has some Gradius, and a little bit of character development thrown in for good measure.  As you defeat enemies, they leave behind Tres.  As you collect Tres, this raises a meter on the bottom of the screen that you can activate whenever it is full up to the point where a bar is full.  There is speed, which makes your character actually run faster, which is nearly critical, as some parts of the levels, and certain boss patterns, are much harder if you are slow.  There are six total powers, and two characters that play slightly differently; the second one is unlocked after beating the game once.

Another use of Tres, which also really makes the game stand out is the 'grow part', or the self improvement menu.  In between levels, on the stage select screen, you can press 'Y' to spend your collected Tres.  This allows you to do very useful things like increase your attack power, increase your Tres recovery rate, increase your health and lives, and more.  One really helpful thing is that even if you die miserably in a level, all collected Tres carry over and are automatically saved, so you can power up your character a bit and try again.

And chances are you will need it.  This game is a very solid challenge.  There are three difficult levels; I stuck with the default normal.  Normal and hard have no way to heal throughout a level unless you die.  This is especially troubling because the in-level power ups (through earning Tres) are reset upon death.  So a second or third attempt at a boss, especially without a powered up weapon or a faster character, can make it a lot more challenging.  Speed makes a huge difference in your ability to dodge, and like any good game in this genre, learning enemy patterns is required for success.  If it's too hard for you, you can drop the difficulty on the stage select screen, but you can never increase it again for that save file.  There are also achievements you can earn based on difficulty, and many other things.

All friendly and enemy characters are well drawn in an anime style.  There are also nice anime portraits for conversations.  Every boss and player character is also fully voiced in Japanese.  The voices are well done, despite not being able to understand them.  Subtitles are supplied everywhere needed, and they get the job done.  I did find enough odd translations or missing words to be noticeable, but it doesn't really effect the gameplay all that much.  Story in games like this is more an excuse to play than a real motivating factor.

The Legend of Dark Witch
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 82%
Gameplay - 15/20
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 9/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 4/5

Morality Score - 82%
Violence - 8/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 9/10
Occult/Supernatural - 6/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

The platforming and shooting elements are really well done.  There were a handful of enemies that I had a hard time hitting with the unlocked character, but a charge shot took care of that.  (The main character does not have a charge shot.)  Both characters' main attacks are drastically different – the second character is massively hamstrung without weapon power-ups.  Bosses become a real challenge because you basically have to fight a close range game if you don't beat her on the first try.  It forces a significant change in tactics.

Thankfully (or not), there is a rather unexpected behavior with one of the boss' earned weapons.  If you beat the first character's level, you gain a weapon, that when used with no enemies on the screen, will power up your Tres meter instead of lowering it, which happens when an enemy is targeted.  This makes the game dramatically easier once you beat that boss.  Until then, it's a really serious challenge.  It still is difficult afterward, but not nearly so.  It just takes a minute or two to power up your skills after each death.  Some people think this may be a bug; it's hard to be sure.  But it sure changes the game once unlocked.

As the E10 rating suggests, it is a fun game for most audiences.  But be aware that magic is used by both the enemies and you, though I would consider it more fairy tale-like than occult, though one level has blocks with pentagrams on them.  Zizou is a goddess, which implies there are others.  The other character is a bit selfish as well.  There is a rather humorous enemy (one of the few males) that flexes his pecks just before he attacks with flames.  There is no gore or blood of any kind; enemies pop when killed.

After beating the game the first time, a Syega shop is unlocked where you can spend the Syega you gained while playing the game.  You will need many replays in order to gain everything the shop has to offer.  Or, you can play your hand at an electronic poker game where you bet your Syega, in hopes of getting more.  I am a terrible gambler and lost all of the Syega I wagered.  (I stopped before I lost it all.)  Honestly, it's not as bad as it seems since it's buried in an extras menu that no one who doesn't beat the game will see.  But it's something to be aware of.

I was pleasantly surprised by The Legend of Dark Witch.  I expected a throwaway cheap eShop title, and instead found a really solid and fun 2D shooter/platformer. Despite some minor flaws, a few wacky translations, and a potential bug, there is a lot of fun here.  A few of my kids have asked about getting it, and at $3.99, it's really a no brainer.  Especially so if you love classic Mega Man like I do, assuming it doesn't bother you that she is listed as a goddess, or the hidden gambling minigame.  At the very least, it's a good way to pass the time until Mighty No. 9 gets here.

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Jason Gress

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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