First Look: Little Witch Academia: The Chamber of Timeby Heidi Kemps,
If there's anything that proves that localizing anime-based games have been a phenomenal success for Bandai Namco games, it's the fact that the video game adaptation of Little Witch Academia was shown publicly to the west before Japan. It goes to show both how committed the company is to bringing its anime-based games to a global audience and how much faith they have in the actual game.
Chamber of Time is an interesting adaptation of the source material -- you might not look at Little Witch Academia and think a sidescrolling action/RPG ala Dragon's Crown would be the way to go, but that's exactly what we're getting. Unlike Dragon's Crown, the visuals aren't hand-drawn: the development team has taken the graphical style seen in Guilty Gear Xrd and Dragonball FighterZ and applied it here, resulting in 3D character models that look like 2D anime characters. It's an interesting choice, and while I'd prefer it have been traditional 2D animation, it still manages to pull off the visual stylings that makes LWA such a standout series.
The demo we played began with Akko, Sucy, and Lotte being thrust into a crisis and having to fight off waves of monsters. While three characters were onscreen and acting at once, only Akko was under our control, and I couldn't see any way to swap to direct control of the others -- though they will be playable. (I'm also tantalized by the idea that this could potentially be a multiplayer experience. Here's hoping!) The circle pad moved Akko around the horizontal field -- while there's some limited vertical ground movement, the game's scrolling is strictly horizontal. As we moved from left to right, we encountered monsters that we needed to beat up using magical attacks. The face buttons on the PS4 pad are mapped to standard light, medium, and heavy attacks, while special magical attacks can be accessed by holding down shoulder buttons and pressing the face buttons. While these attacks are extremely powerful, they have a cooldown time after use, meaning that you can't just spam them constantly.
At the end of the stage, we encountered what looked like the Titan from the anime. He was gigantic -- only half of his body was onscreen at any time, and only when he retreated into the background to launch attacks from the shadows were we able to see beyond his torso. He hit us quite hard, and before I knew it, Sucy and Lotte were out cold, leaving Akko to pick up the slack. Fortunately, the boss was quite heavily choreographed and pattern-based: he'd pound or swipe with his arms, then rest for a few seconds after the strike, leaving an opening for the girls to hit his head and hands with magic attacks. Occasionally, he'd leap back and launch magical projectiles at Akko, and she would need to hit them back with precise timing to force the boss back into the fray. While the patterns were recognizable after a little while, getting hit by this massive monstrosity really hurt, and Akko was on the ropes by the time he finally went down.
We only got a small taste of Chamber of Time's gameplay: a recent official stream showed some traditional RPG-style exploration of Luna Nova that will be in the completed game but wasn't part of our demo version. But from everything I've seen so far, I can say that the game has a lot of promise: the visuals were solid, the gameplay felt good, and the boss fight that topped it all off was pretty darn fun. I can see it perhaps getting repetitive in the long run, but hopefully there will be ways to change and enhance characters to help with that -- and, again, multiplayer battles would probably make this even better. If you've been digging LWA, you'll definitely want to keep a close eye on this.
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