I happen to know someone that I have a love-hate relationship with. You probably have someone similar, that kind of person you like having around because you know they’re pretty amusing and funny, however, completely different when drunk. For our friend, Studio Trigger, Little Witch Academia: Chamber of Time was something they had made during a drunk stupor while hanging out with A+ Games.
Little Witch Academia (LWA) is probably easiest to understand as an anime version of Harry Potter. I personally didn’t watch the series and yes, that’s simplifying things by a stretch, but you have girls attending a magic school and meet with various personalities and dealing with an adventure of the day, in anime form. It developed a great fan following as the series was backed with crowdfunding, but it probably won’t win any new fans with this new title. So enough beating around the bush, let’s break down what’s going on with LWA Chamber of Time.
The premise is that you play 7 of the students within the school, just that as the name implies, trapped in some sort of time loop. This is thanks to your lead protagonist, Ako, doing what most lead protagonists in anime do. Start a mess that everyone has to fix. All in one day because the time loop is exactly one day, without an ocarina as some absurd reference to a certain game.
Production (1 / 5)
If it’s time travel LWA Chamber of Time can quickly send you to the past with how basic the backgrounds look in every stage of the game. The game presents itself with 2.5D style graphics and it’s easy to tell where the budget went. While the backgrounds are very dull and uninteresting the characters all look unique rather than look like they’re generated from a character creator, many even have their own voice and others animate in their specific manner. Even the portraits animate well when they’re in ‘visual novel’ mode if you can forgive the lack of transition.
Moving around the school is rather difficult especially at the start as the map doesn’t really tell you much about where you’re going in this 3-floor structure that’s inter-connected with other buildings within the campus. The interface, especially when trying to manage your quest tasks and looking for clues around the school is made difficult because of what the game doesn’t tell you. Perhaps this could be forgiven if there was some form of skill or strategy involved with figuring out what to do next, but so far I don’t think that was the case.
Combat is barely passable, it can be difficult to tell if you’re actually doing anything right when you’re trying to hit your enemy. Most of the enemies and obstacles also look extremely uninteresting and it makes you want to skip over them if you can (but you can’t). You’ll also have to get used to the audio clips quickly looping because of you mashing the attack button. It’s not much if you’re used to fighting games but if you’re not well I suppose it’s time.
The worst part about the combat is that despite all the complaints I made about how simple it looks, it has the audacity to skip frames or lag at certain points, if there’s enough things moving. It honestly feels like a badly ported game that might have been meant for the PSVita and is suddenly on the PlayStation 4.
Mechanics (2 / 5)
This title generally has two types of gameplay that attempt to intertwine with each other. One would be the old-school adventure game where you go around the school solving either a mysterious case or just some problems your acquaintances might have. And the other is a dungeon raid where you wander various dungeons in search of treasure, grinding levels, and other dungeon-raid-ey things.
As I mentioned before, the adventure part is runs similarly to Ocarina of Time. Everything happens in one day, and as the day repeats, so do the sub-quests. It allows you to ‘farm’ certain goods without really spending any resources but it gets tedious as you have to run to every point on your own. What’s painful, however, is how hard it could be to actually proceed any of this, even the main story. You see, you’re asked to maybe find a person or a thing without really knowing who or what that really is. Yes, you’re probably given a name and sometimes a place but if you don’t watch the series you’re probably better off with a guide to save yourself the frustration.
Now the combat in the dungeon raid would have been ideally good. You develop your 7 characters by putting them in a dungeon and allow them to gain experience. If you don’t like how they play you can just let the AI handle them. As they level up, you can customize where to place their stats and what skill they can learn. Pretty standard jRPG stuff, nothing bad here. But what’s wrong with the combat system is always staring you directly in the face. Walking around on a 2.5D environment isn’t necessarily bad, in fact there’s Vanillaware is capable of making this work, but LWA Chamber of Time is having trouble putting the it together. It’s difficult to tell if you’re actually hitting your target since the game doesn’t really tell you that you did. In fact, you generally have no idea what your character of choice is capable of until you actually start playing them.On top of that, being able to tell if you’ve positioned yourself close enough to your target is another mystery. Your party members work on their own AI and are generally an existence you wouldn’t mind having around, even if they don’t have special abilities that only work if you set them as your active character. They capably approach and attack enemies which gives you enough room to figure out what you’re supposed to be doing with your character before reaching the boss room.
So in general, the mechanics don’t work very well on either side of the gameplay spectrum, and that’s a shame considering how much work was put into getting the characters to feel like characters.
Content (1.5 / 5)
I believe that the biggest amount of content you’ll easily find in this game would be the amount of customized characters you’ll find. Yes, I know I’ve been going on and on about it but it seems to be a focal point in the development of LWA Chamber of Time. You begin the game with opening of summer break and a whole lot of talking with other girls and professors. In fact you even get a powerpoint presentation as to why so-and-so character is important or a huge deal in the series just to make sure you’re up to speed.
There’s also a bunch of things you can do, over and over again. Every 2 hours in the game world events open or close as well as characters move around doing something else. Memorizing where they can be or what becomes available is one of the tricks to getting the most out of the game, and there’s a lot to do. You can be trying to find somebody a book, trying to learn a skill, or even just trying to help mend an argument. In general it’s really just talking to people between point A and B in many convoluted ways, but getting creative with how every little story is a touch that could be appreciated by people, especially the fans of the series.
Features (1 / 5)
You generally get a gallery to review what you’ve already uncovered in the game. You can see CG and the best part of Little Witch Academia: Chamber of Time, the anime cutscenes.
I certainly wish they at least had fast travel in the game, but nope.
Nothing much after that, unless you find the idea of dealing with game bugs as a feature. We’re talking cameras that sometimes get stuck and dialogue that doesn’t proceed. Those were generally the biggest offenders I had experienced.
Little Witch Academia: Chamber of Time is clearly a game crafted for its fans. You have no shortage of new characters to meet and deal with, having even their voices intact. The entire school area seems to be a fairly accurate representation of what you’ll see in the anime series, and their current relationships are fairly acted out. Though I would say the heavy focus on this aspect has left the game quite lopsided in its development.
Perhaps if you were already a fan of the anime, you wouldn’t have too much trouble navigating its world and finding the characters the clue in for you to find to proceed with the game, but I certainly did. Even with the speech bubbles telling you what you should be interacting with and inner monologues with Akko-chan telling you what you should actually do, trying to proceed with the game’s story had proven to be quite frustrating. You might have to resort to a guide to make your progress through the game smoother, which is what I certainly did.
But at some point I ran into a brick wall with being unable to proceed the main story even though I found the right character to speak to, and for some reason the story wouldn’t progress. It was at that point, 12 hours in, that I gave up.
Little Witch Academia: Chamber of Time was less than magical, scoring a 1.4 out of 5.
Here’s to hoping Kill La Kill will be a good game.
Available on the PlayStation 4 and PC.