When it comes to download-exclusive 3DS games, few are worthy of having a physical release and The Legend of Dark Witch is one of these few. Players will fall in love with the great cast of characters, solid gameplay, and ton of extra content.
The Legend of Dark Witch stars Zizou who must reclaim some crystals that someone stole. On her adventure, she'll fight her way through seven stages and encounter a new foe at the end of each one. After this, it's time to confront the thief and bring peace to the land.
Players will find many familiar components in this 2D side-scrolling action platformer. Zizou runs, jumps, and fires projectiles to make it through each stage. She can also change direction in time to block enemy projectiles which is a unique and intuitive mechanic. Bosses will reward you with a new weapon after they are defeated (a la Mega Man) and Zizou can power-up using a linear itemized gauge (a la Gradius). The gauge is filled by collecting butterflies that swarm around Zizou upon defeating enemies. The butterflies also act as money since you can opt to purchase permanent upgrades with them at the stage select screen. These elements are integrated very well as players can upgrade Zizou and seamlessly power-up and switch weapons in-game to quickly become a force to be reckoned with.
The graphics are sharp and colourful. The anime characters all look distinct and have their own personalities while enemies are mostly silly and fun to encounter. Each stage has its own unique flavour which makes them a joy to explore. However, there is a lack of 3D support which is acceptable but slightly disappointing. Characters retain their Japanese voices and they express their personalities suitably. The music sounds like it's straight from a Super Nintendo game and it's full of catchy high quality tunes. Sound effects add a layer of satisfaction to the carnage that Zizou brings about. This being said, Zizou's vocalizing as she attacks becomes repetitive quickly. It isn't loud (which is good) but it can get annoying considering she only makes a couple of noises. An issue that makes the game appear unprofessional is the fact that there are a lot of spelling mistakes. Most gamers probably wouldn't care much but some may be turned off as these mistakes are plentiful. Even characters' names are spelled differently at times.
Players control Zizou intuitively and each button press feels responsive. Gamers of any skill level can learn to swiftly navigate through stages while taking out enemies with ease, although the game itself is far from easy. Thankfully, players can adjust the difficulty. Power-ups allow Zizou to move faster, hover briefly, increase projectile spread and power, switch between two main weapons, and deploy a temporary shield (after unlocking it). These can be obtained either automatically or manually after reaching the gauge's thresholds. Players can also switch weapons either on the fly or via a menu. Most weapons act as hazards for enemies to get caught up in while others act as projectiles. All of the weapons are unique and each of them helps in certain situations.
Each stage has a couple of collectables that will allow you to power-up characteristics further than before. These aren't too difficult to find and it is fun to replay stages to collect them all. Players' fastest times are recorded per stage which adds even more replay value, especially for gamers who like to beat their scores. Every boss offers a fun challenge and discovering their weaknesses is just as satisfying as it is in a Mega Man game. Stages can usually be completed within five minutes although many players will have to try them more than once. This makes each playthrough last only a couple of hours at most which will leave players wanting more.
The Legend of Dark Witch includes a lot of extra content that is rewarding to unlock. A list of achievements is included that allows players to unlock concept art and notes from developers for every one that's completed. There is also a shop where players can spend special currency to unlock features in the museum and upgrades for Zizou. You can optionally gamble this currency in a poker mini-game which is a lot of fun by itself. The museum includes play statistics, bestiaries, and a music player. All of this extra content adds a great deal of replay value and also acts as a rewarding distraction from all the intense gameplay.
Upon first glance, it's hard to imagine a game like The Legend of Dark Witch would be as great as it is. It combines tried-and-true classic game mechanics into a must play experience for fans of 2D action games. Why this didn't receive a physical release is beyond me.
- + Great gameplay with tight controls
- + Interesting power-ups and weapons
- + Tons of bonus content, collectables, and replay value
- - The main game is quite short
- - Plenty of spelling errors