2D action games come in all shapes and sizes yet few are as enjoyable as Zizou's fantastic portable adventures. The Legend of Dark Witch 3 is a huge change from previous entries in the series but does Zizou still have what it takes to delight fans?
If you've visited Video Chums before then you may already know that I absolutely love The Legend of Dark Witch. I bought the original game on a whim and found myself obsessed with its tight 2D gameplay and charming game world. The mixture of Mega Man elements and a similar power-up meter to the one featured in Gradius created a constantly exciting dynamic for a retro gamer like me. The Legend of Dark Witch 3 (or "The Legend of Dark Witch Episode 3: Wisdom and Lunacy" if you want to be specific) continues this 2D action nostalgia trip by offering incredibly fun gameplay in a familiar and adorable world that fans have fallen in love with since day one. The charming characters, goofy enemies, lively music, and vibrant stages are just as endearing as they've ever been although the core gameplay is definitely different.
For starters, there are no more boss weapons. I know what you're thinking and yes, it's very disappointing. Although the previous games had some interesting weapons, nothing was really as memorable as the weaponry in the Mega Man series. That being said, the fact that they existed was great and they made finally beating a stage feel much more satisfying. Also, the power-up meter in The Legend of Dark Witch 3 is a lot less rewarding. Whereas previous games had it fill up when you collected Tres, it only fills up here when you acquire Syega Fragments which is needlessly limiting. Speaking of limiting, the meter only has three nodes: Speed, Wing, and Width. Maxing out your capabilities with this meter is a lot easier than you'd think and it definitely isn't as gratifying as it was in the previous games.
On the plus side, the stage designs and boss fights are much more action-packed and challenging in The Legend of Dark Witch 3. You'll come across many tricky platforming situations with a few nifty gimmicks here and there as well as unique enemies that can be rather challenging to work past, especially in tight spaces. The boss fights rely more on your gaming abilities considering you don't have any weapons that they may be weak to. They each have a distinct array of attacks that are fun to try and dodge while you sneak in a few blows. On the other hand, there are a few mechanics that can make things a bit too easy. For example, when you perish at a boss then you'll restart it right away with full health. Also, falling down a pit merely results in a bit of health damage and you get placed right back on track. In short, The Legend of Dark Witch 3 is both more challenging yet also easier... if that makes any sense.
Finally, The Legend of Dark Witch series has always provided plenty of extra content. The Legend of Dark Witch 3 features 12 somewhat lengthy stages that each house 4 hidden Pure Syega crystals. Once you acquire certain thresholds of them, you'll level up which allows you to spend more collected Tres at Papelne Trade for permanent upgrades. Meanwhile, you'll slowly fill out a list of achievements that'll take quite a while to complete. These two aspects help extend the replay value a great deal. However, the bonus mini-games and additional character leave a lot to be desired. For starters, the exact same mini-games that were featured in The Legend of Dark Witch 2 are also here (Poker and Rudymical). Next, the unlockable character is disappointing to say the least. She plays almost identically to Zizou although her stream of projectiles is much shorter. In other words, it feels more like a difficulty setting than a new character.
Although The Legend of Dark Witch 3 features undeniably tighter gameplay, the absence of a couple series staples and a disappointing selection of extra content make it a substantial letdown. That said, what's here is still a blast that both fans and newcomers will enjoy.
- + Stage designs and boss fights are much more challenging and action-intense
- + Same adorable game world that fans love
- + Collectibles and achievements add value
- - Lack of boss weapons and simplified power-ups make the gameplay far less varied
- - Certain mechanics make things too easy
- - Same extra content as the previous game