Friday, May 7, 2010

Review of Witch's Witch

Natsume gave me a opportunity to explore the upcoming DS game, 'Witch's Witch', some time ago but I only now have been given official permission to post about it. 'Witch's Wish' is due to be released on 25 May 2010 but can be pre-ordered at Amazon now for $19.99. I have added a link to this post that will take you directly to Amazon if you wish to reserve your copy.

'Witch's Wish' is a delightful little game that should appeal to any one who enjoyed 'Princess Debut'. Your Character is Vicky, an aspiring witch who must solve a mystery and make some critical decisions as to the future of her community in the course of her story. 'Witch's Wish' is not centred on romance as much as 'Princess Debut' but in its own way, shares some of the essential elements of that game and does have its own romantic elements where some of Vicky's friends are concerned.

First of all, there is the Touchscreen action, which is extremely clever, in that you have the opportunity to use Elemental Runes in the true sense of the word (signifying magical sigils) in order to cast spells. Somehow, you have a real sense of casting magic by doing this. A certain amount of accuracy is required to cast the Spells properly. As you gain experience by completing Chapters, you gain more potent elemental spells. Knowing which elemental spell to use at any given time can be critical to your success.

Exploring the Map to speak to the right people at the right time is the key to success in any given Chapter. If you do not receive the information you need from specific Characters, you will not be able to move forward. You can unlock new songs and pictures when you smash objects by casting the proper Spell. As there are three levels of Elemental Spells and you have the power to use them only in specific Chapters, the game very much hinges on knowing WHEN to perform a specific action or visit a specific area.

There is a wonderful arena named 'Witch One' where you can engage in magical duels with other aspiring Witches. Winning matches against the highest three opponents will allow you to gain new Badges and Fruits, the items that unlock new songs and pictures. Again, as you will possess the most powerful Spells only in specific Chapters of the game, it is important to know when to enter a match in the Witch One arena, which is not always accessible to your Character.

Although 'Witch's Wish' is suitable to players of all ages, including children, like so many of the games Natsume produces, it does deal with some very profound philosophical and social issues. This issues are discussed both with passion and with humour. Again, as is characteristic of Natsume games, even minor characters are developed in some detail and there is a wealth of dialogue to explore.

Social issues are evident from the very start in a world where rich and poor are divided by a wall and the shadow of the wall prevents sunlight from reaching Lower Town. Furthermore, only the rich have the means to attend magic schools, which are prohibitively expensive and thus magic has become the prerogative of the rich. Finally, the Wall was created by a 'legendary Witch', who long ago sealed away all the magic of the townspeople in order to prevent conflict between them.

Vicky, a young girl from Lower Town, aspires to become a Witch. Her motives, even at the very outset are pure. She wishes to be able to use magic to 'help others'. She passionately believes that:

'Magic is every one’s hopes and dreams! It’s wrong to seal something so important!'

Against this is the argument that:

'If every one wants to make their dreams come true, they’ll fight. Isn’t that right? Every one has different dreams... There’s no such thing as a world where every one’s dreams come true... Unfulfilled dreams either turn into something ugly and keep accumulating, or break out as conflicts.'

These are profound issues and one easily can perceive 'magic' as the power of technology. The residents of Lower Town who are manual labours desire magic in order to be able to use it to perform their tasks. The rich residents of the Upper Town are opposed to this, wishing to keep all magic power and knowledge to themselves.

There are more fundamental social and philosophical issues at stake concerning government and the right to control others as well as the limits to power and who should have the right to choose how much freedom is allowed to the masses.

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