Little Witch Academia: Chamber of Time on PlayStation 4
Recent anime games, like Dragon Ball FighterZ and Attack on Titan 2, have done extremely well in building upon their source material, creating unique experiences that revolve around what their respective series are all about. Little Witch Academia: Chamber of Time is another game that tries to do just that, and while it succeeds in some areas, it falls flat in others.
For those unfamiliar with Little Witch Academia, it follows the story of Atsuko Kagari, a young witch in training at Luna Nova Magical Academy. As a child, she saw a witch named Shiny Chariot perform, and ever since, she has dreamed of being like Chariot. Akko, by the way, unfortunately doesn’t have much magical talent, which forces him to approach situations differently.
Chamber of Time picks up midway through the anime’s first season, as Akko, Sucy, Lotte, and the other academy girls prepare to go on summer vacation. In an unexpected turn of events, however, the witches discover a mysterious chamber known as the Horologium Chamber in the library and an hourglass that places them in a time loop. Akko and the others must constantly live through the first day of summer vacation while unraveling the mystery of why it happened, and this plays into both the story and the gameplay of Chamber of Time.
The game is basically split into two different loops: non-combat exploration and beaten dungeon exploration. Most of the experience has Akko running around Luna Nova, helping various students and teachers, solving mysteries, and investigating the Horologium chamber. The entire game is dictated by a time system, with different events and characters appearing at different times of the day. Every two hours in the game, the whole school moves forward with the day bringing new options. You have main objectives to complete, but there are also a number of optional sub-events to complete that require Akko to solve problems and help students.
To its credit, Chamber of Time absolutely nails the tone of Little Witch Academia, and its art style is vibrant and expressive. The writing is fun, and the game’s story feels like a natural extension of the series, almost like one very long episode. This is only reinforced by the new anime scenes included in the game, which are animated by Studio Trigger themselves. I loved seeing the characters interact, and seeing Luna Nova come to life is a great experience for any fan of the series.
Unfortunately, navigating the school takes some getting used to as the map system isn’t much help. The mini-map at the top rotates as Akko moves, while the overview map only displays from one angle and does not show Akko’s exact location, only the area in which she is. You have to focus on the actual shape of each piece, and that can lead to some confusion at first when trying to explore. This boredom seeps into many other aspects of the game as well. All of your magic in the game, including fast travel, requires potions to use, which you can only get from the school store with magic gems. . These gems can only be obtained by exploring dungeons, which means getting more and advancing the story you might need to grind a few dungeons, ultimately slowing the pace of the story.
This boredom also translates to the game’s combat system and dungeons. Chamber of Time uses a beat em up combat system, allowing you to play as one of the main witches. You have light, heavy and ranged attacks as well as a host of spells to use. The biggest problem here is that the controls just don’t feel precise enough for combat. Moving characters can be a little slow, and I often had trouble telling if my character was exactly next to the enemy, leading to a lot of missed attacks.
Each large dungeon has a specific gimmick, which can end up being more frustrating than anything else. For example, a dungeon puts you on a mine cart and forces you to choose the right direction to find the boss. The problem is that if you choose the wrong directions, it takes you back to the start, but you’ll be sitting on the cart doing nothing for a good 45 seconds before anything happens.
The same can happen with bosses who also have their own unique mechanics, but don’t always do a good job of indicating what you need to do to beat them. One particularly frustrating boss pits you against an ice dragon. You can build blocks of ice on the stage by smashing X, and you can’t damage the boss as it flies around in the background. At no point does the battle give you a good indication of what to do with these blocks, and the boss can break them by hovering over them or hitting them with an ice blast. Building the blocks three heights would stun the dragon when it hits them, opening it up to attack for about 10 seconds. Figuring it all out was pretty tedious, but actually beating the boss took a good 25 minutes of rinsing and repeating mash X. Difficulty for bosses can also be pervasive, with others being downed in two to three minutes with very little effort.
It also doesn’t help that your AI companions are pretty dumb, locking themselves into running animations if they can’t attack an enemy and making no effort to dodge boss attacks. Now you can play the game cooperatively with friends, but again, Chamber of Time does nothing to explain how you do that. It wasn’t until I was exploring that I found the doorway to co-op play.
There is an upside to combat though, as there are loads of different spells to unlock and try out. Creating different spell sets for each character and creating movesets that you like can be fun, even if the combat sometimes drags. There’s also a ton of different gear to put on each character, allowing for further customization.
It’s quite sad that Chamber of Time is so actively working against you in so many ways. The boredom of everything from school exploration to combat can really start to drag on after a while, no matter how much you enjoy the story and the characters. The game does a wonderful job of matching the tone of the anime, but because of its issues, it’s hard for anyone to really get involved who isn’t already a fan of the series. The characters in Little Witch Academia are so charming, and there’s fun to be had here, just know that it comes with a heavy dose of boredom at the same time.
Rating: 3/5 – Fair
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