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Review

Review: Little Witch Academia – Chamber of Time

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As a gaming-focused site, anime is something we rarely discuss. But if we did, Little Witch Academia would be one of the first modern anime that we would recommend thanks to its wonderful cast of characters and the various shenanigans that happen every episode. Chamber of Time aimed to capture some of what made the anime so great, but fails in almost every regard.

For those that have yet to experience the Little Witch Academia anime, Chamber of Time offers brief introductions for each of the main characters plus a general overview of the anime’s premise. Since the original series focused little on an overarching storyline, instead having each episode being somewhat self-contained, it’s easy to jump into the game without being too confused. Chamber of Time takes place just before summer break at the magical academy Luna Nova, where young witch Akko discovers a hidden room linked to the academy’s library. Akko’s curiosity leads to her and some of her friends being trapped in a time loop, being forced to repeat the same day over and over with no idea how to escape.

Gameplay in Chamber of Time is mainly split between wandering Luna Nova for clues on how to end the the loop, and exploring various dungeons that are unlocked through the story and sidequests. Luna Nova is rather large and features many different NPCs to talk to, many of whom will have quests for you to complete. At first it’s cool to explore areas that have appeared in the anime, but it quickly becomes a chore to explore the academy. Akko moves rather slowly, and it’s only possible to fast travel from the sparse amounts of save points. Adding to this is the spell system, as Akko requires different types of potions to cast certain spells. Unlocking a save point takes one spell, and travelling between them is another spell. This system would be more bearable if you just had to unlock spells instead of also having to buy multiple potions just to make exploring less tedious.

The most egregious issue is not exploring Luna Nova however, it’s the time loop mechanic. As you explore Luna Nova, time will continuously move when not in a menu or talking to someone. When it reaches midnight, the day is restarted and you’re sent back to Akko’s room. NPC positions, sidequests and events are all time dependent, making finding specific characters a pain. The map also only shows if there’s a sidequest in an area, not the exact location or even what quest it is. This becomes annoying later on when the map continues to show quests that have already been completed.

Dungeons in Chamber of Time aren’t much fun either. You collect dungeon keys during the story and from various sidequests. Regular keys are used to access the main set of dungeons, while small keys unlock dungeons that are short and usually good for grinding items or xp. Dungeons are fairly bland, made up of a small handful of room types that generally look the same. Each playable character has three basic attacks, along with a set of 6 spells that can be set before entering a dungeon. As with most beat ’em ups, the goal of each dungeon is to defeat the boss while defeating basic enemies along the way. In the main dungeons there are many different paths and extra rooms, but there is little reason to deviate from the fastest path to the boss. Bosses give a lot of xp and items, and are generally quite weak if you’re anywhere near the suggested dungeon level.

We won’t mince words here: Combat is awful in Chamber of Time. Each character’s basic attacks feel clunky to use and most can’t even be used as combos. Because of this, there’s little reason to use more than one of the three basic attacks. Spells don’t fare much better thanks to how often they’re reused, just with different elements each time. There are a lot of spells that can be unlocked as you level up characters, but they all lack impact compared to the already lacklustre regular attacks. Chamber of Time fails to even get the basics of a beat ’em up correct, and the bland dungeons do little to make things more enjoyable.

The only real areas that Chamber of Time succeeds in are presentation and voice acting, and even then the former is very inconsistent. Character models are fantastic, emulating the 2D art of the anime perfectly. Each character is animated well, including a lot of comedic facial expressions. Every character in the game is voiced too, even unimportant NPCs. It was a welcome surprise to find out that every single line of dialogue has voice acting, something that many Japanese games don’t do. It’s a shame that none of the environments have the same attention to detail, as most areas look extremely plain and uninteresting. Dungeons are especially poor, most having ugly backgrounds and some awful enemy designs. The difference in quality between the character models and everything else is incredibly jarring.

As for the quality of the PC port, it’s comparable to many of Bandai Namco’s other recent PC releases such as Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet. Performance is acceptable, though the system requirements are fairly high considering how most areas lack detail. As with Fatal Bullet, keyboard and mouse support is somewhat lacking. You can’t use a mouse for navigating menus or the map. Considering how often you’ll be looking at the map to find story events or sidequests, you’re better off using a controller. One welcome feature in the PC port is the inclusion of both PS4 and Xbox button icons, something that is rarely seen in PC games.

Conclusion

Little Witch Academia: Chamber of Time was an incredible disappointment as a fan of the series, and even more so as a fan of beat ’em ups. After coming off the amazing Dragon’s Crown Pro, the many problems with Chamber of Time become even more apparent. I’d honestly say to anyone reading this review that while you should skip this, you should definitely watch the far superior anime.

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