Little Witch Academia is a Japanese animated series created by Studio Trigger. The series is a pastiche of the likes of Harry Potter and The Worst Witch; in a version of our world where magic is an openly known if considered archaic force, young Japanese girl Akko thrills to the stage shows of the witch Shiny Chariot and applies to join her idol’s alma mater of Luna Nova, a prestigious magic school in England. However, Akko finds that the showbiz antics of Chariot are not well regarded by the magical community and Akko struggles with her own apparent inability at magic.
Although the series has a story arc, Chamber of Time is designed to fit loosely into it and be welcoming to those who haven’t seen it. This is highlighted by the ‘Reminisce’ mechanic, where the first time you meet prominent characters the game gives you the option to watch an Akko narrated montage about her relationship with them. The plot itself sees Akko discover a hidden chamber beneath Luna Nova which houses a magical clock. Touching it accidentally traps the school in a 24 time loop, with only those who visit the chamber retaining awareness. This takes up the early part of the game and is sadly somewhat awkward. You have to play Akko’s journey from her room to the library three times, though at least slightly shortened each time. In some ways it works (encountering Akko’s mentor Ursula twice is a good way to ensure players understand the magic casting mechanic) but overall is frustrating, especially as the game won’t even let you save until you’ve completed this sequence. Saving is done via crystal balls which must in turn be activated via potion to work. That’s an incredibly clunky mechanic in an industry where auto-saves have long been a tradition.
The game is split in to two types of game play. The first and arguably most engaging is free roaming of the Luna Nova campus. A lot of the school has been recreated in the game and it’s fun to dash around it at your own pace. You can talk to characters but one of the more amusing mechanics involves eavesdropping on conversations you aren’t part of, during which Akko assumes a comical “Uh-huh, uh-huh!” animation. The game developers have clearly tried hard to mimic the style of animation seen in the show, leading to lively sprites you’ll primarily see in the dialogue cut scenes. There are some fully animated ones from Trigger to enjoy but mostly you’ll be seeing the in game models, so well done to the developers for their work on that front. This care also extends to the art design of in game menus and such. I like how each character is represented via facial silhouette with only the hair coloured. These work as a great visual shorthand for the playable characters, even jostling back and forth when they take damage. Visually this game received a lot of love.
The other play style is a beat-em up side scroller, familiar to those who have played stuff like Streets of Rage and Double Dragon. These see you leading a team of three witches through dungeons filled with traps and monsters, using magic as opposed to punches and kicks. Your partners are COM controlled but the roster of seven characters is unlocked quite early along with the ability to freely edit your team. So if you’re tired of running around the school as Akko you can instead try playing as the likes of Sucy or Diana. As you play you’ll earn EXP and coins, allowing you to upgrade and customise the characters to your liking.
Only Japanese dialogue is available, an increasing tradition of anime licensed games. All of the regular cast return to voice their characters and most everything is subtitled, bar a few throwaway lines during combat. As a general comment I do wish anime games could be more consistent on this. Games such as this and Gundam Versus will have characters drop out fight banter unsubtitled, creating a lock out for non-Japanese speakers.
The pre-order bonus DLC for the game is ‘Magic Knight Grand Charion’, a retro inspired mini-game inspired by the giant robot from the series. You have to fly its ship form whilst shooting down enemies, completion of which leads to a timing based 3D brawl in its robot mode. Like many retro games its simple and addicting but not a huge loss if you miss out on it. I could see this working well as a mobile app game.
Little Witch Academia: Chamber of Time is an example of a licensed game done right. Although not perfect, this is far from a cheap cash in and works hard to appeal to fans new and old. It’s the rare tie in game that feels truly in the spirit of the work it’s based on and perfectly timed for fans who want more from this setting. Definitely recommended.
Little Witch Academia: Chamber of Time is available now on Playstation 4 and PC.
Read our interview with the game’s producer here.
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