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Little Witch Academia: The Chamber of Time (PlayStation 4) artwork

Little Witch Academia: The Chamber of Time (PlayStation 4) review

"Little Witch Academia fans get the game they deserve."

Licensed games often get a bad rap. Itís not entirely undeserved, since many games based on properties throughout the years seem to have been designed primarily to exploit playersí affinity for the brand in question. Now that most such games have made the move to mobile devices, consoles and PCs are left with games made by people who genuinely care about the licenses they secure and want to do good by them. I can safely say Little Witch Academia: The Chamber of Time continues this encouraging trend.

Based on a popular anime, Little Witch Academia: The Chamber of Time follows a girl named Akko as she pursues her dream of becoming a witch at Luna Nova Magical Academy. The perfect game for this particular property would likely find the heroine exploring Luna Nova, learning spells and solving mysteries around the school. It seems the developers had the same idea I did, as The Chamber of Time is exactly what I just outlined... along with a little bit of RPG/beat-em-up action thrown in for good measure.

Little Witch Academia: The Chamber of Time (PlayStation 4) image

The Chamber of Time opens at the beginning of summer vacation. Akko finds herself having to organize the library as punishment for one of her many transgressions. During the clean-up, she opens a secret chamber in the library that leads to a mysterious room containing a clock. Being Akko, she somehow manages to break the clock, trapping herself in a Groundhog Day-esque time loop wherein she must repeat the same day over and over again until a way out is found. Itís not long until she ropes her friends into fixing her mess, and thus the adventure begins.

Fans of the anime will be right at home with The Chamber of Time, as it takes place between the first and second half of the TV anime series. Those new to the franchise are covered too, however, because there are optional narrated segments upon the introduction of every character to help explain the world and the existing relationships. Obviously, longtime fans are going to get way more out of the experience, as the developers have crammed in winks and nods to the series as a whole, but the general plot is easily approachable even for newcomers.

The general gameplay loop in The Chamber of Time is split between school exploration and dungeon delving sequences. Early on, players learn they must investigate the seven wonders of Luna Nova in order to finally close the titular chamber of time. Akko can begin looking into each wonder by questioning students, fulfilling requests and exploring the school to find where the wonders happen. That investigation is where the game truly shines, as the developers go above and beyond to make Luna Nova feel like a real place. Itís unfortunate the in-game map makes early exploration such a chore, since it doesnít quite match up with Akkoís placement in-game, but I felt a sense of accomplishment as I naturally learned where everything in the school was located. Navigating the campus eventually became second nature, not unlike the feeling I got when I finally learned where all my classrooms were at the college I attended here in the real world.

Little Witch Academia: The Chamber of Time (PlayStation 4) image

After discovering a wonder, Akko obtains a key that allows her and two other friends to explore a dungeon. These dungeons are accessible from the chamber of time and take place in locations referenced throughout the anime, from the Mimosa Forest to the Shaula Desert. Such segments are more akin to a beat-em-up like Streets of Rage that have Akko and two AI-controlled companions moving through a dungeon with enemies and traps. Akko and friends have access to weak, normal and strong attacks, alongside powerful magic that consumes MP. The beat-em-up portions of the game are serviceable, but nothing to get too excited about. Itís all pretty standard as far as the genre goes. The biggest problem with these sections is that thereís little in the way of feedback, visual or otherwise. Players see damage numbers rise from enemies and allies when blows land, but the animations leave a lot to be desired.

When players arenít helping Akko solve the mysteries of the wonders or clear dungeons, they can tackle the numerous side quests littered throughout the school. Students present Akko with their troubles, and many require some clever use of the repeating day mechanic if players intend to find solutions. One particularly interesting example has a teacher tasking Akko with fixing various equipment throughout the school. The challenge lies in finding out which items need fixing and the time at which the teacher finds them, then resetting the day to fix them before theyíre found. Other side quests are far more involved requiring players to reset the day multiple times, but the steps involved never become tedious or frustrating. Itís a really clever use of time manipulation, and the game is far better for it.

Little Witch Academia: The Chamber of Time (PlayStation 4) image

The most noticeable detriment affecting Little Witch Academia: The Chamber of Time is its apparent development budget. Itís clear Bandai Namco didnít want to commit the same resources it might devote to Naruto or Dragon Ball games. The character models are incredibly detailed, and really capture the look and feel of the anime. There are even brand new anime cutscenes from Studio Trigger sprinkled throughout the experience. Everything else is pretty substandard, however, with environments in particular looking pretty static. Fortunately, the game was able to use the soundtrack from the anime, and every line is voiced. It seems the team knew exactly where to spend its money.

Little Witch Academia: The Chamber of Time is another example of a licensed game done right. Not only is it a fun little game in its own right, but itís clear the development team has a passion for the property. The lack of a proper budget is certainly felt, but it doesnít detract from what is clearly a passion project that ended up being far more enjoyable than expected. Fans of the anime are going to love it, and newcomers might just come to understand what makes Little Witch Academia so appealing.


Phazonmasher's avatar
Freelance review by Zachary Walton (May 28, 2018)

Zach Walton likes JRPGs, visual novels, horror games and anything that gives him an excuse to drink.

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