- Developer: KiwiWalks, IKINAGAMES
- Publisher: ININ Games, G Choice (STUDIOARTDINK), Strictly Limited Games
- Release date: 11th August 2021
- Genre: JRPG
- Platforms: Switch, PC
- Reviewed on: Switch
- Game Supplied by: Publisher
One of the most rewarding gaming experiences you can have is finding those cheaper hidden gems that are as enriching as a big-budget title. You may wonder how much bigger and better the game could have been were it blessed with a much bigger budget for the team to work with. Witch Spring 3 Re:Fine on the Nintendo Switch is one such game.
Having its origins from a mobile game, your assumption may be that the game, therefore, isn’t deep, beautiful, or detailed enough to be a success on a console, but having landed on the NS, it has proven the perfect place to experience this superb little game.
I say little game with a huge caveat, as there is actually a lot of depth to every gameplay aspect. The story, although nothing groundbreaking, is a typical and safe run of the mill experience, but it is comforting to experience. You play as a Witch called Eirudy, who hides in a forest away from the humans hunting her. In an effort to not be lonely, she has dolls in the basement of her house. These dolls can be brought to life, but can’t speak. To bring them to life she needs ingredients that she must collect in the surrounding areas through exploration or defeating monsters. Whilst out on one of these foraging trips, she meets a young man looking to save his mother and pretty soon thereafter you become embroiled in his adventure too.
Although there were a few English translation errors, the story collects all the aspects of the game together into a very coherent narrative. Combine this with the interesting characters and you have a great story hook to pull you through the game.
Interesting mechanics, even for a mobile game.
What separates this from other JRPGs is the interesting and deep, but never overwhelming, gameplay mechanics. You won’t feel that way by the end of the tutorials as your head will be spinning, but it does make sense. It’s only because the game throws a lot at you all at once, rather than introducing things and then letting you get used to them. However, give the game a couple of hours and all the mechanics soon become second nature.
The main aspects of gameplay are exploring in a top-down 3D world, combat, alchemy, and upgrading. The exploration is the weakest aspect of the game due to the limited resources the developers had to make the game and therefore the simplistic environments within. Just because they are simplistic does not make them uninteresting though. The only main issue the game has is the movement of your character is a tad clumsy, and on the Switch, a little jarring with occasional drops in frame rate. That said though, it is not really that bothersome or important as the core gameplay mechanics worked perfectly.
The combat is a pretty standard turn-based affair, but with the extra addition of being able to summon any dolls you have brought to life. These dolls can give you an extra boost, be it health or stat boosts but can only be summoned for one turn, and when you have more dolls, only a maximum of three dolls can be summoned per battle. The turn-based action is standard melee or spell attacks, defend etc until you are done. This worked perfectly well and the inclusion of the dolls added a great tactical layer over what was already a finely balanced system and meant the combat was always interesting and fun to use.
Bubble bubble toil and trouble.
The alchemy mechanics, very much like the Atelier mechanics, may appear too complicated at first, but give it a little time and soon you’ll be concocting all sorts of items in your cauldron. With the vast array of materials to collect, it was always interesting to make items, but a little frustrating as it was sometimes hard to find what you needed. Be that as it may, the actual art of alchemy is a simple case of adding ingredients, but you can’t just make whatever you want as you are limited to the level of your character.
To level Eirudy up you need to train her. These training sessions only happen after a certain amount of in-game time or events. You have eight different stats you can upgrade but only five upgrade slots to use at any one time. You can, if you so wish, use all five slots for the same upgrade, for example, using five days worth of training to upgrade your strength.
When you have selected your five, there is then a short and humorous in-game cinematic where Eirudy learns the five different aspects you have asked her to do. Careful selection of which five was always a pleasant headache, as you wanted to upgrade everything, at once.
Beauty in the eye of the beholder.
For a game that had its origins on mobile platforms, this game certainly won’t win awards for its graphical prowess. However, the artist, Jiseon Hong, has done a remarkable job with the artwork to make even the most basic of scenes look stunning. The world itself is fairly bland, and the character models of the enemies and effects in battle are very basic, but the character designs, especially during the dialogue sections, and the clarity of the menus and alchemy/upgrade systems, of which you will be doing a lot of, is very clear and easy on the eye. Don’t be put off that this was based on a mobile game, as it is far more interesting to look at than some other games in the genre which have had a much bigger budget.
Lastly, the music is of excellent quality. At times a lot of other JRPGs can numb the mind with boring and repetitive music, and as you are sometimes in the same area for long periods, the repetitive nature can become annoying, however, I never felt that with WitchSprings3. The music composition put together by the team of three, Jaehyun Ha, CrimsonA and Muwen, is excellent. If only the in-game effects had lived up to the musical element!
The game also doesn’t feature any English audio, so Western fans will have to do a lot of reading, but even though I personally only understand a smattering of Japanese, I really felt the voice acting was brilliant. The emotions of each of the characters along this journey really came through the language barrier.
There is a phrase that springs to mind with this game, that being, “batting above its average”. This game shouldn’t feel this good, but because it does everything you would expect a turn-based JRPG to do, and then adds a whole new flavour of its own on top, it rounds it out to be an excellent game.
It could have more detailed graphics and better combat effects, and it has slightly awkward controls when traversing the world, but that is all that holds this game back. Frankly, I feel like I’m nitpicking for the sake of it as those issues really didn’t bother me at all during my time with the game. Any JRPG fan should give this excellent game a spin.