March 7, 2023
There are so many games out there where the main combat mechanic involves you shooting at enemies with guns. This does make sense when there are so many first and third person shooters released every year, but I love when games in these genres think outside the box. Little Witch Nobeta is one such game, replacing shotguns with magic spells and adding a sprinkle of Soulslike mechanics for good measure.
Our adorable witch protagonist is a determined little spellcaster with one goal in mind, to reach the throne of a mysterious castle. It’s not really obvious why she wants to do this, but along the way she meets an aloof talking cat who seems to want the same thing. Along the way she’ll have to deal with weird living dolls called Crafted Souls that seem to have some level of consciousness, which leads to some internal struggles for Nobeta. Honestly the story is pretty nonsensical for most of the game, but doesn’t detract from the gameplay.
Fighting creepy mannequins and shadows will be what you spend the bulk of your time doing in Little Witch Nobeta, and you do it by firing spells at the blighters. Your first weapon is an arcane spell that fires single shots, but before you know it you’ll have more powers like an icy blast that rapid fires like a machine gun and a flaming shotgun. Although there’s only four of them in total, they feel different enough that you won’t get bored of using them.
As well as a regular fire option, each spell also has a charged attack you can unleash by chanting. It takes a while to fill the meter enough to ready these power attacks, but once you do the effects are awesome. When changed the ice spell that locks into multiple enemies once charged then automatically showers the targeted foes with chilly shrapnel, and the fire spell that unleashes a massive explosion is my personal favourite. It’s a clever mechanic, and means you’ll have to balance out the risk of charging with the reward of dealing a shed load of damage.
You won’t get to use these if you can’t avoid enemy attacks for long to charge them, so you’d better get used to using that dodge roll effectively. Once you realise that blasting enemies isn’t enough to survive in Little Witch Nobeta, the Souls side of the game starts to shine through a little. With handy invincibility frames to take advantage of, you’ll need to learn attack patterns and have fast reflexes if you want to make it to the throne.
The other Soulslike aspect of Little Witch Nobeta are the Goddess Statues, which are essentially bonfires where you can save the game and level up using the essence you’ve collected from fallen foes. This is all thankfully very straightforward, but had plenty of options to upgrade Nobeta to suit your playstyle. You can power up HP to tank more hits, make charging your spells faster or just beef up your damage and take baddies down faster. Leveling up your stats is really satisfying, and helps make castle life easier.
If you’re still struggling after leveling up, you’ll be happy to hear that there are some handy difficulty options available for all skill levels. The advanced difficulty will cater to veterans of the genre, but normal mode is much more forgiving and doesn’t expect you to handle some of the more brutal mechanics like curses and losing your essence when you die.
There are some parts of Little Witch Nobeta that are always punishing too, specifically some instant death moments. A lava level in particular has plenty of opportunity to fall into the fire for an immediate game over, and with certain enemies or even your own spells knocking you back it’s far too easy to fall to your doom. It just doesn’t feel particularly fair to lose so much over the tiniest of mistakes, and statues are often way too far apart for it to feel anything other than crushing.
I should also mention the performance of the game on Switch, which is more than a little ropey. The framerate is never great, but if you get to a busy or particularly open area it really tanks. This isn’t really acceptable when you’re having to deal with a ton of enemies and potential instant death, and detracts from the game significantly.
Little Witch Nobeta blends third person shooting and souls mechanics to create a magical experience, but the Switch version of the game has some technical issues that make it harder to recommend. If you can get past some slightly unfair moments and the iffy framerate though (or better yet are able to play it on another platform) you’ll find a lot to love in this castle of creepy dolls.
Shooting spells is fun with just enough variety
The chanting mechanic is great
The difficulty selection offers great options for different players
Has some seriously unfair deaths
Run poorly on the Switch
Little Witch Nobeta is a fun blend of shooting and Souls mechanics, but the Switch port has some framerate issues