Little Witch Academia, has quickly earned itself quite the passionate fanbase in the anime community over the last few years. After 2 hit shorts crowdfunded via KickStarter, Studio Trigger went into production on a full length season thanks to Netflix. Now the series has received it’s first tie-in game, The Chamber of Time, developed by A+ games and published by Bandai Namco. But due to some less than great gameplay and performance problems it may not be the best way for you to experience this amazing world and it’s cast of quirky characters.
The Chamber of Time begins on the first day of Summer vacation at the Luna Nova Magic Academy. The prestigious magic school where the series primarily takes place. The main character Akko has been up to her regular mischief again and been sentenced to reorganise the school library. Akko instead procrastinates and decides to take a nap in the library instead. Upon waking she finds a mysterious book that wasn’t there prior that leads her to find a hidden chamber located behind a bookshelf in the library. Inside Akko, along with her friends Lotte and Sucy discover an ominous looking clock with a green glowing hourglass and of course Akko decides to touch it.
After escaping the dungeon and going to sleep later that night, Akko waked to discover that the events of the previous day are re-occurring. Causing her and her friends to live the same day over and over. This kicks off the core events of the game, involving Akko and her friends investigating the mysterious chamber to discover the cause of the never ending time loop.
Unlike other anime tie in’s such as the Naruto Ninja Storm or One Piece games, Little Witch Academia: Chamber Of Time isn’t a video game that retells the narrative of the anime series. It is an original story that takes place in the same world established in the anime.
Because of this I wouldn’t recommend this game to you if you hadn’t had some experience with the anime first. It doesn’t venture too deeply into bringing you up to speed with the story so far or individual quirks and histories of the many characters you’ll cross path’s with in the game. Upon first meeting a new character you are given the option to view ‘Reminisce’ scenes that give you a quick, introductory run down on the character that is presented as dialogue over fixed stills from the anime series but does little more than establish what their trope is in the story.
The core gameplay of Chamber of Time is made up of two sections. Free roam adventuring inside the school and the dungeon crawling battle sequences. Adventuring allows you to walk around the castle speaking to numerous characters to progress the story, pick up new quests and complete side objectives that make clever use of the game’s time looping mechanic.
The dungeon crawling sections play out very similar to another 2D side scroller, Dragon’s Crown. Your main character along with 2 support characters will traverse the levels of the dungeon, eliminating countless enemies and avoiding traps with the goal of reaching and defeating the boss. You’ll unlock quite a number of the characters from the series that can be added to your party, each with their own special abilities and spells in their arsenal.
Progressing through the dungeons allows you to level up and customise your party members’ stats and spells and make use of any loot collected while inside the dungeon. These party options were quite a bit deeper than what I’d expected going in and was pleasantly surprised how fun it was to tweak the stats and customise your own party to your liking.
The game visually is fantastic. The cell shaded characters and environments replicate the look and feel of the Trigger anime series almost to the point that it’s like walking around an episode of the anime. The game is further improved with original anime cutscenes that have been produced by Studio Trigger and retain the same quality seen in the series.
The anime cutscenes are reserved for the bigger aspects of the narrative. In between the story is presented on screen as text based dialogue and each scene is fully voiced by the original Japanese voice actors for the characters, which is the only option available in Chamber of Time, no English dubs here. I was glad they put in the effort to have the sequences voiced, but then a little let down that no lip sync work was done and the characters mouths just randomly flap about during the dialogue.
Unfortunately how it plays isn’t as great as how it looks. Moving the characters around on screen doesn’t feel as responsive and precise as I’d like. It almost tries to replicate the feeling of moving Mario around in one of his 3D titles, where he takes time to speed up and slow down when in motion and doesn’t really fit here, especially in the side-scrolling 2D sections of the game.
I also ran into some performance problems during the dungeon crawling aspect of the game, especially when things get increasingly chaotic on screen. Luckily I didn’t experience any crashes or slowdown to the point where things became unplayable but there were noticeable frame rate drops that managed to occur at the most critical of times during battles.
I found the main story of Chamber of Time to be quite enjoyable. It’s Groundhog Day still time loop is worked in well not only to the main story but also how and when certain side quests can be completed. It was engaging pretty much the whole way through and I’m glad the Studio Trigger and A+ were game enough to attempt an original story rather than rehash the already popular main series. The game also conveys the same feelings of the anime via it’s soundtrack which most if not all consists of the same music score from the anime.
While it may not be the perfect jumping on point for those unfamiliar with the Little Witch Academia series and it is noticeably let down by clunky controls and some performance problems, if you can look past that there is a good game here in the Chamber of Time. It has an engaging original story, great customisation options to craft the party to your liking and addicting loot based dungeons. The game seems to be targeted towards those that are already fans of the series and if that’s you I think you’ll have a positive experience with Chamber of Time.
If you want to check out some gameplay before grabbing a copy yourself, you can watch the first hour of the game below:
A PS4 review code was provided by Bandai Namco Australia for the purpose of this review.
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