Witches & Vampires
Witches and Vampires: The Secrets of Ashburry
Story wise the game is rather simplistic in that you need to collect the six amulets that contain the power of an ancient evil and destroy them using objects that represent the four elements.
Outside of the main plot you can go on side quests if you talk to the various towns people that you come across throughout the game. And a few of them can offer you multiple quests depending on how far along you are in the story. Sadly, this serves little purpose outside of allowing you to grind for stat and skill points that you'll need to stay competitive so the side quests don't feel all that optional in my opinion nor do they expand upon the history of Ashburry or the games universe at large.
Control wise the game is a bit of a mixed bag with an emphasis on the stylus, but you can use the d-pad and A button to achieve the same things in certain areas like exploring the world and hitting the OK button. In combat you have no choice but to utilize the stylus pen in order to select your combat action and to cast spells if necessary. While a bit of a disappointment if you aren't a big fan of the stylus you'll find the overall stylus controls a bit loose. The biggest issue will be when you try and enter a house since the characters will sometimes make rather large circles when trying to rotate around in order to go up the stairs to enter a house.
Combat wise the game is a bit of a mixed bag as well in my opinion. One of the biggest problems is that the difficulty of the enemies massively spikes after you locate the broom and I'll go into details about my distaste for this story item a bit later. Probably the biggest problem with the combat though is that there are no cures to negative status effects like silence, sleep, stun, burned, and confusion. These status effects can be devastating to be honest with the silence and stun spells able to disable an opponent for up to three turns giving the player plenty of time to power-up with character specific spells like fury and ultimate power or use the support spells Magic Up that can only be cast by Ruby.
The burned effect can also be a large problem as well if you have higher attack stats since the effect does damage to an enemy at the end of a round based on percentage of how powerful the initial attack that inflicted the status dealt. This means if you land a blow for 300 damage or so the burned status effect will inflict 100 points of damage on the enemy. This also holds true for poisoning your enemy as well so you can easily do in excess of 200 points of damage from these two status effects alone. This effect can make the final boss a joke and allowed me to easily take him down within five rounds of combat.
On the brighter side the game allows you to cast spells with the stylus which helps to make combat a bit more engaging and unlike the sequel the wait time before you can cast a spell is shorter so you feel like the game is padding itself a bit less with showing you the correct symbol every time you cast a spell. My only issue with this system is that your required to cast a spell for every single move available to you so if your silenced your unable to perform any actions not even a basic melee attack like a punch to the face.
Now onto what I consider the biggest problem with the game or should I say mini-games surrounding it. After you retrieve the broom the difficulty spikes because the broom can be used to easily grind for experience. Every time you fly between two points on the map you can earn experience based on if you beat a mini-game before a time runs out. This mini-game is reminiscent of the old Star Fox training mode where you fly through rings. One of the best paths to take if you want to grind for experience is to fly between Ruby's District and the Harbor which allows you to earn an easy 48 experience on each trip. And, sadly to grind out the experience you'll need to get the stats you'll need to beat the game will require you to spend around 2 1/2 hours flying back and forth between these two points.
On a slightly more positive note the game does offer another option later on in the house of Dariel's father which allows you to fight against copies of yourself in order to earn experience and skill points.
Outside of the issue with the broom all of the mini-games share the same basic problem in that they remind you what to do every time you play them. Luckily if you hit the A button at the start of some of these games you can initiate them a bit quicker or in the case of the sewer mini-game if you start running your stylus across the screen to remove the dirt it will stop reminding you to do so.
Though, to end on a slightly more positive note the experience and skill point system in this game is a bit more interesting. In this game you don't level up in the traditional sense, but need to visit a book in your room to spend experience and skill points to upgrade your stats and abilities or to purchase additional abilities. This makes you feel like your in control of your character's development, but sadly the uniqueness here is a bit lost since you'll basically need to upgrade all of your stats in order to keep a character competitive in combat or useful in their designated role such as main attacker (Aluna), secondary attacker and status inflicter (Dariel), and healer and support specialist (Ruby).
Graphically the game is rather ugly to be honest. Much of the game is presented from an overhead perspective with rather normal looking houses but the character sprites look a bit like the original sim game if you gave them a more cartoonish appearance and the grass and trees are a rather putrid green.
The game also includes a small amount of 3D modeling when you use the broom to fast travel and play the associated mini-game where you'll need to avoid obstacles and fly through rings. The houses and whatnot still feel ugly in this mode and the design doesn't feel like it fits the character models to a degree.
Though, my biggest issue with the game is the lack of enemies and unique character sprites. The townspeople in this game are limited to basically three or four sprites and are used multiple times despite the fact that there is only a small handful of town's people to interact with in this game. This same issue also effects the enemies to the point that the amount of unique enemies can easily be counted on your hands and toes. I realize that this game is rather short overall, but the bestiary feels lacking and none of the bosses feel unique outside of the one that you beat before going to take on the final boss in the game.
Sound wise the game is rather average to be honest. Most of the soundtracks are used rather repeatedly but this can be forgiven to a degree considering how short the game is, but is a bit disappointing that the big baddies in this game don't get there own theme during combat.
Outside of that the few special effect noises are alright and are also used repetitively on various spells and status effects.
The game lacks any post game content and while you can fight against yourself before you go to fight the final boss an infinite number of times if you want to power-up it serves little purpose unless you want to max your stats in this game for some reason. I don't see much of a reason to do so in my opinion, but others may get far more enjoyment of the combat system then I did.
Lasting Appeal: 2
I love this game
I would definitely recommend this game to anyone who is into vampires and witches and likes action games