Little Witch Academia: Chamber of Time Review
The first day of summer vacation never fails to bring a smile to our faces. We stare intensely at the nearest clock as seconds feel like hours and minutes feel like an eternity waiting for that school bell to ring. To most of us, summer vacation is just a mere memory now; a luxury we no longer have. That first day has disappeared from our lives, but we will never forget those halcyon days of our youth.
Little Witch Academia: Chamber of Time ensures that its players look back fondly on the first day of summer vacation again and again and again… and again.
To those unfamiliar with Little Witch Academia, this adorable series first caught eyes in its OVA debut five years ago as part of the Anime Mirai 2013 program. Enchanted by its gorgeous visuals and lovable cast, fans around the world clamored for more and Little Witch Academia soon found its legs through another OVA crowdfunded via Kickstarter and a 25-episode TV anime series.
Little Witch Academia revolves around Akko, a young girl attending the Luna Nova Academy for up and coming witches. Akko wants to become a full-fledged witch despite having no aptitude for magic and she also wants to meet her lifelong hero, Shiny Chariot.
Chamber of Time takes place somewhere in the middle of the TV series; newcomers may feel lost at the abrupt beginning that plunges players straight into another typical day at Luna Nova. It does feature a few recaps for several characters to help fill in the blanks, but it’s inadequate at best. I’d recommend that interested newcomers should watch the TV series if they want to get the most out of this game - but really, they should just not even play this game.
Its commitment to the Groundhog Day premise is excruciating. Akko accidentally triggers an endless recursion of time in Chamber of Time. The entire game takes place in the first day of summer vacation; when the clock strikes midnight, it winds back to 8 AM. Thus, Akko and her friends spent the next 35 hours of my time trying various solutions to fix time itself. I thought it was an interesting premise at first until I realized that my enjoyment was the sacrifice for it.
Get comfortable within the confines of Luna Nova Academy; you’ll be running around it a lot for the first few hours. In fact, you won’t even know how to save your progress for a good bit. To make up for Akko’s lack of magical power, she’ll be acquiring different types of potions throughout the game and some of them are for basic gameplay functions. One of them unlocks save points and it expends a potion everytime you consume it. Thankfully the potion is only spent upon activating the save point for the first time - not the act of saving game progress itself.
There’s also a fast-travel potion to save your sanity from constantly running around and yes, it also comes at an expense as well. Expect to spend a good amount of your crystal funds racking up teleport potions to fast-travel and save yourself running around Luna Nova for the umpteenth time.
Chamber of Time is also a very time-sensitive game when it comes to progression. There are numerous 2-3 hour phases of the day that cycle in new event sidequests and NPC locations. If you miss a story progressing event or a specific NPC for a sidequest, you’ll have to wait till the next day reset to catch them again. Time moves quite quickly in this game, so the early segments are absolutely a pain when fast-travel potions are scarce. The game also takes way too long to mention that you can buy potions at the Academy Store for some reason.
These irritating mechanics would not be that annoying if the UI and sidequest indicators weren’t so awful as well. Another baffling element in Chamber of Time is that a lot of sidequests still pop-up on the next day reset even after you’ve completed them. You will get the prompt to get that library book for that girl again and tell your classmate Constanze’s full name… again - for the fourth time. It’ll say you’ve started and completed the sidequest and it will be waiting for you when the clock strikes midnight once more.
Sidequests that you’ve finished do show up as grayed out event blips on your map screen, but it is very easy for them to be mixed with another sidequest NPC in the same room they’re in. There’s a lack of refinement and conciseness in the menu to make sorting it all out easier. It’s needlessly tedious to navigate through.
Another disappointing aspect of Chamber of Time is the battle system itself. Akko and her friends set up base at the enigmatic Horologium Chamber and travel to different dungeon stages to find clues on how to escape their endless time hell. Chamber of Time attempts to capture the magic of arcade brawlers with its 2.5D sidescroller charm mixed with a vast array of magic spells but it falls flat in practically every element along the way.
Unresponsive controls were the prime suspects in making this such an unenjoyable experience. There’s a ridiculous amount of input delay in combat. Mix in constant framerate drops when things get a little hectic. A sprinkle of sound design issues from inconsistent balance and seemingly missing audio channels. Now a dash of unreliable AI partners with no support of local or online coop for the main game. To top it all off, a cherry on top filled with hitbox issues that make it difficult to know which horizontal lane an enemy is on for your attacks to connect. It is the perfect concoction of nightmares.
You can bring a total of three party members to venture with you - the character you play will have a Leader Bonus depending on which character you’ve chosen. Some may boost experience gain or better quality in loot drops. They’re all minor boosts in the grand scheme of things so fans have the freedom of picking their favorites without losing out on a whole lot. Everyone outside of Constanze plays similarly with light, heavy, and projectile attacks. Constanze uses a magical rifle as her weapon of choice, so her moveset is relatively a breath of fresh air.
Your merry band of witches can be equipped with an arsenal of magical spells. Up to six can be assigned per party member, though there are some special ones that are character exclusive like Akko’s Shiny Rod that can transform into a bow. All of these spells are your usual suspects - different elements, stronger spells of said element, and various healing types that can recover HP or cure ailments. The interface for upgrading spells is one of the few pleasant things about Chamber of Time because I’m a sucker for constellations for whatever that’s worth.
As characters level up, they’ll accrue stat points that can be spent freely to increase their HP, MP, attack power, critical rates, luck, and such. Each drop of loot comes with a grade quality and a level requirement to wield. Beware that having too much in your inventory makes them a pain to sort; my base PS4 suffered noticeable performance issues the more loot I kept on hand.
There is a separate sectioned off area where multiplayer modes are available. You can venture with other players through a separate dungeon or go against them with your team of witches, but these all feel meaningless since it doesn't progress the main game at all. These were added at a later update in the Japanese version, so the game itself doesn't mention that it has these multiplayer modes at all. I stumbled upon it by accident when I was looking for the final save point to unlock.
The most outstanding things about Little Witch Academia: Chamber of Time are the character models and that every single dialogue in the game is voiced. Even though the character models don’t reach the same fidelity as those in the Guilty Gear Xrd series, it carries a similar spirit and truly shine in conversations that express a lot of Akko’s exaggerated reactions. It doesn’t match the anime 1:1, but there was an admirable effort to get it as close as possible. Fans of the denizens in the Little Witch Academia world will appreciate the care and effort for Akko’s fellow classmates that occupy little screen time elsewhere. Plus, the new animated cutscenes from Studio Trigger produced for the game were all fairly nice.
Little Witch Academia: Chamber of Time is truly a terrible video game. There are signs of mediocrity between the seams, but it operates on such a fundamentally flawed level that it turns into a wrestling match between my sanity and its systems. I don’t know if it runs noticeably better on a PS4 Pro or the PC version, but an increase in technical performance does not excuse it of all the flaws in its design. I consider myself a fan of Little Witch Academia and Chamber of Time sometimes made me wish that I wasn’t.