It’s 2013 and the end of the world as we know it. With a series of catastrophes, including the usual war, famine, pestilence, and death, having wiped out much of human civilization, a demon invasion just had to top it all off. What’re you gonna do? Well, if you’re Alicia, sorceress extraordinaire, you fire off more than a few bullets from your broom-shaped gun and cast a few spells to kick some demonic tail. At least from what we can tell of the storyline of Bullet Witch so far in its imported form from Japan, that’s the bulk of the storyline, although there will most likely be more to the storyline that we will be let in on once the dialogue has been localized. However, as many gamers know, it’s not necessary to have a literary award-winning story to make a good shooter game, it just needs to have good gameplay. From what we’ve seen so far of Bullet Witch, though, it looks to deliver at least an action-packed experience with a touch of supernatural flair, and developer Cavia is making some gameplay tweaks to enhance the experience for the US release.
In case you haven’t figured it out already, Bullet Witch is a shooter, of the third-person variety (so no confusing it with the first-person shooters out there now), where you play as Alicia in an effort to take back the planet from the aforementioned demonic invaders. To this end, you have plenty of destructive potential at your disposal, catering to both the “bullet” and the “witch” ends of the spectrum. At the bullet end, there is Alicia’s main weapon, the aforementioned broom-shaped gun, referred to as the gun-rod. Despite its big size, Alicia wields it with considerable ease. There are three main firing modes for the gun-rod: machine gun, shotgun, and sniper rifle. There are supposedly more weapon modes to become available for the gun-rod later on in the game, but these are the three main modes that will be used for much of the game.
Then there’s the witch aspect – Alicia just wouldn’t be called the Bullet Witch without some magic tricks up her sleeve. Except these magic tricks conjure howling tornadoes or lightning storms to obliterate her enemies with. Amongst Alicia’s magic spells are such diverse ways of wreaking havoc such as the aforementioned weather effects, a telekinesis spell that flings large objects about, an “ancient wall” spell that throws up a rune-covered barrier to shield yourself from enemy fire, the ability to summon a huge flock of crows to confuse enemies, and, surprisingly enough, a healing spell to (obviously) heal innocent bystanders and fellow fighting comrades with. (Yes, there are civilians to protect and AI-controlled bots to fight alongside – whether or not they’ll exhibit frustratingly bad AI or have any of the other problems of NPCs that need defending somehow remains to be seen).
These spell effects look particularly impressive graphically – they can cause an immense amount of destruction in the environment, especially the tornado, which can suck in not only enemies, but cars, bits of buildings, and trees as well. Speaking of which – you can wreak vast amounts of havoc on the environment with both your spells and weapons, and not just for show. Much of the destructible objects in the game exhibit real physics, and this allows players to approach levels and groups of enemies with a greater degree of freedom, as they can use (and abuse) the environment to dispatch enemies. For example – see a billboard that’s looming above a group of demons? Shoot at it and tear it down to watch the hapless demons get crushed underneath. There are plenty of environments to tear up in the game, as the levels range from innocent-looking suburbs, to urban hells, to looming forests, so expect plenty of opportunities.
Although Bullet Witch did as well as it could have in Japan considering the lack of a significant Xbox 360 user base there, it did have faults that turned gamers away, such as some awkward physics, none-too-bright AI, and some control issues. That said, as mentioned earlier, Cavia is busy tweaking the game for its US release, and some of these issues will be addressed. For example, casting spells in the US version should be significantly easier, as spells will require just two button presses instead of three, and some of the weapons will have their power levels tweaked, the machine gun getting a nerfing as the developers thought it was too powerful in the previous build. There’s also some additional content being planned for the US release, including new costumes for Alicia. That said, don’t expect a complete overhaul – it still remains to be seen just which problems expressed in the original Japanese version, if any, will be fixed when the game hits stateside. Let’s hope Cavia and Atari (Bullet Witch’s stateside publisher) iron out enough of the kinks to make Bullet Witch a truly enjoyable experience when the game arrives on its broomstick in the US sometime in Q1 2007.