Material Witches and the Long Overdue Wrapup

May 15th, 2019

  

Blast from the past here.

In the long long ago times of the summer 2015 season, there were four whole days in a row of nothing to watch, so I embarked on an experiment to do a kind of Let's Play, blogging style, of a couple games, Material Brave and Princess Witches. Oh, how my standards have changed. I managed to get through the first major arc of both, but they were seemingly not a particularly popular series of posts and arduous to write up, so I called that experiment finished after two seasons to no complaints. Let's revisit those two games briefly for a slightly more thorough and final review and general reckoning because this too is a terrible season and if I don't write rambling nonsense, can I really call this a blog? Spoilers will fly like candy from a piñata.

   

Let's start with Princess Witches, which is a bit simpler to discuss, despite a lot of nonsense time loop and asspull magic stuff. To sum up the rest of the story, the girl who spent the backend of the game discovering various dark magical powers turns out to be… the dark princess, but since you're boning her in this route, she more or less ends up ascendant rather than the light princess, but ends with more or less the same bit of everyone is forcible separated and King Blockhead is booted out of Magicland. This is more Inside Out than Kingdom hearts, so the true route after that is that happy emotions and sad emotions are supposed to coexist, not engage in filial genocide. Oh, did I mention that? Because they're sisters too. Something something magic. Sadly, there is no threesome to really seal the deal there. Then they live happily ever after. Also, your magic sword is a time looping fairy or something.

I kind of get why people tend to like it… mostly. It's saccharine, but passably executed on, ramping up the stakes while the characters learn a valuable lesson about themselves and about life, even if it ends in a bunch of hugs and "yay friendship." The main three characters grow and become more rounded, Kururu particularly, even if the final epiphany is… well, Inside Out. Your fairly standard coming of age story with a sappy ending. I feel like I'm describing so little, and yet, so many things exist and are lauded despite doing none of that, but we'll get to Baldr Sky in more depth eventually.

 

It's unfortunate that it so obviously ran out of assets because what would've made it great is if it had the CGs to really drive home the darker parts in the magic world. The end of the initial route especially had a bunch of jarring moments, from Kururu carving up Orr to Inchou executing Lillian, but such important scenes illustrating how messed up they get when they shut the others out just get a brief textual description, and similar holds for later routes. At best, we get CGs of characters glaring at each other, and that doesn't cut it. And then there's, Ringo and Karen's subroutes are… there. Ringo's is more or less "Let's not go to magic world and resolve literally nothing." It's about an hour of random faffing around in the real world before being unceremoniously booted back to the title screen. Karen's is more of a random sidestory that they couldn't find a way to work into the main story. Both of them reek of things done out of obligation because a porn VN with just two girls? Unthinkable.

Material Brave provides a nice kind of contrast, but let's start by wrapping up the remaining story we never got to. Turns out that the island itself, or the magic evoltion rocks on the island, is vaguely sentient and wants to break free from its being-an-island bonds. As for the antagonists, well, the whole evil student council and pals comes right back for round 2 as extra servanty servants of the Evil Conspiracy. Anyway, the magic thingy gloms onto Ena, whose power happens to be a sort of empathic psychic, turns her into its avatar, and drives her insane. That's right, if Princess Witches was Inside Out, then Material Brave is X-Men 3: The Last Stand. (Okay, fine, just the Dark Phoenix saga). You're forced to kill her, except not really because she pops right back up in Ignition. If you're wondering what happened to every single other character or the entire cast, then, yeah, that's one of the big problems. They get their little intro chapter, which I already covered in the blog, and then they gracelessly bow out of having any importance or impact on all future events. Just like all the characters in the light novels it's so obviously modeled on!

So I've already subtly pointed out the main issue with the story, above and beyond the only character growth anybody showing being that they can't live without the protagonist's dick, a sentiment we'll be returning to when we do this with Baldr Sky! They all get a second character-focused chapter in Ignition, the expansion, but it's far too little, far too late, and even then, Ena ends up pulled back from the dead, undermining the original ending, and being the 'true' ending insofar as being the one where you take out the Phoenix Force and save the world, rather than save whatever the chosen girl is from whatever happens to be bothering them at that particular moment, and half the time, it's their own personal insecurity, which can only be addressed by having someone's genitals rubbed on them.

You could probably salvage it to at least an okay game if you jettisoned all the stuff like the limited time, totally blind dungeon exploration bits, and pulled all the character stuff into the main section of the game, but let's remember that the core gameplay loop managed to hit the sweet spot between frustrating and monotonous. Where we started was as complex as it got, there were very few enemy types, and it spawned a bazillion of the goddamned things in every corner of the excessively huge dungeons… which blind exploration of also managed to be super irritating because of the limited amount of exploration you were allowed to do. So I can see why it was less than well-received. I'm not sure why it was so lambasted compared to any number of light novels that are lauded with the exact same issues, minus blowing up some random wolves, but perhaps that's enough.

 

Princess Witches gets a soft recommendation then, but not Material Brave. PW starts goofy, but it does take the characters from losing control and emotionally murdering people to maturing into adults, even if it's certainly sappier than I would've preferred. Material Brave is just, well, a tacky light novel tacked onto a half-baked action RPG that's light on the RPG and worse on the execution. It's a profoundly unworthy successor to Duel Savior and let us now put it behind us with no regrets for unfinished things forever.

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