Xbox 360 - Bullet Witch

On a lazy Sunday afternoon, I picked a game a 360 game that I figured would be pure gold. I remember seeing ads all over Japan last fall for Bullet Witch and I wrote it off immediately as another piece of crap Japanese action game trying to pull the Japanese in the Xbox space.

It has everything the Japanese could ask for.. 1) Hot female lead character wearing scantly clad outfits, and 2) putting that character in a position of kicking ass. The sad solemn facade of main character, Alicia draws Japanese men to the flame. She wears all black Gothic clothes. She is unconcerning, cool, and never smiles.. wouldn't you like to be the one to melt her heart?

The title, Bullet Witch, can easily be explained by how you kill enemies.. either with your massive gun, or using magical spells.

The Story

When you play a Japanese FPS game, you definitely aren't playing it for the gameplay.. You either play it because you like the characters and/or you like the story.

Bullet Witch takes place in the year 2013, well after most of the world's population has been killed, diseased or exterminated. Beginning in 2004, nations began to war with each other eventually leading to nuclear and biological attacks.. 50% of the world's population had died by 2010 when a devastating virus ravages another billion. In 2012-ish, a new foe emerges on earth.. hordes of demons crawl out from the ground and begin tearing apart the human race.

The year is now 2013, and a woman in black has been seen saving humans and killing demons.

The game starts at this point.. You are given a fair amount of the world's background, but nothing is said about the character you play. Alicia appears at a point and you begin killing zombie demons. You have a demonic voice in your head too, but that's never explained.

As you continue to fight into the city, you meet with a group of humans resisting the demons. Leading this group is commander Michaels, who bears a striking resemblance to Bill Raiser of Neo Contra (and other contra games) fame.

Level Design

This basic gameplay and plot devices have you running around levels and killing demons in a very arcade manor. Hordes of enemies come running and shooting after you, and you take that down with your guns and magics.

Each stage is basically a massive arena that is split up into a linear maze thanks to Walnut Heads. Walnut heads create a force field preventing you from advancing into further areas of your level. They are enemies that float 20-30 feet in the air using their massive car-sized brains. The term walnut head is coined because the brain looks like a walnut. To kill these assholes, just fire away at them and eventually they explode into a cloud a blood and guts.

Walnut heads may seem rather weak, but there are some that use their massive brain powers to pick up cars, buses and trucks to protect themselves and attack by hurling them at you. Directly getting hit by a flying car of fire will result in your instant death, so be careful.

Once you unravel the maze and make it to the end, sometimes you'll fight a boss. In fact, I think they are only 2 actual boss fights in the game, out of the 6 levels.

B-movie-tastic!

What I love most about Bullet Witch is the derivative story, corny dialogue, weird enemies and ridiculous boss fights.

The giant brain floating guys are pretty wicked and seeing them erupt into splash of blood and guts is neat, but my favorite enemy are the Screamers. Screamers look like a big pile of flesh with 5 or 6 tiny legs popping out of bottom and wearing a wig. These fellas send out grunge spirits which will possess nearby humans and turn their bodies into ravenous, large headed freaks who quickly scurry along the ground at you.

They first appear in the airport level where you hijack a plane in an attempt to fly to the source of evil in the country. They aren't too difficult to kill, but if you don't kill them fast enough, all of the civilians and your army crew will be turned into bone sucking demons you can't get away from.

The airport level was really the climax of the game for me. After killing all the walnut heads, boarding the 747, and taking off into the moonlit sky.. you are under attack! A massive flying demon beast with a body made of eyeballs pops out from the cloud cover and is heading straight for your plane.

Alicia saves the day, but kicking open the outer hatch and climbing on to the top of the 747 at 10,000 feet in the air. Shooting the massive beast does no damage. The eyeballs from its body pull out of their sockets and fly through the air onto your craft. The eyes latch onto the plane and begin eating away at its surface.

You must use your devastating lightning attack against the huge beast, while dodging and shooting off the eye balls tearing your plane apart.

So close..

This seriously rivals the cheesiness of Neo Contra, while trying to keep things in the realm of reality. I think that's what really holds this game back, aside from its technical flaws: pisspoor gameplay, not enough enemy variety, and shotty graphics.

When fighting on the plane, I was truly enjoying myself, but I never reclaimed that joy after the plane crashed landed and I was in the jungle for nearly the rest of the game. The final level was the exact same as the second level in the city.

In chapter 3, up on the plane, you have your massive get-a-way from the evils in civilization, but out in the woods closing in on the source, you lose that attachment to society. You lose that post-apocolyptic thought that society is screwed... and there's no perversion of earth to show you are diving into the belly of the beast.

Lineage

While playing Bullet Witch it feels a lot like some other games I've played. Neo Contra definitely comes to mind, also it kinda reminds me of Nightmare Creatures for Playstation. The enemies also remind me of Doom and Quake, but there were some other bits and pieces that I couldn't quite put my finger on. After looking up the development team, and their past works it makes a lot of sense.

Before 2005, Cavia (developer of Bullet Witch) was a freelance game development company. They made games for a variety of publishers, mostly anime licensed crap, but another game that has touched my heart.. Drag-on Dragoon, known in the states as Drakengard.

Read my impressions of Drag-on Dragoon from the past: May 22nd, 2004, May 27th, 2004, June 1st, 2004, and June 6th, 2004. ah, good times. I played this game quite a bit in Platteville when I was moving out of the SPAMM haus and into 45 Bonson st.

Unfortunately, Bullet Witch doesn't reach the level of craziness Drag-on Dragoon pushed games, but it still holds some of the lineage... especially with the Screamers.

Man, that reminds me.. I still need to play Drag-on Dragoon 2.. That game is sitting in my PS2 TODO pile.

Content Selection: Restricted Downloadable Content

There's one other thing I wish to mention, and that is something I haven't seen in any other Xbox 360 game: the notion of restricted downloadable content. Once you beat Bullet Witch, you are given a new menu option labeled Content Selection, in this menu you can download bite-size arcade levels for 25 cents each, or download new costumes for Alicia at the price of free.

You can't reach this downloadable content any other way than through this menu in the game. You cannot go to the Xbox live marketplace to download this stuff, and you can't queue these downloads either.

Once in this menu, you click to download something and it'll pop up your xbox download hub and keep you there until whatever you are downloading is finished. If you leave this menu, the download is instantly canceled.

There's even a little lock on the content manager when you select to download something. Weird, huh? I've never heard of any Xbox game do this before.

I downloaded all the costumes because why the hell not, but I may go back and pick up some of the arcade levels. If anything, it's a good way to get rid of an extra 20 microsoft points here and there.

Overall Thoughts

Despite my praise in several segments of the game, and actually liking it quite a bit, the fact remains that this game is quite poor. I've known an FPS to be this inaccurate and full of stupid gameplay devices try to pull it away from the FPS genre. It's an FPS trying to be something different, and that doesn't work at all. It's probably better to label this as an adventure game, but that's not right either.

Aside from Alicia and Bill Raiser, the graphics are sub-par. It looks like it was originally a PS2 game, but they redid a few of the prominent models for the next-gen platform.

But I don't really care.. It's a crappy game that has some great B-movie moments.

If you found this game for $10 and didn't have anything else to spend your money on, I'd say go for it. It's a good way to spend a lazy sunday.  Ps..  I bought Bullet Witch for $20 at pre-played.




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