Title: WitchSpring3 Re:Fine
Release Date: August
Reviewed On: Switch
Publisher: ININ Games
Small-scale JRPGs have become a sort of comfort for how they try to pay homage to past successes. Not all of these titles stand out though, in fact, most are overlooked and then promptly forgotten. The turn-based alchemist game WitchSpring3 [Re:Fine] is imprinted with that seemingly tragic identity, but I believe it is unfortunately fitting. While the title contains notable elements that boast roots of interest, the experience is altogether forgettable, barebones, and simply lacking in execution.
WitchSpring3 [Re:Fine] focuses on Eirudy, a witch living in a forest, away from the rest of the world. After players become acquainted with her day to day, the witch encounters a peculiar adventurer named Adrian. While her perspective on humans isn’t exactly positive, Adrian stands out, and she finds herself aiding him in his journey to find a certain item he believes to heal his mom.
Firstly, it is imperative to note that this title is a port of a mobile game that doesn’t contain microtransactions. This makes the title a standout experience from the usual, gacha-infested mobile fare. However, even though its existence on mobile platforms is noteworthy, its transition to the Switch places it on a fundamentally grander scale for comparative sake.
The graphical presentation is likely the first mixed factor that will stand out because it’s fairly dated. It looks akin to an early PlayStation 2-era game, which isn’t an inherent detractor as that style can be nostalgic in some contexts. When playing on handheld mode, this art style felt more fitting rather than docked, where it felt noticeably more jarring.
The gameplay is a mish-mash of several tasks such as battling, crafting, training, and item-gathering. Some players find this progression to be Atelier-lik, but it never reached that level of immersive attachment for me. The mechanics are vastly simple and don’t leave much of an impression of engagement to experiment with and learn.
This is where I’d say the crux of my dissatisfaction with WitchSpring3 [Re:Fine] lies. It attempts to do too much in the hopes of one of those mechanics sticking to players’ for positive association in the midst of not expanding its elements enough. I can at least conceptually appreciate this ambition for a mobile game, but it just doesn’t stick the landing as cleanly when on console.
Combat can become slightly more involved than the other tasks, with there being dolls Eirudy can summon to aid her in battle. These provide beneficial boons to fighting, such as passive healing or accumulating damage. Spells can also be cast while using physical weapon swings. There is admittedly a decent depth to battles, and they are easily the parts of the game I enjoyed the most. Later battles require some strategy, but it never came close to feeling overwhelming to the point where you’ll feel challenged.
There is not much to say regarding the other mechanics. They are relatively self-explanatory, though the tutorials the game throws at players initially give off a false impression of complexity with its constant need to guide. Arrows pointing to correct areas to go to and menu options to choose littered the opening segments far too often that ruin any early game wonder. These are likely remnants from the mobile iteration, and they negatively stand out.
Speaking of mobile remnants, the movement in WitchSpring3 [Re:Fine] is cumbersome as Eirudy’s steps linger long past the made inputs. The area sizes are compact and simple to parse, so this isn’t a ruining factor, but I never grew comfortable with this lack of optimization.
As for the narrative, Eirudy’s efforts to aid Adrian quickly lead to ominous threats and an array of other characters that join the fray. For as remotely interesting as these developments are, though, the dialogue is questionable, and it ruins any investment I may have had in the story. While a few typos occasionally sprout up here and there, the actual flow of interactions feels consistently off. I don’t know if this is due to the translation or if the original language dialogue is still this way. Regardless, the interactions tend to be awkward, and like there was a lack of an editor.
During the story, I felt like I was reading an unedited, partially bullet-pointed draft of a script without finalization. Aside from Adrian and Eirudy, who are introduced near the beginning, I barely recall who the other members of the cast were. So my investment may have been sapped by their introductions.
I understand that the lack of further outlining for the story and characters may seem unprofessional. It certainly is to an extent, yet I can’t lie about my interest because, quite honestly, I didn’t care about any developments that occurred. Furthermore, the lack of flow for the dialogue and what I assume is an intricate editing pass for characterization and overall identity left me in a constant state of boredom.
The soundtrack at least deserves mention thanks to its consistently comfy yet eerie tone for some of the elements of the unknown that await Eirudy. It was definitely pleasant to the ears, but maybe too much so as I found drowsiness taking hold of me from the sheer detachment I felt.
WitchSpring3 [Re:Fine] fails to stand out in any way, which is sad because from afar it carries a large degree of charm in its minimalist design and soft character illustration. The combat is mindless yet provides the most fun you’ll have in the adventure given that the unrefined dialogue and overtly simple gameplay mechanics are always looming over.
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