Hyakki Castle – Review
Follow Genre: RPG, Dungeon Crawler
Developer: Asakusa Studios
Publisher: Happinet
Platform: PC
Tested on: PC

Hyakki Castle – Review

Site Score
7.8
Good: Atmosphere, Art, Concept, Party splitting mechanic
Bad: Patry splitting mechanic is sometimes useless, Clunky control
User Score
7.0
(1 votes)
Click to vote
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 7.0/10 (1 vote cast)

The name Asakusa Studios will probably ring no bells when spoken aloud, but the studio’s debut game has finally landed on Steam, and when we saw the first trailer, our senses immediately started tingling. Hyakki Castle is an old school dungeon crawler, in which a party of four has to make it to the top floor, in order to complete the game. While similar games have seen the light, mostly in the 90s, it’s the first time a game dons a very traditional Japanese style, with many mythical creatures from said Eastern lore. We couldn’t wait any longer to create a party of feline and demonic warriors to brave the mysterious castle filled with horrible creatures.

Hyakki Castle

Story

The plot of the game is rather simple, as it all involves a madman trying to overthrow the shogunate by the use of dark magic. When this perpetrator is banished to a forgotten island, all of a sudden a mysterious castle appears out of thin air, making the shogunate wonder what’s going on. A party of four is sent to investigate the matter, but before they have the chance to properly infiltrate the castle, they are apprehended and have to break out of the castle. Nonetheless, placing you in the castle is an ideal offset to start your investigation and your dark journey.

Overall the story is simple, and you won’t receive all that much extra story content during your exploration, but the plot sticks and drives the game to a certain extent. A dungeon crawler such as this can also work without a thickened plot, but having a bit of a background does help to set the mood, in which this game properly succeeds.

Graphics

Graphically Hyakki Castle presses all the right buttons in terms of the game’s appearance. You’ll be treated to a very old school looking game, with a new Japanese lick of paint over everything, presenting you with authentic monsters, an eerie dungeon and some fun character portraits for you to choose from. Nonetheless, the dungeon itself can become a bit dreary as many environments and pieces of clutter are reused a lot, and when splitting your party, you’ll see the other party members represented as a simple pawn. The latter could have been spruced up a bit, making it more in sync with the rest of the game. All of that said, the game looks creepy, while inviting to further explore the mysterious castle.

Hyakki Castle 2

Sound

The sound design in Hyakki Castle is extremely simple and truth be told, we wouldn’t like it any other way. You’ll have to play the game without an actual soundtrack, but you’ll have to do with dripping ceilings, creaking doors, moving traps, the screams of your party when attacking enemies and the ghastly sounds of the monsters you encounter. While you have a little impact on the voices of your party, their actual talking is reduced to simple grunts. Nonetheless, the atmosphere is great thanks to the minimalistic design, which suits the rest of the game perfectly.

Gameplay

Hyakki Castle is an old school dungeon crawler RPG that is played in a first-person perspective. You’ll move one tile at a time, exploring the mysterious castle, with a party of four, trying to best all the monsters that roam the halls, while solving puzzles in order to unlock doors and climb up to the higher levels. The game pretty much drops you inside with only a few tutorial screens that are made up with a lot of text, making it a fairly heavy start. You’ll get all the controls at once, while a gradual tutorial would have been a lot easier. Nonetheless, the actual game is straightforward, as you’ll have to wade around the castle, trying to survive, completing your mission, one floor at a time.

Hyakki Castle 3

The game only allows you to choose from four classes and four races, thus seeing your party consists out of four members, it’s fun to pick one of each class/race, making your team balanced. Nonetheless, when playing on a lower difficulty, it’s also easy to combine identical classes, as the game is a heck of a lot easier on the lowest difficulty, making balancing a little less important. The game does use an interesting mechanic, which allows you to split up your party to gang up on enemies, or to solve puzzles that require you to flip two switches at once. You can either choose to go solo with one character and have a party of three, or split it in the middle and have two parties of two. Nonetheless, the controls are a bit on the clunky side, which makes it a tad harder to use this mechanic, thus the player will probably opt to keep his party together and try to dodge enemy attacks as a whole.

Just like a typical RPG, beating enemies will grant you experience, allowing your characters to level up and choose and unlock new skills. These can be equipped and thus used during combat, or whenever  you like when roaming around the castle. Nonetheless, the usage of said skills was a bit tricky to decipher when playing with a controller, as you can normally just click the proper attack button with the mouse. If you play with the controller, you’ll have to press the right button to select the right characters, and when holding said button, you’ll have to press the attack/skill button of your choice. You’ll have to do this in turn for every character when you’re in the midst of a battle, costing you some time to get used to, but after a few sessions you’ll find this a fairly easy mechanic. The controls with a controller are sometimes a bit sensitive, sometimes making you turn around more than you’d initially desired/pressed.

Hyakki Castle 4

The Gear system is pretty simple, as each character is only able to carry three pieces of gear, making it a very limited mechanic of the game. Nonetheless, the stat boosts always come in handy, and you can still use plenty of other useable items, be it with limited uses. Perhaps it would have been fun if this system was explored further, but the game has a solid foundation.

While the above doesn’t really sound all that enthusiastic, the atmosphere of this game is spot-on. The creatures are interesting, the Japanese style drives the game, but there’s only one minor remark when it comes to saving and respawning. You’ll only find one save point per level, forcing you to go back a lot if you wish to save in-between from time to time, or if you’re unlucky and you die, you’ll start back at the save point, with all your progress lost since the last save. The latter is quite annoying when you encounter one of the many (nearly) insta-kill traps that lurk around many corners of the castle.

Conclusion

Hyakki Castle is a very sturdy and intriguing old school dungeon crawler with a very unique style. While the game does have a few setbacks in terms of its controls and the low amount of saving points, it’s still well worth the investment for fans of the genre and those who do not shy away from a game that isn’t easy. The party splitting mechanics may be somewhat of a miss in the game’s current state, it shows that the developer wants to try new things, and for a debut release, Hyakki Castle is a damn interesting title.

Hyakki Castle 5

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 7.0/10 (1 vote cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
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Hyakki Castle - Review, 7.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

1 Comment

  1. […] Hyakki Castle is an RPG, Dungeon crawler that is set in the 18th century during the Edo Period of Japan. It features a brand-new take on the traditional real-time RPG battle system and encourages players to split their party with its exclusive 2-party system. Check out our review of Hyakki Castle here. […]

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
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