Hyakki Castle (PC) Review

By André Eriksson 20.12.2017

Review for Hyakki Castle  on PC

3D dungeon adventures have been around for ages, but it has been almost unheard from for decades. There has been a couple of games released over the past decade, but in general when thinking about the genre the thoughts wander to the '80s and '90s. To a time when every game aspired to have a first person perspective to highlight the new technological feat of the era, 3D gaming, whether or not it worked for the game or genre in question, in this case ARPGs. Hyakki Castle brings the formula into the world of Japanese folklore with a heavy focus on atmosphere with some sparkles of horror element to increase the tension. Cubed3 takes a look at the result!

Who could forget the 3D games in the '80s and at the start of the '90s? Well, many can quite easily forget many of the very forgettable titles that took in the new dimension in a forced way to make a quick buck as some were willing to play anything that was in 3D quite like how some nowadays chug down every single game that has VR in it. Nonetheless, the concept of these titles lives even to this day as many subgenres and even genres were born with this change to 3D. One of the more forgettable of these is the 3D dungeon adventure. No, this is not referring to the 3D Dungeon crawlers with turn-based combat which have had success well into modern times with franchises such as Etrian Odyssey and the beloved Shin Megami Tensei franchise with all of its sub-franchises, but its unsung action-RPG counterpart.

While there has been some modern games in the genre such as the Legend of Grimrock franchise, it never cemented itself into the modern gaming culture in general. It might have been because of the fluke that no big franchise in the genre ever took root. Or it might have been because the aspect the game wanted to capture benefited more from a gridless approach that technological advances during the upcoming decade made possible, that almost no one found any reason to look back to the early 3D ARPG dungeon crawlers. Whatever the case is, it is undeniable that while the franchise does not have any mainstream appeal in this day, it has its fan base, and Hyakki Castle is there to satisfy that fan base.

Screenshot for Hyakki Castle  on PC

Hyakki Castle truly feels like one of those games made in the '80s in more ways than might be desired. While franchise stalwarts will be happy to see that the gameplay is petty true to the old days, not even the most nostalgia-bitten will be pleased seeing that even the loading times from the '80s are present in this 2017 title. It is not uncommon that a level can take several minutes to load, which is painful and annoying. It is uncertain if these poor loading times are there on purpose to replicate the feeling of an '80s game or not, but whatever the case is, long loading times were never the most appealing aspect of any gaming experience.

To add more insult to injury it is not only the pace of the loading that feels sluggish, but also the gameplay without a gamepad. Hyakki Castle has the poor taste that despite having four characters, each with their own hotbar to manage, it does not have a good keyboard approach of using them. Anyone who has ever played any game with a cool-down based combat system knows exactly how non-viable clicking with the mouse is, and that hotkeys are better. Well, Hyakki Castle does not have that at all. That is right! The player has to control four different characters with their own cool-downs by clicking with the mouse, at the same time as they have to keep track on the enemy attacking and dodging properly with the keyboard. This makes the game extremely unpleasant to play without a gamepad. The problem is, it seems to not support some gamepads, and even owning a Steam gamepad, it needs to be calibrated manually in the options menu, something many will easily miss.

Screenshot for Hyakki Castle  on PC

The controlling is, in other words, a hot mess. Hyakki Castle does, however, have one single redeeming factor to it, and that is its atmosphere and how it captures the feeling of tension and horror in quite a creative way. To begin with the most obvious, while the art style in Hyakki Castle looks aged, it looks aged in a beautiful way. It captures the nostalgic feeling of older models while having a modern touch to them that allows the player to see details. The result is an experience that captures the mood the game wants to set; the only drawback is that there are too few objects on the maps. That could really have enhanced the game quite a bit.

The second way, and the most ingenious, is the party split system. While it is an annoyance having to split the party, having a portion of the party in a helpless state really adds to the tension as some of the characters are literally defenceless when the group is split. It is actually psychologically unnerving to leave some of the characters behind to solve a puzzle, even if certain all enemies around are dead, what if something appears? It would, however, be refreshing if the puzzles of the game were anything other than splitting the party, as it does become repetitive, quite quickly, and when this is used too excessively the effect of helplessness during these sections will diminish overtime.

Screenshot for Hyakki Castle  on PC

While the atmosphere is great, the game does, regrettably, punish rather than reward exploration of the dungeon it presents. The main appeal of dungeon exploring games is the exploring parts, and while many games have systems to keep the player moving forward Hyakki Castle does this in an overly cruel and abusive way. The game has the modern dungeon crawler games staple hunger meter. It doesn't work like it does in most modern dungeon crawlers though. Instead of the player slowly dying when starving, the player's stats are directly tied to this system. This means that as the hunger increases the characters fight more poorly. This feels punishing and discourages exploration as it doesn't take very long until attacks barely does any damage at all and all the enemies kill in one hit. It feels disgustingly punishing to do what is the core of the genre, exploring the dungeon and finding secrets, and this takes away a lot of the little enjoyment that could have been had with this title.

It is really easy to want to enjoy Hyakki Castle. It has a great atmosphere to it and it does its best to try to scratch an itch that too many have been almost unreachable for decades. No matter how much one might want to like it though, it does many things wrong to the point of becoming unredeemable. The poor mouse and keyboard controls mixed with a painful setup for a gamepad, loading time as taken from the C64 days, and a hunger system that punishes the player for exploring in a dungeon crawler leaves a shell sucked out of all enjoyable aspects. Hyakki Castle could have been a game that many wanted to see, but what it could have been, what it wanted to be, and what it is are different things. While it could have been good, and many want it to be good, Hyakki Castle isn't good.

Screenshot for Hyakki Castle  on PC

Cubed3 Rating

3/10
Rated 3 out of 10

Bad

It is really depressing to play a game like Hyakki Castle. It has some things that could have made it a good game in a vastly underrepresented genre. It got the atmosphere just right, which is one of the most difficult things to nail perfectly. However, it is dragged down by many things that while independently does not ruin a game, it destroys the game when combined. Bad mouse and keyboard controls would not ruin a game, but the painful process of making gamepads work with the game does as it is almost mandatory to use a gamepad to enjoy the game at all, and do not even get started on the hunger system that makes exploring, which is one of the core pillars of enjoyment in the genre heavily, punishable. In the end, while it is easy to want to like Hyakki Castle and see how it could have been a great game, it is too hard to not see that it isn't a good game.

Developer

Asakusa Studios

Publisher

Happinet

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  3/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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