Hyakki Castle, developed by Asakusa Studios and published by Happinet, is an RPG dungeon crawler set in ancient Japan. Battling enemies, exploring the castle, and solving puzzles are some of the few tasks you can accomplish in this game.
Like most RPG games, you create and customize your character right at the start. You can choose from four different base characters, or you can choose from four different races and jobs, which also influence your overall character stats. There are also options for your character portrait and voices.
The character creation contributes to one of the things Hyakki Castle does very well – theme. The overall theme in Hyakki Castle is captured extremely well. Unlike some games, which haphazardly include a theme with a few related elements, Hyakki Castle applies the theme to all aspects of the game. The music, visual aesthetics, menu design, characters – everything captured the essence of the game perfectly and really united it since it all went well together.
One feature I found particularly interesting during my playthrough was the split party feature. The concept is well thought out and is implemented for various puzzles in the game and can even be used during combat. Such an interesting feature does have its downsides though, such as not living up to its potential. It feels like the designer would just randomly remember, ‘Oh, we have the split party feature,’ and quickly put an easy puzzle in the game, making the whole feature feel a little lackluster.
As mentioned before, the theme is captured very well in just about every design aspect, including music. Unfortunately, sometimes the sound can get extremely irritating. An example of this is during the introduction where there is a music loop that contains a very loud chime sound effect that continuously repeats, and continues to do so for most of the remaining introduction. This was particularly annoying to listen to while trying to pay attention to the backstory and narration.
The biggest flaw to Hyakki Castle is the lack of tutorial. Tutorials are sometimes tedious and unnecessary, but for a game this detailed you need explanation on how to do all the complicated actions. There are notes on the dungeon walls, which give you hints on how to progress, but it doesn’t explain any of the controls or how to do anything in the game. I had to go to the controls page to figure out what buttons to press, but for other tasks like navigating the skill menu, equipping new gear, or even how to save, you’re on your own.
One other minor annoyance is the movement. Since the game operates on a grid-like system of blocks, you move one square at a time. If you move along a certain dungeon route and must backtrack to where you were before, the movement feels a bit odd and clunky. You’ll especially notice this if you’re a methodical player like me who likes to discover everything in a dungeon before continuing.
Overall, Hyakki Castle has some interesting elements, which combined with their strong theme makes for a great dungeon crawler game. If you like puzzle elements, but don’t like to be overwhelmed by them, then this game fits perfectly. Aside from the lack of instructions, which could be irritating, slightly awkward controls, and an older game feeling, Hyakki Castle is a good RPG game, especially for those who enjoy ancient Japanese themes.
Take a Look at the Hyakki Castle Video:
Hyakki Castle is now available for PC for $24.99 on Steam.