Hyakki Castle knows what it's up against. Dungeon Crawler RPG's have generally been fantasy for a long time, and you need something new or some new innovation to make it stand out. But how does the game do? Well...
It's feudal Japan, and a lot of people are in trouble. To prevent, you know, the evil people (Onmyoji Kigata) from conquering everything, you and three others need to travel to castle on an island and take him down. It's a bit predictable, but hey, the story works for what it is. It's hard not to get into more detail, because it seems like everything you do is a spoiler. So, yeah, the story could have had more to it, but it's good.
On the PC, controls are pretty good. With Hyakki Castle pretty much being Wolfenstein in feudal Japan, you aren't going to need an entire keyboard. It got a little confusing at times with the gimmick they used (split screens among the characters), but nothing that doesn't take a short bit to get used to. That leads into gameplay, which is pretty unique. It's split-screen team RPG action, which DOES take some getting used to. Attacks are attacks. Walking is walking. But the split screen feature does make it a challenge in a good way.
Graphics were a bit all over the map. Cut scenes and menus had very stylized, traditional Japanese artwork (of which the various races that can make up you and your team being most impressive), while actual gameplay (especially sword swinging) had graphics that are about a decade behind. Well, the player models for sure – some of the roads and natural things looked pretty great.
The music isn't really there – besides a few creepy pings, it's all ambient. I thought it was going to have Feudal music, but nope. Not there. What we get are drips of sewers, player actions, enemy sounds and things like that. And it's not bad. It actually makes it a bit more tense. That leaves the sounds, which are a BIT more basic than I would have wanted. Maybe it was the lack of music that made me pay attention, but many things, such as enemies moving and doors moving that should have sound, don't, while ambient sounds are loud no matter where you are, even if you're away from them. Bit of a nitpick, but it was noticeable and actually detracted from the experience a little.
The frame rate was good, but what really brought this down was the loading screen. The different areas were not really “busy” with things, but it still took a long time. I clocked over a minute a few times (Thanks Alexa!). I don't remember the last game I played that had a black loading screen with only a 'loading' graphic in the bottom right hand corner. As for glitches, there looked like there was some clipping issues with some of the characters in some levels. Again, these are mistakes ten years old in terms of 3D video games, and they're still happening here.
I'm torn on Hyakki Castle. On one hand there's a lot to love: very unique setting, very unique characters to build, a really good split screen feature and a very cool atmosphere. On the other hand it feels dated in many ways and, well, look at everything negative I said above really. It's not a bad game, but it's not going to make any best of the year lists either. If you like feudal Japan settings, RPGs or dungeon crawlers, I'd say it's worth a shot. But don't expect Doom.
Final Score: 6 out of 10
A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of review.