News by Matt S.
This is really great news. One of the better western-style dungeon crawlers (think Grimrock rather than Etrian Odyssey) is coming to console. Hyakki Castle which, despite being a western-style dungeon crawler mechanically, is very much a Japanese game, launches on PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch on August 30.
As we wrote in our review of the game, from the original PC release:
With a name like “Asakusa Studios,” you would expect that the development team has a love for classical Japan. Asakusa is known for being the place where people go for the old Japan experience, what with its infamous temple and shrine and old-style shopping street leading up to it. It’s one of those places to go for when you want to escape the modernity of Tokyo, and Hyakki Castle itself taps right into that.
“Hyakki” refers to a very famous folk tale, Hyakki Yagyō, or the Night Parade of One Hundred Demons. It’s a story that regularly features in classical Japanese paintings and stories, and it’s fairly self-explanatory from the title; one night, one particular yokai (spirit), Nurarihyon, leads a parade of a hundred yokai through the streets. On that night, you’re best to remain indoors, because if you come into contact with the parade, you’re instantly killed and whisked away. Yokai being the incredibly diverse bunch of monsters that they are, there’s a real visual appeal to the idea of one hundred of them dancing and playing down the streets of old Japan; a macabre festival of the dead and the natural world that humans should not be a part of (because yokai can be both ghosts and spirits of nature).
Hyakki Castle takes that aesthetic and concept, but moves the action from the streets of a town to a decrepit, crumbling castle. It also gives you a chance to fight back against the yokai, else it would be a very short game indeed. Like Legend of Grimrock and other modern, western, dungeon crawlers, Hyakki Castle is very light on the narrative beyond giving your party a reason to be in the dungeon in the first place. Thankfully, the rich lore that Asakusa Studios has drawn on in the creation of the yokai that you’ll fight on your way to the top level of the dungeon gives the game a narrative context well beyond what something like Grimrock could ever offer. Grimrock’s enemies were standard fantasy tropes. Just about every yokai from Hyakki Castle seems to have been derived from real yokai legends, and as a student of Japanese mythology, I loved that I either recognised each monster instantly, or had something to research once I stopped playing.
This is a really, really, really good game, and sadly it seems to have released without making the splash that it deserved to. Hopefully the console release can remedy that.
Sadly there’s no news of an English release just yet, but there is a translation sitting there, ready to go!
– Matt S.
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