Monday, September 3

Review: Haunted Dungeons - Hyakki Castle [Nintendo Switch eShop]


Old-school first-person dungeon-crawling RPGs used to be a bit of a thing back in the day when I was playing them on the Commodore 64. In titles like The Bard’s Tale you’d work your way through often labyrinthian mazes looking for treasure while taking on monsters and an occasional trap. Haunted Dungeons: Hyakki Castle is very much a modern take on this formula, throwing in a more real-time version of the traditional turn-based combat as well as a strategic element allowing you to split up your party, creating an opportunity for more tactical combat and an occasional puzzle. Oh, and did I mention this is all themed with some pretty creepy and monstrous Yokai from Japanese folklore?


To start you’ll have the ability to set up your party, choosing between four different classes and races for each member and providing for some potential replay value if you want to try to optimize them to your play style. Setting out you’ll want to be on the lookout for traps, which can be quite devastating if you don’t disable them before proceeding, and creepy Yokai, who you’ll need to take down and can require some work. Combat is pretty active, with you being able to move around to dodge and shift between party members and choosing their skills to attack, heal, or provide stat-boosting buffs depending on your party composition and the situation.


As you get further in you’ll need to take it to another level as you’ll encounter tougher monsters that will require that you attack them from the back or sides. In order to do this you’ll need to split your party up, changing over to a somewhat odd (though you get used to it) split-screen setup where one party will stay in place while heavily shielded to act as a decoy while the other can then flank the enemy and do serious damage. This mechanic is also used for an occasional puzzle and does a pretty great job of creating some variety and preventing the combat from becoming a total predictable slog.


Outside of the ability to split up your party this is a pretty straightforward dungeon crawler that offers a slow-paced version of real-time combat, some pretty big maze-like dungeons, and creepy monsters peppered all about. While I wish there was a greater variety of Yokai at least their attack patterns and behaviors of each differs a bit so they aren’t merely cosmetic variations slapped on the same base. Save points tend to be fair in their spacing and the choices you make for upgrading your characters open the door to some variety depending on the skills you choose, further encouraging replayability. If you’ve been looking for something a bit different on the Switch, for a variety of reasons Haunted Dungeons: Hyakki Castle sets itself apart as unique, even if its style and pacing may not be for everyone.

Score: 7.5

Pros:
  • There’s nothing else quite like it on Switch
  • The ability to split up your party provides for tactical choices in combat
  • A creepy setting and some freaky monsters from Japanese folklore await

Cons:
  • The pacing is on the slow side
  • While each monster is unique there’s not as much variety as I’d have liked, you’ll be killing the same Yokai quite a bit
  • Even though there are multiple provisions to encourage replayability I’m not sure it’s interesting enough for most people to take advantage of that