By Justin Guillou / July 19th, 2017
|Title||Castle of Shikigami|
|Release Date||Jun 15, 2017|
|Genre||Shoot ’em up|
|Platform||PS2 (as Mobile Light Force 2), PC|
Castle of Shikigami is a title with a rather interesting history in regards to how it was localized. It was originally released as Mobile Light Force 2 for the PlayStation 2 back in the early 2000s. Some of you might be wondering why the first game of a trilogy is titled as if it were a sequel. Well…the answer to that is because XS Games decided to localize this title under that name. The first Mobile Light Force game was actually the first game in a completely unrelated series known as Gunbird. Even funnier, both games have the same box art, featuring artwork that is completely unrelated to either game.
It’s a hell of a weird way to localize these games, especially considering how their respective sequels were later localized and given their respective names. Though if you are interested in Mobile Light Force, it is available on Steam. So why is Degica re-releasing this title? The answer is because the original release was butchered; removing all of the story elements, making the game feel a lot choppier than it should. How does this release stack up? It’s better than what we got before, but unfortunately this isn’t a game that will keep your attention for very long. It really only serves to show you just how far the series, and also the genre, has come since its original release.
Castle of Shikigami‘s story involves a set of people who specialize in the supernatural and are investigating a series of murders that have occurred in Tokyo. You can play as one of six characters, each with their own storylines and cutscenes. The story itself is straightforward and arguably makes more sense than the sequels that completely jump the shark. However it also is very bland and pretty forgettable. To be fair you are not necessarily playing a shoot ’em up for storyline, but if you are like me and have played Shikigami II and III before this, you might miss the charm of how ridiculous things can get in those games.
I also noticed some typos in the translation and for some odd reason the text does not often take full advantage of the space provided, making some dialogue scenes appear very bunched together and sometimes awkward. Also I noticed some weird screen tearing on my end. It doesn’t make the game any less playable but can be a bit annoying to see at times. The graphics themselves show their age, but I guess they are on par with how a game like this would have looked back when it originally came out.
Each character has two attack styles, one that is a rapid fire shot and a slower, more focused shot. Of course you also have bombs you can use to get yourself out of a sticky situation. The big mechanic that Shikigami is known for is “grazing”. Basically, by staying in close proximity to enemy shots your own attacks get powered up significantly and, should you destroy an enemy in this state, you’re granted a high bonus. This neat risk-reward system allows for some fairly engaging gameplay and a new way to think about how you approach each encounter. The music here feels very early 2000s but not in that exciting arcade action way, but more of that “boring, trying to be hip but ultimately coming off as forgettable” way. The bosses are actually pretty fun to fight with some fairly unique bullet patterns. They are definitely the highlight of the game and I really wish there was a boss rush mode so I could just replay those fights.
Castle of Shikigami isn’t that bad of a game, however what really brings it down is that much better games have been released since. This version of the game should have come out 13+ years ago when XS Games originally worked on it. In comparison to other shooters we have today, this package is just too bare-bones to fully justify the $11.99 it currently goes for. For replay value you do have achievements to be earned, but they mainly involve you beating the game on multiple difficulties or beating the game without using a continue. This would be okay but after I finished the game a couple times I didn’t really want to come back to it. The other characters have some unique cutscenes for you to watch which is cool, however the story isn’t much to write home about so you likely won’t end up caring as much. Heck, there isn’t even a gallery mode for you to rewatch the cutscenes or view the artwork.
At least the game doesn’t overstay its welcome. This should only take you about a half hour to get through and the cutscenes move along very quickly. If you are a hardcore Castle of Shikigami fan and MUST play the first game then by all means pick this up. If nothing else you will get a kick out of how the series began and appreciate the origins of some of the mechanics and characters. For those of you who want a better playing game, check out the sequels, which hopefully Degica can bring to Steam soon.
Review copy provided by the publisher
arcadeCastle of ShikigamiPCShmupShooterSteam