November 01, 2017

Castle of Ayakashi - Ranking

Story & World

The almost non-existent story sucked and the world sucked.  It was fun to map, though, and had this element to it where one comes back through most of the castles after the midpoint to "fill in" the areas that had been previously inaccessible.  1/20

Character Development

The character development sucked.  I'm pretty sure every level is 100% static, as I saw screenshots of another late game character who had the exact same HP and SP as I did.  My final character stats also had some nice, round numbers (100 & 200) in addition to the hexadecimal integer maximums mentioned last post.  Finding a new piece of equipment automatically overwrites the previous one and none of them had special abilities.  Items all duplicated existing character abilities, of course at a much weaker power level.  1/20

Combat & Monsters

The combat sucked.  The mid to late game was the most non-sucky, as the player has all the spells available and they do work on regular enemies at least.  One cool thing about the spells is that they upgraded as the game progressed, but the lower power levels were still selectable should one want to conserve some magic points.

The monsters were heavily based on Japanese mythology and they definitely did not suck as they consistently kicked my ass.  I feel that they were the true heroes of this stupid tale.  6/20

Graphics & Sound

Graphics only sucked sometimes.  All the castles looked identical, just room after room and corridor after corridor of cold, grey, rocky walls.  Monster depiction was much better with decent size, details and variety.  The one tune that played throughout, though, certainly sucked the big one.  There wasn't even a nice sound effect when a chest was found, something I didn't realize that I missed until it was gone.  7/20


Well, what can be said about the gameplay?  Hrmm... oh!  I knoes!  It fucking blew and it fucking sucked.  At least it was a short game, if only because of dat sweet, sweet emulator turbo option that make games like CoA slightly more bearable.  1/20

Final Ranking:  16/100

October 26, 2017

Castle of Ayakashi - End Game

My theory ended up being only partially correct; while there was an appreciable amount of castle levels (10), progress was swift due to lack of anything interesting.  Combat took up the majority of time, or it would have if I hadn't turbo'ed through almost every single one.  Single character dungeon crawls generally suck (roguelikes are an exception), especially if they are turn-based.  Not helping matters were the multitude of dreadful design choices made by the developers.  Normally in a RPG, the character(s) start off weak and gradually gain power over the course of the entire game.  Sure the challenge level should increase as the player progresses, but I usually never feel as weak and helpless as at the very beginning of a game.  Once I've gotten a feel for any particular game, my developed strategies and character builds are usually enough to handle the higher difficulty.  In the ah... *ahem*, rare cases where I still get my ass handed to me, it's ordinarily due to a failure on my part; I then adapt and carry on.  I'm also quite aware that in a lot of these early, simple games, that it's merely a case of player numbers vs. AI numbers, but a well-designed game will mask that, at least somewhat.  CoA was absolutely blatant about where its threshold points were.  At the start of each new area, the thrashings would begin anew, despite just having received a blade upgrade from the previous area's boss.  Levelling up normally would help, except that CoA saw it fit to increase the potential maximum number of monsters per battle, up to five.  Then, upon reaching the predetermined level that CoA demanded the player to reach, the number of monsters per encounter dropped to one and only one, making all battles trivially easy.  Well, at least with being shoehorned into a set level, the boss fights were appropriately intense, right?  WRONG!  You know how a boss fight is the perfect opportunity to play with all your spells and abilities?  They're all disabled here, including character buffs, so the only option is to wail on it with the basic attack, which is just as well since all the bosses take two hits to kill.

Gasha skull is definitely ready to par-tay.

Oddly enough, the most interesting aspect of CoA didn't even come from the game itself.  Due to an incompatibility between the emulator and translation patch, I had crazy glitches happening all over the place.  At first it was just the occasional small, square bit of some random sprite showing up near the corners, but this soon evolved into multiple chunks all over the screen, sometimes traveling down the screen in a glorious cascade of crap.  Next to go was the music, resulting in an inharmonious cacophony of bloops and beeps which was actually a refreshing change from the singular shitty tune that always plays whilst in the castle (menus have no music of sound effects).  Things then got kicked up a notch as opening treasure chests gave me the dreaded white screen of death.  After monster encounters joined the party, I knew I was well and truly fucked.  A lesser manchine might have given up right then and there, and I certainly toyed with the notion.  After all, it's not like there were going to be any big surprises between mid and endgame.  The completionist part of my programming, however, forced me to load up an alternative emulator.  Unfortunately, savestates are not compatible across emus.  Fortunately, Shen is a master of backups, and I had also been periodically writing out to the native "battery" save, which is compatible.  Using this secret Shaolin technique, I managed to overcome the glitch gremlin and made it to the final castle of Doman, a demon king who I guess needed a murderin'.

Meh, it was just copying a file from
one directory to another, no biggie.

The level included a gauntlet run of all the previous bosses, which now died in just one hit instead of two.  The two final bosses, Snow Princess and Doman, both had to be taken down in a similar manner.  Each could kill the Shenster in exactly three hits, no variable.  They also never missed and almost always went first.  This meant that after the first round, in which I had about a 50% chance of dishing out a hit myself, I would have to heal (the only spell that does work) or face death on round three.  Success was only possible if the RNG felt like giving me some successive hits.  Death meant having to go through the entire gauntlet again for just another chance to roll the dice.  There was nothing else remaining to increase the odds either; I had reached max level and had all the best equipment.

255 and 65535 are computer-speak
for "Thou shalt not pass."

Even utilizing savestates, it still took me over fifteen tries on Doman since that sob can also heal himself.  After killing him, the game decided now was the time to start storytelling — something about Doman masterminding the rebellion that ended Oda Nobunaga's chance to unite all of Japan.  Yeah, whatevs.  For all my griping though, it was all worth it to be able to get a glimpse of the most epic ending screen of any game on any platform in the entire history of gaming.

October 03, 2017

[Game 065] Castle of Ayakashi (GB - 1990)

Translation by KingMike

Games like Castle of Ayakashi are twofold in their terribleness.  First off, it's a bland, run-of-the-mill JRPG that's a tedious chore to play right off the bat.  That on its own isn't too bad, I've already played plenty of such games.  However, most of those have story elements and characters that I can rip on when it comes time to post a scathing and cathartic entry.  CoA won't even give me that.

Okay, I'm not being fair; here's part of an NPC.

It's also a dungeon crawler, which generally don't do so well in the story department.  I've played other pure crawlers that suffered in that area as well, but at least those had gameplay that was both fun to participate in and write about.  Here it's just one dude, running around a bunch of 20x20 castles, probably to rescue a princess or something.

And dying lots, let's not forget the dying.

At least I'll get a little enjoyment breaking out the graph paper and making my own ma...

Aw fiddlesticks.

Well, nuts to that!  There's no way in hell I'm going to use the in-game map, unless I get lost or feel like looking at it.  I'm just starting on the third castle, and so far it has been a case of finding a key, unlocking a door, fighting a miniboss, and onto the next castle.  It's GameBoy, so I'm hoping that its 64 KB can't possibly hold too many castles, but since there's little else other than castle, I'm probably wrong on this one.