With my Voodoo Paper Doll in hand and my confidence secure, I braved the scary kabuki mask icon and entered the Big Boss Battle. It was a slimy Fleshworm, looming over my Monk all by its lonesome. At a hundred and forty-two, its HP wasn't really all that high, and I knew I could whittle down on that life bar on the road to sweet, sweet victory.
Boy, was I wrong.
As expected, overconfidence can really do you in with a game like this (or any game, for that matter), as the spineless monstrosity eventually started spewing out equally slimy spawns every few turns. Eventually, the slimy bastards overwhelmed me and led to my so-called buffed-up Monk's untimely death.
There are all manner of gruesome things on your path, as you may also encounter deadly traps or, as mentioned, onmyoji corpses you can either help or kill on the side of the road.
Being a roguelike, Castle Morihisa can be pretty unforgiving with every new run, as you'll start from scratch and travel along the Japanese ink painting that is your main map. Each new encounter is different from the last, as you may end up meeting beasties to beat or traveling NPCs to help. You may rest up and replenish your health at a campfire, or upgrade your cards to boost their stats in battle. Occasionally, you may encounter little boons like shops that offer a random advantage in battle, whether they're consumable items or permanent buffs.
What spices things up a little bit is the quest system here, where dealing a certain number of Attack cards or avoiding damage can clear specific missions for you. You can try to aim for those little achievements as you go along - if the monsters on the road don't get to you first.
And there are a lot of monsters, mind you. Enemies can range from zombie townsfolk to gigantic amphibians with their bellies cut up and stitched back. There is all manner of gruesome things on your path, as you may also encounter deadly traps or, as mentioned, onmyoji corpses you can either help or kill on the side of the road.
While random encounters like these are common in roguelikes, what sets Castle Morihisa apart is its Japanese-themed aesthetic. Character classes include the Samurai, Monk, Ninja, and Onmyoji, and each one has unique skill sets and abilities. I particularly found the varied builds interesting, as you can have different kinds of strategies even with a single character class alone.
For instance, you can focus on attacking passively with your Shikigami as an Onmyoji, or you can use it for defense and healing while you deal damage with your own Attack cards. You can also level up your character with a Talent tree, as well as buy cards in a randomized shop. Fallen Hero buffs offer three consumable boons to you at the start of each run, while each victory rewards you with spoils like coins and extra cards to add to your deck.
Of course, I do feel like even with all of these aesthetics, it doesn't quite stand out too much among the sea of roguelike deck builders out there. Playing through the game, I also felt like Lady Luck has a bigger influence here compared to other games of the same genre that I've tried, as even the different kinds of Fallen Heroes you pick at the beginning of each run aren't equal in their usefulness.
Given that the only thing that makes this game stand out is its art, it's also a shame that the backgrounds of each battle look a little dull to me. It feels like a lost opportunity to really expound on that Japanese theme - although character and enemy designs are top-notch. The background music and sound effects also complement the Japanese fantasy theme nicely.
Castle Morihisa | Final Thoughts
By the way, I encountered a few glitches during my playthroughs as well, such as item descriptions not appearing for a few battles and some grammar boo-boos. It also doesn't help that while the game does its best to explain every status effect with descriptions on the side, some statuses highlighted in a different color don't have descriptions at all, which can be frustrating when you have no idea what a certain action does or what an enemy might do next.
Overall, Castle Morihisa does its best to add its own flavor to a tired old genre. It's not the most original game, but it does serve as a bit of a palate cleanser if you're looking for a roguelike deckbuilder with a different set of visuals.
TechRaptor reviewed Castle Morihisa on Steam with a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on the Nintendo Switch.
- Gorgeous Character Designs
- Deliciously Gruesome Enemies
- Unique Side Quest System
- Backgrounds Are A Little Dull
- Feels More Luck-Based Than Other Games In The Genre
- Some Statuses Have No Descriptions