Game: Castle Morihisa
Genre: Roguelike, Deckbuilder, Strategy, Adventure, Role-Playing
System: Switch (also available for Steam (Windows) & itch.io)
Developers | Publishers: Smokingbear Studio | Thermite Games
Age Rating: US E 10+ | EU 12+
Price: US $14.99 | UK £9.99 | EU € 14,99
Early Access Release Date: February 10th, 2022
Review code used, with many thanks to Stride PR.
Castle Morihisa is a roguelike deckbuilder set in a fantasy version of ancient Japan. Players get to battle monsters and possessed corpses to get to the final battle.
There isn’t a whole lot of story in Castle Morihisa, but it all centers around the family Ishikawa that live in the titular castle. It appears that Lord Ishikawa Shinjuku has closed off all the roads to his manor, and players will have to fight through all manner of haunted lands to find Castle Morihisa and find out the truth of why the Lord has cut off his lands to outsiders.
You are a warrior sent to discover the Ishikawa’s secrets. Players can choose between four classes: Monk, Samurai, Onmyoji, and Ninja. Each has their own decks with unique keywords and styles of play. It is incredibly similar to the popular deckbuilder Slay the Spire with a few notable differences.
Like Slay the Spire, players have to fight through three levels of maps, each with battles, random instances, upgrades, and shops. The major differences are that players gain points to use in a skill tree and the shop is always accessible. The skill tree does not persist from one life to the next. There is also a “Fallen Hero” buff that players can choose from that gives help when the player needs it the most.
I played mostly the first character, which is Monk. This character has a good balance of physical attacks and defensive cards that allow players to learn the mechanics of the game without too many keywords to learn as well. He was pretty good at taking down most of the enemies without taking too much damage himself, which made him ideal for learning.
Players begin with fairly easy battles against zombies and monsters out of Japanese folklore. With each battle, players earn new cards, consumables, card upgrades, skill tree points, and artifacts with special powers. With each step towards Castle Morihisa, the monsters get more dangerous and the upgrades better.
The Pros of Castle Morihisa
This game is so pretty! The artwork is evocative of ancient Japanese scrolls and paintings. The characters are each unique with different decks, keywords, and specialties. It is both fun and challenging in a way that was appealing to me. I love deckbuilders, and Castle Morihisa had everything in it that I find appealing about the genre.
The game is well laid out and the flow of play was very natural. Each time I played, I made it a little further. It took a while to get past the first boss, to figure out the Meditation keyword, and figure out how to use it to my advantage. The game’s battles are incredibly difficult, but you get plenty of tries to figure out each enemy’s weakness and the best strategies.
The Cons of Castle Morihisa
I played the Switch version of this game, and there are some strange little glitches and issues that made it less fun than it could have been. There was a couple of instances when I only had one card to choose from when forced to discard, and the card would stay on screen no matter what buttons I pressed. This situation didn’t come up often, but when it did, it always softlocked the game.
In spite of everything that made this game unique, it still feels a lot like Slay the Spire. It seems like this may have started as a fan project with the concept being “What if Slay the Spire had a skill tree?” It would have been nice if it had a little bit more to separate it from others of the genre.
I loved this game. I love Slay the Spire and Roguebook and everything like it. I also love ancient Japanese myths. The art style of this game is so great too; I couldn’t help but love it. If it didn’t have the few grammatical mistakes I saw and the one, game-breaking glitch, it would have been a near-perfect title in my opinion.
Final Verdict: I Like it a Lot.