Dungeon-crawlers are nothing new for the Japanese game industry. But most of them follow the paths of Rogue or Wizardry, either solo or party affairs with turn-based combat. Few followed Dungeon Master‘s footsteps: 3Ds game where you maneuver around a dungeon, deal with monsters in real time, manipulate traps, and even craft spells.

But one Japanese indie studio is taking that path with Hyakki Castle, a game that follows the spirit of The Legend of Grimrock and Eye of the Beholder, and it will come to Steam this winter. It’s also an example of how the indie gaming scene is growing in Japan and turning to the PC and its worldwide market, as Japanese gamers cling to their smartphones.

Above: The skeleton sure looks more threatening than the normal undead bone-shaker you see in a dungeon.

Image Credit: Asakusa Studios

Happinet is publishing Hyakki Castle on Steam in the West, and it’s Asakusa Studios debut effort. A supposedly terrifying haunted castle serves as the dungeon (see the first image in the story to determine if it scares you), and you confront monsters from Japanese literature. It uses ukiyo-e-inspired art, a style that existed during the Edo period (1615-1868), according to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. It’s also set in that time.

A studio spokesperson noted to GamesBeat that Grimrock is “a favorite title the team likes to refer to” when talking about Hyakki Island.

Asakusa Studios’ innovation (besides the historic Japanese setting) is how it treats your adventurers. It has a two-party system, enabling you to do the one thing that Dungeon Masters everywhere caution their players to avoid — split the party.

But here, it’s a feature, not a faux pas.

“For instance, one character can lure a monster while the other three lay in wait for an ambush—or the party can split to flank a monster or to solve a puzzle,” the press release said. A spokesperson for Asakusa said you could split your group of four into two groups of two or one group of three with one solo adventurer.

Above: Dealing with traps that take up an entire square a standard in Dungeon Master-like dungeon crawlers.

Image Credit: Asakusa Studios

The castle sits on Hyakki Island, which hosts exiled criminals (similar to the settings for Avernum or Path of Exile, two other styles of RPGs) … and, if the rumors are true, ghosts and demons, summoned by a shadowy figure. Classes include Samurai, Ninja, and Monk — the spokesperson confirms some can cast spells, too — and it has races drawn from Japanese legend, like the Oni (which have their own special abilities).

Most dungeon crawlers tend to work in one direction: down. You delve into the maze, one level at a time. But since Hyakki Island’s a castle, I asked how this changed the progression. Here, the spokesperson said, you climb the castle, though you descend as needed.

We’ll find out if that climb is into murder and madness, and a special take on the Dungeon Master style of RPG, this winter.

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