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Nelson Schneider's Video Game Reviews (477)

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Mighty Switch Force! Co... 2.5/5
Aegis of Earth: Protono... 3/5
Torchlight III 2.5/5
Cyberpunk 2077 3.5/5
Mario + Rabbids: Sparks... 4.5/5
Eiyuden Chronicle: Risi... 3/5
Psychonauts 2 4.5/5
Castle in the Clouds DX 4/5
Ocean's Heart 4/5
Just Die Already 2/5
Sable 2.5/5
Midnight Castle Succubus 4.5/5
Tower and Sword of Succ... 4/5
Thronebreaker: The Witc... 3/5
Battletoads (2020) 1.5/5
Door Kickers: Action Sq... 4.5/5
Biomutant 4/5
Dragon Quest Builders 2 4.5/5
Journey to the Savage P... 4.5/5
Wasteland 3 4.5/5
Daemon X Machina 3.5/5
Earthlock 2.5/5
Override: Mech City Bra... 3/5
SolSeraph 3/5
ActRaiser 4.5/5

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Tower and Sword of Succubus   PC (Steam) 

8-Bit Titillation    4/5 stars

Indie games have been a big thing for quite some time now, but exactly how long is something frequently lost on Westerners who do not participate in any form of Japanese pop culture – which is a big chunk of the Western gaming audience, thanks to the torpor of Japanese gaming during the explosive 7th Generation. But it needs to be stated that Japanese nerds have been making Indie products for a very, very long time. These independent, self-published projects ran the gamut of media, from manga to anime to videogames, all living under the blanket Japanese term, doujin. Of course, with many Japanese doujin projects taking the form of hentai, it should come as no surprise that the two terms are nearly always conflated in the West, when doujin implies things like “Indie” and “Fanworks,” while hentai is unequivocally associated with erotica.

Critical Bliss is making a name for itself on Steam as a publisher for games featuring “adult” content, but that also have actual games hidden underneath all the sex. In 2020, the publisher began reaching out to the Japanese developers of quality hentai doujin games to see if they were interested in moving beyond the obscurity. One of their first takers was a Japanese developer known only as AII, who developed two 8-bit retro games around 2018, under the studio moniker, Libra Heart, leading to “Tower of Succubus” and “Sword of Succubus” being released as a fully-localized bundle on Steam.

Perhaps the most shocking things about this situation, however, are that Critical Bliss really does seem to care as a publisher, and that these first two ‘Succubus’ games are actually well put together underneath the surface coat of eroticism.

Presentation
Both games in the ‘Succubus’ bundle are hand-made, with almost all of the work done by a single polymath credited only as AII (which seems to be a riff on the Japanese word for ‘love’). Both of these games feature pixel art that sits between what the NES and SNES could produce, giving the game a very TurboGrafx vibe. However, beyond the sprites and tiles that make up each game’s world, enemies, and allies, the user interface features a very prominent, nearly full-body portrait of our heroines, the succubi, which are fully animated, giving us a closer look at our heroines as they attack, cast spells, seduce enemies, and – of course – fuck like mink. One of the collection aspects of both games is to unlock the full slate of ‘erotic scenes,’ which detail our two succubi going down on a wide variety of things with penises – with “Tower of Succubus” revolving around draining enemies (both monstrous and human) of their life force and “Sword of Succubus” focusing on a mix of the former plus a number of other compromising scenarios with NPCs. In general, while the sprites are fairly basic and lacking in detail, the nearly-full-screen avatars and portrait-based animations are incredibly well-done and demonstrate remarkable animation skill.

Audio in “Tower and Sword of Succubus” is primarily the purview of the publisher, Critical Bliss. According to official statements by the publisher, these games in their original, doujin form were unaccompanied. During the localization process, however, Critical Bliss added some chiptunes soundtracks to the mix, resulting in a very authentic retro experience. Sound effects are adequate, with one heavily re-used ‘female grunting’ clip gracing nearly every sexual encounter across both games.

Technically, however, is where “Tower and Sword of Succubus” lose some points. Starting off with the positive, there’s a free bonus game available as DLC, called “Succubus Hunter,” which is a riff on “Castlevania: The Adventure” from the Game Boy Brick. But that’s the extent of the good news. None of these ‘Succubus’ games want to launch in full-screen mode, and none of them remember the full-screen setting between launches if the player toggles it in the options. Even worse, “Tower of Succubus” won’t respond to Alt+Enter to go full-screen, and nearly always has ugly Windows Desktop chrome around the outside. There is a fairly simple fix for the full-screen issue: Simply create a Windows shortcut to each game and set the shortcut to “Launch Maximized.” This, of course, negates the ability to launch cleanly and easily from the Steam client, which is a point of pain for Steam Deck owners.

Other technical snafus include the fact that “Succubus Hunter” was triggering anti-virus false positives in enough cases that Critical Bliss was forced to put it in the “Tower and Sword of Succubus” Beta opt-in. Then there’s the dismal fact that games clearly designed in homage to 8-bit and 16-bit classics don’t have proper Xinput support, with both games’ UIs showing keyboard keys and all controller support handled via SteamInput, which does, at least, come with Critical Bliss’ presets. However, these presets leave something to be desired, as neither game’s SteamInput preset supports the damned d-pad by default, but instead fall back on the left analog stick for movement, which I found to be actively cumbersome at times. Lastly, there are minor spit-and-polish things that left me wondering how they could be overlooked, such as an audio option between Type A and Type B in “Tower of Succubus” that doesn’t appear to do anything, and the fact that neither game has a “Quit to Desktop” button anywhere, forcing the player to use Alt+F4 when done playing.

Story
“Tower of Succubus” is the tale of a she-demon named Lucia who, after being raped by a priest and having her powers stolen, must climb to the top of a mysterious 77-floor tower to get them back. Along the way, she stumbles across journals left by numerous other women who entered the tower for their own reasons. Some of these women met success, becoming the succubus bosses that grace various floors, while most met with failure and degradation.

“Sword of Succubus” follows the adventures of an anonymous succubus who, after waking up to find a ‘legendary hero’ demanding to spend the night in her house – and raping her – drains the life out of the asshole and finds herself filling his shoes on a quest to save the world from an Evil Overlord. Taking up the late hero’s Holy Sword, the succubus must use it to defeat the guardians of three Trial Dungeons scattered throughout the land and retrieve the Pieces of Force required to re-seal the Overlord’s power.

Both of these ‘Succubus’ games offer cogent premises above and beyond what one would expect from a typical 8-bit Action/Adventure game or, indeed, from ‘story-based’ pornography. That said, the narrative in “Tower of Succubus” is incredibly threadbare, while the one in “Sword of Succubus” is a much more enjoyable deconstruction of ‘Zelda’ tropes, with numerous NPCs who need the kind of help only a sultry she-demon can provide. However, both games contain a significant number of non-consensual encounters, which are an inescapable part of Japanese eroticism. These scenes didn’t do anything for me, but I know that many of today’s Snowflakes would go into apoplectic fits at the very thought, so those with weak constitutions should stay away.

Overall, each game in the “Tower and Sword of Succubus” bundle took me about 5 hours to get through… which is, honestly, a lot more than I was expecting.

Gameplay
Critical Bliss is trying to make a name for itself as an eroge (i.e., erotic game) publisher that promotes actual games with gameplay, mechanics, and the ability to stand up on their own merits, and not just their erotic hentai art. “Tower and Sword of Succubus” are both basic, but polished Action/Adventure games in the same vein as the NES classics of the genre, with “Tower of Succubus” bearing a resemblance to “The Adventures of Lolo” and “Sword of Succubus” an obvious homage to “The Legend of Zelda.”

“Tower of Succubus” revolves entirely around the exploration of the titular tower, which is 77 floors high. Some of these floors are mere transitional areas with a journal and some text, while some contain boss battles. Most, however, are single-pane puzzle rooms filled with a variety of monsters, traps, gadgets, keys, and breakable pots that stand between the entrance and the exit. Some of these puzzle floors have well-hidden secrets, but the game’s numerous journal entries hint to their locations, allowing players to return to previous floors at any point to sniff them out.

Lucia the succubus has a very limited set of skills, in that she can kick enemies in melee range (or stab them after finding a suitable weapon), cast fireballs, or ‘charm’ enemies and… fuck them to death. Lucia’s fire magic is incredibly cumbersome to use, as each fireball consumes a portion of her magic meter, and when the meter is empty (which happens way too quickly), the fireballs get smaller and only deal half-damage. During normal floors, Lucia can restore her health and magic by ‘charming’ a foe and doing her thing, but during boss battles, that’s generally not an option.

While “Tower of Succubus” originally had easier bosses, Critical Bliss upped the difficulty during the localization process, adding ‘Normal’ and ‘Master’ modes to the ‘Original’ (read: ‘Easy’) mode as options (not to mention corresponding Steam Achievements). While the difficulty only affects the sponginess of enemies and how many hits Lucia can take, the result is generally that boss battles are not particularly fun and feel extremely drawn-out, especially once Lucia’s magic meter peters out and her damage is cut in half. The solution to this within the game is some sort of overload mode that can only be used once per floor, but heals Lucia to full health and grants her unlimited magic for the rest of the floor – at the cost of 50 hearts, which are little pickups typically found in broken pots.

Lucia also does not remain static on her trek up the Tower, as she is able to improve her abilities via both RPG-style mechanics and Action/Adventure-style mechanics. The RPG mechanic is simple, in that killing enemies (but not ‘charming’ and absorbing them) grants experience, and filling the XP meter grants a level up and a corresponding increase in damage output. Grinding is not encouraged, though, as the foes in lower levels of the tower stop rewarding experience after a certain point, meaning that to hit the level cap of 60, the player will need to wait and grind out the last few by replaying a handful of levels toward the tower’s top. Action/Adventure mechanics are the primary means of progress, though, with two different kinds of Heart Container to improve health and magic capacity, and numerous pieces of equipment to find, ranging from the obvious weapons and shields to the more esoteric pieces of jewelry.

“Sword of Succubus,” on the other hand, takes place in a fully realized overworld, complete with a town, numerous NPCs to interact with, and tools that grant the anonymous succubus new ways to interact with the environment, with ‘Zelda’ staples like the fire wand and hookshot making appearances. The succubus also has a new ability she didn’t have in “Tower of Succubus”: Lactation! All throughout the world, there are various vessels (and people) that need to be filled with succubus milk, and managing her production of the precious nectar provides some basic resource-management gameplay on top of the Action/Adventure. It is quite basic, however, as the succubus’ boobs will fill on their own at a rather slow rate (causing her portrait to twitch each time she generates a unit), but can be filled more quickly be eating mushrooms that grow underneath bushes (innuendo!). Her milk capacity starts at around 20, but increases as she finds Force Pieces to a maximum of 99… though, tragically, her sprite and avatar don’t change as her capacity increases.

In lieu of having her magic power cut in half upon running out of energy, this succubus simply can’t cast magic on empty. Another annoyance is the fact that this succubus’ lingerie, which is really just pasties, a thong, and some silk sleeves, takes damage when she gets hit, breaking after its durability wears down, and increasing the damage she takes on subsequent hits. Replacing her lingerie is free, but it does require a trip back to her house, and it can be made more durable by a blacksmith (what?), but, ultimately, the ‘broken armor’ gimmick just leads to more of the ‘don’t get hit’ gameplay that “Tower of Succubus” hammered home with its boss battles.

I’m not a particular fan of tedious boss battles and pattern memorization, and both games in the “Tower and Sword of Succubus” rely on exactly that for every climactic encounter. Fortunately, there’s no punishment for dying in either game, and with an instant retry option in “Tower” and liberally-placed save points in “Sword” (using the retry option in “Sword” is pointless, as it doesn’t replenish the succubus’ auto-use health potion if she had one, making success even less likely), the boss fights manage to avoid feeling onerous on ‘Normal’ difficulty, but just barely.

Overall
Did you ever wish that ‘The Legend of Zelda’ actually featured Princess Zelda as the main character? And that she constantly got her tits out? If so, “Tower and Sword of Succubus” will give you plenty of pixilated titillation with enjoyable gameplay to boot. It’s obvious that the Japanese Indie developer known as AII loves classic Action/Adventure games as much as he loves boobs and non-consensual encounters between women and monsters. Hopefully the publisher, Critical Bliss, continues to improve their localization efforts for quality eroge as they become more experienced in the industry, as it’s clear that none of the “AAA” publishers would touch this kind of content with any length of pole.

Presentation: 4/5
Story: 3/5
Gameplay: 4/5
Overall (not an average): 4/5

 

 


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