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Nelson Schneider's Video Game Reviews (477)

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Pikmin 4 4/5
No Man's Sky 4/5
Dragon Quest Monsters: ... 4/5
Assassin's Creed IV: Bl... 2.5/5
Tiny Tina's Wonderlands 3.5/5
Ratchet & Clank: Rift A... 4.5/5
Super Mario Bros. Wonder 4.5/5
The Alliance Alive 2/5
Catmaze 4.5/5
Turnip Boy Commits Tax ... 4.5/5
Seasons After Fall 3/5
Rayon Riddles - Rise of... 0.5/5
World to the West 4/5
MechWarrior 5: Mercenar... 4/5
Streets of Kamurocho 2.5/5
Aeon of Sands - The Tra... 2.5/5
Greak: Memories of Azur 3.5/5
Yaga 2.5/5
Riverbond 3/5
Bug Fables: The Everlas... 4.5/5
Front Mission 1st Remake 1.5/5
Middle-earth: Shadow of... 3.5/5
Bladed Fury 3.5/5
Ruzar - The Life Stone 3.5/5
Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin 3.5/5

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Midnight Castle Succubus   PC (Steam) 

The Best Classicvania    4.5/5 stars

“Midnight Castle Succubus” is the third game in the informal ‘Succubus’ series of Japanese Indie doujin games localized by Western erotic game publisher, Critical Bliss. While the first two games were the purview of a lone developer, operating under the studio title, Libra Heart, “Midnight Castle Succubus” is a collaborative effort between Libra Heart and another one-man Indie studio known as Pixel Teishoku. The result is a fantastic 8-bit style Classicvania that proves the old adage of ‘two heads are better than one.’

Libra Heart is responsible, once again, for “Midnight Castle Succubus’” visuals, and put together a graphical package in the same TurboGrafx style as the first two ‘Succubus’ games, with pixilated sprites that rest between what the NES and SNES were capable of producing. Unlike the previous two games in “Tower and Sword of Succubus,” “Midnight Castle Succubus” doesn’t include a full portrait of the heroine, with significantly scaled-back eroticism, which primarily takes the form of still scenes that can be unlocked by rescuing various captive girls from monster rapists, and, after unlocking, appear randomly as loading screens when transitioning between various areas of the game. Indeed, the primary form of pixilated titillation in this sequel comes in the form of the topless female boss enemies… and even those can be rendered benign through the game’s alternate Safe For Work (SFW) mode, which can be chosen as a launch option.

Audio is excellent chiptunes fare that would be completely at home in any of the Konami games that “Midnight Castle Succubus” tries to invoke. Sound effects are adequate, but generally nothing to get excited about.

Technically, “Midnight Castle Succubus” is a big step-up from its predecessors, with proper Xinput support baked in, including key remapping, and the ability to seamlessly swap between controller and keyboard. However, the third game in the series still doesn’t launch full-screen, nor does it have an option in the menu to set it to full-screen. However, this time, at least, the game responds to the Alt+Enter Windows shortcut to take it from a window to full-screen and vice-versa. There is a way to return to the title screen and quit to destktop this time around, and “Midnight Castle Succubus” also features the ability to save anywhere, which I greatly appreciated.

Unlike the previous two ‘Succubus’ games, “Midnight Castle Succubus” doesn’t feature a sexy she-demon as the protagonist. Instead, it’s a thinly-veiled rehash of the first three ‘Castlevania’ games developed and published by Konami for the NES, only swapping Dracula for a succubus and the various Belmont vampire hunters for an anonymous female succubus hunter.

Beware of spoilers below!

Following in the template stamped out by ‘Castlevania,’ our anonymous succubus hunter arrives at a town that looks eerily similar to the town in “Castlevania 3: Dracula’s Curse,” where the townsfolk give her the gist of what happened: A cursed castle suddenly appeared nearby and a succubus dwelling within sent out hordes of monsters to kill young men and abduct young women for pleasure. The succubus hunter then sets out to rescue the missing girls and bring an end to the demon’s reign of terror.

The succubus hunter must fight through the surrounding landscape before, ultimately, reaching the center of the castle and battling the succubus herself. However, in a twist of fate, upon dealing the deathblow to the demon, the Succubus’ Curse descends upon the succubus hunter, threatening to transform her into a new master for the castle. She must then set out to retrieve the scattered body parts of the destroyed succubus and burn them in sacred fire to break the curse, relying more and more on her new powers, even as they threaten to consume her.

In general, the game is light on text, but does a good job of communicating its message in a few words. The localization in English is adequate, with no glaring typos or Engrish phrasing. Lasting roughly 8 hours for a very thorough blind completionist run, “Midnight Castle Succubus” isn’t particularly long, but instead of ‘short’ it feels ‘concise,’ without a lot of padding or tedium baked into its design.

Anyone who has ever played an 8-bit ‘Castlevania’ title will understand the basics of what “Midnight Castle Succubus” is about. It’s a 2D Platformer in which the main character has a somewhat stiff jumping animation and the ability to defeat enemies with a whip as well as a variety of subweapons, which can be found as simple powerups by whipping – you guessed it – candlesticks. Cash money also drops from candlesticks and defeated foes, providing the game’s sole currency, which is burned to power subweapon attacks and can be used to purchase upgrades from merchants, clues from reticent old sages, and skill books that unlock a range of extra capabilities for our succubus hunter.

Yes, much like another Classicvania homage I enjoyed – “Odallus: The Dark Call” – “Midnight Castle Succubus” takes the basic Classicvania formula and drips just enough Metroidvania (or Igavania) into the mixture to make it interesting, even connecting the semi-linear ‘stages’ into a single, overarching map. In addition to the ability to acquire permanent upgrades and swap between a huge variety of subweapons (with an arsenal cribbed from both ‘Castlevania’ AND ‘Ghouls & Ghosts’), the single biggest thing that makes “Midnight Castle Succubus” more fun than any Classicvania title is the fact that the controls actually feel smooth and responsive, thanks to the much-needed addition of air control while jumping.

Our succubus hunter isn’t alone in her quest, as she can find and recruit 4 companion characters (who are merely lost in the castle and its environs, and never raped by monsters at any point): A Thief, Monk, Warrior, and Sorceress. By grabbing health orbs scattered throughout the game, not only can the player increase the succubus hunter’s maximum health (from the starting 100 to a maximum of 3000), but can increase the number of active companions she can have at once. While the Thief is essential as a source of ranged damage and for her ability to spot hidden Crowns, the other companions all feel somewhat underwhelming, with the Monk’s healing orbs being novel (though cumbersome, as she’ll only use them when the player is crouching), and the Warrior and Sorceress providing less-than-game-changing amounts of extra damage. Fortunately, all of these companions are invincible and simply trail the player’s succubus hunter, meaning that they never need to be babysat.

The hidden Crowns revealed by the Thief might seem like useless collectables at first, but in reality are a currency that allows the player to unlock a variety of bonuses during New Game+. These bonuses include such coveted skills as full invincibility and having all permanent power-up items from the outset, which makes going for the story’s three different endings much more palatable than other games. Indeed, I managed to power-through a ‘no collectables, no rescues’ run for the ‘Bad Ending’ in less than a half-hour thanks to these bonuses, while without them, I simply would have skipped a minimalist Bad Ending run through the game altogether.

The only thing that actually annoyed me while playing “Midnight Castle Succubus” was the fact that grabbing a new subweapon completely deletes the one you had before, instead of the more modern technique of causing the previous power-up to drop on the ground nearby, so accidentally grabbing… well pretty much anything besides the cross boomerang… would make me cuss and contemplate backtracking to find a cross boomerang… or just reload my save and NOT whip the offending candle.

“Midnight Castle Succubus” is significantly less erotic than its predecessors, but in spite of that minor failing manages to be the absolute best Classicvania-style game ever made. This homage really gets to the core about what so many of us wanted to like about the eponymous series of 8-bit gothic vampire hunting games, but couldn’t due to the stiff, unresponsive controls and the punishing amounts of repetition. Instead, this is a lovely side-scrolling romp that combines the best of the old with the best of the new to create an outstanding game that far too few people will play due to the stigma attached to erotic games.

Presentation: 4/5
Story: 3.5/5
Gameplay: 5/5
Overall (not an average): 4.5/5



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