Net Yaroze was a way for hobbyist coders to get their hands on a basic version of a Playstation 1 dev kit and work to create games for Sony’s first console, all for the price of about $750. As an initiative back in 1997, it was an impressive display on Sony’s part to allow aspiring developers to try their hand at making something for one of the fastest growing consoles on the market.
Of those developers was a group in Japan under the name KAIGA that started work on a game by the name of Magic Castle.
A roguelite developed in eight months using the Net Yaroze development system, Magic Castle was pitched to several publishers in hopes of being picked up to be made into a full game. No one wanted to bite, but Sony saw some promise in the team and wanted them to work on another project.
That offer was declined, as the developers wished to make their game and not someone else’s. Soon after the team that made Magic Castle disbanded and KAIGA closed shop, leaving the game they’d made to fall into obscurity as an unfinished project never to be seen.
Normally the story would end there but the world is always full of surprises, and the start of 2021 is no exception. After discovering the game’s source code, PIROWO, one of the game’s developers, took it upon themselves to finish the game and release it for free.
Playable via emulation, Magic Castle feels, in part anyhow, like a game more suited to modern audiences than when it was developed. The action roguelite would fight right at home with roguelike games of all sorts, and its art style is charmingly nostalgic.
The game itself is pretty savvy as well. Controlling one of four playable characters, players are tasked with conquering the games 20 levels to defeat an evil warlock at the end. Each one of the four classes has their own unique set of abilities, giving them a flavor all their own when playing. Likewise, certain elements and challenges of each floor are randomized, allowing for repeat playthroughs to have their own, unique twists.
Magic Castle also boasts some features that for 1997 would have been extremely impressive. The soundtrack is dynamic, changing from zone to zone with subtle crossfades into different versions of tracks. While dynamic soundtracks have started to become the standard, especially in light of games like NieR: Automata, Devil May Cry 5, and others, in 1997 that is an impressive feature, especially given the complexity and nuance the game has in its track variations.
Alongside that is the game’s adjustable UI. There are games today that don’t have UI adjustments in any fashion, so allowing players to set where they want to see their health, SP (mana, essentially), and equipped items in 1997 is a truly unique feature, especially from a small team working on a stripped down version of a PS1 dev kit.
That isn’t all either. An English language version, as well as four-player support are apparently inbound, to further realize the developer’s vision.
Magic Castle is an interesting game worth checking out. While it is hard to say how successful the game would have been had it been fully developed and released, what is there shows a glimmer of that potential and it already is something that shines brightly. Though it definitely plays like a game from that era, it plays like a good one, and has enough meat on its bones to create an engaging, exciting experience. If you want to check it out for yourself, you can download the game here, and play a piece of lost Playstation history.