XS Games has been known to take relatively obscure titles from Japan, and port them with little effort for consoles here in the U.S. Sometimes, these titles undergo a complete name change, stripped of any of their story, and have had some very bad cover art. Some examples of XS Games’ efforts are Sol Divide (a Psikyo Saturn shooter ported to PS1) and Mobile Light Force (a port of Gunbird also brought to the PS1). There was also a Mobile Light Force 2 on PS2 which was actually a Japanese title called Shikigami no Shiro. This is where Castle Shikigami 2 comes in. Castle Shikigami 2 is actually the true sequel to Mobile Light Force 2 and in Japan is simply known as Shikigami no Shiro 2. Though dated, Castle Shikigami 2 is still a decent game and thankfully XS Games used some anime artwork for the cover this time.
The game is a pretty bare bones shooter. There are the standard modes of play, such as Arcade, Practice, Boss Attack, Story Recollect (where you can watch the game’s story boards), a Gallery with artwork, as well as an Options screen where various game features can be tweaked. The game also offers several screen modes, both horizontal and vertical. There is also variable difficulty, such as Normal and Extreme and the ability to have one or two players play simultaneously.
Castle Shikigami 2 has seven characters to choose from. Each has their own way of shooting, as well as a special shot, and bombs. The controls are simplistic, as with most shooters, and consist of moving the character in eight directions within a 2-D playing field while rapidly shooting as many enemies as possible. Enemies that are killed and coins collected on screen all affect the scoring in the game. There is also the T.B.S. or Tension Bonus System that affects your score depending on how close you come to enemies and bullets.
There is a story in Castle Shikigami 2, but it’s rather incoherent due in part to the poor subtitles/English translation effort. Before each stage, you are greeted to a story board with anime art of the characters and their dialogue. This, however, doesn’t really do much for the game and only serves as a good laugh before the shooting frenzy in the following stage.
Some gamers may find this game to be a little difficult on Normal, but this comes with the territory. This is a shooter after all. There are a limited amount of continues to begin with, four to be exact, which isn’t that many when faced with the barrage of bullets and enemies found in each stage. There is also life recovery after an insane amount of points. The game does, however, unlock unlimited continues after six hours of game play as well as all the artwork in the Gallery mode.
The graphics in Castle Shikigami 2 are ok. Though a 2-D vertical shooter, the backgrounds are rendered in 3-D and rotate. But they seem about four years old and resemble that of a Dreamcast or early PS2 titles. This is probably because the original was designed on Naomi hardware. Some of the visual effects are good and character designs and enemies can be interesting. However, after seeing so many of the same enemies on the screen, it gets rather repetitive. The look is not far removed from the first game of the series.
Castle Shikigami 2’s music is jazzy and cheesy, but fits the action and mood of the game well. The sound effects are also decent enough and get the job done. The voice-overs, however, are simply awful. Couple that with the aforementioned bad translation, and you have many moments of cringing ahead. But considering the low selling price, there probably wasn’t a huge budget for bringing this title over, so it’s forgivable.
For what it is, Castle Shikigami 2 is decent and can be fun. It’s just a standard shooter and will most likely appeal to fans of this type of game. In other words, it won’t be winning people over to the genre. But with a $10 budget price, giving it a try doesn’t really hurt the wallet either.