Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Castle of Shikigami III (Wii)

Adding a few twists to the classic vertically scrolling shooter genre, Castle of Shikigami III brings solid, arcade-style shooting action to the Wii. With ten unique characters, there's plenty of variety in attack styles, along with challenging gameplay modes. Players can choose to battle the foes alone or in co-operative mode, and play in boss attack and dramatic battle modes as well. The game's unique Tension Bonus system which allows you to build up extra shooting power and score multipliers adds a strategic element to the gameplay. Shikigami's fluid controls allow for screen-filling bullet battles and epic boss battles to create a solidly entertaining title that should please fans of the genre.

While first impressions might lead you to believe that Castle of Shikigami III is a mindless throwback to the 16-bit era of shooters, there are a number of key elements in the game's mechanics and style that make its gameplay feel fresh and unique. Instead of fighting as a generic space ship, you instead select from one of ten unique characters, each of which has their own backstory and scenario to play through. In addition, they also bring specific attacks to the table, and have two secondary weapons each, which gives you plenty of variety. The effectiveness of each players' attacks depends on your skill and how you plan your assaults. For the most part, the game plays like a standard shooting game, where you shoot anything in your way while avoiding their attacks. There are standard foes that attack as well as elaborate boss battles at the end of each stage. As is the case in most modern shooters, the enemies and bosses come at you in massive waves, where the bullets fill the screen. The objective is find a safe place within these patterns and find the hidden weaknesses that are revealed. You can use your standard shots and bomb attacks at any point in the game. These can do a fairly good job in wiping them out. However, you have a few special tricks up your sleeve that can help you along, which help to keep the game interesting while allowing it to stand out from the pack of shooting titles.

The most important technique at your disposal is the Tension Bonus system, which is indicated by a status bar at the top of the screen. Shooting enemies at close range increases your power, and you can use to for a number of purposes. The first of these is a score multiplier, which increases your score up to 8X as you chain attacks. It changes constantly, depending on your distance from enemies and your shooting connection. Building up the Tension Attack bar can also be used to make additional coins appear on the screen. The coins are tallied at the end of each stage, and can increase in value as you collect them, however, you'll lose them when your character takes damage, so you have to be careful. Of course, these merely add points to your score, but chaining them together means you can use High Tension Shots which increase damage and shoot more rapidly than standard shots. Additionally, there is one mode where you can become invincible for a short time, which allows you to inflict heavy damage with impunity. Shikigami's Tension system gives the gameplay mechanics a unique, strategic feel and helps keep the replay value high while you try and beat your previous records. Add in multiple characters and you have a title that offers plenty of variety in its attacks. Finding the best player for you to use is a process of trial and error, but it definitely adds some depth to the experience.

As with many modern shooters, players should find the game's controls and mechanics smooth and responsive. Using the standard Wiimote, a classic controller or an arcade stick offers an intuitive experience that allows you to move around easily. The game plays things conservatively, and you won't need to shake the controller around to perform special moves. This is probably a bit disappointing in its lack of vision, but its solidly produced otherwise. The game's button configurations are very effective in their implementation and make easy access to the different weapons and attacks. The gameplay itself flows smoothly from level to level in a predictable, but satisfying manner. Its overall intensity is surprisingly difficult and players will have a hard time getting through the later stages if they aren't good. The boss battles can be particularly intense and they put up quite a fight with you as well. This isn't as easy as it sounds, but the good news is that you can change a number of options in order to make things a bit easier. Castle of Shikigami's options screen lets you choose from several levels of difficutly, which affects the overall speed of the bullets, the number of life regenerations you have and the game's overall difficulty. Players can also use a practice mode to get good at individual stages, and learn the patterns of each enemy attack. There's also a co-operative mode where you can blast through the stages alongside a friend. Another unique mode lets you switch characters during the gameplay itself for Dramatic Battles that add more strategy to the game. Finally, players can choose to battle it out against the end level guardians in Boss Attack mode, which is quite challenging as well. These modes give the gameplay plenty of variety and depth, though the lack of an online mode is somewhat disappointing these days.

From a presentation standpoint, the game looks fairly decent in its standard mode, which squeezes the action into a narrow band at the center of the screen. There are also vertical modes where the action takes place on the full screen, but you need to turn your set sideways, which isn't ideal in most situations. The graphics themselves look very sharp and the game doesn't suffer much in the way of slowdown or hiccups, which is impressive considering the sheer number of objects onscreen at one time. Its traditional 2D play mechanics are punctuated by some impressive 3D rendered backdrops which give the game a contemporary feel. Character designs and the game's overall look is quite contemporary and stylish, which makes for an aesthetically pleasing experience. Castle of Shikigami's interesting characters each have a unique storyline that unfolds between stages, each of which has interesting voice-overs and good acting to help you get into things. Its musical score and sound effects are nicely done as well and help to compliment the game's action effectively. While this isn't the most elaborate or innovative title to come across on the Wii, Castle of Shikigami III is an entertaining throwback to a simpler era of gaming with a straightforward approach and easy to learn gameplay that makes it solidly entertaining. It's unique Tension Bonus system adds a new twist on its traditional play mechanics, with its challenging gameplay, multiple play modes and solid production making it a very good choice for those looking for straightforward arcade-style shooting action.

- Michael Palisano

Grade: B-

> Related Reviews

SNK Arcade Classics (Wii)
Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection (Wii)
King of Fighters Collection (Wii)
Metal Slug Anthology (Wii)
Namco Museum Remix (Wii)