It’s that magical time of year when the weather starts turning and the scent of horror is in the air. What better way to celebrate than to look at some retro horror games. Before your Resident Evils and your Silent Hills, you had your Splatterhouses and Ghouls N’ Ghosts‘s. You also have Yokai Yashiki for the MSX.
The MSX was a home console created by Microsoft and released only in Japan. There were a handful of classic games that started their lives on the MSX, including a little game called Metal Gear. It’s also, of course, home to a whole host of quirky platformers and puzzle games.
Yokai Yashiki was developed by Casio (yes, the same watch company) and released in 1987. There was also a port by Irem for the Famicom Disk System, the Japan-only Famicom add-on console. Yokai Yashiki is a platformer, but not a side-scrolling platformer in the Super Mario Bros. sense. Instead, you progress through a single screen, defeating ghosts (or yokai) and collecting items and power-ups.
Each stage consists of multiple screens that you can move left and right and up and down through. This seems simple, but it actually gets pretty confusing, as some screens do not scroll. It can be easy to get lost or become unsure of where to go if you don’t walk toward the part of the screen the game wants you to walk toward in order to advance.
Your weapon for fighting off ghosts is a flashlight, but that’s not really apparent in the MSX version as the light shoots forward, and I originally thought it was some kind of ghost fighting medallion or talisman. It wasn’t until I played the Famicom version that I realized it was supposed to be a flashlight.
As to be expected, the MSX version is obviously the most graphically inferior version of the game. However, there are some clever uses of background objects that add nice touches to this version. Some stages have broken Shoji paper doors, some of which have the shadows of cats projected on them. These are really just cosmetic, but they add to the horror theme of the game.
The version you’ll most likely want to play is the Famicom Disk System version. It’s far easier to tell what’s going on and it actually has backgrounds, instead of just blank black screens. Though, maybe those black spaces of the MSX version are creepier in the end.
There’s also been an HD remake of this game released for PC by a two-man crew known as Double-V Games. Aside from the graphical enhancements, the game plays very faithfully to the Famicom version. It’s free to download here, you can also throw a bit of money the devs way if you’re feeling generous when you download it.
Yokai Yashiki may not actually be all that scary, but it is an interesting game in the retro horror genre that has gotten a lot of love over the years. Especially with a new HD release by some dedicated fans, it’s well worth checking out.