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Back in the days of the original PlayStation, Sony launched its first-ever indie project by selling a limited number of PS1 dev kits to hobby developers. Among those who got their hands on the hardware was an independent team of Japanese gamers, and they came up with a fantasy fighter titled Magic Castle — a game that never made it into production...until now.
Two decades after being shelved, the game has finally been released — thanks to the nostalgic impulses of one of the original team members who goes by the social handle PIROWO. Newly unearthed and finished, Magic Castle is getting its first proper introduction to the world — only four console generations after its 1998 creation.
PIROWO took to Twitter last week with the surprise news that Magic Castle had been uploaded to the Internet Archive and would be available for anyone to play via an emulator. It’s a semi-procedurally generated dungeon crawler, replete with knights, magic, and a cool musical track that strikes a balance between old-school Zelda and old-school Final Fantasy.
Check out the team’s initial pitch to Sony in the clip below, which PIROWO posted to YouTube last year, teasing it as the long-lost PlayStation “game created in 1998, unknown to anyone.”
Framed from an orthographic overhead perspective and featuring some neat tricks, Magic Castle contains 20 levels as players make their way to the Evil Warlock, the game’s final big baddie. Along the way, players could select from four different classes (Knight, Archer, Fighter, and Wizard), each with unique abilities. The user interface was even customizable, allowing players to choose which side of the screen it could appear.
Via Eurogamer, Sony was impressed by Magic Castle, and though it didn’t green-light the game for PlayStation, nevertheless attempted to recruit the development team to work on a separate project. Citing a wish to hold onto its members’ creative freedom, the team reportedly declined and eventually disbanded. In an interesting bit of trivia, though, PIROWO and fellow team member K. Matsunami (who went on to work at SEGA) told NetYaroze-Europe.com last year that the game took about 8 months to make, and that it was meant as a prototype pitch to show what the team was capable of. It wasn’t finished at the time, but somewhere over the past 2 decades, PIROWO went back to the source code — and went back to work.
The result is a long-lost PS1 game you can download and play for free. PIROWO helpfully tweeted out a link to the game manual for the technically challenged, meaning your only real challenge will be slashing and spellcasting all the way to the finish line.