Remember how I got all pissed off at Breath of Death for trying to make me actually ENGAGE with the mechanical systems of an RPG and I was like "ughhhhhh noooooo"?
Well, uh. Helen's Mysterious Castle not only succeeded in that goal, it ALSO had a storyline I engaged with way more. And all for about the same price! Wow. This was pretty great for its price point.
The idea is that you (Helen, a young girl who communicates entirely in '?' and '!' punctuation) can hold up to eight weapons at once. Every weapon has three stats:
WAIT is how long it takes to use.
EFFECT is how hard it hits.
DEFENSE is how much damage you soak if something hits you when you're using it.
So a bow will have, as an example... a Wait of 5, an Effect of 10, and a Defense of 2. A sword will have a Wait of 10, an Effect of 25, and a Defense of 10. And a shield will have a Wait of 8, an Effect of 0, and a Dense of 20.
Make the weapons upgradable from +1-+9 (using battle experience, and you can full-upgrade them at a blacksmith for special effect), toss in some modifiers (healing magic applies its effect to you in the form of HP recovery, some items can stun or pierce to ignore defense) and you're off.
I was genuinely interested in and engaged with this battle system for the whole game, constantly looking at new equipment like "Does this deserve one of my slots? How will this get better if I upgrade it? This isn't my BEST sword but it does outspeed quite a few enemies..." and so on.
So this game got ME of all people to engage with it on a tactical level. That's a feat right there. Then there's the story...
And unfortunately it's the kind of story where anything I say is spoilers. The game doesn't want you to KNOW there's a story at first. The opening is just "Helen, don't go in the ruins."
Spoiler 1: You ain't getting anything done until you go in the ruins.( Spoilers beneath. )
About the only real negative I can think of is that the game often relies on hidden passages and tricky event flags. What wall do I have to scrub against to find the way to the next floor? Well, it's a mystery. Like some kind... of...
Wait no. This is nothing like a mystery dungeon game. I thought it was gonna be and that's why I bought it... but I was instead surprised and delighted by what I got.
I'm delighted that that happens sometimes.
Oh yeah. Also it's an RPGMaker game. If you're allergic to those, nevermind.