I will admit outright; this next review covers an absolute slaughterfest of a game. Not everyone’s cuppa tea, but good bloody fun nonetheless.
This game falls under an odd routine that various PlayStation titles went through. With a new system that is a powerhouse compared to the old, many developers who wanted to continue their games on the PlayStation 2 wound up rebranding their games under a different name. In this case, Tecmo’s Deception series became the Kagero series. Despite this, newer Deception games can be found to this day with connections linking back to the Kagero games, so the names are just all over the place here.
Anyhow! TЯAPT [ 影牢II -Dark illusion-/Kagero II: Dark Illusion in Japan ] is what happens when there is an Asian horror twist on your typical “royal stepmother tries to kill off her stepdaughter” fairytale [As though it wasn’t a twisted concept in and of itself. Give stepmoms some love, dammit!] with a touch of Home Alone. While you’re hiding out in a mansion with dark magic at your disposal, you use said magic to set up malicious traps for those who would break in to either turn you in to the queen or to execute you outright in her name. Joy.
TЯAPT was released on June 30th, 2005 in Japan, on November 1st, 2005 in North America, and February 24th, 2006 in Europe. There is also a PlayStation Network version of TЯAPT that saw a North America PlayStation 3 release on February 4th, 2014. The sadistic nature of the game earned it an ESRB rating of M for Mature, a CERO rating of 15 and up, and a PEGI rating of 12.
Tecmo both developed and published TЯAPT. The game was directed by Akihiro Arahori and Makoto Shibata. Keisuke Kikuchi was the producer and the designers were Masaru Ueda and Hiroki Watanabe.
The kingdom of Fronenberg is facing hard times and is falling apart, yet King Olaf has been unable to concentrate on any of it thanks to the loss of his beloved wife. Despite remarrying for the sake of trying to keep the kingdom balanced, neither his fourteen-year-old daughter, Allura, or his new wife, Queen Catalina, are enough to snap him out of his mourning to focus on matters at hand. His neglect of the kingdom led to his assassination, with Catalina, Allura, and her handmaiden Rachel, as sole witnesses!
But that is not the worst of it. When the guards arrive, Catalina is quick to place the blame on Allura, accusing her of “bearing the mark” and using it to slaughter the king! Despite Allura’s absolute confusion and not even knowing what this whole “mark” business is about, Rachel grabs the princess’s hand and runs off with her, making a quick escape as the queen sends guards after the girls with a sneer.
Upon arriving at an abandoned mansion, Rachel urges Allura to hide inside while she distracts the guards. With little choice and little idea of what else to do after her handmaiden runs off, Allura ducks inside.
As the door clicks shut, a haunting voice echoes throughout the halls, claiming the girl as his servant for she has been branded with his mark. One of the guards makes it inside, oblivious to the voice, and confronts Allura by trying to convince her to come back to the castle to sort things out with Queen Catalina. The voice demands his soul and Allura’s arm becomes overwhelmed by a demonic limb; the Mark of The Fiend.
With The Mark upon her arm and the voice of The Fiend urging her on, Allura had little choice. She couldn’t go back to the castle now. With her awakened power and The Fiend’s hunger, blood is spilled within the mansion once again.
Who is involved?
Ho boy. With how in-depth this game gets regarding everyone’s backstory, I’ll try to keep this list to the characters who get the most on-screen action. I kid you not; you are given a log of every single person you kill off in the game so you can read into their backstory as far as what led them up to either entering the mansion or going after the accused princess. Damn you, developers, for trying to make us feel guilty for killing off our pursuers!
Allura is the main protagonist of the game. A young princess who is regarded as a pure and innocent girl prior to being framed for the events mentioned above. She is the result of King Olaf’s first marriage to the late Queen Evelyn, whose death struck her just as hard as her father. It’s safe to say she plays the, “reluctant yet compliant” role when it comes to the fact that she is the one setting up these vile traps for her pursuers to fall into. She may not want to, but feels that she must. Not that it really helps her case any when she is doing exactly what she has been accused of: bearing the Mark of The Fiend and using its dark powers to kill people.
Queen Catalina is your typical fairytale stepmother. You know, the sort who isn’t as loved by her husband as his first wife was, so jealousy fills her with resentment for both her husband and her stepdaughter. Just as typical, she finds an all-too-convenient excuse to have her pretty little stepdaughter killed off. Of course, she had already been using Olaf’s grieving state to manipulate how he rules, but with the story starting off with the queen framing her stepdaughter for murdering her own father, typical fairytale/soap opera logic tells us who was really responsible for arranging King Olaf’s assassination.
Rachel is Allura’s handmaiden. She is responsible for both Allura’s education and well-being. She often tries to protect Allura by drawing attention toward herself and away from the princess. However, there may be more to the girl than Allura knows. Rachel seems to know a fair bit about the mansion she begs the princess to hide in. Perhaps too much.
Jais is a Fronenberg knight, deemed as the best swordsman in the kingdom. Upon hearing of the princess herself being accused of killing the king, he tracks her down to the mansion. Not to turn her in to Catalina, for she is going through the ranks to see who is loyal to her and who is still loyal to Olaf; but to try and prove her innocence and set things right. Though he is wary of The Mark, he sees it as necessary for Allura to defend herself. As small, meek, and timid as she is compared to most of the foes you encounter, it’s safe to assume no one taught the girl how to hold a sword much less use one. He knows something fishy is going on around the castle, but has yet to figure out exactly what.
Ada is a notorious thief and assassin. Instead of going after Princess Allura and the tempting bounty upon her head, she is content to stay back and watch. She, too, feels that something is off about the entire situation and isn’t afraid to voice this to the princess and her handmaiden. Is she affiliated with Catalina or is she acting on her own?
Hertzog serves as the general of King Olaf’s army. With the death of the king, he sends his men out to capture or kill the murderous princess. Both he and Catalina have a vision of how to bring Fronenberg together and set it back on course. Yet who is really pulling the strings here? The Queen or The General?
How does it play?
I may as well get the most tedious part of the game out of the way. If you care little for the story, you may find yourself waking away from your PS2 for a portion of the game. There is a fair bit of soap opera cinema to be seen in the game – some of which cannot be skipped [if only because it requires the player’s input via multiple choice] – and there is a loading screen between every ‘stage’ of the cinema we see. It makes back-and-forth scenes between the mansion’s interior to the exterior, back to the interior, to Fronenberg Castle, and back to the mansion feel longer than they should be.
The voice acting is entirely in Japanese with no other options regarding the audio, but there are subtitle options. Still, those versed in the language will realize that the English subtitles does not feature the best translation.
Now for the gameplay itself. For this game, I shall give my father’s best advice for any game that allows it, “Save and save often!” There is no shame in taking up multiple save slots in this game.
Throughout the game, if you are successful in killing off the invaders [as opposed to letting them escape], you are rewarded with Warl. Warl is the game’s currency used to purchase new traps, room expansions, and extra costumes for Allura. Personally, I have found myself in a situation where I had not only saved AFTER purchasing traps and expansions, but realized I got myself stuck in the game because of poor purchasing decisions leaving me completely broke afterwards and the enemy either being too clever for my traps or being outright resistant to them.
So yes. Save, and save often. And do so BEFORE your transaction.
Before you dive into each stage of the game, you are given a selection of three types of traps to choose from: Floor Traps, Wall Traps, and Ceiling Traps. As one would presume, these are all traps that are bound to the floor, wall, and ceiling respectively. You are allowed to equip three of each but can only place one of each type per room.
You are also given an overall map of your stage to plan in. If you don’t want to wait for the traps to set up while you place them live, you can arrange them ahead of time in this planning stage. Along with the typical floors, stairs, and balconies, you are also shown what sort of environmental hazards each room is equipped with. This can range from your typical chandelier to conveniently loaded cannons to the ludicrous pillars of fire and pools of lava. Because why not?
Some rooms are also equipped with multi-step traps built in called Dark Illusions, which are awesomely gruesome traps that inflict a great deal of damage and reward you with a good chunk of change. Planning ahead can make setting off these Dark Illusions far easier.
Once you finish your planning stage, Allura is faced with wave after wave of various enemies who seek to capture/kill her. Unfortunately, this also means that you are playing as the bait for all of the traps you had meticulously set up. Bait that has little means to fend for herself other than the magic from The Mark. What’s more, you have all sorts of typical fantasy classes coming after you, each with their own method of attack and range of resistances. Some of them are even clever enough to remember where that last trap was triggered and avoid repeat traps! Only makes it all the more satisfying when they are caught up in a chain of deadly devices.
What do I personally think of TЯAPT?
For me, this game makes for a nice stress-reliever after a frustrating day. Yes, there are foes that I find absolutely obnoxious and the ones who get away often leave me cursing their continued existence. I often fall for the Completionist trap and try to not only set off every possible Dark Illusion I come across, but also try to eliminate every foe that I can, changing up how they died whenever it can be helped. Something about going through the kill log and seeing a particularly annoying enemy receive the “shameful death by Banana Peel” tickles my fancy. This game feeds the occasional dark tendencies.
Would I recommend this game?
If you enjoy the slasher horror genre and are patient enough to get through the cutscenes, yes. However, if you have a distaste for Anime, you may not care as much for the story. Setting off the traps is great fun, though!
Now, as mentioned earlier, there is a PlayStation 3 version of TЯAPT that was released in 2014. Though it is available for $9.99, there may be some issues due to conversion. I cannot guarantee it will play exactly how the PlayStation 2 version does. Regardless, if you want to give TЯAPT a go, there you are.