If you think nearly a decade developing Cyberpunk 2077 seemed atrocious, especially considering its bugs, then you probably never heard of games that literally took decades before they were released. Granted, some of those probably would have never been released had their creators not decided to brush up the code and finish them but it’s sometimes interesting to discover what could have been become reality. PS1 JRPG Magic Castle’s release more than 20 years later isn’t the only curious thing about the game, however, as its origins also gave a glimpse of the state of PlayStation development during the late 90s.
Perhaps the most curious part of Magic Castle was that it was developed on the Net Yaroze, a PlayStation emulator and development kit that Sony actually sold to almost anyone who could afford the $750 purchase. It’s a stark contrast to Sony’s stance on the emulation scene today and how it limits access to its dev kits to a chosen few. It’s a shame as Net Yaroze or its official successors could have endeared the PlayStation to developers easily.
The developers’ experiences with developing and especially pitching the game are less exceptional and reflect the experiences of many budding indie developers of that period. Developers K. Matsunami and PIROWO quit their formal jobs at an arcade game company to follow their dreams of making their own game. Magic Castle, a 3D isometric PS1 game with unique elements that may have been ahead of its time, was the first and only fruit of that gamble.
The duo pitched their game to Sony, sending in a VHS video clip of the game. In almost typical game publisher fashion, Sony said they liked it but wanted them to work for the company on a different game. They turned down the offer since they quit their corporate jobs to actually work on their dream game. They pitched their game to other publishers but, unlike today, companies didn’t trust a team of two or three to finish a game so they required them to build a formal team. They couldn’t and the rest was literally history.
It would have remained history had PIROWO not stumbled upon the source code again. The two decided to finally release the game to the world for the first time in 22 years. Of course, the era of the PS1 or even of Net Yaroze is long gone by now but, thankfully, the Internet archives is hosting Magic Castle for anyone to see and play.