The Tower of Succubus makes the Tower of Druaga format palatable (and sexy)

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The Tower of Succubus, available on Steam as part of the bundle “Tower and Sword of Succubus“, is, like the rest of the series, a deliberate homage to a classic title of yore, given a modern and sexy twist. This time around, developer Libra Heart and publisher Critical Bliss (amusingly misspelled as “Clitical Bliss” in this one) take aim at Namco’s 1984 title, The Tower of Druaga.

The Tower of Druaga is one of those games that I respect enormously for what its legacy gave us in the long term — without Druaga there would probably be no Zelda, for example — but I absolutely, completely and utterly loathe playing. It’s a miserable experience thanks to a combination of its clunky mechanics, overly obtuse secrets and bafflingly specific requirements to actually beat it — bad enough in a console game, but utterly ridiculous in the context of a coin-operated arcade game!

The Tower of Succubus

It’s also a game whose potential is readily apparent, however. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the concept behind The Tower of Druaga; there is everything wrong with its execution, however. That makes it an ideal candidate for a “modern retro” makeover: maintaining a classic, old-school aesthetic while bringing the mechanics, structure and overall feel of the game thoroughly up to date with everything we’ve learned about game development since 1984.

And, as you should probably expect given the high quality of the rest of the Succubus series, The Tower of Succubus does a great job at this. It’s arguably a bit of a harder sell than some of the other titles in the series — particularly as those less familiar with its source material might assume it’s more of a Zelda-type game than it actually is — but it’s an enjoyable, worthwhile game that is worth spending the few hours it takes to beat it.

In The Tower of Succubus, you take on the role of a succubus named Lucia. At the outset of the game, she is raped by a priest, which causes her to lose her succubus crest and, by extension, most of her powers. Thus, she resolves to take on the challenges of the Tower of Succubus, which promises eternal life and beauty to those who reach the top.

The Tower of Succubus

Naturally, said eternal life and beauty is actually provided by turning the successful tower-climber into a succubus — something which, over the course of the game, we learn that numerous other people have learned to their cost — but given that Lucia is already a succubus, she has no problem with this whatsoever; she just wants her powers back.

At the outset of the game, Lucia has access to three main abilities: she can kick for a close-range physical attack; she can shoot a fireball for a ranged attack; and she can charm male humanoid enemies (and tentacle monsters) before fucking them to death. The former two options provide Lucia with experience points, with levelling up increasing the base power of her fireball attack, while the latter allows her to restore her health and magic points by draining the life out of her (un)fortunate partner.

Lucia’s magical fireball attack drains a magic meter at the top of the screen, but when it’s empty she can continue casting; her fireball is simply reduced in power quite considerably. In this way, there’s no means of getting “stuck” in The Tower of Succubus by not having access to a power you need in order to progress; a nice, considerate touch that helps keep the game flowing along well.

The Tower of Succubus

The Tower of Succubus unfolds as a series of discrete, self-contained floors of the tower, which are roughly split into a series of themed “stages” with their own distinct visual style and musical accompaniment. For the most part, you can make constant onward progress throughout the entire game, but at any point you can return to a previously cleared floor to play through it again — either to grind for experience points, collect items you missed or uncover secrets you weren’t able to access earlier in the game.

As you proceed through the tower, you’ll encounter a variety of different enemies, hazards and obstacles — some of which will be familiar to those who played The Sword of Succubus. There’s Zelda-style switches that swap the status of red and blue bollards around the stage; there’s golems which can be forced to charge forward and break blocks by charming them; there’s buttons to push, pressure pads to weigh down with blocks and plenty of fiendish traps to discover routes around.

The levels are really well designed despite their small size. There are absolutely no points in the game where it’s necessary to take damage in order to progress or reach an optional treasure, even if it might look impossible at first glance. As you progress, you’ll get a clear sense of the game’s overall design language and the kind of things that you might need to look out for in order to discover the trickiest secrets and solve the more complex puzzles — but at no point does it devolve into the absurd obtuseness of The Tower of Druaga.

The Tower of Succubus

The bosses are well-designed, too. Like The Sword of Succubus, they represent a fairly significant difficulty spike compared to other parts of the game, but there’s always a clear pattern to them that, once you observe it, can be easily countered and dealt with. Some of them, particularly early in the game, feel a bit damage-spongey — particularly as they don’t have an on-screen health bar — but perseverance is the name of the game here. Or just go back to a few earlier floors and grind a couple of levels to make things a bit easier!

To further help matters along, a series of diaries are scattered throughout the tower. Each of these provides an erotic CG plus either some background lore on the tower or some hints and tips for what is to come. Sometimes the tips point you in the direction of a secret that is concealed on a specific floor, while as you get closer to each main stage’s boss, you’ll also learn some useful information that will help you take down your foes and proceed onwards.

It’s worth noting that a considerable proportion of the sexual CGs in the game are non-consensual, featuring former female prisoners of the tower being raped by monsters — although aside from a couple of relatively mild tentacle scenes, said monsters are pretty much always depicted as obviously humanoid with their head out of shot, which makes the images mildly more palatable for the squeamish.

The Tower of Succubus

In context, the heavy emphasis on sexual assault in the game makes a certain amount of sense from a narrative perspective. Those who survived the assaults of their captors inevitably ended up becoming a succubus themselves — perhaps to take revenge for how they were wronged — while others simply succumbed and became one of the many piles of bones littering the many floors of the tower.

These scenes are effective in providing a sense of horrifying context as to what this tower is really all about — though I say this with full recognition and acknowledgement of the fact that non-consensual scenes are simply a no-go area for some people. Like The Sword of Succubus, there’s no “SFW” option in this one either, so be aware of this before jumping in.

Again like The Sword of Succubus, though, a particularly praiseworthy aspect of the game’s sexual content is how sexually empowered our protagonist Lucia is. Like the unnamed succubus in The Sword of Succubus (who may or may not be Lucia; it’s not entirely clear), Lucia is someone who is perfectly happy and comfortable with her own body and her own sexuality.

The Tower of Succubus

She’ll whip off her top when casting a charm spell — presumably to enhance its magical power with her natural womanly wiles — and, of course, bang anything with something vaguely resembling a penis for her own benefit. Rather entertainingly, breaking certain pots reveals friendly tentacle monsters who will fully heal your health and magic if you spend a moment enjoying yourself with them. And, as you might expect, there’s a certain degree of “gotta bang ’em all” to the game, as knocking boots with various different enemy types results in not only different animations during the game, but also new CG unlocks in the gallery.

Narratively, it gradually becomes easy to see why The Tower of Succubus and The Sword of Succubus were bundled together on Steam — they clearly relate to one another. For example, a ghost that you meet in The Sword of Succubus is actually the spirit of one of the girls from The Tower of Succubus that turned into one of the bosses. Likewise, her lover Fred, whose diary you locate in The Sword of Succubus, can be found in zombified form on a particular floor of The Tower of Succubus after he had his life drained by succubi.

As noted, it’s not entirely clear whether the unnamed succubus in The Sword of Succubus is actually Lucia — they do look a little different, but that’s probably more an art style thing than anything else — but it’s plausible that they are. After her ordeals in The Tower of Succubus, it’s perfectly understandable that Lucia would want to settle down in a nice quiet house in the middle of nowhere, only to be dragged into yet another adventure as a result of her own openness to sex with random self-proclaimed “heroes”.

Either way, it doesn’t matter too much; even if Lucia and The Sword of Succubus’ protagonist are different people, the obvious links and parallels between the two games are immensely pleasing to discover.

The Tower of Succubus

Presentation-wise, The Tower of Succubus adopts a slightly different approach to The Sword of Succubus. Rather than going for its companion piece’s deliberately limited resolution Game Boy Colour style, The Tower of Succubus’ visual style and overall resolution is much more akin to what we’d see on the NES or Famicom. It’s a subtle difference, but noticeable if you know what to look for — and feels very authentic on the whole.

It works well for the structure of the game, too; the slightly higher resolution means that you can see more of each tower floor at a time, which makes getting around and solving traversal puzzles a bit more straightforward. There’s no point in the game where I felt like the game’s retro presentation was actively getting in the way of the gameplay — and that’s a sign that the game itself has been well-designed.

The music, too, is excellent, adopting a pure chiptune style that absolutely wouldn’t have sounded out of place in a real Famicom game. Each stage has its own distinct theme, which has a couple of variations as you progress further towards the boss. Unsurprisingly, a number of the themes have a distinct Castlevania-esque vibe to them thanks to their melodic structure and harmonies — and this is always very welcome to hear.

The Tower of Succubus

On the whole, then, The Tower of Succubus is another excellent addition to the Succubus series as a whole. While its somewhat more niche-interest source material might make it a little bit of a harder sell to those hoping for another Zelda-like, once you start working your way up that tower it’s hard to stop. With 77 floors to challenge, this will keep you busy for quite some time — so you better get climbing!

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Pete Davison
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