Sunday, October 31, 2010

X360 Look - Fallout: New Vegas

One of the great tragedies of being human is that prospering is never enough. Rather than settle for mere survival the seeking of power defines far too many of our kind, bringing ourselves to extend beyond our means. Eventually we go to war, many of us die, and the remnants re-align their borders, draw up charts, and prepare for war again. Somehow through this bitter cycle we continue to survive. The Fallout series tells the tales of how even the end of the world doesn’t change our way of life. In New Vegas the player find themselves at one of these critical points, where their decisions will ultimately decide the balance of power…for at least awhile.

In this game the player is known as The Courier, a man (or woman) who was put in the grave over an innocuous platinum chip. From the simple town of Goodsprings the player finds their way back to New Vegas for answers, though there are more than enough ways to get side-tracked, as there are over a hundred locations to visit and many quests to take on. Most of these quests can also be influenced by the player’s karma as well as the faction they wish to gain favor with. This time it isn’t enough to do good deeds or satisfy selfish desires, now the player can also do quests for a number of factions located throughout New Vegas.

The New California Republic is the sole military presence in New Vegas, with their main goal in protecting the Hoover Dam and surrounding lands from the Legion. The Legion enjoys reveling in Greco-Roman pretention, slavery, and pretty much everything that is generally considered evil. There are a number of minor factions that still carry some influence as well. The Brotherhood of Steel is in hiding but still tech-hungry and ran by knob-heads. The Boomers are a threat provided they never run out of ammo. There are also the Great Khans who like to sell drugs and live in trailers. The player has something to gain from assisting these and other factions but it doesn’t seem to work out the way it should.

While I would have preferred not to discuss this unfortunate aspect it is something that can not be ignored. This game is a bit of a mess. In the past I thought I could get all of that talk out of my system as every other reviewer discussed it at length. New Vegas has so many brilliantly inept glitches that I really have to say something about it or I can’t say I wrote a complete review. Take the faction system for example. At many points I had just met a new faction when they decided to idolize me. My sole contribution to their society may have been knocking the head off one of their leaders with a giant hammer but whatever I guess that’s not really important. I’ve also had frequent issues just trying to maintain some sort of presence in other factions despite doing tons of missions for them.

Moving on for someone who poured over a hundred hours into Fallout 3 this game feels much too familiar. Aside from the aforementioned faction system there are other new elements like additional ammo types which are all tend to be superfluous, a hardcore mode that turns eating, drinking, and sleeping into a chore, and many revamps in terms of skill and level progression. This part of the game is something that annoys me the most. Obsidian really didn’t put any thought into developing clever or even really useful perks. Sure it’s balanced far better than Fallout 3’s “get practically unlimited points in VATS” but most of the time the useful bonuses end up being stuff like an extra 10% of damage or something along those lines. I’d rather see those rewards being doled out for completing quests as well as getting some really neat perks through leveling that really change how I play the game. At the very least someone could have dumped those terribly useless perks that let me access locks I may have jammed or computer terminals I goofed up on.

Furthermore for all of the work Obsidian did to balance the skill system they forgot to extend that same effort towards encounters. Being able to fight more enemies at a time makes things a bit more entertaining but when the fights themselves involve creatures like Cazadors, Death-claws, or anyone that is heavily-armored and using some high-powered melee weapon it all becomes very one-dimensional. Basically the solution in these fights is to use a high-powered sniper rifle as it’s the only way to effectively punch through armor. Using most anything else may as well be suicide as the player will be surrounded and slaughtered. These battles represent the most numerous when wandering around as well as some of the most critical. Considering the options available in a post-apocalyptic environment I’d like to think being bum-rushed by half a dozen guys with advanced fisting-technology is not in anyway clever.

The partners have been revamped for this installment as they’re easier to work with and don’t die when they lose all their health (instead they fall asleep for the remainder of the fight). It’s a shame that on hardcore they actually do get killed but eh that just saves me the trouble of spending any real time on that mode. In the end all that means is more time spent sitting in front of a loading screen. It’d be somewhat different if the partners didn’t crumble like crackers whenever they got punched. These companions tend to come with their own quests if you annoy them enough but the rewards don’t seem to help all that much. At one point my partner got upgraded weapons but after awhile it decided to stop shooting things altogether. That was probably another bug though so oh well.

Still there is satisfaction in killing as the fleshier foes tend to go down easily. However the mechanics still aren’t very sound as many weapons still lack the punch that they deserve. At times a head will fly off not because I blasted it with a riot shotgun but because it got tired of the body it was stuck to. Then again maybe it’s just inconsistent as my favorite weapon is a sledgehammer that goes by the name of “Oh Baby!” This fine weapon has a habit of sending things flying very far. Couple this with a perk where a Vegas Dancer randomly appears to inexplicably throw people farther than any rifle could send them and well who cares if it makes sense I love it. Towards the end of my play-through I got sick of performing fetch-quests and merely smashed everyone’s heads in until my superiors got sick of it and shoved me off to complete the final tasks.

The writing is a fair bit better than the previous Fallout game. At times it can also be as clever as the likes of Fallout 2. Still I think that game knew how to pace itself as New Vegas just tends to be far too talkative. It seems that more often than not I find myself trudging back and forth dealing with objectives that border on the inane. If the reward was something besides experience and money it would potentially at least be worthwhile but usually what it comes down to is that I should just feel satisfied knowing that I got the “full story”. Yeah I may not be one to talk but all I see is a story about a bunch of people that are full of themselves. Still somewhere in the hundred or so locations and the approximately same number of quests there are a few nuggets of gold as far as the writing is concerned and almost every cave no matter how meaningless-sounding might just hold a unique weapon that’s totally worth the trouble. The main story could stand at least some condensing. Essentially the last few quests involve dealing with neighboring factions in any number of ways and that’s about when I went with the hammer-smacking. Sure I may have missed out on some great bit of wisdom or some funny joke but eh it’s just not worth the trouble.

The most disappointing aspect is how there’s hardly any new toys to play around with. I’m talking things such as weapons and armor. There are a few more clothing options and I’m especially fond of the prostitute outfit with the pasties but in terms of stuff that helps me kill there’s not much of anything new. Okay maybe there’s some new rifles and some new types of armor but even the poster-boy armor (y’know that guy on the cover of the game?) is so rare that I didn’t get a set until the very last moment of the game. I hear other players had better luck but come on. The weapons are even more disappointing as I’m still messing around with stuff like the Sniper Rifle, the Gauss Rifle, and they’re all just boring. Even the newer additions are merely weapons from Fallout 2 which really lessens the impact of finding them.

How can I ever forget about the bugs either? Sure there are enough of those in the form of mantises and cazadors but throughout the entire game I feel that I am under the constant eye of millions of bugs. They sit there in-between the seams of the game, waiting for the right moment to strike and cost me un-told seconds of game-time. Yeah sorry I’m not the type willing to put myself at risk by not saving every few minutes. I’ve done all sorts of fun things like fall inside of rocks, become unable to jump off of cliffs no matter their height, and enjoy the countless moments of Havok doing what it does best, spazzing out. This is all minor stuff as I’m sure there have been other bugs that have kept me from getting whatever truly wonderful rewards that came from being idolized by a faction. At times I wished that I had actually gotten hit with the save-corruption bug as at least then I could quit the game. Sure Obsidian has been rolling out the patches but seriously, this is the sort of stuff that should have been squashed before the game even shipped.

Still what it all comes down to is that I like the game. No really at times I can overlook the wealth of issues and waste the days away in the Wasteland. I haven’t quite pinned down what that says about me and my interests but since I’ve always been a fan of level-ups and finding neat stuff I guess it’s natural. There are also those moments where it feels like the writers aren’t trying too hard and it leads to some surprising and wonderful discoveries. These are few and far between but they serve the purpose of keeping me interested in those times where I’m sure I could play other games for my leveling and looting fix. It’s still a waste of money in its current state. My recommendation is that anyone interested in this game should just wait for the Game of The Year edition. I’m not quite sure how New Vegas will achieve that with the reviews it has been getting but eh I’m sure it’ll work out somehow.

Game Rating – 1 out of 5

Originally the plan was to give this game a zero which stands for “not even a game” but New Vegas is at least competent in just enough areas to slide on over. Still it’s all buried under a surplus of issues and I avoid pushing the game whenever possible as I feel it’ll just fall over and break.

My Rating – 3 out of 5

No matter how broken a game is it’s all rendered irrelevant depending on my enjoyment of it. Aside from the obvious stuff like hitting people over the head and raising hell whenever possible I have a fondness for dressing in strange outfits and dumping corpses into swimming pools. Sometimes I get drunk and stuff a plasma grenade in the face of anyone who mouths off of me. Then I limp off with two broken legs, take a nap on bit of cardboard, and resume my antics as fresh as a spring breeze. I’m not sure what this all has to do about the unchanging of War and survival but maybe I’ll just ask the opinion of the headless corpse I’ve been wandering around the Mojave with for the past several weeks.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Fallout: New Vegas....sigh...

I'm still working on my review for this game but at this moment I want to air a bit of dirty laundry out. I'm pissed because I felt like I just wasted $60. I want to address some things now because if I don't my review is probably going to be full of stupid comments like "This game is a system-seller! It'll make you sell your system after playing it." As of this writing Obsidian has already started rolling out patches for both the PC and console versions which is sorely needed. In fact until things start getting straightened out I can't even call New Vegas a game.

"Not even a game" is about the worst thing I'll ever say about...well...a game. The writing is good and the general atmosphere runs anywhere from decent to great but all it really is right now is an interactive experience that I'm almost afraid to push. I've had my game freeze around four or five times so far, I've missed out on entire quest-lines because I accidentally triggered some flag or bumped into the wrong person at the wrong time. There are also all of these moments where something is stuck in a wall or generally just in a place it shouldn't be. At every turn there's a chance that the business that is game design will be completely exposed.

In its current state New Vegas is an experiment. There's a lot of ideas going on here and most of them are really good but most of them are barely fleshed out to the point of actually working. This game adds a faction system where doing quests for certain groups of people will improve relations. Apparently due to my nasty habit of gunning people down after letting them go I've somehow reset standings with certain factions multiple times. It's to the point where at some moments it's like I never even heard of the guys even though I just blew away some former members or got rid of somebody hassling them. It seems to me that the only way I'll successfully complete some missions is if I go about them in the most arbitrary manner possible and constantly save/reload if something falls remotely out of place.

Why am I always saving and loading anyway? It's actually believable that I have spent 1/4th of my time in New Vegas staring at a loading screen. It's probably because I'm so afraid that something is going to go wrong that I can't go without making sure all of my saves are in order. I'm rolling with a couple of partners at the moment and them being unable to die on the regular difficulties is a godsend. There is one partner who just hangs back and shoots anything that he can see. He's fantastic, probably too fantastic really. Compared to say this woman I have who rushes into everything and gets knocked out in seconds. This makes the hardcore mode a serious turn-off because all it really leads to is more loading screens.

Sure the whole constant save/load deal is pretty understandable as I've been doing it in PC-RPGs for as long as I can remember but New Vegas really takes it to absurd levels. There are never any real consequences, there isn't any challenge, and there just isn't any reason to do it any other way. I could save in-between every single battle in Baldur's Gate 2 but I'd still feel challenged coming up with different tactics to take down whatever I'm fighting. In New Vegas if I die it's mostly because I turned a corner and ran into a big group of killer flies. From there my option is to just find another corner to turn.

Which leads to the combat. It's funny really because for all I knocked Fallout 3 for its dumbed-down combat New Vegas is even worse in this regard. This is partially because the AI is a quite a bit worse as they will frequently find themselves doing things besides attempting to kill me. The game also throws in all of these new features like different types of ammo, weapon-mods, and well nevermind that stuff isn't actually new is it? It doesn't matter anyway because it's just unnecessary fluff. Besides if I mod the wrong weapon I might screw the game up somehow. Anyway it's nothing to worry about. There are more enemies in battle and some even hit a bit harder but they're about as durable as tissue paper. Besides I'm teamed up with a guy who blows people's heads off for just being in the same time-zone as him, there's really nothing to worry about.

The worst part is I'm still not done yet. The dungeons in this game tend to be overly convoluted and unnecessarily cluttered. I was hoping this new game would get away from the narrow enemy-filled hallways in Fallout 3 but nope it's more of the same. Sometimes instead of enemy-filled hallways there are enemy-filled encampments. These are more entertaining at least because I get to be outside. What's even more entertaining is when my partner kills baddies without me having to do a thing. That way I can focus on the important stuff like gathering experience and organizing my inventory.

Honestly New Vegas would have been better off without all of that icky combat nonsense. I could just wander the Wastes, look at all the cool sights, solve all of my quests through diplomacy, and maybe find some neat clothes to wear. As it stands however the combat is mostly boring and rarely intolerable. That all depends on whether or not I'm fighting Deathclaws and Giant death-flies or anything else.

Still I am enjoying the game. It sort of reminds me of Shenmue 2 where there are these huge buildings with like thirty floors and hundreds of rooms inside. Every little room I go into has something different about it. Yes, sadly enough my little bizarre interest is about all this game has going for it. Well at least I'm not following Daddy around trying to save the world.

And well here's just some junk I thought up. I'll think up some more while playing New Vegas. There's still some things I want to do before I get back to really finishing the review.

-How the heck do you fast-travel when you have two broken legs?
-While I'm at it: I shot a crippled guy in the leg, crippled his leg with a critical hit, and he ran away.
-Whenever an object falls through the ground and disappears that's the Earth's magnetic core at work. Post-Apocalyptia is strange like that.
-Stealing from robbers, rapists, and murderers makes you a bad person. Don't ever forget that.
-Leading an old lady to get her head blown off by a sniper makes you a good person. Definitely don't ever forget that.
-Sometimes items you're supposed to take are marked as stolen anyway.'s not like karma was ever important.
-Digging up somebody's grave and taking their stuff is not evil in any way. It might have been evil before but times are more desperate than ever I suppose.
-If you betray someone or think you may have betrayed someone, don't worry about it, New Vegas will probably forget the whole thing.
-If all else fails replace substance with pretension. Most people can't tell the difference and if they do feel free to tell them they don't understand.
-The person who designed Fort McCracken should be drawn, quartered, shot, shot out of a cannon, shot into a cannon, and then flayed alive.
-The guy who designed Hoover Dam deserves even worse.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fallout: New Vegas is mine

Yeah I have it and am too busy playing it to talk about it...much

-It's tough..definitely tougher than Fallout 3.
-Looks the same. It looks a bit better but still..looks the same.
-Haven't hit any bugs yet. Okay I've hit a lot of bugs but those are of the mutant variety. I did see a radscorpion stuck in the ground which counts I guess.
-There's all this new stuff about differing factions and multiple grades of ammo. I'm not sure if all this is necessary but once I stop getting pounded by giant scorpions I'll delve into it.
-Hey a hardcore mode. I was whining about the un-hardcoreness of Fallout 3 and look what Obsidian does. Now I actually gotta eat, drink, and get plenty of sleep? By God they made poor Jenna into a human. I'm not messing with that mode just yet howevs.

Oh and I also bought Etrian Odyssey 3 because I am easily wooed by the combination of store credit and used games. I'll get to that one eventually.

PS1 Look - Castlevania Chronicles

Once again Konami saw it fit to revisit that fateful day when a guy named Simon decided to do something about a guy named Dracula. While Super Castlevania IV may have been a re-imagining this Castlevania is more of an actual remake. The stage-designs are several times more familiar, a handful of boss-fights from the first game make their return(with changes of course), and thanks to some changes in mechanics the bosses are also no longer suckers for holy water. Originally this game was available on a PC nobody owned but we got a port in the form of Castlevania Chronicles. The original version is included along with a remake where Simon has gotten a sort of glam-rock makeover and the addition of difficulty settings.

The original game is hard not simply because of the enemies and traps but Konami really took that extra step towards being total jerks. To start with those days of chicken and pot roast buffets from Castlevania 4 are over. The meat locations are very few and far between and as a bonus the wall that contained the very first pot roast you can find – in stage 1-2 just before meeting the Mermen – is now filled with an infinite supply of fleamen. This sort of treatment continues as starting about half-way through the game Simon can be wiped out in as little as four hits. Still it’s not all bad since if you’re really lucky you’ll stumble upon herbs that can be used as a subweapon. For a measly 10 hearts it just might save your life, provided you don’t get dumped in a pit by the next creature you run into it and lose everything.

It doesn’t stop there as the enemies are always placed in spots where they are a threat. A bat can be waiting after almost every jump, medusa-heads are abundant in just the wrong places, bone-tossing skeletons are always seemingly out of reach, and a handful of monsters exclusive to this edition really have it out for the Vampire Killer. One particularly nasty section involves a vertical shaft filled with tiny evil clowns, frustrating flying dolls, and chests that contain deadly bats and balloons (!?). This section also gives the player the finger for attempting to grab a much-needed pot-roast as more than likely they’ll just fall to the bottom as the food disappears. This is important because enemies also respawn off-screen.

With this entry it’s pretty clear that Konami has done all they want to do with the original game. Part 4 was different and that’s all good in itself but with this version it’s all about returning to the challenge that was missing. Still this is likely to be too much for even the Castlevania fans so the remake added difficulty settings. These are rather clever as while they cover the basic stuff like enemies doing less damage, they also allow for Simon to not go flying backwards every-time he takes a hit. The reasoning here is obvious as instead of sailing into pits Simon will just sail straight up for a bit before making a safe-landing. The fact that Simon can take less damage suddenly makes this game quite a bit more manageable. It’s still rough even on the easy setting however or at least it is for me because I still sort of suck at these games.

It’s all good though and certainly more than worth the measly $6 it goes for on the Playstation Network. There’s really nothing bad I can say about this game as it is about as good as the original Castlevania can get.

Game Rating – 5 stars out of 5

Really I’m not sure what I can say here. The controls are flawless, the presentation is great, the level design is both fresh and familiar, and it’ll keep any Castlevania playing for quite awhile.

My Rating – 4 stars out of 5

Whoa now that doesn’t mean I have to absolutely love it either. I think it’s great and all but throw me a bone here (ok strike that, I’ve seen enough flying bones in a life-time). I was not really a fan of the original and this version doesn’t do quite enough to differentiate itself. Plus the sub-weapons feel kind of useless (since they aren’t abusable on bosses). It could just be I’m getting tired of the formula which is to be expected since I’m playing a bunch of games that are similar to one another but uhh… whatever it’s just a score dammit.

Monday, October 18, 2010

PS1 Look - Gunners Heaven

If you’ve ever wondered why it can take so long for me to write a review I can sum it all up in one word: Inspiration. Whenever I wake up to start a new day I spend the first fifteen minutes or so looking for this inspiration. If I don’t find it I don’t write reviews that day. Since you’re reading a review right now I guess I’ll tell you what inspired me to write it. This review was brought to you today by my own two eyes.

At one point or another within the first fifteen minutes of my day I’ll sit and stare at a mirror for about a minute or two. Aside from lamenting the effects of a life-time of sleep deprivation and videogames when I look into my eyes I start believing that one is slightly larger than the other. Sure humans aren’t required to be perfectly symmetrical but this is still cause for concern to me. It must be something that either only I can see or not only can I see it but everyone else I’ve ever met can see it as well. Do I go around asking them if one of my eyes is bigger than the other? I guess I could but it’s possible their response will merely be something that I want to hear, as in “yes one of your eyes is bigger than the other” or “no your eyes are equal in size”. I think the only way I’d get an answer I believe is if they stared into my eyes for at least one minute of every day.

Gunners Heaven if you can believe it is a lot like my predicament. This run & gun shooter is permanently trapped under the shadow of its inspiration Gunstar Heroes. While preparing for this review I started seeing both of these games as my eyes. There is definitely something off about one of them and things are already looking bad for Gunners Heaven when I’m already comparing it to another title.

A good game should always stand on its own merits and on the surface Gunners Heaven seems to do just that. It is six stages of shooting, exploding, and many boss-fights for only 600 yen off of the Japanese Playstation Network. It’s a good value and could last anywhere from forty-five minutes to however long it takes to completely master the game. The controls are solid, the graphics are serviceable, and all in all it is perfectly functional. Unfortunately I think of it as my “off” eye. This is the one that’s either smaller or larger and in comparison to the other eye is also remarkably inferior.

To start with for a game that takes itself after Gunstar Heroes, Gunners Heaven makes little effort in terms of creativity. While Heroes was not a flawless game it had different ideas for its many boss encounters that made all of them unique and interesting, even if they’re not always challenging or even fun. Heaven on the other hand does none of these things and puts out uninspired and bland boss battles that take too long to destroy, offer no sense of accomplishment, and don’t even have interesting attacks or movement patterns to set them apart.

The sections that are in-between bosses aren’t any better as whatever good idea the developers had ends up getting repeated several times. This means if there’s a particular enemy that seems in anyway different than the one that came before it’ll be seen again and again without so much as a change in frequency or other factor that might make them more difficult. This style of level-design goes far beyond repetitive and becomes mind-numbing. The appeal of holding right and holding the fire-button down loses its appeal before the first boss of the first stage and this game’s attempts at providing variety only bring the game down further.

Both playable characters offer their own set of selectable weapons and have the ability to jump, slide, and even use a grappling hook. The grappling hook is one of those gimmicks that gets used for a few fights but is otherwise irrelevant. The slide is sort of in the same boat but at least every now and again some enemy feels the need to throw out an attack that can only slid under. I guess I lost the coin-toss or the game is trying to say something but the character I chose is weak. Usually women in videogames are known to wear tiny outfits and kick ass but somehow I got stuck with someone who would be better off getting captured or offering to bake Mario a cake. All of her weapons offer no punch and have that plink-plink effect as they slowly whittle away the boss’s life. There is some strategy in using the right weapons for the right situation but there’s nothing to alleviate the fact that the heroine absolutely sucks. I guess I should start again with the hero but…why?

Opinion of the matter here is that I don’t think the game is fun at all. Maybe I’ll kill bosses more quickly if I use the other character but it won’t make them fun to fight. I could also probably pay less attention to what I’m doing as I run forward and hold the button down but there’s no point. This is all because the game is just too strict. It’s this Dragon’s Lair style of game design where to get past every obstacle the player must either have the reflexes to find the one spot that is safe or already know what’s going to happen. In a way a 2D shooter like R-Type has a similar style but it has many effective ways of preparing the player for situations that will occur. This game does nothing of the sort as despite having a fairly lengthy health meter I find myself repeating sections solely because there was no way I’d know I was supposed to stand there at that moment for an attack that wasn’t quite clear of.

Worst of all there is something that feels “off” about this game. This is one of those admittedly nebulous details that points out whether or not the developer has got “it”. It’s clear from what I see that Media-Vision does not have it and that’s why they went on to do RPGs. The placement of enemies in various stages is such that if they were shifted slightly to the left, a little in the other direction, and maybe a little downward as well, they’d be just a bit more entertaining to destroy. Gunners Heaven is most likely just a series of adjustments away from being a good yet uninspired game yet as it is there’s really nothing that makes it worth playing.

Even the comparison to Gunstar Heroes seems a bit unfair. I’ve been playing Gunstar Heroes for over fifteen years and Gunners Heaven for less than six months. Obviously that time spent isn’t in literal terms, which makes it all the more inexplicable. It could just be that I’m giving Heroes the nostalgia-pass while Heaven despite coming out only a few years later gets stuck. Then again if you the reader feel that I have slighted Heaven unfairly than please let me know. However would you just tell me what I want to hear or would you have come to this conclusion through many hours of playing both titles back-to-back?

Really I should have avoided this direct-comparison entirely. It may just be that since I started staring at my eyes so recently that I have already picked one of them as inferior. It’s also possible that I could have compared my eyes to those of others but that would have been a fruitless affair. In fact if it wasn’t for all this I would have simply written Gunners Heaven off and given it some throwaway write-up in the back of this blog.

Game Rating – 1.5 out of 5 stars

This game gets a star and a half for competency but there’s really nothing else worth talking about.

My Rating – 1 out of 5 stars

Despite all of my complaints and my completely dislike of the game it is still important as it serves its place in my eyes. I really can’t do without it even though I most likely would have been better off not knowing of its existence. Maybe it’s just me as I can’t even tell which eye is supposed to be the inferior one.

Friday, October 15, 2010

VC Look - Castlevania 3

To me fear isn't the expectation of death. What I fear are the things that make me wish for death, like possibly some debilitating illness, maybe a horrific car-crash where I lose the use of multiple limbs, college, or even just being trapped in something that I have no hope of ever escaping. So if the situation is that bad where I question my own sense of self-preservation, well that's something worth being scared of. I'm also deathly afraid of heights.

While it's unfortunate that such a morbid topic is how I introduce Castlevania 3 there's really no other way around it. Since its release this has been one of the few games that I actually fear because I feel trapped in some sort of nebulous space between death and more death that I know I'll never escape. In a way it's become like Demon's Souls, another game where I gain an acceptance for death yet still feel hopeless. I figure if I persevere I will eventually win and everything will work out. Still no matter how many hopes and dreams I throw at Castlevania 3 every play-through ends the same way, I end up getting stuck somewhere dying constantly with no hope of success.

This time around Trevor Belmont and a handful of allies are tasked with the job of slaying Dracula “once and for all”. This makes for a slightly more strategic game as thanks to multiple paths the player can eventually pick from one of three characters to fight alongside Trevor. Grant specializes in agilty as he can jump higher, run faster, and even control his jumps while in mid-air. He’s also handy with a knife and can climb walls and ceilings, provided you’re careful with the d-pad so he doesn’t lose his grip. Syfa (Sylpha) is loaded with strong spells but his (or her) failing is that she bruises easily and his staff is a terrible weapon to rely on. Alucard is rather lacking as he is missing all of his weapons, the ability to equip shields, and his repertoire of spells but he can still turn into a bat and fly around.

Multiple paths are the other big new feature of Castlevania 3. There is no correct path to Drac’s Castle but they vary in difficulty so the player may eventually find the way that suits them best. It really doesn’t matter to me though because all the paths affect is how long it’ll take me before I get completely stuck and give up. Some stages are very lengthy and throw around nasty extras like mid-bosses and multiple end-bosses in a row. The bosses aren’t too much of a problem usually as there are a lot of repeats and most fall very easily to holy water. To balance things out the likelihood of me holding onto holy water for an entire stage is very low. Even if I’m playing as somebody besides Trevor everyone gets kicked back to square one upon death.

Fact of the matter is while I have played through challenging action games this game continues to elude. Way back I remember trading this game in for Startropics and since I didn’t have a receipt I had to lie and say the game was defective (well I am unable to complete the game after all). Apparently all those years playing games like Ninja Gaiden Black, Bayonetta, and the Devil May Cry’s did absolutely nothing for me. I’m still getting knocked into pits by freaking birds, medusa-heads are still a headache, and I still can’t beat a simple Doppelganger boss without the holy water. I’ve beaten arcade 2D shooters without continuing and still, STILL I can’t beat this game with unlimited continues times the number of lives I start each of them with (ten of course because I need the help).

I guess it’s partly because the levels are designed around everything actively trying to kill me. One thing I never really discussed about Castlevania 4 is that the enemy placement was designed more to hurt the player rather than kill them outright. There are points where if an enemy was placed down there instead of up there they’d instantly go from non-threatening to might take a life or two to figure out. This game is all of that and then some as enemies are always placed where they can be the most effective at killing. Towards the end it’s rare to see a platforming section that didn’t involve something like a medusa-head or a crow to make things difficult and bone-pillars are properly placed just out of the player’s reach. Still while this game never seems to get as hard as certain points in the first Castlevania there tends to be more situations that can be a hassle.

If I were to somehow beat this game legitimately I would be welcomed with a second quest. Apparently not being able to beat this game isn’t enough as the second go-round features new enemy-types, tougher enemies earlier on, and Trevor’s crew takes more damage from the start. It’s a brilliant addition and maybe one day I’ll utilize it. On the other hand this game is just one of those titles where I start thinking that I might be getting old, or should probably turn my gamer card in out of shame.

Game rating – 4.5 stars out of 5

While it’s not on the level of Castlevania for the X68000, Belmont’s Revenge is still one of the most difficult entries in the series. It is also one of the best with its great replay value, excellent level-design, and the mechanics are flawless as far as the series is concerned. Some level designs are repeated at different sections of the game however and a few of the stages can be too long, especially when there’s not a whole lot going on in parts of them.

My rating – 4.5 stars out of 5

The newer entries have spoiled me I’ll admit. Being able to control jumps, jump off of stairs, and generally be able to move without considering my options carefully is a luxury I’ll never be able to do without. I’m also not a huge fan of repeating particular sections over and over again until I get them right. This is something that I’ll have to look at more in the future.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

More game purchases

First off let me point out that my lack of updates has been due to my wacky Internet connection. It's at the point now where I have maybe 30 seconds of time to check out sites and do whatever before I have to reconnect. That is a lame excuse isn't it though? It's not like I can't just write all of my reviews and then quickly post them when I'm online.

Actually I uh..have to blame Final Fantasy 7. Gosh isn't everyone tired of that game by now? It's still #1 in the Playstation 1 Gamefaqs board for crying out loud. What else is there to talk about? Whatever the case I've been playing the crap out of this game and enjoying it.

Oh and yes those game purchases. Can't get enough of those huh? This time around I have gotten:

Drakengard 2 - In-between Drakengard 1 and Nier Cavia released this little title that isn't going to be as memorable or as well-regarded as its older brother and younger sister (or would that be distant cousin? I suck at analogies) but what the hell there's something worth talking about buried away in this sequel.

Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals - Alright a Lufia 2 remake!...oh. In a move that will leave some fans perplexed, Neverland opted to make this entry an action-rpg re-imagining of the best game in the Lufia series. I'm playing this right now and it's fun..kind of reminds me of Ys 7 but with better dungeons and not quite as good combat.

Sengoku Basara 3 - This game won't be out until tomorrow but I've all but made it my destiny to buy it.

Alundra - If I ever get my internet problems straightened out this will get bought without question. Not finishing Alundra may be one of thousands of reasons why I have insomnia so the extra .1% chance of sleeping better at night would be worth my while.

Oh and I will have another update real soon. There are after all still tons of Castlevania games to talk about.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

XBL Indies look - Explosionade

I played a game called Explosionade, I loved it, so I wrote a review.
Review is here.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Spooky Youtube Recommendation

Louis Chou is a big fan of Survival Horror games and enjoys completing them on the hardest settings while collecting everything. This gamer also dabbles in other titles to showcase his exceptional talent at gaming.

You'll find nothing but excellent videos at his page but be forewarned as the videos like to show *everything* so steer clear if you're afraid of spoilers.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

VC Look - Super Castlevania 4

One thing that always bugged me about the Castlevania series is that apparently all Dracula has to do is enter the land of the living, set up his huge castle, and then local vampire-hunters want to see him put to rest. The way I see it he seems pretty content chilling in his house while his minions stalk the hallways. Maybe a nearby village gets razed and a bunch of people get sacrificed but eh that’s their problem. If some huge Castle appears out of nowhere and it’s all spooky and starts changing forms so there’s a second castle or maybe multiple castles from other dimensions attached to it, I would probably bug the heck out and never look back.

Okay maybe it isn’t that simple and I should probably cut out the lame jokes but that’s not really important. Dracula coming back again and again is as good an excuse as any for Konami to keep pumping out Castlevania games. This time around I’m looking at Super Castlevania 4. Apparently just calling it Super Castlevania or Castlevania 4 wasn’t enough. It’s all rather strange since this game isn’t considered a sequel. It’s actually a re-imagining, sort of like Jet Set Radio Future. Castlevania 4 re-tells the epic story of Simon’s quest to defeat Dracula and the game just happens to have about twice as many stages, a bunch of new enemies and bosses, and a pretty serious makeover in terms of level-design and controls. Don’t call it a sequel though because somebody will cut you.

For not being a sequel this game definitely must have been the extended edition that was held back for the Blu-ray release. All of the stages are very lengthy and offer everything from spiked floors, to a rotating room, to a bunch of excuses for showing off Mode 7 tech, and well any idea that Konami thought would look good in a Castlevania title. At times it’s like wandering the halls of a real house of horrors as some stages trade the difficulty curve for something like portrait-ladies ineffectively grabbing at Simon and whatever else that sounds cool. It’s nothing that really affects the game and even today we’ll remember silly nonsensical sections like jumping across giant chandeliers. The bosses are a bit more creative and trade their hard-hitting attacks for moves that look cool and offer variety. Back then Dracula would just shoot you with a fireball that took a quarter of your life away. Now he’s got several attacks that do maybe 1 to 3 points at the most. Still Konami keeps forgetting to tell their programmers to figure out a way to keep Simon from merely spamming his sub-weapons to lock most of the bosses down and make them trivial encounters.

Simon is still wielding the Vampire Killer and aside from looking spiffy with his fine leather and theme song he’s got some new tricks. For reasons unknown he got the bright idea to swing his whip in multiple directions. I’m not quite sure if it’s really necessary but it is appreciated as he can now cover just about any angle his foes are likely to come from. By holding down the button Simon can also flail his whip around and uh..admire the effect…yeah this technique isn’t all that useful. The Vampire Killer can also control his jump while in mid-air. This is really big news as it makes him more maneuverable and offers a bit of protection so if for whatever reason it looks like he’s about to jump into danger he might be able to save himself. Somehow if this wasn’t enough he can also swing on magic-floating-thingies to traverse pits his jump just can’t cover. There’s also the crouch-walking cause sometimes you have to duck, walk, and whip. Oh and before I forget Simon can also jump onto and down from stairs. Wow! Suddenly he’s not a sitting duck while climbing stairs.

At this point Konami might as well have made Simon invincible. He’s barely the same man we remember. However I’m not quite finished. The precious pot-roasts of the original Castlevania could only be found hidden inside a handful of secret walls. Now there are candles that hold freshly-cooked chicken legs which will restore a portion of Simon’s vitality. I mean that’s just great. Now there’s a good chance I’ll go into any boss-fight with full-health because there’s some meat lying around nearby.

Yes yes I’m well aware of the consequences and implications that all these changes bring to the game but you know what? I’m cool with it. Sure you’d all like to think that I’m all “grumble grumble Konami ruined Castlevania oh God my life is over” but nope things don’t work out that easily. I for one can appreciate what Konami tries to do with the series. And aside from that if nothing else all of these additions and changes are OPTIONAL. That’s right if I don’t want to whip in multiple directions I don’t have to. Suddenly the game becomes slightly harder. What about all of that extra meat? Well I prefer my meat coming straight out of the wall thanks. If I jump somewhere and realize I’m going to land in spikes well oh well maybe I better stop being dumb. This goes for nearly every new feature to the game which leaves me with plenty of options to make the trek as easy or as hard as I want.

I can allow the game to go easy on me so I can focus on the excellent atmosphere and one of the better soundtracks Konami has produced, or I can purposefully weaken myself so when I replay the game I’m forced to be a little more careful or perhaps even a bit more creative to get through situations I may have glossed over in the past. This method of variable difficulty is well-implemented and Konami deserves high-praise for such a thoughtful idea. Still it can be argued that it just isn’t enough for those seeking a real and “pure” Castlevania challenge. To be fair there’s truth in that as some sections are definitely lacking in the “hey this would go great with some medusa-heads” or “if they moved the axe-armor down here instead of up there it would be a serious threat” kind-of challenge. Konami throws a bone in the form of a second quest that offers up more enemies but those looking for a serious controller-throwing challenge will probably have to be some rom-hacker to copy-paste up some spikes or other random enemies to make everything complicated.

Like I said way back though, Super Castlevania 4 is a re-imagining. It’s like complaining that Jet Set Radio Future wasn’t a better Jet Set Radio. Sometimes it’s about making something different instead of making something better. What makes this game great is that it focuses on things besides situations that take multiple retries to solve and goes for something that works properly with the pacing it goes for. I’m really not sure I’d be able to stand the game if it was super-hard and I was re-doing entire stages multiple times over. Sure that might have been viable for a 15 minute-long game like the original CV1 but at near an hour CV4 is not a wall I want to bang my head against.

So forget everything I might have said in the past because this game is one of my favorites in the series and it’s a pretty class affair that everyone should play through once, twice, a million, or okay maybe just several times…that’d be enough I think.

Game Rating – 4.5 out of 5 stars
The only thing that really hurts the game is the ineffective bosses. I guess I could go without the sub-weapon abuse but even then these guys tend to be stunned for just a bit too long with each hit. Maybe they could have done just a little bit more damage but its possible Konami was shooting for a slightly more epic feel. I can’t really blame them for that because the only thing epic about hitting a guy 20 times when he only has to hit you once to win is that it is an epic kick to the rosaries. I gotta say though why does Konami keep bothering to put effort into the scoring system when there’s no high-score table or anything? It’s hard to focus too much on score anyway since the game just loops around. I guess if you play it enough without continuing you’ll eventually have the highest score of all time...hurray?

My Rating – 5 out of 5 stars
It’s already one of my favorite Castlevania games what else do I have to say here? Well I like the music, the art-direction is pretty fab, I replay it at least once to four times a year. Simon’s theme is great and I can play through it without the more fragile objects in my house feeling threatened. So yeah awesome stuff and I love it.

Old stuff

Hey all I just remembered that I wrote a couple reviews for a site called I really wouldn't visit that place today because they make you fill out surveys just to access the site. So I just yoinked both reviews I wrote for that dump and all three of my lucky readers can see them right now.


Game #1 - Super Castlevania 4

This is one game that can be considered a real classic. Castlevania 4 is definitely one of the greatest super Nintendo games of all time. It combines incredible level design, great graphics, a good challenge, and some of the best music ever. Even after all these years and countless other games. (Including Symphony of the Night), I still keep coming back to this one.

Graphics 10 out of 10

The Graphics are very well done, grom the amount of detail in even the simplest enemy. To the exceptional use of Mode 7, especially in Stage 4. The graphics are just one of this games many strong points. The backgrounds are good too, and they include some really cool animations. The bosses are also well done, each one is very different in look and how they are animated. This game shows a lot of diversityin each level. from the Gardens of the level 1 to the caverns and water filled ruins of level 3. No two levels ever have the same look to them.

Music and Sound 10 out of 10

Well obviously this is Castlevania music. Easily some of the best music I have ever heard. The boss music is really good. The first stage music is also exceptional. They have even redone music from Castlevania 1 and 2. The sound effects are also well done. But most of the time I was just listening to the music although the sound effects do their part fine enough.

Game Challenge 9 out of 10

Well the difficulty is there. Some levels are really tough but once you understand it you will master them in no time. Which brings to this games one minor failing. which is a lack of challenge. Once you beat the game. (All the way through.) There is not much else after that. Castlevania 4 is still a good challenge in itself. You get unlimited continues and passwords, so It can not be that hard.

Game Play-Fun 10 out of 10

The control is a lot better than the older Castlevanias, that's for sure. You can swing the whip in any direction, plus if you hold the button down, you can flail it everywhere. Hitting anything around you although this move is also weaker. The response time for each move is good, plus the game is really fun. Each level is diverse and has a lot to offer. You can also swing from objects that resemble bats holding a ring in the air. The level design is arguably the best part of the game next to the music every level is something new, and it just shows how much of classic this game is.


I doubt you can get frustrated with this game. You get passwords and unlimited continues, and although the levels are sometimes tricky. They can be beaten after some amount of time. So don't throw the controller out the window over some simple problem in any level. Although they may be tricky at first.

Replayability 9 out of 10

Well...this game is replayable. Mostly for the level design and music, but the difficulty could be a bit harder, but the game is a lot of fun while it lasts and well worth time spent on it. If this game was harder and maybe a few stages longer or even if it used the multiple path system of Castlevania 3. that would add a lot to the replay value.

Game Value 9 out of 10

Hmm... well, this is a really good game, and it is well worth any amount of money you pay for it, except for over $50. which would be a little much.

Overall 10 out of 10

Overall, This is the one of the best Castlevania games around. Either by rental or paid for. This game is one classic that should not be forgotten. Don't pass up the chance to play the game. You will not be disappointed.


Game #2 - Actraiser

Actraiser is a very unique game. One of the Older games for the Super Nintendo, I became very involved in this game after I rented it. Actraiser combines good graphics, excellent music, good gameplay, It is quite lacking in replayability but it is still an excellent game.

Graphics 9 out of 10

The game is split into 2 parts, a regular action mode with really good detail, and huge and well animated characters. The other mode is a kind of Simulation where you take the role of a angel looking guy who flies around helping the town grow and shooting enemies with arrows. The action side, has very good graphics, while the simulation is kind of drab and unappealing but still all right. The bosses in this game are some of the best.

Music and Sound 9 out of 10

The Music in Actraiser is awesome to say the least. The Music draws you in and while nice peaceful music accompanies the simulation, yet in the action area, the Music gets intense and is really involving. The sound effects are effective, well done sword swings, the screams of dying monsters, and other cool FX.

Game Challenge 9 out of 10

The simulation mode is not that tough, but the enemies can give you headaches though, since they are always flying around and taking your townspeople away. The Real Challenge comes from the action areas, The Levels contain many traps and tough enemies, The Bosses will give you nightmares, You can get level ups in the game to increase your health but that only happens in Simulation mode when you get enough townspeople. Plus after you beat the game you can access an even harder Mode.

Game Play-Fun 9 out of 10

The Control is well done, The menus are intuitive and simple, Its real easy to get into the game even without a manual. Plus the controls are simple enough, most of the time you press one button to attack, one to jump. Movement can be a little sluggish at times, but that is not too much to complain about. The game is a lot of fun, the 2 modes keep the game fresh and replayable.


I was Frustrated at the beginning because you have a real short health meter when you first start, but once you start getting some level ups the game becomes a lot easier to handle, the aggressive enemies in the simulation mode might get on your nerves too, but it is still more challenge than frustration and it will stay entertaining to the end.

Replayability 6 out of 10

The Game is Replayable because of the extra hard difficulty, yet if you have gone through the game once, then you have seen everything, The probably would have stayed fresher if there were more levels, and multiple paths and secret areas to make them more interesting. Most of the levels in the game are too straightforward.

Game Value 8 out of 10

The Game is a great value you can usually find it used for under 30 dollars, it will surely be hours of fun, So it is worth the price.

Overall 8 out of 10

Actraiser is a good game, diminished only by its low Replay Value, after you beat the game on both difficulties then its all over, the game could have used better level design and a longer game overall, I was able to beat this game in around two days, but it was extremely fun and well done game.


Glad that's over huh? I'd like to think I have gotten better at reviewing games since then. I'm not sure when exactly I wrote these but at the time I was rocking the AOL account so it had to have been over ten years ago. Actually wait where in time would one have to pay $30 for Actraiser? I better just quit trying to make sense of this before I make myself sick.

Castlevania 1

With a new Castlevania game just around the corner I think it's time I look back at the humble beginnings of one of the longest running action game franchises around. For this piece we're going to use a youtube video.

While there have been occasional twists the story typically goes that Dracula is alive and well and it's up to a Vampire Hunter to slay him...or at least force him to go away for a hundred or so years. The goal is simple enough but each game offers its own challenges as well as unique directions that have helped the series remain fresh over countless sequels and spin-offs. The original game is still regarded as a classic and it offers enough difficulty that even though it's quite short it demands an exorbitant amount of patience and tenacity just to complete.

For the early games the oft-overused quote "look before you leap" may as well be Castlevania's subtitle. While Simon and his descendants have health meters they don't stand up to very much punishment and worse-still they're sent flying with the slightest touch...and more than likely that leads to falling into the nearest pit. Furthermore Simon can't change direction in mid-air, jump off a ladder if an emergency comes up, and there's a bit of a delay before his whip strikes whatever target he's aiming for. This is one of those games where slight mistakes can easily lead to death. Health restoration is very rare and enemies actually do more damage as the player progresses...even if it is the same enemies from earlier stages.

Still Castlevania is by no means an impossible game and for this video we can see somebody beating the game without dying. I'll do my best to provide commentary for everything notable about the game.

0:09 - In what has become a series tradition the game starts off with a straight-forward enemy-free section where the player can grab a few power-ups as well as get accustomed to the controls. Here we're introduced to the basics like whip upgrades(for longer-reach and greater damage), hearts (which serve as ammo for sub-weapons), and so on. Note that the player sometimes attacks while coming down from a jump. This handy tactic saves a little bit of time and makes Simon a bit more mobile. The player skips some of the torches since they contain a power-up they have no need of. It's important to memorize candles that drop useful power-ups as part of the challenge in the game is having the right sub-weapon to get past the next obstacle.

0:26 - At times it's probably best to simply avoid the enemy entirely. The earliest Castlevania games are fond of respawning enemies and many times it's actually to the player's advantage to keep moving as stopping to whip everything in sight could eventually lead to being overwhelmed. Note the well-crafted hit-box when Simon dodges the panthers. There's no such thing as unfair damage.

0:56 - Another trademark of many Castlevania entries is that the main character will fall straight down very quickly if they walk off of a platform. This can be useful at times and I've seen the design decision come up in quite a few other games like Capcom's Black Tiger. It's also at this point that the player takes advantage of Simon's frailty to get a boost. It's rather clever on Konami's part since if they didn't want players skipping that section they would have built a wall.

1:28 - When dealing with multiple hit enemies the whip can stun them but often-times the whipping speed isn't enough to keep the enemy from attacking. There are some situations however like with the axe. The boss is unable to do much of anything since well-timed axes hit the boss twice and thanks to the double-shot power-up a second axe is always close behind.

2:18 - Medusa-heads. Nobody likes them and yet Konami keeps thinking them in every Castlevania. The pattern these creatures move in is simple to understand but their very presence can make any situation more complicated.

2:42 - Once again the player takes damage to attain a shortcut. It's hard to discuss how much of a threat the medusa-heads are when the player is having no trouble at all.

3:32 - The player switched to the holy water for this boss as it works her over completely. In another clever move Konami has both the double and triple-shot available for the player in the short time from collecting the holy water to encountering the boss. What's also notable is that the bone-pillars flash before firing. When dealing with games that offer limited animation visual cues are very necessary.

4:05 - Urghh..fleamen. The player wastes no time in getting rid of them. They have erratic jumping patterns and follow the player everywhere. It's a nasty combination especially since the whip works on a delay. Crows are also not at all fun to deal with. It's a bit of a shame that in the newer games these guys aren't half as threatening as they used to be...mostly because there's no bottom-less pits for them to knock the player into.

4:45 - Again with Medusa-heads it's usually best to ignore them completely. Here the player gets by them and a bone-tossing skeleton as if they didn't even exist. In some ways Castlevania uses trial & error design to assist players in finding the best route through each section. Since Simon has a health meter a few mistakes can be made without too much worrying provided the damage is made up for by surviving more dangerous areas. As the game progresses however that starts to go out the window.

5:01 - There's actually a bonus-point system in place. By destroying multiple hostile "objects" (enemies as well as their fireballs) with a single sub-weapon the player gets a large cache of bonus-points. It's a very cool touch even though in practice it would probably kill the pacing if the player stopped to milk every possible bonus-point section they found.

Castlevania requires a lot of emphasis on timing. The options are limited to jumping in one of three directions, walking in two directions, crouching, or attacking. A number of other action games can have several times as many ways to avoid death(mostly because they offer things like control in mid-air). Also out of these options typically only a couple of them result in survival.

5:27 - At this point Simon has to play double-dutch with a couple of bone-pillars. In a rather unique display of mechanics he dodges a fireball by leaping over it while going the same direction. Since the fireball is slightly faster it just misses Simon. Even for a game that's so direct it can take a little outside-thinking to get through a bad situation. Also the player must have attempted this part numerous times in their attempts to get a perfect run. Later in this same section we see more of medusa-heads working in conjunction with other enemies.

5:54 - Once again the bosses didn't have a chance. It's a given that Konami will balance future games out so these kinds of things don't happen again. Unfortunately that's not always guaranteed but at least it gives creative players a reason to continue looking for new strategies to beat bosses as quickly and painlessly as possible.

6:40 - Compared to other titles the original Castlevania is fairly light in terms of level-design. Mostly it's just a lot of straightforward paths that use a combination of enemies and holes in order to kill the player. A moving platform is probably about as different as we're going to get in this game. Also since the player skipped the section at the beginning of the game now we're being introduced to fish-men. While the game only works with a small pool of enemies Konami is smart enough to work with what they have to keep things fresh and challenging. Also there's one of those now classic "duck so that a rock outcropping doesn't push you off a moving platform" sections. I'm not sure if this game was responsible for this idea but I wouldn't be surprised. It might have been also that since fish-men are jumping out of the water some sort of way of keeping them from landing on the player's head while they're completely helpless would be imperative. Building a platform way above the player would be too obvious I guess so instead we have fish-men walking through walls...well whatevs.

7:21 - Fleamen and eagles...eeuurgghh. These foes are just plain awful and as usual the best advice is to just run away. Here the player uses the holy water to cover their tracks and prevent fleamen from following. The player picked up a sweet bonus along the way at least.

Now let's move along to Part 2

0:02 - The boss here gave me so much trouble when I was younger. It turns out that if I just held onto a triple holy water I could keep Frankenstein from moving and by effect keep Igor from jumping off of his shoulder. I usually ended up using the dagger to beat them and that mean dodging Igor and his fireballs...which usually never went well with me.

0:41 - This is where the game hits a real difficulty spike. Clever enemy placement is everything in Castlevania and having a bone-tossing Skeleton just out of reach makes anything complicated. The enemies also do more damage. The shortcut cost the player four blocks where toward the beginning it may have only been two.

1:31 - Another shortcut and here we have the axe-armors. Like the other denizens of Drac's Castle, these guys work best when teaming with others. However just as easily as the holy water tears through bosses it makes the armors out to be a whole lot of nothing.

2:37 - This particular section is legendary as it's one of the hardest in the game. Once again holy water saves the day and with just two sprinkles it's all over. Still timing is important here as knowing when to jump and when the throw really can change the results. The Grim Reaper is supposed to be a hard boss but once again...uh..well oh well. Maybe I should have used a video where the player clearly isn't dominating everything.

4:00 - Oops the player messes up on a shortcut attempt and nearly loses his life. The skeletons are really tossing those bones now. What follows is another difficult section involving the eagles. There's a fairly set pattern for when and where they spawn so it's just a matter of moving up the stairs in a way so that the player doesn't bump into them.

4:51 - Dracula's first form is all timing. Clearing those fireballs as well as getting a hit in should be mentally ingrained by this point since so much of the game was spent timing jumps and attacks. The second-form is well..using the holy water again. Although this time at least it can be argued that it's necessary. The second-form takes a ton of damage and its jumping pattern isn't really predictable as it can do a much shorter jump that doesn't give the player enough room to walk under.


While the original Castlevania was far from perfect it laid the groundwork for the action-platformer as we know it. The multiple enemy-types would in some form or another find their way into future action games and in some cases we have a series like Ninja Gaiden, which all but apes Castlevania but creates a different style of play. As far as Konami is concerned however they would continue to work on the series making improvements, changing directions, and essentially doing their best to keep the series fresh for many years despite adhering to the core concepts set in the original game.

Oops I almost forgot...

Game Rating - 2.5 stars out of 5
This game works better for what it was rather than what it is. The difficulty is pretty uneven, the weapon balance is whacked, and a lot of times all it takes is being in the right spot with the right tool and suddenly Death himself can be destroyed without a sweat.

My Rating - 1 star out of 5
I'd give this game five stars for influence if I could but these days...I'd rather play a newer Castlevania. Can you really blame me though? Castlevania 3 is a better game in every way so I may as well stick with that one.

Monday, October 4, 2010

AA look - Wardner

For my next fiendish look it's about time I talk about Wardner(aka Pyros). It is a neat little game that is unfortunately saddled with some flaws that turn it from "pedestrian yet charming" to "pedestrian and needlessly frustrating". The story starts off as a demon-wizard spins a yarn about Fantasia and offers to lead a young couple to it. Obviously things go very south and the woman gets captured leaving the young man to play the hero. By evading traps, gathering loot, and burning the soul-less denizens of hell away with magic the hero just might win.

The controls are very responsive in this game. The player can turn and jump on a dime as there's nothing in the way of momentum. That means that even if you're at the peak of your jump and notice you're about to land on a trap you can turn around to safety with no trouble. It's definitely helpful and in some cases necessary for certain situations. The power-ups are all pretty handy as they include crystals for leveling up abilities, money to buy goods, and other odds and ends that might be useful.

The shop isn't exactly all that useful. The main point of importance is to buy the Solar Sword weapon because without it chances of beating the game are pretty close to impossible. Although buying the Solar Sword puts the player in another very difficult spot so yeah no idea what to do here. In the last stage the player must get past a rock-monster that summons numerous rock-allies. Basically the Solar Sword is the best chance of the player getting past the creatures due to its impressive strength. However the Solar Sword is limited since only one shot can be fired at a time and at one point in the stage ghosts attack from both sides. The shops also sell items that allow the player to take more than one hit before death but since there's no shop before the final leg of the game (where the difficulty gets a massive bump) it's kind-of pointless.

Without the final stage the game would be too easy. The first four stages show a pretty gradual difficulty curve but the monsters, traps, and even bosses are simple to avoid and defeat. For example the first boss does nothing more than move up and down. The only chance of dying is by either running out of time or running in to the boss. By the time the player reaches the final stage they're probably better off ignoring the ending and just building up their score via the rock-monsters. 1ups are doled out fairly often via score so the player could very well run the machine dying and re-doing the rock-monster section. Then again the game could also kick them ahead a bit as the checkpoint system is rather unique in that it tends to put players ahead of obstacles they died at (except for bosses).

On its own I can't really give Wardner a recommendation. I have some fond memories of it as it used to be an arcade machine in a drug-store back when I lived in downtown Kissimmee. In a surprising twist however the Genesis version is actually the superior version.

There are obvious downgrades in terms of colors and the mechanics have changed ever so slightly(the player falls forward slightly instead of straight down when they walk off a ledge) but the Genesis version is basically arcade-perfect except with a handful of changes. The difficulty has received a noticeable bump where it needs it most (all of the early bosses) and the rather over-long fourth stage is broken into two-pieces with a much-needed visit to the shop so the player has another chance to upgrade to Solar Sword. There are actually a couple of new bosses (some spider-fiend and a giant worm) and they're certainly an improvement over the green dragon that learns how to breath fire over the course of three stages. The game still isn't quite there however as the final stage runs far too long and the player is likely to run out of time, which puts them in a bad situation when dealing with the final boss.

Still at least the Genesis version gets Wardner to about as good as it is going to get. It's well-designed around its limitations and adding more stages or perhaps harder settings with additional traps and monsters would probably just make the game worse. It's rather strange how it all works out but eh whatevs.

Game Rating - 1 out of 5 stars for arcade version and 2 out of 5 stars for genesis version.

There's really not much to this game. There are a handful of secrets but otherwise this game just doesn't offer the long-lasting appeal that would make one continue to play it over and over. At sometime in the past it may have been an appealing way to kill time before a movie starts but those days are long-gone. The genesis version improves on it in some ways but falters in others. Still even with the changes it doesn't make the game anything great.

My Rating - 3 out of 5 stars

Still the lack of difficulty makes this game rather pleasant in a way. Plus there's nostalgia and uh...yeah. Look it's my rating I can do whatever I want with it so oh darn well.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

AA Look - Night Slashers

Since it's October I'm feeling a little creepy and decided to haunt all of my ghoulish readers with horrifying looks at nightmarish games. To start off I'm going to look at Night Slashers. It's a beatemup by those guys over at Data East and it features a European vampire hunter, an American dude with cybernetic arms, and a Chinese woman who is a martial arts master. This crew is the only chance humanity has at surviving a joint-attack by both mutants AND zombies.

Since this is a beatemup the player must win by punching evil multiple times until they fall over and splatter their guts around the environment. Strangely enough the zombies and mutants respond in kind as they use all manner of melee attacks to take down the heroes. Joining the fight against humanity is a handful of popular monsters like the enigmatic Dracula, a bevy of Wolf-men, Death himself, and even a big nasty robot. There are even a handful of bosses who were apparently pro-wrestlers back when they weren't undead. It's strange how this works but picture a Zombie-Pharaoh performing suplexes.

The main appeal of this game is..well..the gore. Yeah I know I don't want to be that guy but Data East put a frightening amount of work into making all kinds of gruesome death animations for the bad-guys. Splitting a zombie in twain with a kick rarely gets old and for some reason many enemies are fond of melting in a completely disgusting manner whenever they die..again. It actually adds a bit to the fun as there's a bit of satisfaction in knowing that a zombie or mutant is truly dead as their intestines flop out like jelly worms.

As far as the game itself is concerned it's seven stages with the usual combination of regular enemies, mid & end-bosses, and a handful of power-ups that either give food, points, or something relatively useless like a weapon to throw. The level design is nothing spectacular but the pacing is solid and there's just enough variety in the regular encounters to keep things moving steadily.

Still the frustration will set in eventually because this game is very hard. I know what to expect considering this is an arcade beatemup but c'mon now. It's just unfair when enemies frequently gang up on the player and repeat moves that they have no hope of escaping. A number of foes are especially fond of sliding attacks and with no viable means of counterattack the player is stuck waiting for an opening. Even then enemies can drain the player's health very quickly and with only two lives that means a lot of continues are being used up. The bosses are usually pretty easy as they fall for the same tactics in most other beatemups. This means a lot of approaching from the sides to get easy combos/throws. Of course after awhile this is poorly balanced by the bosses spamming whatever attack that gives them invincibility. At least a friend can be taken along and it's most definitely recommended as that makes the enemies easier to manage. Plus you can do some silly combinations like irish whip mutants towards your friend so they can clothesline them.

Unfortunately a lot of the appeal in this game is in seeing a strange cast of characters throw down against a variety of monsters in a post-apocalyptic world. The engine is fine but lacking in finesse and getting good can be a real struggle as the player is faced with nothing but disadvantages. If the characters were a bit more maneuverable like having access to dodge-rolls or even a slightly better move-set, then maybe the game would have turned out really good. Otherwise it's the kind of thing you'll play through once to see everything and then move on. Still I won't say this game is a total waste. It can be a fun ride and at worse you're out less than thirty minutes.

Game Rating - 1.5 out of 5 stars
Arcade beatemups are a tough genre to review because a lot of things that might seem too hard and would count against the game tend to be alleviated through practice and memorization of what happens next. For this game however I just don't see it as the player just takes too much damage and there's really nothing in terms of balance. Otherwise it's built well enough as far as the genre is concerned.

My Rating - 3 out of 5 stars
Again it's worth a look just to take in the wonder of it all. The artwork is great as it has a lot of detail and the ability to perform maneuvers like DDTs and the like on the monsters adds a unique appeal that can't be found anywhere else in the genre. There are much better beatemups out there but none of them are quite the same as Night Slashers.