Archive for retro games

Castlevania Retrospective Part 4

Posted in video games with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 4, 2008 by themongomania

With the NES on its way out, Konami put one more great effort to give NES fans a game that is still highly regarded to this day. In 1990, a year before the SNES would come to US shores, we got Konami’s final NES effort, Castlevania 3: Dracula’s Curse. This game returned the series to its roots with sidescrolling action reminiscent of the original Castlevania.

The story itself is supposed to take place way before Castlevania 1. In fact, the game’s protagonist, Trevor Belmont, is supposed to be Simon Belmont’s ancestor. Yet again this game pits the whip ready Belmont against their clan’s eternal opposition: Dracula.

Something very different from the structure of the first NES game and this ones is the stage layout. The game abandoned the linear paths of the first game and let the gamer make choices about which levels they wanted to go to at certain points. This greatly increases the replay value of the game because you will want to see the other levels that you missed. This multiple level design will be revisited in a later entry; Rondo of Blood.

Along with choosing your paths, depending on what route you take you will be aided by 1 of 3 different characters. They are Alucard, Grant, and Sypha. Instead of using Trevor the entire game, you can freely switch the character you chose in and out at any time. Each one of these characters has their pros and cons.

If you choose Alucard (yes, the Alucard from other Castlevania games) you will be playing as Dracula’s son. He has the same 3 way fireball that his father has, as well as the ability to turn into a bat. This is very useful because it allows you to completely avoid otherwise annoying battles with certain enemies. Using his bat form, however, uses hearts, so you have to keep an eye on how you use this ability. The biggest con about Alucard is that his jumping is truly awful. It’s almost like he isn’t even trying. If you choose him, get ready to switch to Trevor for all your platforming needs.

The next character you can use is Grant. Grant is interesting because playing as him is completely unorthodox in comparison to the other heroes you will play as in the series. Grant can climb walls and even climb onto the ceiling. He is also the first Castlevania hero that is able to change his jump in midair. The main problem with Grant is that for gaining all this maneuverability, you are losing an offensive and defensive force. His offense/defense is completely underpowered in comparison to any other character you can use in this game.

Finally, we have Slypha. Slypha is the first magical character in the series. Her magic attacks are among the strongest the game has to offer and will decimate bosses easier than any of your other attack options. Again, like Grant, everything else but her magic is sacrificed in order for her magic attacks to do this much damage. She lacks offense, defense, and agility- she is however, very fun to play as because of how much damage her magic attacks use.

Trevor is your default hero and controls very much like every other Belmont on the NES. If you’ve played one NES Castlevania, you know how he’s gonna feel. He has free reign of subweapons like previous Belmonts and his whip deals out the most melee damage out of the four.

When you choose a character to have alongside Trevor, that might not be the end of the road. During the game you will have opportunities to switch characters, but if you do that you can’t be the original character you recruited until you start a new game again.

Finally, with enough luck, skill, and hope you will reach Dracula himself. You will fight him in 3 phases. The first phase is a nod to the 1st Castlevania’s boss fight with him. He will throw 3 fireballs at you and you have to jump over them while avoiding pillars of fire trying to destroy you.

After that, the battle takes a strange turn where you are fighting a floating ball of heads. (Yes, I just said that) The heads will float around trying to drop what looks like blood all over you. It’s a pretty easy to defeat this part

Then it’s on to the last phase of the battle. Dracula somewhat looks like a vulture and throws lasers at you while you desperately try to climb onto a floating platform to attack him and defeat him once and for all!

Once the battle is over, sit back, and watch the credits roll. Dracula is dead – For Now!

Now for the review:

Castlevania 3: Dracula’s Curse –

Controls: 7.5/10 – Same old NES controls, just like you’d expect them to be.

Level Design: 9/10 – This game’s levels are just great. Add in great music, multiple paths, multiple characters, you’ll be playing this game over and over just to do different levels with different characters. Lots of replay to be had here.

Overall Difficulty: 8.5/10 – This game is hard. It just is. If this is your first Castlevania outing then prepare for some frustration. The learning curve on this game might be a bit steep, but there is a password system. You can try again and again, unlike Castlevania 1. Once you get the hang of it, it gets easier.

Overall Enjoyment: 9.5/10 – This is my favorite NES Castlevania. It just has it all. Great levels, fun characters to play as, and gives you a strong sense of accomplishment because of the difficultly. Some NES games don’t stand the test of time, but Castlevania 3 is every bit as charming, challenging, and fun as it was 18 years ago.

In our next installment, we’ll be jumping into the 16-bit era of the Super Nintendo and one of the first games out for the system, Super Castlevania 4. I hope you look forward to it.


Castlevania Retrospective Part 1

Posted in video games with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 16, 2008 by themongomania

castlevania title screen

A few summers ago me and a friend hatched an idea to play every single Castlevania game that was available to play in order of release date. We would then rate each one to find out what we thought would be the best Castlevania game ever released. So I will be sharing with you the fruits of all our labor. I will discuss every Castlevania game ever released in this retrospective.

For those of you new to the series, Castlevania games always pit you as a hero who is trying to vanquish Dracula. The series’s protagonist is usually a member of the Belmont clan which hunts vampires and their weapon of choice is a whip named the Vampire Killer.

In almost all the games of the series, you explore Dracula’s castle, gaining different sub weapons that you can use against your enemies. Some examples of these sub weapons are a knife that you can throw straight at your enemies, a stopwatch that will stop time, and a cross that acts like a boomerang that attacks and comes back to you.

The first game we played is a game that many people might not even know exists; Vampire Killer for MSX2. The MSX2 is a Japanese home computer system that never saw the light of day in America, but caught on in Japan.

Vampire Killer shares many similarities with another game, a game that is probably many old school gamers’ first experience with the Castlevania series – Castlevania on NES. The main protagonist in both versions is Simon Belmont.

One big difference that you notice while playing this game is that the screen doesn’t scroll the same way that it does on the NES. Instead when you get to the end of a screen, it shifts almost like a Mega Man game to the next screen.

The MSX version has better graphics than its NES counterpart, but the level designs and controls are far worse. While the controls on the original Castlevania on NES are not as polished as Super Mario Bros and other platformers on the System, Vampire Killer’s are just bad. The collision detection for the whip is abysmal, you can literally try to whip the same candle to get a powerup 5 times in a row and not have it register.

In the both versions once you ran and jumped, that was it, there was no going back. Once you were in the air you couldn’t readjust Simon’s position which led to many Medusa attacks and unnecessary pitfalls.

Something that bothers me just about the MSX2 version is it’s level design. On the NES the level structure was go to point A to point B and not die. It was a simple and effective system that worked. On the MSX2 version, you had to check everywhere for secret passages to even move on with the game. I have to say, there was a lot of backtracking and it got quite confusing sometimes.

To progress through the game you had to whip the walls in order to get secret keys that were needed to open doors to make your way through the level. This sounds like it wouldn’t be too bad, because games like Metroid made you backtrack and do the same thing, but in Metroid it was fun, Vampire Killer just made it tedious.

Both Vampire Killer and Castlevania on NES are challenging games even today. There are no save points, so you have to hope that you beat these games in one shot. I have memories of playing the NES version when I was a kid and getting so frustrated at the game. Not throw your controller across the room frustrating, but it tested your patience.

The NES version of this game is available everywhere, its on NES, Virtual Console, and on GBA. If you haven’t played the first Castlevania game in some form and you enjoy playing old school platformers, then it is a game that you have to try. The satisfaction of destroying Dracula is something worth experiencing.

cv boxart

This scaling system is very subjective but I factor in control, level design, difficultly, and overall enjoyment. The final score is taking these into account as well as my general feeling is about the game when I sit down and play it.

On Vampire Killer I rank it as

Controls: 2.5/10
Level Design: 3/10
Overall Difficulty: 9/10
Overall Enjoyment: 3/10
Final Score: 4/10 – If you have the opportunity to play this game and you are a real hardcore Castlevania fan, then go for it. Will I ever play it again? Probably not.

Castlevania (NES)

Controls: 7.5/10
Level Design: 5/10
Overall Difficulty: 4/10
Overall Enjoyment: 9/10
Final Score: 9/10 – Maybe it is just the nostalgia of playing this game again, but it is always an enjoyable day when I put this in. If you have never played a Castlevania game and love 2D side scrolling platformers, this is a great place to start. It is primitive and does not implement all the gameplay features that people now think of standard Castlevania games, but that doesn’t take away from it’s enjoyment one bit.

Next time I will go into the black sheep of the Castlevania collection – Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest for the NES.

Super Mario Bros

Posted in video games with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 16, 2008 by themongomania

My first experience with the NES was on Christmas Day in 1988. I was 5 years old and itching to play Super Mario Bros. What I didn’t know was that Super Mario Bros would basically change my life. (Well, not really)

I remember opening up my presents and finally getting to this big rectangular box. I ripped through the paper and I knew that I was in for a great day. I had just received an NES with Super Mario Bros/Duck Hunt/World Class Track Meet, along with the zapper and power pad.

3 games in 1, what a deal

Even though there were 3 games available, I just wanted to play 1. I waited patiently as my dad hooked it up to the tv and turned our oldschool wood paneled tv to channel 3. Once the power was turned on I was hooked. With me and my brother glued to the screen we played our first game of Super Mario Bros.

I must admit that first goomba destroyed me.

1st goomba ownage

Possibly the 2nd one too, but I kept at it and slowly I kept winning the stages until I met Bowser. At that time he went by King Koopa, and he scared the crap out of me. I ran and jumped over him to send him into the lava pit below only to find out what is not a spoiler to anyone on this planet, our princess was in another castle.

Die Bowser!

Once I started to get the hang of the controls it was one of the most fun experiences I ever had and it marked the first time in my life that I was playing a video game. I have been hooked to them since, but that moment will always be with me.

I can go on and on about how great the gameplay is, how revolutionary the stage layout was, all the games secrets, powerups, and everything else that has been discussed a thousand times, but nothing else really needs to be said about it.

Super Mario Bros is a landmark game in my life. It opened up the whole gaming world to me. I have been playing video games for over 20 years now, and every time I start up a new game of Super Mario Bros, I still get that warm feeling I did that Christmas morning.