Archive for retro gaming

Castlevania Retrospective Part 3

Posted in video games with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 1, 2008 by themongomania

Today I’m reluctantly looking back at Castlevania: The Adventure for the original gameboy. I do not have many good things to say about this game. This was the series’ first entry into the portable market in the fall of 1989. It is also notable because it is the first game in the series to not star Simon Belmont as the protagonist. Instead, for this adventure we get Christopher Belmont, whip ready in hand to do what the Belmonts do best.

The first thing you’re going to notice playing this game is that Christopher moves so sluggish that it’s not even funny. You will scratch your head wondering why this did not happen in other nes to gameboy transitions. When Mario jumped into the world of portable gaming he never got this treatment, he still moved at a good clip. The speed problem was eventually corrected though, it only took till the year 2000 in Konami’s GB Collection Vol 1 released in Europe. Christopher is colorized and moving at the speed he originally should have been moving.

After you get over the speed of the game and really start getting into it, all you will find is more problems unfortunately. The level designs leave a lot to be desired. The main problem with the levels is that there is no variety. You will see the same type of levels throughout the entire game, which isn’t very long. Your adventure sees you through 4 levels each with their own boss, the last boss of course being the man of the hour, Dracula himself.

Sub Weapons have gone on the wayside in this game, instead the game lets you shoot a fireball out of your whip if you get 2 whip upgrades. However, if you get hit then your whip gets degraded and you no longer have the fireball until you get the whip upgrade again. Something else added to this version was a timer that told you how much longer you had in each level. Most of the time you beat each level with more than enough time, so it’s never something you should worry about.

Something different that works out pretty well in all of the original gameboy Castlevania’s is the use of ropes. Instead of stairs as you were previously used to in all the other Castlevania games, the gameboy decided to throw all that out and make you climb ropes. The feel of the game is changed by this little thing, because you will have to switch ropes and watch out for enemies while climbing the ropes to reach your destination. It reminds me a bit of Super Mario Bros 2’s vines.

If you are good at this game, you can beat it in about an hour. I do not regret playing it, but it will be an incredible long time before I play this again.

Alright, now it’s review time:

Castlevania: The Adventure –

Controls: 1/10 – this game’s controls make Haunted Castle’s look like a godsend.
Level Design: 2/10 – Did I mention that the level design is repetitive?
Overall Difficulty: 3.5/10 – Not very difficult at all really, just slow moving
Overall Enjoyment: 1.5/10 – Sad to say, but this is not Castlevania’s brightest star.

Final Thoughts:

Every series that goes on as long as the Castlevania series has gone on for hits a few snags here and there. It is a game that might have been rushed to market given that it came out late fall, trying to meet the Christmas season buying rush. I hope that isn’t true, but you never know. I will say that the next entry in the retrospective is a game that is held in higher regard. It is arguably the greatest achievement the series achieved on the NES, Castlevania 3: Dracula’s Curse.

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.