Retro-Game Backlog Entry #8: Castlevania Chronicles

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Castlevania, Games, Lists, Retro Games on August 13, 2019 by slateman

Castlevania Chronicles (which loses the -s in Japan) was a 2001 collection landing exclusively on the Playstation. The remake of the Japanese-only Akumajou Dracula (itself a reboot of the original Castlevania) was one I was excited to finally play it when it arrived at the budget-friendly price of a mere $20. While my retro-gaming backlog has since evolved to include games I’ve actually played before, I don’t think I ever quite beat this game. Playing the arrange mode rather than the original, I found the rigorous challenge quite demanding, and I bet I never made it through. Let’s see how it fared, remembering I didn’t really even touch upon the classic X68000 version. Note that much like many other games of the era, Japan received the better box art.

This retread through classic Castlevania locales was fun and the updated visuals looked good enough when compared to traditional 2D sprites. It loses some of that magic of animation when moving into the quasi-3D world but Simon animated well, even with his strange new hair color and the setpieces remained exciting. Large bosses, colorful stages and some cool 3D techniques made for a visually-appealing romp through Dracula’s castle. However, its difficulty was quite the challenge and my up-and-down life rendered the experience a stop-and-go one, marred with hardware issues and long breaks in play. None of this truly diminished the fun, and my trusty SN30 Pro worked well, though I had some lag issues when playing on my phone initially.

The diverse stages really were quite refreshing, bouncing from the usual forests and castle entrance to blues and greens and bright environs.

Bosses were large and diverse, and of course challenging, however with three selectable difficulties, playing on easy mode at least opens the game up to casual fans. The remixed soundtrack remains one of my highlights, with new takes on familiar tracks and the official CD release made available later contained that and the original X68000 tracks. I didn’t hit upon them, but there are two MIDI song lists available when playing the original title. Several unlockables exist as well, with a small art gallery, which also contains SotN pieces, an interview with Iga (in the West, not Japan) and the like.

The entire collection feels a bit bare-bones in spite of these perks, but for $20, it’s hard to complain. Simon controls better than in the original, sections feel bombastic and the music rocks. Traditionally I’d write a lot more about this, but it’s taken me about a month to complete the game. I suppose I really should go back and zip through the original version. What I find interesting is that Iga took the time to remake this obscure entry instead of the world-renowned Dracula X: Chi No Rondo. (That took another six years – but it felt like far longer than that back in the day!)

Getting to Dracula contained the expected transitions: Death, a staircase before the moon and a pair of forms when fighting him. Their predictability was the only real shortcoming, to me, as that tradition is part of gaming history. The redone ending, featuring a crumbling castle, was dreadful but par for the course in the late ’90s.

Just for fun, I took a few snaps from the intro of the X68000 game, given here as larger thumbnails because of their odd number.





Again, this article should be longer than it is – but such is life. Why don’t you go back and review an 18-year-old remake of a 26-year-old game? That’s what I thought!!!

Retro-Game Backlog Entry #7: Alien Vs. Predator

Posted in Aliens, Best / Worst, Blog, Games, Lists, Retro Games on July 18, 2019 by slateman


Capcom was a well-oiled machine by 1994, building off the opportunities after Street Fighter II’s ridiculous success. Their side-scrolling beat-em-up Alien Vs. Predator was not the first entry into the crossover franchise, but it remains my favorite. I don’t recall actually playing this in arcades; it came out a little late for me, but I did play it via emulation sometime in the next decade and quite liked it. Will returning to it offer the same nostalgia for a 1990s quarter muncher or has it aged less well than its contemporaries? Having moved from temporary quarters in Sweden to temp quarters in Italy, now seemed a good time to find out the answer to that very question!

Laptop, SN30 Pro and RetroArch. Check. It starts out great, mowing down aliens as one of four different characters, each of whom plays quite differently. Of course I chose Linn Kurosawa, an awesome character Capcom has oddly not cashed in on enough! The stages blazed by with two different attacks, sub weapons aplenty and killer animations. The CPS2’s Q-Sound allowed for kick-ass audio: explosions that boomed and the familiar tinny gun sound from my favorite movie ever: Aliens.

However, at its heart, it’s a side-scrolling beat-em-up. How much more can you do with the genre? Little things help, with special moves, the usual food and point pick-ups and the lot. You can shoot grenades away as enemies throw them at you. There is a bonus stage later on and one level had you driving atop one of the mobile units from the movies. However, in the middle, the usual spin arrives: that the evil madman from Weyland Yutani (misspelled in the ending as Wayland) wants to harness their power, etc. etc. etc. Thus, for a good portion of the game, you end up fighting human soldiers. This was likely a good choice to keep it from getting stale but I ended up simply not caring. Segments felt repetitive and while the game fashioned a story out of the absurd premise, even that grew thin.

Cut scenes were spread throughout the game which was quite nice and it contained plenty of dialogue – a far cry from brawlers from half a decade earlier. Animations in these interludes were minimal but in the rest of the game they were spectacular. Multiple types of aliens existed with a bevy of attacks and hit animations. Flame throwers engulfed enemies in fire and the game was bombastic as it should be. However, with two bosses being the queen, it appears in retrospect the diversity of enemies simply wasn’t there. What was there was pretty kick-ass, I must admit. Backgrounds were colorful, detailed and fit the series perfectly.

In the end, my fond memories were not quite matched by the game’s fun factor. Released three years earlier, I’d just as soon go back to Sunset Riders first. It was definitely an entertaining run and playing as other characters might spice things up a bit. This is set to appear on Capcom’s upcoming all-in-one arcade stick, a great entry considering few have played it in the last 25 years.

Retro-Game Backlog Entry #6: Sunset Riders

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games, Lists, Retro Games on July 5, 2019 by slateman

Konami’s 1991 side-scrolling western has always been fondly remembered in the annals of gaming, though it never received a follow-up. The title’s impressive animation and lighthearted theme made for a game that stood out in a time of ever-increasing machisimo – an trend that never seems to have faded. Despite playing this back in the day and not really fitting the backlog category, it’s a game I have wanted to revisit for some time. Thus, while the packers jam virtually every possession of mine into boxes and I’m required to be in the house while it happens, today was the day to hit up nostalgia alley. There was only one small hiccup; I played the wrong game.

With a laptop and an external drive available, I booted up RetroArch and synched up my trusty 8BitDo SN30 Pro. The thing is awesome. A quick search on mamedb.org told me the file name to search (as I don’t have a full MAME frontend on the laptop) and away I went! The game, while good, seemed to be a bit lacking. It was reasonable but the animation seemed substantially off and it really lacked some of the punch my memory told me it should have. Upon beating it, with no real story or level transitions, I inspected to see that I was in fact playing the Genesis/Mega Drive port and not the arcade original. Well, that explained a lot!

Still, it was a fun game despite its reused assets and lack of diversity. There were fewer stages and animations but the final stage had a bit more than the arcade game as your hero ran through the city streets. Each world was split in two: the first half to save the lady and the second to face a boss. The simple mechanic effectively doubled the level count, though it was far from transparent. On one level, however, rain started falling, a pretty cool effect on the 16-bit system! I took some snapshots and have no real urge to play the SNES game to compare a third time. I went straight into the arcade game after and chose my favorite: Cormano!

Moving on to the far superior and technically impressive, the arcade version came in two flavors: a two-player model and a four-player one. The latter actually assigned a character to a controller and since Cormano was the fourth such choice, I opted for the two-player game where you could choose who you played as. The experience was familiar, both from my prior Genesis run-through and from my near-three-decade-old memories. This game is fantastic. Animations are over the top. Explosions are enormous. Action sequences are thrilling and colors are tremendously vibrant. From the first stage where you step on a rake and hit yourself in the balls to flames engulfing enemies, the entire run-through was just a pleasure.

Music is the clear weak link, sounding much like an arcade might in 1991. But songs aren’t memorable and they feel repetitive and bland. Sound effects are better and the voice samples, which were changed to speech bubbles in the home versions, are pretty cool.

Of particular note is how un-PC it is. Native Americans run at you with every stereotype known to man and the boss, Chief Scalpem (changed to WigWam on home consoles) begins by saying, “Me ready for Pow-Wow.” Women fare no better. While they are present with dynamite throughout, they are often relegated to the usual sex symbols. You can enter saloons and emerge, babe in hand, with a power up of some kind and a kiss on the cheek. Damsels in distress can be found and they even dance for you in one stage. It’s all nonsense and the absurd nature of it all may be enough to offend nowadays. Perhaps this is why Konami never re-issued it on newer consoles.

But as ridiculous as the entire game may be, it’s a tremendous amount of fun. Horseback-riding sections, bonus levels and characters with different animations and weapons keep the action fast and entertaining and worth revisiting. While the other titles in this retro-game backlog may be console experiences or one-and-done efforts, I would gladly come back to Sunset Riders and very well may do so one day. Maybe get a few controllers and play through with the kids. Politically incorrect or not, it was a genuinely-fun game that looks great even now, 28 years later.

Bloodstained: Ritual Of The Night – Worth It!

Posted in Blog, Castlevania, Games on June 28, 2019 by slateman

With all the talk about Metroidvanias, it was strange actually worrying about the return of the true progenitor of the genre. Iga is back, and this is a fine follow-up to Symphony Of The Night – one of my favorite games of all time.

It’s flawed: there are some bugs, it’s crashed on me once or twice and the game stutters at random points. But it excels at all it does well and even after about six hours of playing, I know I have a ton left. Between side missions, countless shards to test out, unique familiars and new (but customary) skills to take command of. I have to make weird recipes for an old lady, hordes of demons to kill to avenge deaths and crops to plant. OK, some of those don’t sound so exciting, but trust me, they’re fun and compelling and they just add to the entire familiar experience of – what may be my favorite type of game of them all – the metroidvania!

Any reservations I had for this game were simply folly. While this is an imperfect title, it’s proof that Iga still has it, and this title was well worth the wait.

Another Move – Another Country

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Personal on June 28, 2019 by slateman

It is with a heavy heart that I abandon my beloved Scandinavia. However, I cannot complain as southern Europe awaits and its 45° weather alongside it! These pages have been curiously quiet and will likely remain that way as my entire life is turned upside down for the second time in three years.

Wish me luck – This is an opportunity of a lifetime in an already-tumultuous 2019.

NeoGeo Pocket Color: SNK Vs. Capcom Captures

Posted in Artwork, Blog, Game Art, Games, Street Fighter on May 14, 2019 by slateman

I’ve been writing for so long that I haven’t really touched anything else. Today, for some reason, I felt compelled to check out SNK Vs. Capcom: The Match Of The Millennium on the NeoGeo Pocket Color. I was always disappointed that I couldn’t capture the bonus characters and I never had the patience to unlock them in any legitimate fashion. Well, thanks to ArtMoney, I didn’t have to! So, I finally captured the standing animations for the four bonus fighters: Bulleta, Vega, Evil Ryu and Gouki! And then why not grab the character portraits, now with the secondary colors as well?!! I’m pretty psyched to have these now.

Because I don’t know how to run web pages properly, you can find these at different sites. The standing animations are at my slateman site with the character art at SFGalleries. Or, why not just post it all right here? Enjoy!





Bonus Characters

As for character art, remember the NGPC’s screen resolution was like 160×152 so it explains why these are so tiny!







Super Mario Odyssey: Another Gem

Posted in Best / Worst, Games, Personal, Screenshots on May 12, 2019 by slateman

It’s no real secret that I love Mario games. But with new hardware not being as high a priority as it was a decade and a half ago, Mario’s Odyssey adventure would have to wait. Two years later and my son asked for a Switch and the game he wanted was Mario! Well, if we must oblige the 8-year-old! And so, we began.

It’s always a friendly, familiar welcome returning to the Mushroom Kingdom and this game plays remarkably well. The new focus on collecting moons is also a welcome change which keeps your sessions going for as long as you’d like and the itch to get ‘just one more moon’ is one that hearkens back to my early days of gaming. The game looks great, controls wonderfully and is the traditional mix of rigorous challenge and lighthearted romp.

Now that my moon-collecting tally grows towards 600, I’m left with some issues. Races suck; I loathe them. That final stage is just brutal, as it should be, I suppose, and I find my interest waning as the elusive 100% is still some 200 moons away. I’ll have to update my listings with this, though I’ll more than likely just stop playing at some point.

I’m hoping we get another Mario adventure on the platform. Games have become so huge making their offerings quite scant compared to the old days. Three Mario games on the NES? Good times, those were! For now, some of the better screenshots from my adventure. Now to go collect a few more moons!

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice Begun!

Posted in Blog, Games, Screenshots on March 26, 2019 by slateman

While I do think that Bloodborne is one of the most remarkable games ever made, I am by no means a Soulsborne fan. I’ve dabbled in Dark Souls, DS3 and the remastered iteration, all to varying degrees of failure. However, I had high hopes for Sekiro and despite only a passing interest in the setting, I bought it due to the developer solely. FromSoftware’s newest IP is both beautiful and fury inducing – and gamers wouldn’t have it any other way.

So, as I slowly digest this latest work of art, dying more frequently than I’d have the patience to in other titles, I thought I’d share some quick snapshots from the opening hours. Spoilers, of course, but there’s nothing too specific that hasn’t been seen yet. Enjoy – I probably won’t be beating this game anytime soon!

Castlevania Collection Incoming!

Posted in Castlevania, Games on March 21, 2019 by slateman

So psyched that Konami is finally giving some of their IPs love! Alongside a Contra collection which I will also be getting, an eight-game Castlevania package arrives this summer with the promise of another later! Focusing on the classics, this will bring some favorite titles from my youth to my PS4 and I couldn’t be more excited. More to come…just so psyched.

New 7×7 Records! 16:15!

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Cubing, Cubing Records on February 9, 2019 by slateman

Sometime last year, my son dropped my V-Cube 7 on the floor. It shattered, that dreaded CHSSSSSSSS sound only cubers can recognize. I’ve tried to rebuild it, but I’m not so good with the tiny pieces and just gave up. I never really liked the puzzle anyway.

For Christmas, funnily enough seven years to the date since I got my original 7×7, my son got me a new one: an MF7S. This is a smaller cube (69mm vs 75mm) with bright stickers and while it doesn’t fit aesthetically into the collection, the puzzle kicks ass!!! It turns like a dream and is solid and reliable. Since I never liked the V-Cube puzzles (6×6 and 7×7), I only really tried speedsolving them a few times. With the new cube, why not try it? Last week I nailed a 19:33 time, then this morning got that down to 18 and change and then just now 16:15.72! Wow! That’s almost as fast as my 6×6 record (again though, that’s a V-Cube…urgh!)

So, while I don’t really go for times, it’s nice to get this solve done quickly. I’ll soon hit a ceiling, but I think as is, it’s an impressive time! I’ve updated my cubing records page accordingly, of course. Not bad for an almost-43-year-old! :D