Archive for the Castlevania Category

Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night – 200.6% Again!

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Castlevania, Games, High Scores/Accomplishments on November 15, 2018 by slateman

Just four months later, I’ve 200.6%ed Symphony Of The Night again! In the process, I managed to platinum Castlevania: Requiem as well. Two of the best Castlevania games in one package? I shelved Red Dead Redemption 2 to play 20-year old games. What a world.

To address the port itself – it’s lazy as hell. The options and modes are pretty pathetic and it’s missing some truly basic items. You can’t turn off the overly-used rumble feature? Simply no option at all? But while it’s a real bare-bones title, the games are rock solid. Playing through Rondo Of Blood again reminded me just how awesome it is – handily defeating the other games of the era (see my recent retro-game backlog!) The game’s hype is spot-on and it’s a must-play from the series.

There’s little to say about Symphony that hasn’t been said yet. There was really no way I wasn’t going to 200.6% this beast. I was reminded of its few bullshit moments which come from a different time. However, the whole experience was just remarkable, just as good as ever. In addition, the trophies really gave me reason to try things I never would have and even after so many playthroughs, I learned new things. This game is a legend and yet another run solidifies it as a top-10 ever game. (Or so…that list is tough to quantify!)

So, after not playing the game fully to completion in the prior 21 years, I’ve now managed to do it twice in four months. Not bad.


Retro-Game Backlog Entry #5: Castlevania: Dracula XX

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Castlevania, Games, Lists, Retro Games on November 10, 2018 by slateman

After Castlevania III, I must’ve just stopped playing the series. I appear to have missed everything up until Symphony Of The Night in 1997. It makes sense; I had no SNES or Genesis and college meant poverty for most. So, as I address this backlog, these titles feel very new, despite their age. Now, I tinkered with some of them, Super Castlevania IV most notably, but I most certainly never beat them and with Dracula XX (not Rondo Of Blood, the SNES sequel to it), I never would have had the patience to complete it without emulation!

However, going back to the start…Dracula XX was Konami’s attempt to bring the legendary Rondo to the SNES without severely downscaling it. Instead, they made an entirely-different but kinda-the-same game. In every aspect it’s inferior. What we got was a noble attempt. Several of the key elements were recreated here and it rewarded exploration with a pair of bonus stages and girls to rescue. Unfortunately, since those same features were on the Turbo CD game, it’s impossible not to compare.

Richter returns and the fantastic hero traipses throughout familiar stages replete with beautiful fiery and watery effects. They look impressive but the design of those same stages is really quite weak. It was a product of its time; every jump was situated with a particularly-placed enemy crafted with the sole purpose of instilling frustration. Death comes from everywhere, jumps, floating heads, annoying enemies – it can be grueling. The foes are the customary ones, with many a true challenge. Saving the two girls is a must for the good endings, but even those were far too brief.


The game’s music, on the other hand, doesn’t let down. Well, it’s not that any game in the series at that time did. The familiar tunes don’t have quite the same punch as Bloodlines’ tracks did, but that’s no worry. I found myself muting everything else or turning up the volume as I played with headphones just because of the soundtrack. They rarely disappoint.

And then we have Dracula himself. After a rather easy battle in the original Dracula X, Konami decided to concoct the bullshittiest final boss I think I’ve ever encountered. The walk up to the tower was impressive, before a glowing moon, but the rest of it was memorable for all the wrong reasons. He had two forms: the first similar to what we all know and a second beast form where he flies above. However, the whole battle takes place on columns and the screen is wide. Therefore, you don’t have access to attack many times and in the time-honored tradition, a hit bounces you back – oftentimes to your death! Oh, it’s just so much fun, particularly when you manage to get to the final form and die by one misplaced jump. It’s fucking brutal and I would’ve been so pissed had I purchased this thing back in the day. You will die. Over and over. And not in any fair fashion. I’m getting angry just thinking about it and it marks one of those many gaming quotes, “I’m never going to do that again in my life.”

That final battle mars what is otherwise an OK game. It’s frustrating but looks good and sounds great. This title isn’t fondly remembered, understandably so. However, I’ll take Richter over those Bloodlines heroes any day. Another day, another retro game completed. I’m thinking I’ll hit up Super Castlevania IV next. I never loved that one, but most people do. See how it goes!


Retro-Game Backlog Entry #4: Castlevania: Bloodlines

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Castlevania, Games, Lists, Retro Games on November 1, 2018 by slateman

Having proclaimed my love for Castlevania already, one might expect for me to have played virtually every entry. However, it is not the case. Of course, I have gone through a vast majority of the series, but a handful eluded my gaze over the past three decades. One such title is the Genesis game Castlevania: Bloodlines.

I never owned the hardware and during the mid-90s, I avoided Castlevania entirely. In fact, it was only many years later that I got around to Super Castlevania IV. In any event, let’s address the best part of this game first: the music. The series is known for its hummable tunes and this game shows them off in spades. Familiar melodies return, but virtually every portion of the game’s audio shines and it stands as the title’s highlight, hands down.

Nothing else about this game stood out quite as much. The modern environments really didn’t work for me and were in direct contrast to the moody locales in every other Castlevania title. Some bosses and game effects just felt like excuses to show off the system’s tech. In a later level your screen is torn in half or you’re mirrored above the stage. Enemies flail about displaying interesting 3D effects but none were truly interesting themselves. Machine foes, reflecting patterns and fancy displays seemed more important than good level-design choices or enemy choices. I didn’t particularly enjoy big chunks of the game. This was compounded by the ending.

As with many other games of the time, the ending ramps up the difficulty substantially. I’m not a fan of boss-rush modes and the game’s finale is just nonsense. First you face Death who looks as bad-ass as usual. He dishes out these cards and whichever one you hit dictates who you fight: any of the bosses from stages 2-5. While they are random, you have to defeat all four. One of the cards is a screenful of meat. Hopefully you didn’t get that one first! So, after beating four bosses, you square off against Death who isn’t particularly difficult. OK! Now for Dracula, right? Nope…you head up another set of stairs and find a woman who summons a Medusa-like creature before you fight the woman herself. She’s rather easy once you’ve got the pattern down, fortunately.

And NOW you fight Dracula – assuming the stage – boss rush – death – medusa – chick boss combo didn’t kill you. Now you get a classic three-form Dracula battle before an atrociously-underwhelming finale boots you back to the beginning urging you to beat it on expert mode.

Beyond the music, there were certainly perks. Some of the effects were more than simply flash, and I’m sure at the time it was all really quite impressive. Large enemies and bright colors added a beautiful visual flair and newcomer Eric Lecarde changed how the game was played – with different paths for him and for John Morris. These all added up to a unique experience and one that is quite interesting in the series’ universe.

Ultimately though, while the game has a fair share of perks and good replay value, I will probably never return to this game. That soundtrack, however, will get some new spins as there is some truly phenomenal music. Beyond the killer tunes though, there’s not enough to beckon me back. I’ll stick with the classics of the series instead – spoken after 200.6%ed Symphony Of The Night and purchased Castlevania Requiem.


Retro-Game Backlog Attack

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Castlevania, Games, Lists, Retro Games on September 21, 2018 by slateman

As I age, it becomes increasingly difficult to be surprised or impressed. So many themes in gaming, TV shows or films have a ‘been there, done that’ feel to them. That’s not always bad = more of the same is oftentimes familiar comfort food that suits a specific purpose or need in life.

And while the prior paragraph may sound cynical and bitter, it’s by no means the full story. Just this year I played through Bloodborne and God Of War, both perfect 10s and Game of the Year candidates for their respective years.

However, while AAA games may be formulaic, they are also expensive and here in Sweden, that’s doubly true. Everything is expensive here! So, what to do to get my fix of awesomeness? Well, now that you mention it, the answer is something I’ve been thinking of doing this for quite some time…

Today I’m uploading a list of older games I’d like to tackle. Most will be my initial playthroughs as these titles are some that, for one reason or another, eluded my gaming gaze over the past few decades. Some, however, are ones I’ve desired to revisit – those are noted with an asterisk. With some modified hardware and trusty emulators in my grasp, here is a list of a dozen or so games I endeavor to tackle over the next few months. If all goes well, I’ll share my post-game thoughts after each accomplishment. OK, let’s get to it!

PC Engine

  • Air Zonk
  • Ninja Spirit *

Turbo CD

  • Gate Of Thunder
  • Lords Of Thunder
  • Super Air Zonk

Playstation

  • Einhander *
  • R-Type Delta

Genesis

  • Castlevania: Bloodlines
  • Contra: Hard Corps
  • Gunstar Heroes

Super NES

  • Castlevania: Dracula X
  • R-Type III
  • Super Castlevania IV *

Nintendo64

  • Mischief Makers *

Castlevania: Season 2 Poster!

Posted in Artwork, Best / Worst, Blog, Castlevania on August 31, 2018 by slateman

After season one started slow and ended well, it’s been a long wait for season two to arrive. I expect more of the same this year, but it should be exciting, especially given how the debut season finished off! Until October rolls around, the new poster should tide me over.

Unfortunately, it looks like the show will have to suffice. It doesn’t look like Konami is looking to return to the series in game form – in either 2D or 3D – any time soon. It’s a shame too, as Castlevania sits at #8 of my favorite game franchises ever!

Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night – 200.6% Finally!

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Castlevania, Games, High Scores/Accomplishments with tags on July 28, 2018 by slateman

20 Years Later – Finally 200.6%!

At 42 years old, my personal Castlevania history dates back three decades to the original on the NES. Like so many others, I’ve played just about everything. The classic trilogy, Bloodlines, IV, SOTN and its subsequent GBA/NDS titles, the PS2 3D ones, LoS, side stories, etc, etc, etc.

And at the top of that heap, to me, remains Symphony Of The Night. It’s just so [insert 20 superlatives we’ve all heard]. Anyhow, while I was a day-one adopter in early 1997, I never made it past 197% or so. This continued when I replayed it in the early ’00s, and again when I got the PS1 Classics version on the PS3. Oh, and when I replayed it **again** on the PSP with Dracula X Chronicles.

My itch for more Castlevania meant another replay of Rondo Of Blood, now on my Vita, and…why the hell not, let’s do it again! And now my goal was to *finally* get the elusive 200.6%. Methodically going through the game room-by-room, I made it to the end of the second castle, started doing my clean-up and realized…I missed Mudman. No! No!!! So bummed, I took a day or two off before heading back in and finishing it all off.

Little did I know that getting 200.6% was still achievable despite my oversight!!! And so finally, for a game I started playing just after my 21st birthday, is now (sorta) 100% complete at my tender age of 42!

Netflix’s Castlevania: Slow Start – Great End!

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Castlevania, Games, TV with tags on July 31, 2017 by slateman

The animation in Castlevania is remarkable and the short, four-episode series simply looks great. Each of the roughly twenty-minute episodes is over as soon as it begins, but the series takes a little while to really get rolling. I know setting backstory is important, but I was, quite frankly, bored halfway through the second episode. Trevor, my favorite Belmont for obvious purposes, seemed more annoying than genuinely vested in the task and dialogues just went on forever. However, as the end of episode three leads into the finale, the story takes shape. The final battle sets the tone for what should be a very exciting second, eight-episode season two. However, I should be wary to note that the shortcomings of this season are likely going to return. The fitting end to this season was particularly special, especially for anyone whose favorite of the original Castlevania games was number three, which, truly, is a vast majority of classic fans. I don’t know if we’ll see Grant’s return, but as is, the three protagonists are diverse, strong and well-voiced. Richard Armitage does a spectacular job and I look forward to the second season’s arrival. It should be fun.

The Best Moments In (My) Gaming History

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Castlevania, DoDon Pachi, Games, Lists, Resident Evil, Street Fighter, The Walking Dead, Ys on January 9, 2017 by slateman

Lists never get old, but old I am. And as I turn 41 in but a month, I’ve been playing videogames for about 35 years. Through that time, I’ve played the good, the bad, the incredible and the horrendous. I figured I’d catalog some of the best moments as seen through my eyes. This is by no means comprehensive. I’ve likely missed some and assuredly your list would differ from mine. For instance, everyone’s Game of 2016 seems to be Overwatch and I never even touched it. Oh well. So here we have a list of my favorite gaming moments ever, in no particular order. Oh…and obviously there might be spoilers. That happens when you recap decades of gaming. You’ve been warned. Let’s start!

Final Fantasy VII: Aerith (1997)
I am one of the thousands whose first entry into FF was VII. Purists hated us as we missed out on the classic lore of 1 or 2 (IV), etc. But as the seventh entry into the game arrived, it also ushered in a new era of gaming. The PS1 was really in its infancy; rendered videos coupling with voice acting showed gamers what the future could contain. (Granted, the TurboCD predated this by more than half a decade, but that’s a totally different story!) Those of us who grew up on Mario and Sonic were treated to a futuristic, mature and gritty game. Characters came to life as they had never fully done before. And Aerith/Aeris appeared, the pretty florist who joins AVALANCHE to counter the absolutely-and-completely-bad-ass Sephiroth. When Cloud arrives to find her at an altar and then OMFG Sephiroth impales her! What Just Happened?

Twenty years later, main characters are almost expected to die (thanks George R.R. Martin!) A story without a twist is boring. A tale wherein the protagonist is the antagonist or there are double and triple crossings are now standard fare. But in ’97 I knew of no game that dealt with such loss. And it’s a tale that, twenty years on, still affects me.

Tomb Raider: T Rex (1996)
Although Tomb Raider has received its fair share of glory, much of 3D gaming’s success and roots are attributed to Super Mario 64. And while that’s not unfair, the years have not treated Lara Croft’s first adventure well. TR didn’t age nearly as well as SM64, but a number of average-at-best sequels also diminished the series’ name.

However, back in 1996, this game was an amazing accomplishment. Nowadays, the barren landscapes would make the young cry in boredom, at the time, “less is more” truly was the mantra. Because when things did happen upon you, be them bears or wolves, it was a big deal. The game’s minimal soundtrack and the mythical world you scoured painted a wonderful picture of exploration and excitement. And then it arrived.

Running through the lush green of some cavern in I don’t recall where, I came upon a dinosaur. Now, I can’t recall if I saw the smaller ones first, but when the T. Rex appeared it was immediately categorized in the OMFG classification. I could only hear the Monty Python voices instructing me to, “Run Away, Run Away!”

Subsequent playthroughs were obviously less terrifying. But that moment was just so grand in a game of such minimalism. After some dismal entries into the series, the reboot landed itself at my favorite game of 2013. But the impact of that first game was every bit as important as the Italian plumber’s.

Resident Evil: Dogs (1996)
I’ve uttered OMFG more than once while recounting these moments. Shock. Pain. Fright. But let us face one fact: Resident Evil itself has two entries on this list.

We shall begin back in the mid-90s wherein so many of these moments reside. I missed out on playing RE upon release but did so about a year later. This was back when PS1 games were still being sold in longboxes. A friend, I can’t recall whom, lent me this disc. And anyone who has played RE knows *exactly* what I’m going to say.

Heading down that hallway with the black-and-white checkerboard floor, I was usually cautious. It was a must in that title. But when those dogs burst out the goddamn window, I nearly shat myself. It’s one of those moments in life that brings you right back to where you were. I can recall even where I was sitting. I remember it all. My heart raced and every time I went through the hallway again (including how they mixed it up in the RE-make) brought such anxiety.

Before we head to the next entry, I should share that Silent Hill had a similar effect, however slightly less potent. The creepy town streets, the static of the radio, it truly instilled terror into me. At the time I was living in an apartment, a former nurse’s station, which happened to have black-and-white tiled floors. After a session of SH I was to go to a friend’s and meet everybody when, as I walked towards the door leading outside, the awning creaked. I paused and then an enormous amount of snow fell from the awning. Scared the crap out of me. It was no more than a few feet before me. The empty halls and darkness looming made the fright all the more powerful.

Resident Evil 4: Chainsaw (2002)

Back to RE! The series was considered on the downward slope. Everyone loved the first two entries, but even I didn’t get around to 3 or Code Veronica. And then let’s remember that between RE2 in 1998 and RE4 seven years later, we were treated to three Gun Survivor titles, two Outbreak games, RE: Zero, the REmake and a GBC title. That is a lot and it watered down the Resident Evil name.

So when RE4 came out, as a GameCube exclusive, it was easy to have expectations low. The GC had mainly catered to a younger audience. What should we expect? Well, a buddy of mine and I booted the title up and walked through the intro (that I’ve played on the GC, PS2, Wii and PS3) expectations were shaken. And when you’re in that village and the chainsaw-wielding lunatic comes after you, that sense of dread returns. And when that guy literally chopped off Leon’s head, my mouth was agape. It was grotesque. It gave me the sense that anything could happen in this title. It returned RE to the high standard the first titles represented. And it shocked the hell out of me. Now, more than a decade later, the fourth game represents a change in gaming culture much like the first one did.

The Walking Dead (2012): That Ending…

The connection to the TV show and thus the graphic novels may be scant, but to me, the episodic first season of TWD was an enormous step in gaming and one whose ending resonates through me still.

Cutting to the chase here, the game was a solid portrayal of a post-zombie-apocalypse world. My character, Lee, was likeable yet real. His relationship with Clem was similar and at that time of my life (36, with four children), it was tangible and tactile. I was Lee and Lee was me. As absurd as it sounds, that sentiment is what every game developer wants his gamer to feel. Many games give you options to chat with characters and many times I skip out on several. Not here. I gobbled up every new chance to flesh out that relationship of the imperfect father figure and the lost young girl. When she was taken, a fire within me burned. “I will get her back,” as if I had any say in the game’s script. When Lee got bitten, I cut off that arm for the better good. And when we walked amidst the zombies and Clem got us into the storage shed (or whatever it was), my teeth clenched as I wished for a happy ending. And then…

Amidst all of these gaming memories, many truly are etched into my mind. I can go back and remember where I was, what the time of my life was, how that moment affected me. When the lights came on and I saw Lee, his eyes yellowed, my heart sank. “No. NO. NO! You can’t die on me! You can’t abandon Clem!” It was terrible. It was the absolute worst thing that could happen. And as the story continued on, Lee’s fate clearly determined, it was wrenching. And finally, as the tale ended, Lee (due to my choice) handcuffed to the heater (or whatever it was), I was crushed. The game ended, with hope for the future, but it didn’t matter. Lee was gone. I was done. Utterly crushed I was, so much so that as the credits rolled and my 6th platinum trophy popped, I didn’t even care. Tears streamed forth and I stared at the TV in absolute shock. No game had ever consumed me at such an emotional level. Sure, I’d played countless hours as Nathan Drake, Mario or Lara Croft. But nothing affected me as much as that relationship between Lee and Clem…and Lee and me.

Grand Theft Auto 3: Freedom (2001)
I have never beaten a GTA game. I tinkered with the first and the second (as well as one of the expansions) but we all know it wasn’t until GTA3 that the game truly came into its own. And I never beat it. Or VC, SA, 4, 5…nope. And that’s OK. Because in the autumn of 2001, I had just started Metal Gear Solid 2. It was slow and trodding. It required moments of sitting still. Hiding. Waiting. But at the same time, GTA3 had come out and it was all-around chaos. Why do missions? Just go around destroying everything in sight, beckoning police to the pandemonium and causing more chaos. Every time I would start a mission, I’d get side-tracked and mayhem would ensue. And while nowadays there are so many games that offer this experience, this, to me, was the first of its kind. Top-notch acting and a story that was an excellent production all equaled a groundbreaking and game-changing moment in history. I didn’t end up beating MGS2 until 5 years later and while that series is in my top-10 ever, GTA3 overshadowed what ended up being my least-favorite of the MGS games.

Symphony Of The Night: Inverted Castle (1997)
I played all three original NES Castlevania titles before taking a bit of a break. While I’d tinkered with the SNES and Genesis games, I still don’t think either truly lived up to the franchise’s name. Now, the big problem with Dracula X is that it never came to American shores. While SotN is a direct sequel, it means most of us didn’t play its utterly-excellent predecessor. I only bring this up because the arrival of SotN was, to me, the best Castlevania game in ages!

We begin with a good story, silky-smooth gameplay and let us not forget the music. Oh! that music! Alucard’s animations coupled with the gothic-inspired decor painted a wonderful picture of the time and setting Konami and Iga set out to create. It is yet another entry into the ‘I can remember when I was playing this game’ category. I recall my apartment, the time of year, even the music I was listening to during those weeks. (Conversely, when I listen to that music, I think of SotN!)

However nice that story is, it’s just a tale of a nice game! In the Internet’s pre-saturation phase, we didn’t have every secret accessible on our mobile devices (as they didn’t really exist). This game encouraged exploration and upon completing the game and searching for the elusive 100%, we were all greeted with an amazing discovery. Now, explore the entire castle…upside down!!! This was a simple solution to a simpler time when storage space was limited and system memory scant. Are you serious? Just play the entire castle inverted? YES! It was brilliant and exciting and riddled with secrets. Just how I love games to be! Coupling this revelation with a renaissance of the CV series, it’s understandable that the formula was recreated over no fewer than half a dozen times in the following decade. And understandably, I played each and every one of those as well! But none had the flair or excitement that SotN did.

Asteroids: Turning (1982-ish)
My introduction to gaming began at an early age and, like everyone else at the time, I owned an Atari 2600. With the caliber of games that appeared back in that era, I can truly appreciate games of today. (Yes, I owned E.T.) One title, Asteroids, wasn’t truly an amazing game. But one afternoon at a very young age, I started on what was my first experience with achievements. High scores were a big deal back then, but my goal for that afternoon was to turn the score. Rolling meant turning the score from 999,999 back to 0. At the time, that was the equivalent of a platinum trophy. It’s not sexy…but back then it was a huge deal.

Contra: UUDDLRLR (1988)
My youth, in some ways, was defined by the interactions with my friends and my best friend Dan in particular. We became friends in the 6th grade, just as Contra was released in the USA on the NES. It was at a time before digital distribution and videogame cartridges were expensive. Therefore most games were to be played in a sitting and then played again the next day, as you couldn’t just download a new game or demo. We would play this game repeatedly. “Bored? Play Contra!” And what better way to play than with the 30-lives Konami code? Everybody knows this code and it became synonymous with gaming and cheats in general. Nowadays, with trophies and achievements, cheats are not nearly as prevalent as they were back then. But back then, push power, up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, b, a, select, start and go! (We used the select button for the 2-player code) If it didn’t work? Press reset and do it again! The game and the code are legendary for me. A funny side-note, rumor always had it that the code wasn’t meant to be left in Gradius (where it initially appeared), but the designer forgot to remove it before shipping. Funny how things work…

Ys: Books I & II: (1990)
We all know the extent of the failure of NEC’s TurboGrafx-16 in the west. It eventually battled the SNES and Sega Genesis and lost on most commercial accounts. However, the CD-ROM add-on, while released too late to save the system, was an incredible step forward in games. From redbook audio to complete FMV scenes, it heralded a new era that truly wouldn’t be adopted for another half-decade (with the arrival of the PS1 and Saturn). The small library wouldn’t really impress but one title in particular stood above and beyond its counterparts. Falcom’s Ys compiled the first two games into one and changed how games could be represented. Book I is a short adventure, but Book II is a wonderfully-crafted tale. Full animations of Adol and the group were brighter and coupled with crystal-clear dialogues. Don’t know if anyone else can remember when they started putting voices onto cartridge games in the early ’90s. This put them to shame. Of course, it’s too bad the system was a failure.

But beyond visuals and voice acting, the music was impeccable. There was simply no other system at the time capable of outputting such high-quality audio. I still can hum the tunes of certain areas. IMO, despite its failure, NEC was way ahead of its time when it issued the TurboCD.

Street Fighter II: Animations (1992)
I’ll never forget this. After having played the original SF in arcades and then Fighting Street on the TG-16, seeing SFII is etched in my memory. It was almost 25 years ago that I walked into the arcade at the mall in Massapequa. A horde of people surrounded a cabinet and a pair of televisions were hung above for the crowd to see. Round 1 began and I stood, mouth agape, as Ryu bounced, prepared for the bout.

The title proved to be one of the most remarkable successes in videogames. Its depth and replayability are heralded as true provenance of competitive gaming. And the title’s history in the 25 years since is colorful and full. However, one of the most impressive moments for me was just seeing those animations and colorful, vibrant backgrounds popping to life. We also cannot forget the music, whose hummable themes can still be conjured up at a whim. And for anyone who lived through it, the magic of what came in the following years is also as memorable as the rest.

Advent of Achievements/Trophies (2005)
It’s so bad that now I don’t really want to play old games. I play games that I don’t necessarily want to just to obtain trophies.

That goes against everything gaming represents! But every so often I’ll get a Vita title or something and play while the kids are watching movies…all to grab a handful of trophies that truly have no significance in the world.

When the Xbox360 shipped and featured achievements, it was a cool concept. Sony, realizing they were behind, started a long string of catch-up games on the PS3, eventually patching in so many missing features. Trophies, for me, are superior to Microsoft’s achievement points. A quick look at a gamer’s stats show a number. Achievement points or Trophies, it’s all the same. I could get 5,000 bronze trophies or amass 10,000 Achievement points. However, Sony’s breakdown shows that I currently have 19 platinum trophies and I can list them all off one-by-one. In retrospect, the jump from PS2/Xbox to PS3/Xbox360 was a major step in connectivity and console ability. And there’s simply no looking back.

And looking back, I’ve played games for more than 30 years. While achievements and trophies didn’t entirely change gaming, in many ways they changed how I play them. 100%ing a game was a badge of honor, but only to show a friend who was physically present. Now you have tangible proof. Developers make trophies to lead you down certain paths, perhaps ones you’d miss otherwise. It changed how I approach games and the longevity of some titles. I cannot go back and find it sad that Nintendo franchises (other than Mario) don’t call me to complete them like Sony’s or Microsoft’s do.

Red Dead Redemption: Mexico (2010)
So much has been said about RDR and this transitional section of the title. However, like many other people, I wasn’t fully sold on the game when it came out in 2010. Grand Theft Auto in the west? As written above, I’d never beaten a GTA game and I am not particularly fond of westerns, be it the time period or the movies about it. But then you cross the threshold to Mexico and the voice of José González appears. That acoustic guitar, that empty feeling of enormity ahead. It was a spectacular moment in gaming and opened the world to be so much more than what I thought. The game continued its excellence in its writing, gameplay and the ending was phenomenal. It was beautiful and remains in many people’s memories as a high note of a game that I never knew I wanted.

DoDonPachi: Dai-Ou-Jou: Chaining Level 1 (2005)
After playing shoot-em-ups (shmups, known as shooters back then) throughout the ’80s and early ’90s, the genre died as arcades faded away and games became more elaborate. Cave continued the tradition by refining a sub-genre known as Danmaku (Bullet Hell). For those initiated, the change was profound as both depth and strategy evolved.

I was reintroduced to the genre with Cave’s DoDonPachi in the early ’00s. After following the developer for a few years, they ported the finest title in the history of shmups in 2003. I imported it day one and played the hell out of it. The game is incredibly difficult, both the gameplay and the scoring system. Its meticulousness requires such specific accuracy, many are turned off by the game. Only the best can beat it in one credit, chain entire stages and the lot. As I’ve never been very good at Street Fighter or shmups in general, I had no chance at greatness.

Until the autumn of 2005 when I dedicated myself to scoring and chaining. My scores and progress are surely mere novice material when compared to the pros of the genre. But on the 14th of September 2005, I managed to chain the entire first stage! This meant specific planning and coordinating lasers, shots and hyper usage to combo every enemy from the beginning to the end. I would later get a higher combo total before moving to Maine when my time to dedicate dwindled to nothing. However, the unbridled excitement from achieving a goal after putting in such effort…it makes this one of the most memorable moments in all my gaming history. And while many of these memories here are of the game itself, this is a personal achievement that may stand above so many others. Below a capture of my highest chain and here is my old progress log, now utterly defunct and outdated.

Well, there you have it. In finishing this up, I’ve already thought of a few more that I might need to add to part two. But since this list has been brewing for several months already, it’ll be a while until I have that prepared.

–Late Update–
I write this ages after posting this list, but I was compelled to include yet another Resident Evil moment to this list. 2017’s RE7 was an amazing success IMO and contained some sincerely-shocking moments. Rather than include them here, you can read more here. I genuinely feel this lives up to the entries on the list above.

The Top 8 Best Gaming Series

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Castlevania, DoDon Pachi, Games, Lists, Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil, Street Fighter, Tony Hawk Series, Uncharted, Ys on January 24, 2016 by slateman

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Another long-brewing article, I pondered this for quite some time. Why not put together a best gaming series article? Good question! Now that vacancy is now filled! Let’s not wait. Article start!

There are a few games that missed this list, some better than others, but honorable mention goes out to:

  • Mega Man
  • Tony Hawk
  • Ratchet & Clank
  • Gears Of War
  • God Of War
  • Tomb Raider
  • Ys

With those out of the way, let’s start with number eight!

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#8: Castlevania (1987 – Present)
This series has been quiet as of late. With just two titles issued in the past half-decade, it’s safe to say we’re in a lull. However, from 2001 until 2008, we saw about ten solid Castlevania games, and this is after the classic trio and subsequent rejuvenation with Symphony Of The Night. And what spectacular titles those are! The first game was a great start, the second a stumble that at the time I loved and memorized and the third was the pinnacle of platforming back in ’89. SotN remains in my top-whatever list of games, and the music alone can transport me back to ’97 and where I was in my life.

The handheld titles that followed each trumped the last and some of those I played more than once. I even liked Lords of Shadow and its handheld quasi-sequel. Last year’s second installment was quite the opposite. I hated that one. Some rather dismal Castlevania games aside, there are easily a dozen top-notch games to replay as we wait
for another renaissance of Dracula and the Belmont clan!

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#7: Zelda (1987 – Present)
Everybody knows Zelda, Link and of the rich history of games relating to them. The problem with Zelda is that moving backwards, I can’t say love any recent titles other than 2013’s 3DS game and maybe the Minish Cap from 2004. I wasn’t a fan of the GC or Wii titles and I never played Majora’s Mask. So, two portable games since 1998? It should go without saying that I’m excited about this year’s Wii U game.

Of course the original, the SNES game and Ocarina were all perfect 10s. I didn’t get an NES until around when the SNES came out, but I remember playing the first Zelda game, completing the second quest…bombing every single inch of the map in order to find the last dungeon’s location. A Link To The Past? Ocarina Of Time? Nothing needs to be said about those titles. But while I love me some Zelda, the series hasn’t wowed me in quite a while, thus putting it at a shockingly-low number seven on this list.

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#6: Uncharted (2007 – 2016) (R.I.P.)
I played the demo for the first game and wasn’t impressed. But upon playing the full game, I realized that Naughty Dog had crafted a special 3rd-person shooter that coupled solid gameplay with excellent storytelling and likable characters. I obtained three platinum trophies in 2011. Uncharted, Uncharted 2 and Uncharted 3. I liked the games that much. And the portable game was surprisingly-fun as well. There’s not much to be said about this franchise that hasn’t been mulled over by countless others. I don’t quite know if UC4 can possibly live up to its predecessors and it’s rather sad the series will be done after part 4. Will it still be as memorable a decade from now when other developers are making the umpteenth version of the same game? *shrug*. But Nathan Drake sure had a good run!

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#5: DoDonPachi (1995 – 2012)(R.I.P.?)
Some series tout diversity but with shmups, it’s not quite so easy to discern. The outsider would recognize no true difference between Daifukkatsu and Sai-Dai-Ou-Jou. In fact, their names alone might confuse. However, to the dedicated player, those two titles are night-and-day different. While I can pass on Don Pachi, DDP and three of its four sequels are the pinnacle of the genre. Cave supported the scene until its dying breath and even put out a remarkable home port to make the goodbye ever bittersweet. And while DFK and SDOJ were fun and amazing titles, DOJ remains the best shmup ever made. The recent surprise IOS release (Ichimen Banchou) may breathe hope into the franchise, but I won’t hold my breath. DDP is that good.

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#4: Resident Evil (1996 – Present)
Some franchises have a handful of main games, but not RE. We have 1-6, which I’ve played all but the third. There are the Revelations games, Zero, the Chronicles and Gun Survivor games, etc. and this doesn’t include remakes, movies, CG movies and remasters of 1, 4, 0 and 2 coming up.

Therefore, with a pool of so many games, surely there will be some great ones, right? Obviously but the good games are damn good. I positively loved going through the HD remaster of RE1. I played through RE4 on no fewer than four consoles (GC, PS2, Wii, PS3). RE5 I platinumed on the PS3 and also beat on the Xbox360. RE6 was bloated, but the good in that game was quality. Too bad there was so much excess.

The remaster of 2002’s RE0 is an entertaining romp (it’s so strange to think that 2002 is 14 years ago. It’s a classic era in a sense.) With the re-make of RE2 and the inevitable RE7 on the horizon, I don’t see a shortage any time soon. I liked the survival horror of the first games and the action-based nature of the recent ones. Despite a number of iffy titles, the diversity and sheer quality of the great games lands this at #4 on my list.

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Street Fighter (1987 – Present)
I played SF in the arcade, then later as Fighting Street on the TurboDuo in the late ’80s.
I vividly remember seeing SFII for the first time at the mall arcade on Long Island in ’92.
I recall SFIII (and sucking at it) but still giving it a go while at some flea market down in Florida in ’99.
SFZ was my favorite; I played the first in the mall in Albany, then SFZ2 at the same mall mentioned earlier on Long Island. (’95-’96) I imported SFZ3 from Japan the day it was released.
SFEX was shipped to me, along with the cool Chun-Li shirt, and I played it incessantly while my girlfriend was in Florida in October of ’98.

I really could go on and on, as every entry is special and so very unique, all while retaining the necessary familiarity. My story continues with the Vs. series, spin-offs, SFIV, web sites I’ve run, countless art books and the like. And this isn’t even discussing the gameplay. It set the standard with SFII, it reinvigorated the scene with SFIV and I’ll be a day-one purchaser of SFV when it ships next month, more than 25 years after I started playing this series. It is the king, its characters iconic, its music memorable and it’s easily in my top-three favorite franchises ever. Not a question. The real downside is that I’m not particularly good at it. But that hasn’t stopped me from enjoying it for most of my life. And as I write this (before SFV is released), I’m not entirely sure this doesn’t belong at #2 on this list…..

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#2: Metal Gear Solid (1998 – 2015)(R.I.P.)
I’m eschewing the first Metal Gear games as I never played them and it’s only truly when MGS shipped in ’98 that the series became so iconic. And here’s the thing: MGS, MGS2, MGS3, MGS4, MGS:PW and MGSV are almost all so totally different from one another. Each has a unique purpose, statement, gameplay innovation or take on stealth that makes no one better than another. It’s also worthy of note that other than MGS2 and MGS3 both being PS2 games, every title appeared on a different generation of hardware. Kojima always wanted to do more and more and finally with MGSV, he accomplished his goals and ended his involvement in the series.

And for a person who isn’t the greatest at stealth games, this series brought me across 50 years of a convoluted history and kept me compelled to keep playing, despite my lackluster ability. Having gone back to replay some titles, I was no less amazed on subsequent playthroughs. MGS4 was my GotY in 2008, MGS5 in 2014. They were emotional and fun, powerful and silly. Kojima’s attention to detail cannot be overstated. Masterpiece after masterpiece, any new MGS sans Kojima will be lacking that special touch. Thus, 1998 – 2015, and #2 on this list.

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#1: Super Mario Bros. (1985 – Present)
If the grandeur of MGS cannot be overstated, then surely Mario can be. Everyone knows of him, and every game gets great scores. However, this is no conspiracy. While the golden years of gaming had a long string of amazing Mario games, even recent years have been consistently excellent. I once ranked the Mario games stopping around 2008 but the newer titles stand up with those others. As Super Mario Bros. 3 still sits atop the best-games-ever list, there are easily another half-dozen games featuring the plumber on the top 25. From the Galaxy games to the New SMB titles to the 3D World games…Shigeru Miyamoto has produced the single greatest series in gaming history with one of the most iconic characters in all of media. No new Mario games will come out in 2015, but whenever a new title comes out, I will be in line to get it. Why? The one-word review of Mario and the reason it’s the greatest ever? Fun. I could continue with ingenious and tricky and comment about replayability but the end result is a fun game each time (well, I hated Sunshine) and the noble title of:

Best.Franchise.Ever

Castlevania: Mirror of Fate HD

Posted in Blog, Castlevania, Games, Reviews with tags on November 22, 2013 by slateman

Mirror of Fate HDThis $15 title was about perfect…for $15. Had I paid full price on the NDS, I may have been upset. However, the quick jaunt through the title was fun, and appropriately priced.

The Good
The music was pretty cool. It was moody, we didn’t get any Vampire Killer tunes and that’s OK. It was different. The story was a bit strange, and at first, I couldn’t figure out WTF happened at the end. However, SPOILERS! Trevor turning out to be Alucard was a pretty awesome take on this non-canon side-story.

The So-So
The game’s combat was pretty weak. I actually preferred exploring the castle over actually fighting. Some of the platforming was ok at best.

Overall, it wasn’t the best Castlevania, nowhere near it. In actuality, it may have been one of the worst but I’m still glad I played it. It’s made me interested in Lords of Shadow 2 and made me wish I never lost my first LoS save game. After getting 100% w/ Simon, Alucard & Trevor though; I’ll likely never touch this game again. :) That’s OK. It was fun while it lasted.