Archive for the Castlevania Category

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!!!

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.

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.

Game I’ve Played / GotY 2018

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Bloodborne, Castlevania, Games, Lists, Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil, Screenshots on January 12, 2019 by slateman


Usually I split this into two postings, but alas! it’s already 2019. Today’s update will include the games I’ve played over the last year as well as the easy choice as to which was the best. The latter will be detailed on my main Games Of The Year page. I’ll separate all this into individual sections. First – Platinums! Bold words indicate a 2018 title.

Platinums 2018

  • Bloodborne
  • Burly Men At Sea
  • Castlevania: Requiem
  • God Of War
  • Guacamelee! 2
  • Lara Croft Go

Two of the PS4’s greatest exclusive games were conquered this past year. Bloodborne stays with me and I now consider it one of the greatest games ever made. That’s a different list I’ve been mulling over. I’ve written about some of the rest of these already. Moving on…

Older Titles Played in 2018

These will fall into three categories:

  1. First-time plays (not completed)
  2. First-time played/beaten
  3. Beaten again

Here we have a mix. Some are simple PS+ games, others are purchases I never cared to complete, etc. A key for easy reference is listed above.

  • Assassin’s Creed Origins
  • Bloodborne
  • Burly Men At Sea
  • Call Of Duty: WWII
  • Dark Souls III
  • Fe
  • Firewatch
  • God Of War: Chains Of Olympus
  • God Of War: Ghost Of Sparta
  • God Of War: Ascension
  • Grand Theft Auto V
  • Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational
  • Lara Croft Go
  • Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2
  • Matterfall
  • Metal Gear Solid 2
  • Nioh
  • Rayman Legends
  • Resident Evil 4
  • Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter
  • Sky Force Anniversary
  • Ys VIII: Lacrimosa Of Dana

Due to Gothenburg’s wonderful library system, I got to borrow some pretty cool titles this past year. I quite enjoyed AC:O – would like to return to it and would also love to try its sequel. Similarly, Nioh seemed cool and I’m still chugging through Sherlock Holmes though it didn’t really inspire me like its predecessor.

Many others I tried and never really felt inspired enough to finish. Dark Souls III was fucking difficult (I later tried DS Remastered and fared better). Matterfall was a huge disappointment, particularly after Nex Machina. After beating the PS3 remasters of the two PSP God Of War games, I figured I’d try out Ascension again. And again I lost interest. Firewatch, Fe, Rayman Legends – all just hit the ‘meh’ button and never beckoned me to return.

On the other hand, a few older titles were memorable. The aforementioned Bloodborne, those two GOW games and finally beating GTAV were some of the highlights of the year. Toss on yet another replay of RE4 and my second playthrough of the underwhelming MGS2 and old titles impressed in 2018.

2018 Titles

Once again we have categories: played, beaten and platinumed, despite the redundancy of that last item.

  • Bloodstained: Curse Of The Moon
  • Burnout Paradise Remastered
  • Castlevania: Requiem
  • Chasm
  • Dark Souls Remastered
  • God Of War
  • Guacamelee! 2
  • Hollow Knight
  • Ikaruga
  • Iconoclasts
  • Just Cause 4
  • Onrush
  • Overcooked 2
  • Red Dead Redemption 2
  • Shadow Of The Tomb Raider (Started in 2019)
  • Spider-Man
  • Spyro The Dragon: Reignited (2019 plat!)
  • Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection
  • Yoku’s Island Express (2019 plat!)

I haven’t been nearly as interested in some of these titles as I had hoped I would. I sold back RDR2 b/c I simply has zero interest in playing it. Spider-Man was probably a great game, but I didn’t feel the itch to play that either. I never beat Bloodstained and found Hollow Knight to be far less enjoyable than all the praise suggested. Just Cause 4 looks better than 3, but in so many other ways it felt like a step backwards. I’m not even listing some titles like PS+ games that I played and deleted here.

Burnout Paradise drew me back in just as it did a decade ago, Guacamelee! 2 was a fun and challenging romp but was marred by a few incredibly-difficult parts and I don’t think I’d ever go back to play it again. The first on the other hand…I would. And did! Overcooked 2 was great, but my wife and I devoured it and never touched it again. I’ve just started Yoku’s Island Express and will be finishing up JC4 in the coming weeks/months.

So, what we’re left with is the clear and easy victor. While I thought RDR2 might challenge the mighty Kratos, it didn’t even come close. God Of War’s story, gameplay, visual luster, deep and engaging lore and simple fun factor was leagues beyond anything else I played in the year (Well, Bloodborne may have the edge, I don’t know). I still haven’t a clue how Sony Santa Monica pulled it off. They took this beloved series, reinvented so much of it and made us all care about this one-dimensional killing machine. Being a father while playing it surely helped. This game is fucking legendary already and I look forward to diving in again when things slow down a bit.

Game Of The Year 2018 is an easy choice. God Of War. Now, my New IP GOTY? I don’t know that yet. Based on the limited titles I’ve played, Yoku’s Island Express wins, but that’s temporary. I feel Dead Cells or Celeste might take that crown, however, I haven’t had the opportunity to try them out yet. Let’s see what I missed below.

2018 Titles I Haven’t/Want To Play

  • A Way Out
  • Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey
  • Celeste
  • Darksiders III
  • Dead Cells
  • Detroit: Become Human
  • Divinity: Original Sin 2
  • Far Cry 5
  • Mega Man 11
  • Shadow Of The Colossus
  • Tetris Effect

There are a few games I genuinely want to try out here. Unlike music, it’s not so easy to just try out everything you like and are interested in. A Way Out would be great…with a friend. Odyssey will require many hours, but I bet it’s a blast and quite the quick-and-easy opposite of something like Red Dead. Others on this list are a ‘kinda want to try’.

But the ones I must one day play: Dead Cells and Celeste. Both seem right up my alley and I think I’d just love them. They could be that coveted New IP GOTY. But…they’re a bit expensive for indie titles and I’ve been awaiting a sale to dip my toes in. Can’t wait to try them though!

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!