Archive for the Castlevania Category

Castlevania: The Adventure – Rebirth Thoughts

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Castlevania, Games, Retro Games on October 20, 2021 by slateman

I tinkered with this back in the day but never played it through, despite its rather kick-ass soundtrack. I’m on a Castlevania tear as of late, clearly thanks to the Advance Collection’s surprise announcement & quick release. Having taken down two of the collection’s three GBA games (I realize Dracula XX is on there as well, but I just beat that three years ago), I wanted to get a look at this title and I quite enjoyed it!

Unfortunately, this game is not available officially anywhere and I don’t see Konami digging that deep in the archives to issue this one at any time, so now is as good as ever to dive in. This game is a bit harder than some later entries, a throwback to the Classicvania formula replete with old-school sound effects. Visuals are pretty cool, blending 2D style with some 3D effects. The stages are all familiar-looking and while they don’t aim to diverge from traditions, they’re fun and colorful. From graveyards to the clock tower to the standard steps to Dracula, the game never exceeds its budget concept and that’s just fine with me. Much like the other two Rebirth titles (Contra & Gradius), they know exactly what they ought to be and there’s a reason Konami issued these on the Wii and not one of the other more-powerful platforms.

Fire, water, stained glass backgrounds very cool, but enemy diversity suffers, with numerous palette-swapped enemies feeling redundant. Overall, the visual style is a half progression from HOD – I think I actually prefer Aria’s predecessor.

The game’s five stages cover the gamut of Castlevania tropes and Simon controls rather well, given the throwback nature of the title. Whip enhancements were a nice perk and different-colored candles revealed which kind of bonus was added before even hitting them. There were plenty of quirky sections including a gear mechanism towards the end, however, the best mechanic added to this Rebirth game was the branching path concept. Despite being rather thorough in games, the numerous locked doors and alternate pathways truly lend themselves toward additional playthroughs with some choices skipping mid-bosses entirely.

And the bosses were indeed cool. Many familiar faces returned, now often featuring different move sets. Early level battles are quite easy, but later ones required the usual Castlevania accuracy. None were truly thrilling to behold, however, Death was impressive and Dracula’s final form was a rigorous challenge.

The end result was a pretty straightforward game with plenty of replay value. The soundtrack is killer, as they often are, and despite the thin storyline, I truly enoyed my romp through the rebirth of this Game Boy game. While it’s new enough to avoid the retro tag, I’m counting it as it’s more unaccessible than most other retro entries in this franchise!

GBA Castlevania Comparisons

Posted in Blog, Castlevania, Games on October 13, 2021 by slateman

I’m enjoying these titles so much. As I moved into Aria Of Sorrow it was fun to see their progression instantly, rather than waiting a year for a new release. It’s making me hope that much more for a NDS collection. Anyhow, save rooms & warp rooms compared.

CotM
HoD
AoS

Castlevania: Harmony Of Dissonance Thoughts

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Castlevania, Games, Lists, Retro Games on October 11, 2021 by slateman

Immediately after polishing off Circle Of The Moon, I progressed to Harmony Of Dissonance, the GBA’s second installment. Changes are immediately evident: larger sprites, much more colorful visuals, upgraded graphics, new enemies and a more adept protagonist. While the story is ultimately a rehash of CotM, there’s a lot to like here, particularly in comparison to its predecessor. Unfortunately, large chunks of this game have tremendous downsides which make the inferior Circle Of The Moon a comparable title.

As I progressed into the second castle, I made a realization: I almost certainly never beat this game. Stumbling across an old save – it appears the 60% mark was about my limit. If memory serves me right, I revisited it later and felt the same pang of frustration. The game is deliberately obtuse, an old tactic employed to artificially lengthen the game’s duration. Several areas are off-limits, but the map “opens” them up, thereby marking them and making a revisit quite challenging. The rewind feature is spectacular to erase some of those mistakes, but oftentimes a key opens just a very specific door or two with no word of where that might be. The overly-spacious two-castle system compounds this issue as warping is initially slower and more arduous than in the past and there’s an awful lot of running around just to revisit a dead-end you knew about in the past. In fact, things are so spacious that the main goal is to dash through vast swathes of the castle searching for the next extension – unfortunately almost always stumbling upon another wall or impassable segment.

20 years later and with the aid of decades of guides, this task is much simpler, but no less absurd. The enemies themselves are quite diverse, building off of CotM with 3D effects and the like, but despite the size of the bosses and their impressive animations (both attack and death), most felt rather uninspired and far easier to beat. The initial GBA game was a rigorous challenge; this game is not. Once again, you resort to zipping through portions of the castles, here designated as A and B, and even getting hit is rarely a concern. Fortunately, controlling Juste is far more forgiving than Nathan Graves and his animations are substantially more impressive. Those wonderful bosses, added animations and effects come at a hefty cost: the game’s sound. It suffers and contains scant few memorable tunes, a series staple. In fact, the title sounds like an archaic NES game, but even that is too kind, as the songs here don’t contain the standard hook. The shopkeeper’s tune sounds downright ancient and represents one of the weakest set of tunes in any Castlevania ever.

My gripes continue, but Harmony Of Dissonance is generally fun once things get moving. There are a ton of items to collect, different armors and the like, though none are incredibly exciting, and there’s nothing comparable to CotM’s DSS system, unfortunately. Collecting furntire isn’t quite my style. Visually it sings with a huge assortment of backgrounds & colorful enemies: overall it’s a lot of fun to look at. Scouring screenshots is a lot more rewarding than the first GBA game.

As I approach 200%, it’s so interesting to discover (re-remember?) that I never finished this. The era of its arrival was a tumultuous one for me – however, I’m almost certain I completed every subsequent 2D Castlevania on the GBA & NDS. Until I can verify by getting my old-school GBA from Maine, I remain uncertain if I actually beat Dracula in Circle Of The Moon as well! Wouldn’t be surprised if I hadn’t!

As a stepping stone to Aria Of Sorrow, the game really is impressive despite its numerous flaws. I’m tremendously happy I got to revisit this with the assistance of guides, save states and the rewind feature. I am stoked to finish it and to move on to its successor!

Late Update: I’ve now beaten the game and witnessed all three of the title’s endings. My final map count is at 99.7% for each castle, maxing out at 194.4%. I appear to be missing the same number of rooms in each. The two versions of Maxim were uniquely-different fights and the Dracula Wraith final boss was a pretty cool, horrible amalgamation of his body parts (a callback to Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest – much like the Simon Wraith callback to the original Castlevania.)

Castlevania: Advance Collection Thoughts – Circle Of The Moon

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Castlevania, Games, Retro Games on October 2, 2021 by slateman

I played Circle Of The Moon back when it launched in June 2001 on the Game Boy Advance. I went through the game on the non-backlit launch GBA and quite enjoyed the first real sequel to Symphony Of The Night. The game was fun, but flawed, and it was quickly followed up by its successor merely 15 months later. I recall that title and its improvements. The entries flowed for the next half decade and my, how i took for granted the golden age I lived through.

Now two decades hence, I dropped a cool $20 for this four-title collection and I started at the beginning (sort of). Things are substantially different now, as I’m equipped with a mobile phone to look up a FAQ, save states to revert to former safe spots and a glorious rewind feature to wipe clean each and every misstep – if I so desire. Instead of backtracking, losing progress and getting frustrated by the challenging bosses, I’m consuming this game with a nigh-perfect run. It’s wonderful but it also reveals the game’s shortcomings. These are both due to design and storage limitations. Most of the Metroidvania tropes are here with a very limited selection of updates and collectibles. 90% of the discoveries in this game are HP, MP or Heart upgrades. While useful, they’re not tremendously thrilling and the series’ search & backtrack formula is therefore less rewarding.

The game’s DSS system is quite interesting and this collection updates the manner of collecting cards. Save states may render those upgrades less important, but the design is fantastic nonetheless.

Circle Of The Moon was impressive for the era and is still a worthwhile play in spite of those shortcomings. Recycled, palette swap enemies and repeating level backgrounds do limit the diversity, but none of this was really surprising for a handheld, particularly one that replaced the old-school Game Boy Color. And the limited graphics are offset by a rather good soundtrack. The controls are stiff, but that improves as the sequels progress. Several of the bosses are truly difficult and some sections presents a tough challenge. It’s all good though, as I have been zipping through, enjoying the experience. There is great replay value in the DSS system, but I look forward to beating Dracula and moving on, possibly 100%ing it in the process.

The story is thin and the controls are clunky but overall it’s exciting being able to play this (legitimately) for the first time in so many years. My real hopes is that a DS collection is to follow. If the rumors of a reboot are true and if I could have all three collections on my PS5, I’d consider this a new golden age of Castlevania!

Late Edit: I completed the game, deliberately not reaching 100%. In retrospect, I believe it’s possible I never completed this game back during its initial release. Beating Dracula now was a total pain in the ass – I think it’s entirely plausible that I never beat that asshole without aids. In any event, it was a fun playthrough today and I’m glad this game was re-issued.

Bloodborne In 2020 – The Best Game Ever?

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Bloodborne, Castlevania, Games, Portal, Street Fighter on September 3, 2020 by slateman

The longer I allow this site to go un-updated, the more weight falls upon each new post. But whatever, just post whatever, whenever! I realize, each update is an insight into the point I am in life.

Right now, I’m writing my third book (fourth, actually) and Bloodborne is contained within those pages. A few months back I started anew – overwriting my NG++ run. I didn’t get far, hitting a wall against our favorite: Father Gascoigne! I dispatched him as my kids watched – something I never did before. This game is far more violent than I typically let them watch. However, perhaps b/c its hordes of undead monstrosities and not humans, I’ve allowed. This led to some exploring, recalling those nooks and crannies, once again becoming enamored with the lore, the lush environments, the brutal combat. My son wanted to see the Blood-Starved Beast and, surprisingly, on my second try, he too was defeated.

Lower Cathedral Ward, sending NPCs back to Oedon Chapel, hoarding blood echoes – I’m drawn right back in. It’s just that good. And as I write this book, I’m thinking of commenting on my favorite games ever. Thus, I’m ranking them. The top 5, top 10 and top 20. As I look at these names, the greatest titles ever, I start to realize: Bloodborne is up there. Way up there. Is it good enough to dethrone Super Mario Bros. 3? Today – I think it is. Bloodborne is the best game ever made.

As I chronicle these, I’ll eventually put up my list. It’s a good list. But damn, it’s tough comparing Street Fighter Zero 2 Alpha to Portal 2 to Symphony Of The Night to Bloodborne is not easy! But it’s a necessary evil. More on that soon.

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 with tags 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.