Confessions of a Classic Gamer

 
             

   
 
 

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

 
Now Playing:
Castlevania - Circle of the Moon (Gameboy Advance)


I waited a long time for this moment. Years, in fact, because the release of Castlevania: Circle of the Moon (COTM) was back in November of 2000. I played it a bit on ROM, but I only wanted a taste. I wanted to wait until I had the real thing. The little bit I got was enough to make me want it, but I would have bought it anyway, since it's the first new 2D Castlevania since Symphony of the Night was released.

My initial impression of the game was that the graphics were not as good as I had expected. Generally, Castlevania titles feature some pretty impressive visuals right off the bat, and COTM just didn't do that. It wasn't really the graphics so much as their placement. Everything just seemed... there. The music seemed unmemorable. It was pretty low-key, actually... more like mood music than anything. Everything involving aesthetics was pretty much shot.

That having been said, this game is absolutely incredible.

Graphics and music don't make the game. Honestly, it's not that they're bad, they're just somewhat plain. They don't stand out. Same with the music. The music sets the mood, but not the pace. No dark, ominous durges or electric-guitar-wailing renditions of 'Vampire Killer' or 'Bloody Tears'. It sounds more like Victorian chamber music for the most part. It sounds good, but I couldn't hum any one of them to you right now, no matter how often I've heard it.

That's the other thing: the backgrounds are, for the most part, unimpressive, and you have to backtrack a lot since the game is non-linear (a good thing). With everything being so plain, I rarely looked forward to trotting through areas again (in the visual sense), except to reach the goal. The music: same problem.

However, what the graphics and music lack, the gameplay more than makes up for. You play the young vampire hunter Nathan Graves in this game. He is the student of another vampire hunter, Morris Baldwin, who once put Dracula to rest several decades prior with Nathan's parents. Alongside Nathan is Hugh Baldwin, Morris' son and protege. However, it was Nathan that Morris chose as his successor, and bequeathed to him the legendary whip 'Vampire Killer'. In the beginning of the game, Drac is resurrected by a woman named Camilla. Enter Morris, Hugh, and Nathan. Drac recalls the beatdown he recieved by Morris, and notes how unkind the years have been. Then, he launches an exploding bat at Nathan and Hugh's feet, dropping them REALLY FAR DOWN. Morris is left to face the vampire alone. What do you do? You go after him, of course, but you can't climb up. The only way is down. Hugh says to leave the castle since you'll just be in the way. Do you listen to him? HELLZ NO! ^_^

A couple of things to note: this game feels very different from other Castlevanias. What are the two things you do the most in Castlevania? Jump and whip. Both of these feel very different. When you jump, you BOUND. You practically FLY through the air. Your whip is also very long, reaching enemies further away than I'm used to. The combination of the two makes whipping enemies just slightly above your reach somewhat difficult at first, but it's easy to get used to.

In this game, you can equip items just like you did in Symphony of the Night. In fact, the game feels like Symphony in many ways, and it's a good direction for the series. I'm glad they stuck with it. However, there is something quite different and very cool that sets COTM apart from SOTN. While you cannot equip as many items as you could in SOTN (you cannot change weapons, for example), you get access to DSS Cards.

DSS stands for Dual Setup System. You have a row of Action cards and a row of Effect cards. Each card has an ancient diety (Action) or a mythical beast (Effect) on it, with some beautiful artwork. The system requires you to pick an Action Card and an Effect Card. By pressing L, you then activate whatever power those two cards create, and you won't know it until you try it. Sometimes it requires a bit of experimentation, like getting hit, standing perfectly still or walking around to see what the ability does.

The effects depend on the cards used. The DSS can do anything from modifying your whips' elemental properties, creating various types of barriers around you, healing, modifying your attack or defense, giving you more invincibility time, giving you new weapons, summoning monsters, and many, many others. There are 10 Action cards and 10 Effect cards. Do the math. That's 100 different combinations. That's 100 special abilities for you to enjoy, and I do mean enjoy.

Not all of the abilities are super-useful, though. I expected that. Some of them are up to preference, and some are practically necessary. Some of them do similar things, but have different properties. For example, you can freeze an enemy and stand on top of them (necessary in some areas) with the Ice Whip, Ice Sword and Stone Whip. The Stone Whip is long and slow, and the Ice Whip is short and fast. The only use I've found for the Stone Whip is that it does more damage than the Ice Whip against most enemies. The Ice Whip would be for freezing weaker enemies for the purpose of standing on them (like the Floating Brains), and the Stone Whip is used for locking up stronger enemies. The Ice Sword is just a faster, weaker and shorter version of the Ice Whip. Perfect for use on some of the more annoying flying enemies. See? They all do similar things, but are useful in different situations.

Once you have them all, other than tackling specific sections, it's great fun running around and using the various weapons and effects just for the hell of it. The DSS is a very nicely done system. It's extremely simple to use, yet it produces so many effects that you'll spend hours trying them out.

The game isn't very difficult, I'm afraid. I'm not completely done with it yet, but I'm nearing the end, and no one section or boss has truly threatened me. I've had a couple of accidental deaths (I set the healing and put the machine down, thinking I was safe, but I wasn't quite safe yet... came back to find the Game Over screen), but nothing has happened that was simply because things were too hard. The game is just difficult enough so that you have to work your way through the game, but not difficult enough that someone would call it a hard game. With proper planning and pacing, you can make your way through most sections without even losing half your life. Preparedness is highly rewarded in this game, as is being throurough in your search for HP, MP, and Heart Increase items. Never leaving an area until you know of every nook and cranny is a habit you should get into quickly.

All in all, COTM has not disappointed. I'm proud to own it, and it's a great effort by Konami. I look forward to finishing this one, and I'll write here when I've done so.

Harmony of Dissonance, the next GBA game in the series, is said to improve upon most aspects of this game (most notably the music and graphics). However, I've heard the system used in that game doesn't compare to the variety offered by the DSS, and I could see how it would be hard to top it. Even still, Harmony of Dissonance isn't too far away, as I plan to pick it up within the next month or so. I'll keep you posted.
Beni - 3:29 PM


Friday, February 21, 2003

 
At 12:14 PM on Thursday, February 20th, one week after launch day, I opened up the box to my brand new GameBoy Advance SP.

What a sweet little peach this thing is.

I would have written something up for this yesterday, but between a heavy workload and the GBA SP itself, I had no time. ^_^ This thing is a marvel. It's compact, convenient, and it makes playing every single Gameboy game better.

I'll start from the beginning. I had to go and get my car registration back in Webster on Thursday, so I figured I might as well stop by and pick up my new GBA SP! I didn't know whether or not I would be able to get it, because the office at the hotel doesn't open until 11 and the UPS shipment was guaranteed before 10:00. However, the hotel manager said he'd be there by 9:30, so I was hoping they were going to cut it close. ^_^ They did, as it turns out, and when I called to see if the package had arrived, they told me it was there at 9:50 AM. I was quite pleased. ^_^

Anyway, so I made my plans to go down to Webster on my lunch break and pick up my GBA SP after I took care of my business at the courthouse. I took care of that business, and went over to the hotel to pick it up. =) I got there, and the manager gave me the package, which seemed much smaller than I had expected. I read at Lik-Sang that the box was very small, but I expected that there would be a bigger box with packing material and everything, since this was a sensitive electronic instrument. As if in reply to my thoughts, I grabbed the package and it clinked. It sounded like something was broken inside. Even stranger, it sounded like glass.

I told the manager, Chris, that this couldn't be my package. I looked at the shipping label, and sure enough, it was addressed to me, and it said Pacific Game Tech on it, which is the company that owns Lik-Sang. I tore open the package, and then opened another package inside that one. Inside the second package was a videotape case with tape wrapped around it. Inside the tape case was glass. Obviously, that would explain the sound I heard... which was something like glass.

Exasperated, I said to Chris that I had a couple of emails to make and started to walk out, but he burst out with, "Stop, stop, stop!" and pulled a large UPS box from underneath the counter. I realized I had been the butt of a semi-elaborate joke. I told him he was an asshole with a smile on my face and took my box. Chris had been in the military for several years, during which time he and his bunkmates exchanged well-planned practical jokes. This was something he was quite familiar with, and I had to admit, he had me hook, line and sinker. I truly believed that someone had stolen my GBA and replaced it with that tape case. The main reason is because I'd heard of something almost exactly like that happening to someone on a message board I frequet.

Anyhow, I opened up the big packaging, got the Lik-Sang box out of it, opened that one, and there was all the packing material, just as I expected. Got out the GBA SP box, which was indeed small, but about as small as I expected after the descriptions. It was black with white lettering, to match the black GBA inside. Finally, I opened up the little box, and it was divided into two parts. One of them held the nice and slim GBA SP. The other held the nice and slim AC Adaptor with fold-in prongs, along with the instruction booklet. That's it. No unnecessary crap. I now see the difference between American packaging and Japanese packaging when it comes to systems (this is the first import system I've owned). Americans add more padding and a lot of additional paperwork, advertising, etc. The Japanese: only what is necessary and/or very cool. ^_^

It was just as small as I imagined, and it fit nicely into my pocket. I could see ports for the AC Adapter and Link Cable, and I played with the buttons, which were far more comfortable and natural-feeling than the original GBA. The screen was just like the old GBA, though. The system opened gently and lightly set itself into place after you open it a little over 3/4 of the way, though it can be opened further or left closed more with no problems. It was firm, so I didn't feel like I was holding something truly sensitive, but it's so sleek and slim that I can't help but be extra cautious. Not to mention the fact that it set me back $150. 0_o However, after playing it, I know that it was worth every penny.

Anyhow, I ran off to GameStop to buy my first GBA game, Castlevania: Circle of the Moon. While I was at GameStop, I showed off the SP to the employees and several interested customers, and explained the various features to them, since they didn't seem to know (despite the fact that you can preorder one there... knowlegable employees my ass). Then, I popped in the cartridge and turned it on.

Now, I've played the GBA plenty of times, on plenty of games. Let me tell you something... that light makes a HUGE difference. When the light is off, the screen is exactly like that of the normal GBA, but it was true test with Circle of the Moon, considered by most to be the darkest game on the GBA. Some said it was almost unplayable without precise lighting conditions. With this light, I can play it anywhere, day or night. Of course, I'm enjoying the game itself (I'm about 1/4 of the way through it), but this is about the system. ^_^

It charges just as fast as advertised, and it even has a charging light that turns off when it's fully charged. That, and you can play while it's charging and it doesn't slow the charge or drain the battery. ^_^ I can't tell you how happy I am that I'll never have to buy batteries or use bulky, unwieldy battery packs.

It plays old Gameboy games like a dream. It gives them a bit of color, making everything easier to see, and the light made playing Zelda much easier than it was with my old Gameboy Pocket. I went ahead and played through and beat Zelda before really tearing into Circle of the Moon. Even though the cartidge sticks out quite a bit more than I expected, it's still a joy to play. Zelda was much more fun when everything was easier to see, not so faded and blended. I went ahead and tested other Gameboy games, too, like Castlevania Adventure, Tetris, and Pokemon. Everything worked like a charm and looked great.

Truly, I would rather Nintendo had waited an extra year to release the GBA, opting for this design instead. Many people have said it, and I can only agree: this is the GBA Nintendo should have released in the first place. It solves all of the problems people had with the original. The only problem with the SP is it's lack of a headphone jack, and this hasn't really bothered me yet. However, I still plan to buy the adaptor that will allow headphone use when it comes out over here in America, if not sooner.

In closing, the Gameboy Advance SP is awesome and I recommend it to anyone who loves to game. I waited several months extra before buying a GBA so I could get this model, and overall, I'm glad I hadn't gotten one up until now. The SP was worth the long, difficult wait. ^_^
Beni - 4:58 PM


Wednesday, February 12, 2003

 

Now Playing:
Nothing


Yeah, that's right. I'm not playing anything right now. I could be in traction and still play my Gameboy, but give me the flu and watch all desire to play fly right out of me. I've definetly tried to play, but it's just not happening. Until I get better, I'm not playing anything at all. It sucks, and I don't like it, but it's a fact.

I've been spending a great deal of time researching things lately, game-wise. Instead of playing, I've been more frequently cruising message boards, reading reviews and previews (mostly of Gameboy Advance games) and generally just soaking up new information.

Gaming is big business right now, which is a good thing, in a way. I spent my childhood in constant ridicule due to my love of gaming, and I'm glad that today's youth don't have to hide their beloved games from their peers. In addition, society as a whole has finally come to accept video games as part of our culture, and understand that it's not just 'kid stuff'. Mainstream gaming may have tainted the quality of most releases, even by trusted companies (Capcom, Square and Sega come to mind), but shining gems are still being released. If things continue in this fashion, and games with classic values continue to be released on a steady basis, I'll be happy for a long time to come.

I complain about the 'black hole' of mainstream gaming. I don't think I've ever explained this, so I feel it's time for me to elaborate. The 'black hole' concept is one that I thought up a long time ago. Back when I was younger, I latched onto my NES for dear life. I was fortunate to have gotten one back when nobody I knew had one. The NES was very new. This was my universes 'Big Bang'. From there, things just started developing nicely for me. Tons of NES games later, a Turbografx 16, SNES, Game Gear, Genesis... from the 8-bit to the 16-bit eras, things were peachy. Even the first couple of years of the PSX's life I was quite happy. Shortly after that, though, I felt this little tug. Something was not quite right, but I passed it off as mere boredom with the games I had for my newest system.

I was not aware at the time that the games were starting to focus more strongly on storyline, endings and extra material, and less on enjoyable gameplay, difficulty, and the skill one develops as a result of that difficulty. I'm not saying the PSX is/was a bad system. The PSX has had some great titles on it, and there's plenty of classic action to be found. However, it's amazingly rapid rise to greatness marked the end of an era, and the beginning of mainstream gaming.

Gamers of old looked for two things in a video game: fun and challenge. When the definition of 'fun' in games changed, and the only challenge was retaining the desire to finish the game, things went south. To elaborate, games stopped becoming games, and started becoming 'experiences'. The modern gamer does not want too great a challenge. He does not want to hone his skills. He wants a game with really impressive and/or realistic visuals, an involving story, and a good ending. He wants to play a movie. Generally, the more violent or provocative the content, the better, but there are plenty of exceptions.

RPGs are really popular nowadays, especially in America. If a system does not have great RPGs, it won't sell well here. I used to think that would be a good thing, back in the 16-bit era, when I was trying to convince people of the greatness of RPGs. However, Square changed all of that. I never thought back then that I'd see the day when Square ruined gaming for the rest of us, but they did. Like I said, things were already starting to slip during the PSX era, and with the release of Final Fantasy 7, Square put the first nail in the coffin. It would not be the last that they themselves hammered in.

FF7 started a formula in RPGs, in which certain elements had to be in place in order for it to be considered a 'good' RPG. This meant that popular Japanese RPGs like Dragon Quest, far more popular than Final Fantasy in Japan, would rarely see the light of day over here. I won't go into the 'Square Formula' here, but let's just say that although their stories may be good, they are all the same recycled story, no matter what the fanboys say.

In fact, half the games that are popular nowadays, RPGs or not, are quite cookie-cutter. Another genre is the 3D action/adventure game. They feature boring, unchallenging gameplay in a very pretty and stylized world with a thumping techno soundtrack and either a bad-boy antihero main character or a jiggly-breasted disproportioned female lead. Sometimes it's both. No matter what the setting, these games are always the same. You run around, easily dispatching bad guys and progressing the story along until the end. Then after the amazing ending, you can play back through and unlock a costume or art gallery, and that's it. You put the game on the shelf and let it collect dust.

Something not quite as bad, but still as plaguing, are all of the extreme sports titles that have populated modern systems as of late. All of the skateboarding, snowboarding, rollerblading, surfing, biking (etc.) games and all of their offspring. And there are many offspring. These games certainly have one up on modern RPGs and 3D adventure games, though, as they require a good deal of skill to play. However, they fall to the other end of the spectrum, as the entire game is one big unlockable extras romp. From the get-go, you're encouraged to get better so you can unlock more stuff. More costumes, more characters, more arenas, music, videos, even strip scenes (see BMX XXX). The games all feel the same, and other than minor variations in control, they are almost the same game, over and over and over again. They call it replay value. I call it fake replay value.

So, what's the point of all this? I still haven't gotten to my explanation of the 'black hole'. Trust me, all of the information I've presented so far is quite relevant to my theory.

You see, I believe that since the beginning of this era of gaming, things have been slowly being pulled into a vacuum. Some say that gaming has exploded. I say that it has become more focused.

Gaming companies are catering to specific groups, mostly horny, angry males aged 15-25, whose main desires in a game are mind-numbing graphics, simple gameplay with little to no challenge, silver-haired antiheroes, grossly deviant acts of violence and jiggly-breasted babes in skin-tight outfits. Or extreme sports.

Over the last few years gaming has become more focused on three types of games. Menu-driven turn-based RPGs (mostly Final Fantasy), 3D action/adventure titles, and extreme sports games. It's okay for there to be some sort of focus. It's natural. Back in the day, it was all platformers, shooters, and fighting games. The only difference between then and now is that the games were actually different back then. Now it feels like I'm seeing the same tired plot, retold a billion times in each new installment of Final Fantasy, no challenge to the gameplay at all. 3D action/adventure games are all flash and no substance, and extreme sports games lack depth.

A black hole is a vacuum. After a star collapses, all that remains is an area of space with an extreme gravitational pull, sucking in anything near it, supposedly compressing whatever is drawn in to microscopic proportions. This is what's happening to gaming. The black hole of mainstream gaming is sucking the entire industry into itself. It's pulling everything in, and focusing it on whatever will make the most money. Now that gaming is so mainstream, marketing to a broad audience is both easy and profitable. From the business side, it's a smart decision.
However, I believe that this will lead to an implosion in the gaming industry. Things are becoming too focused, and soon these gaming companies catering to the casual gamer are going to lose their core audience, and thus most of their money, as a result.

The systems are partially to blame, as well. As pressures on technology mount, the need to create the next best system capable of making even more realistic graphics will begin to wane. After photo-realism, where do you go?

The genres that our mainstream cousins have chosen for us as our future are just plain sad. There's no imagination in the gameplay. Sure, the worlds, the characters, the stories, whatever... those are quite fine, but what beyond that? You pay $50 to walk a few characters through a retread on an old story. Doesn't sound like much to me. Nowadays, replay value is measured in the number of hours it takes to beat an RPG, or the amount of secrets and hidden useless crap you can dig out of playing the game for the thousandth time. Next-gen gaming is totally goal-oriented, meaning that the only purpose in playing is to beat the game and see the ending, or to unlock all of the secrets. Eventually, as I mentioned, these companies are going to run out of ways to impress all the casual gamers.

Modern gaming is focused on a demographic that's killing the industry it was founded on. By catering to the dumb teenagers of today, they neglect their more intelligent counterparts, forcing them to sift through months of new-release garbage to find one game with genuine appeal.

Am I giving you a glimpse of the future? A prophecy? Will gaming really die? No. Never. As long as people seek to be entertained, gaming will always be there. I'm not showing you the future, I'm showing you the past. These very same things happened in the very history that our favorite pasttime was founded on. The only difference is that now the games are far prettier and far simpler. They look better, but require a fraction of the skill. They are more accessible, so that anyone can play and be a winner.

There are plenty of modern games that still feature the same values of skill and precision that classic games were based on. However, they become fewer and farther between every year. In this 'Grand Theft Auto III, Final Fantasy X, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4' world we live in, our kind is a dying breed... but the Gameboy Advance gives us a glimmer of hope.

Who doesn't want gaming on the go? The GBA is like a portable SNES, and it may just show these mainstream morons that there's more to gaming than pretty graphics and a half hour ending. It may just be the last hope for a classic gaming revival.

I'd like to mention something that may have welled up in the back of your mind during this whole tirade. I say that newer games are all the same... doesn't the same hold true for the classics? I recognize that older games seem quite repetitive. Games are supposed to be repetetive, with an ever-increasing difficulty. That's true of almost all games. I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. The foundation that our games were created upon is tried and true, and the games of olde require more skill and dedication than anything that today has to offer, save those games which still adhere to these classic standards.

To those mooks who may be reading this, I ask you this: how mad are your 'skillz'? If you think you can handle it, step to the classics. The true challenge lies there, not in your Devil May Cry, nor your GTA, and certainly not your Final Fantasy X. Give it a shot, if you dare. ;)

'Contra: Shattered Soldier' is a fun game that also serves to teach us a little about those particular pleasures that were lost as developers attempt (and more often than not, fail) to create games that encompass myriad game styles and demonstrate conceptual breadth. When placed in the correct context, simple and seemingly repetitive gameplay is highly satisfying and tends to be decidedly more polished (just look at "Sly Cooper" and "Two Towers"). Think about it... before the PlayStation, did anyone ever complain, "All I do is jump and shoot?" -- By Adam Sessler for TechTV's Extended Play
Beni - 5:02 PM


Friday, February 07, 2003

 
Now Playing:
The Castlevania Adventure (GB)
The Legend of Zelda - Link's Awakening (GB)


Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to try and make a Castlevania game for the Gameboy. Or decieve. My money's on the Castlevania thing.

Jefficus Maximus bought me a sweet little Castlevania soundtrack when he went to Ushicon (an anime convention) last week. It had the music from Super Castlevania IV and the first two Gameboy castlevania games. It is very cool, and I'd never heard the Gameboy music, which was surprisingly good and memorable. I decided it was time. Despite the fact that I'd read countless reviews for the first ever Gameboy Castlevania game, The Castlevania Adventure, and none of them were good, I went ahead and bought the game.

Let me say, first of all, that I do not regret buying the game. The Gameboy games are definetly missing from my collection, and I'd never played any of them before. That having been said, this game sucks. Bad. I have good reasons why, so I'll lay this out for you in the only way I can: from the perspective of a rabid Castlevania freak.

When the GB first came out, companies were successfully bringing their franchises to the little black-and-white system. Countless classics could be relived on the GB, and foremost among those that I loved was Castlevania. Now, stepping in the way-back machine to get see the wonders of portable Castlevania seemed like a good idea. However, upon seeing what the fruits of Konami's labor on the portable side was like, I would unleash an evil that was unlike any I had ever seen: a BAD Castlevania game. Yes, you heard me. It's not good. It's bad.

That's sacrelige. All Castlevania games are good. From the frustrating Castlevania 1 to the RPG-ish Castlevania 2, the multi-pathed wonder Castlevania 3, over to the efforts on the 16-bit systems like the beautiful remake Super Castlevania IV, the stylish Dracula X, the unique Castlevania: Bloodlines, on to the 32-bit and 64-bit efforts of the amazing Symphony of the Night, and the 3D Castlevania 64 and Legacy of Darkness. I enjoyed them all. That's what makes this game all the more painful.

It's also made more painful by the fact that I'm also playing a game that's a good example of transition from 8/16-bit to 4-bit, Link's Awakening. Now THAT is a good game. I've seen it done. It was done many times. Castlevania Adventure just didn't do it.

There are certain constants in Castlevania that you learn to expect in some form or another, and let's be honest here, even the 3D games had those. Those constants are only somewhat present in this game, and I could list them in detail, but what's the point? Let's talk about gameplay.

In this game, you play as Christopher Belmont. I'm not going into the history of the Belmonts here. I'll do that on another day. Anyway, Christopher moves like he's walking through water. Or molasses. Hell, he's walking through quickly cooling TAR. Or drying cement. He's fucking slow. The enemies aren't as slow as you, of course, but what else is new? However, our friend Chris jumps as though he has springs in his heels. Or hot coals. Your choice.

He flies straight up through the air, high and quick, and drops like a stone. So, let's review.

Moves forward like walking through something thick and sticky, jumps like he has a roman candle up his ass. What does this mean?

The jumping in this game is insane.

You can't make those on-the-spot jumps of yesteryear. The controls just aren't responsive enough for that. You have to plan EVERYTHING in advance, and pixel-perfect jumps are a must, even in the first level. The slow movement forward hampers jumping efforts as well, obviously. That is the start of your problems in this game: horrible control, badly programmed jumping system, slow-ass character. It couldn't get worse, right?

Eheh. Yeah, it can. A stock-standard ability of our whip-wielding heroes is the ability to use secondary weapons. Hearkening back to the original Castlevania, you had the five secondary weapons. Now, though each game usually changed something or other, ommitting this in favor of that and whatnot, each game featured at least some of these items, if not more. The Dagger allowed attacks from across the screen which, while weak, got you out of some tight spots when you needed to put distance between you and an enemy. It was the most common weapon. Next, the Axe, which arched upward when thrown. Perfect for taking enemies out above you, which were often a nuisance without this weapon handy. Next, the Cross, or Boomerang. A personal favorite, this powerful weapon allowed you to throw a cross-shaped object which would come straight back to you after it went a pre-set distance. It was great for taking out enemies who required multiple hits, since you could whip after it left your hand, and yet it continued to boomerang back to you. The Holy Water comes next, and it had the shortest range. Throwing a small bottle a short distance in front of you, your character would be able to create a small, highly destructive fire that would burn for a couple of seconds, acting as a small barrier between you and the enemy. It was also incredibly powerful, and could take out some of the stronger enemies with just a couple of uses. Finally, the Stopwatch, which would stop time for a few seconds. Those few seconds were often just enough to get you out of a sticy situation, and it's use was almost required in certain spots. However, it's use came at the expense of a large portion of hearts, but it was almost always worth it.

These weapons were your edge. Bearing this in mind, you have NO secondary weapons in The Castlevania Adventure. None.

Another common ability was upgrading your whip. Thankfully, this feature is retained, as the normal Leather Whip you start out with can be upgraded to a Chain Whip, and finally, a Chain Whip that throws fireballs (?). While that last upgrade is strange, it is an upgrade, and it makes up for the lack of a dagger for long range attacks. However, the upgrade system has a problem. Every time you get hit, you lose a level of upgrade. Basically, if you get hit twice, you're back to the short, weak, leather whip. Not good, especially considering the fact that you have no idea how many invincibility frames you have. Traditionally, your character flashes when hit, and when he stops flashing, you can be hit again. Not here. You have no idea when to expect it, but I can tell you this: it's not very long of a time, and with how bad your movement is, jumping and all, it's difficult to avoid cheezy multiple hits by single enemies.

Level structure! The levels are pretty long, and the bosses are easy by contrast. Somewhat like Bloodlines, only this game isn't good like Bloodlines, but we've covered that, haven't we? The long levels have no midpoints, so if you die, you go back to the beginning of the level. There's no save or password system, so you can't save or jot down a password and quit. It's a tedious chore of a game and I hate it.

I could go on further, but I think I've gone on long enough. The music is fantastic, and that's what urged me on to buy it, so that's nice. They got a lot of sound out of a 4-bit sound chip. It sounds better than a lot of NES games.

Again, I don't regret buying it, but the movement, the jumping, the combat, the enemies, the level structure... everything. Everything but the music. It's all wrong. It's not even that the game is hard, because the game is only challenging because of the terrible control and level structure. After you get used to that, the game is fairly simple. It's just a bad, bad game. So sad.

I just KNOW that Circle of the Moon will banish any negativity I had two weeks from now, though, ad I can't wait. ^_^
Beni - 10:15 AM


Thursday, February 06, 2003

 
Now Playing:
The Legend of Zelda - Link's Awakening (GB)


I'm counting down the days. =) It's an estimated 11 days before I have the Gameboy Advance SP in my hands. I'm salivating. No, really. I had to clean off the keyboard. ^_~

Anyhow, I really think that this could be something big with me. It's like having a new old-school system. I'm not just playing my old games, I'm playing new 16-bit games, and the sheer wonder if it is mind-bending. That's not to mention remakes of old favorites, collections of classics and all those amazing peripherals.

In addition, the procurement of Link's Awakening showed me that there's a whole realm of old school gaming glory to be revelled in that I had not known. I mean, I've played Gameboy games, sure, but none like Awakening. It's so very good. I have to explore the old Gameboy and Gameboy Color games, too.

I was having a spot of trouble deciding whether to get Castlevania: Circle of the Moon or Advance Wars first. Advance Wars is really cool. I've played it on emulator, and I thought at first that it was a little basic, but getting deeper into it proved to tell a different tale. I read reviews for it that went on and on about how long it was and how amazing it was, and so I gave it a second try after my disappointment at it's simplicity before. I was just blown away. The turn-based strategy elements are awesome, and the fact that each Commanding Officer has different attributes to give to your soldiers added a whole new strategic level. Add to that the multiplayer option, and it definetly piqued my interest.

Moreso than the desire to get the game (because as far as desire goes, I still want Circle of the Moon more) is the fact that the game is being discontinued. They are no longer going to make new copies of it, so I tried looking around. I found a single store that still has the game, and I just might have enough time to snatch up a copy before I'm fighting for one on eBay. Honestly, I don't see myself doing that. I see myself getting Circle of the Moon. I have to break in the new system with a Castlevania game. ^_^ It's only right.

Lately I've been able to play games less and less. The real world is catching up with me. =) Heh. This weekend is going to be stuffed with retro goodness. However, I've noticed that most of my gaming has been on the go lately. I imagine that will only be MORE true after I get the GBA SP. Odd, isn't it? I always have time for my Gameboy, but playing most of my console games (especially RPGs) just takes too damn long... but I don't mind not playing those games just yet. This could be an interesting development. Stay tuned as I explore.
Beni - 4:50 PM


Monday, February 03, 2003

 
Now Playing:
Dance Dance Revolution - Konamix (PS1) *On Hold*
Dragon Warrior (NES)
Sengoku (ARC)
The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (GB)


Well, DDR is on hold right now. I'm playing workout mode to... well, work out. As far as the actual game goes, I'm waiting until I can modify the pad so that it won't slide all over the carpet. There's a good guide on DDRfreaks.com about it, and I plan to follow their step-by-step instructions to get everything to work right. =)

Link's Awakening has me hooked. It's been a long time since I played any Zelda games, the last one being A Link to the Past on the SNES. I never bothered with the N64 games, though I probably should at least give them a shot. I just need to get a new N64.

Anyway, Link's Awakening is great. It has all the look and feel of the other 2D Zelda games (barring Zelda 2, of course), but with a flair all it's own. So far, it's a bit on the easy side, but I'm sure that will change fairly soon. I can see the direction the puzzles are heading in, and I'm looking forward to taking the game to its end. I can see why some people didn't like it, but any fan of the original Zelda, or A Link to the Past should have loved it.

I'm still working on my Sengoku FAQ. I'm in the longest part of the FAQ right now, the walkthrough. I'm done with level 1 and level 2, and the rest should only take me an evening's work. Hell, the rest of the FAQ shouldn't take me that long. After I finish the last couple of sections, I just need to finalize the format and that's it. It'll be my first FAQ under my new handle. Hopefully, if I have time, it will be the first of many.

Well, my GBA SP is bought and paid for. All that remains now is getting it in the mail. =) It's supposed to be the 14th, and that lands on a Friday. It's a 1-3 day shipping deal, so I'll get it on Saturday, Monday, or Tuesday (since the mail doesn't run on Sunday). I'm hoping it's sooner and not later, but I'll be patient. =) Some things are worth waiting for. At any rate, I've decided that my first GBA game will be Castlevania - circle of the Moon. I think that it's fitting that my first GBA game be a Castlevania game.

In addition, I know now that there is a cornucopia of games for the original Gameboy and Gameboy Color that I need to get my hands on. This is going to be an expensive endeavor. =) A fun, but expensive endeavor. Whee!

I've been playing the original Dragon Warrior lately. I plan to run straight through the games, 1-7. Of course, part 5 and 6 were never brought to our shores, but there is a way I can play the emulated version with a translation, so it'll have to do.

I found out recently that Final Fantasy Legends 1 & 2 for the GB are actually part of Square's SaGa series, and not actually FF games. No wonder most FF fans hated them. =) Square of America apparently changed them to boost sales, since Final Fantasy is all the rage in America as far as RPGs go.

I wonder what's going to happen with Final Fantasy - Crystal Chronicle, the upcoming GameCube FF game. Will the mooks even realize it's actually a Mana game? Who knows. ^_^ Who cares? I just think it's funny.
Beni - 4:39 PM

 

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As gaming sinks further into mainstream mediocrity, I choose to step out of that vile mookish black hole... Going back to a time when we gamed for gaming's sake.