Haunted Castle (Castlevania)

                             “What is a man?! A miserable pile of quarters! But enough talk; start spending them!”

From the moment I put my hand on the controller and made Simon Belmont walk from place to place in Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest, I was hooked; and I would be with almost every other game in the series that came before and after it. I’ve played and completed just about every Castlevania in the series, but one of the games that I’ve always failed to conquer was the 1988 arcade adaption of the series, Haunted Castle.

                       The first stage in this game will tear you to bits, but its honestly the hardest stage in the game.

I’ve never seen an actual arcade cabinet of this game in my travels, so I’ve never had a chance to play with the real thing. The only way to play this game was via MAME or by tracking down an import only PS2 copy of the game that’s not easy to find either. Just recently though, the game was made available for PS4 owners as it was released digitally as a “Arcade Archives” digital release. Despite knowing that this game really doesn’t live up to the standards of the Castlevania series; I decided to grab it. That was a mistake.

      Simon was going to show his new wife that his whip is for more then just vampires, but Dracula ruins his fun.

As soon as you start the game, your greeted to a quick scene of Simon and his brand new wife walking out of a church they just got married at. Apparently, Dracula missed his opportunity to object to Simon’s wife marrying into the lousy Belmont family, so he’s just going to kidnap Simon’s wife instead. Simon realizes that he didn’t sign a a prenuptial agreement and if his wife hangs with Drac too much, she’ll probably divorce him. Thus losing the Vampire Killer whip to her; so off he goes to the local haunted castle to get her back.

When the actual game begins, you’re seemingly introduced to everything that makes Castlevania so great: Kick ass music, Gothic looking backgrounds and a bad ass vampire hunter armed with a whip. Unfortunately, Simon moves like a lumbering oaf and he takes more damage then Sypha does in Castlevania 3 when hit…and you will get hit a lot because almost every section of the level is out to kill Simon. If the monsters don’t get you, the falling statues, crosses and cemetery fire will. This makes staying alive for a decent amount of time almost impossible without going through the level with utmost caution. Thankfully, the Arcade Archives version of this game allow a single save state that allowed me to adapt to all the dangers very quickly and really helps you learn the quarks about what can kill you in this game.

                     Haunted Castle does feature a map shown between levels if you can make it past the first level.

The game immediately falls apart after the first stage and becomes astonishingly easier to deal with. Enemies still have some cheap tricks they can use to damage you, but its overused so much that you quickly learn to overcome the attack patterns. The developers seemingly ran out of ideas for surprises and designs for the rest of the game and instead present you with the most generic levels you’ll see in the entire game series.  The bosses featured in the game are huge, but complete push overs and can be defeated easier then some of the regular minions in the levels. This game really must have been rushed out for release! Even Dracula is a cinch to to defeat. Maybe Simon’s wife wore on him?

                                             The Dracula battle is as easy and generic as they come.

Konami tried to mix things up with this version of the game, by giving Simon access to a Mace and a Sword, but it really doesn’t add much to the game play. Simon’s sub weapons are available as well, such as the ax and the cross; but they still lack the uniqueness and impact that their console brothers have. I don’t know why Konami decided to ditch the Castlevania name for this title; maybe because they knew it didn’t have any right to be called that. Haunted Castle’s faults outweighs any reason to try it even with the Castlevania legacy behind it. Skip this one.

                                                          *Insert generic Bloody Tears reference here.*

 

Retro USB AVS Update

If you own the Retro USB AVS, make sure you update to the latest official firmware version which is 1.20.
 
The last few firmware releases were beta versions and had a few reported issues, but this seems to be the final firmware update on the AVS from Retro USB.
 
What does it add? One addition is the variety of color palettes you can now use which included the original, unsaturated and even a popular NES emulator color palette. Head over to retrousb.com to get the update and check out the differences in colors from my Bionic Commando screenshot captures.

Final Fantasy 4 Famicom Pirate

There’s been a big pirating market in Asia for some time which is why Nintendo has been very strict with there lockout chips for the NES.  The Famicom didn’t have a lockout chip so it was way easier to pirate games.  Though most games are of mediocre to poor quality, sometimes you can find one that’s pretty competently made.  Resident Evil for example, has the level layouts are just like the original game, and items and weapons are in their proper locations.  The one that I want to talk about is Final Fantasy 4.  FF4 is actually broken into 3 different games, The Dark Chapters, The Light Chapters,  and Final Chapters.  Today I’m focusing on the Dark Chapters.  There’s a partial English patch that I used to play this.

It’s very faithful to the original.  You play as a Dark Knight named Cecil.  After completing his mission in Mysidia by killing the citizens and taking their crystal, Cecil and the Red Wings return to Baron.  After handing the Crystal over to the King, Cecil questions his King if what they did was the right thing to do.  The King then strips Cecil of his rank and orders him to take a Package to the Summoner village of Mist.

They thankfully uses music from the original game, though most of it in this is the Theme of Love for the World Map and caves.  The Battle and Boss music is the same in their respective areas.  The menus are pretty much the same if you’ve played FF4 before, you have your Item, Magic, Equipment, etc.  One nice thing is that you can save the game at any point outside of battle or cut-scenes.  From my experience playing this.  Besides Healing magic, Magic is somewhat useless because it has a high percentage of missing and doesn’t do the much damage.  You’re better off just attacking.

he story ends with Cecil becoming a Paladin.  I really hope this gets a full English translation and maybe a Reproduction Multi-cart.  Besides a little level grinding after getting Rydia, I didn’t have that much trouble with it.  I have played the 2nd part up until the Lodestone Cavern, which to my surprise actually works.  The 2nd one starts out after Cecil, the twins, and Tellah return to Baron.  Instead of getting the airship, there are portals that will teleport you around the map.  You can check my playthrough of the 1st chapter right here.

 

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLOXA4vZ2ASYmDDOujD2c0Bam0n7KhU6QN

 

-Marcus

 

 

Inventory Time and Game Room States.

I don’t know many years I’ve been saying this, but with the arrival of fall; I’m finally going to get a proper inventory of my game library that I’m estimating is at about 7000 + games. Around 2008, I started doing an inventory on what I had for insurance purposes and in that time my collection has morphed into various states. For one, I trimmed out systems that I picked up that I simply never played; like the NEC PC-FX, Sega Game Gear and a plethora  of loose Atari stuff. I still struggle with potentially getting rid of my Atari Jaguar system and games, but I simply can’t stop revisiting AVP from time to time. As a result, I’ve left the system in a module state that is easy to plug in if need be, but not a “instant access, instant on” system. I also can’t tell you how many different layouts my game room has had. I’ve had multiple ways of displaying games on screen with up to four screens at the same time! That has changed and now I strictly play them on one display, with a CRT in my Sega Saturn kiosk as a back up. The only constant that hasn’t changed would be the game shelves; which are not easily moved due to how many games on are on them.

I always thought the most ironic way I could die would be by one of shelves of games falling on me.

Other then the changes I noted above though, getting a solid inventory of the library shouldn’t be too bad. The amount of games I’ve picked up the last couple of years has slimmed down extensively due to how much the prices for older games have inflated and the shrinking of places to actually find classic games. Around 90 percent of the stores that would sell classic games have closed down and the amount of flea markets in my area have stopped happening as well. Any flea markets that do have sellers of these games have them marked up beyond eBay levels, which isn’t worth my time or money. These days I stick to picking them up at conventions where I can it least have a better chance of negotiating prices on games, but those opportunities are slim as well. Focusing at the task at hand, I’ll most likely start by doing inventory on my boxed games before I hit my shelves with the loose games. What will the final number of games be? I’m looking forward to finding out, if my shelves don’t kill me first.

Many thanks to Emmie for the art! 🙂

 

 

Learn Japanese to Survive! Katakana War

One thing I’ve wanted to do since I started importing games was to learn the Japanese language.  I’ve bought books when I visited Japan in Epcot and they’ve helped out somewhat, but I’ve never really been a bookworm.  Recently during the last Steam sale I purchased the two games in the Learn Japanese to Survive series to see if they help.  And here are my thoughts.

You play as a new transfer student who wants to learn the language, but you’re not alone.  You’ll meet characters like Owen, Tia, and (my waifu) Charlotte.  The three run into Obake (Japanese ghost) in the shape of Katakana letters.  The teacher, Daisuke, shows up and takes them out, he then takes his new students to the classroom and our first lesson begins.

The game is chapter based, and at the beginning of each chapter you learn five, sometimes ten, Katakana characters.  The games is meant for you to have a notebook handy as you write down each character.  You’re able to hear how each is pronounced and how they’re written.  After that you’re given a mini quiz on what you just learned.

After that your free to roam around the map, but there’s always a main objective.  It can be as simple as defeat a certain number of enemies or find a way into a certain location.  The battle system is pretty basic, your character on one side and enemies on the other side.  All the enemies are Katakana characters that you’ve learned.  They can only be defeated by using the correct letter, otherwise your attack does nothing.  You’ll learn Magic as you progress, where you’re able to either buff your party up deal damage to enemies, the catch is enemies can’t be defeated by magic only, you still need to attack with the right letter.

There are plenty of side quests in the games where you’ll usually need to head to some location and defeat a certain enemy or buy an item for them.  You’re rewarded with not only Bonus Crystals for character upgrades but they’ll teach you some Japanese words.  During each chapter you can run around the map and go on dates with each character.  Doing so will increase their stats but going on three dates will give that character a special buffing spell they can only use once per battle.

I had fun playing this.  It’s a game that serves it’s purpose, getting you the player to learn Japanese.  I did notice slow down when after that third date, the transition where the character gets their buff, chugged for about a minute and a half but that was about it.  The game was pretty easy, I think only once or twice did I have a character die in battle.  You get plenty of money for items like potions and antidotes, and new weapons and armor.  It’s about $7 on Steam which won’t really break the bank.

-Marcus

 

What makes a gamer a gamer?

Happy September, my gaming friends! It’s getting to the season of happenings, such as the start of school, Halloween, and the SEASON OF SICKNESS. Here on the Illinois and Wisconsin border, everyone and their mother has been getting sick! I was of course a causality to this, which is why last article I brought you back into the past and showed you an old Sonic Heroes review I had written years ago. But since then, I have healed! Hazaah!

As you can imagine, being sick not only took me away from my computer, but I had to spend a lot of time in bed. Unfortunately, I don’t have access to a TV in my bedroom, so I was left to play with my favorite bed time gaming device: my 3DSXL! While my 3DS game section of my collection isn’t lacking, I unfortunately had already played almost all my games. I tried starting a new file on Yo-Kai Watch 1 & 2, and it just didn’t feel right starting a game with a story when I was too tired to focus. Sure, I had some short indie games to play but they’re, as I said, short. Nothing could keep my attention for more than 20 minutes at a time. I shuffled through my games, until I came across a game that I had bought but never really got into; Style Savvy: Trendsetters.

“EM. What the actual hell, you are NOT going to tell me about some sissy girly game, are you? Don’t you just play dress-up with dolls? BORING. It’s not even a real game!” Well, thoughts in my head that I assume I’m sharing with my dear readers, no. I’m not going to talk about Style Savvy– at least not today. You see, when I started playing SST, my mind flashed back to all the times I’ve heard people say that girly games, simulators and even some phone apps don’t count as real games and that the people who play them can’t be called gamers. I couldn’t help but wonder why a lot of the gaming community thinks that, so I’m here to break some stuff down with you all and see if we can figure out if liking and playing games that may not be challenging or played on a typical gaming device makes you less of what we call a gamer.

We’ll, let’s go to Google for a second. I looked up ‘gamer definition’, and it told me that a gamer is “person who plays video games or participates in role-playing games.” Well, what qualifies as a video game? I looked that up as well, and Google said that it was “a game played by electronically manipulating images produced by a computer program, on a television screen or other display screen.” Some examples of an electrical display screen that come to mind are projectors, a TV, monitor, tablet, a phone, hand held device such as a 3DS or even a knock-off brand gaming system, and more. So by the definitions provided to us, phone game apps are considered games. So are FPSs, RPGs, JRPGMMOs, indie games, puzzle games, dating sims, simulations, genres of all shapes and sizes no matter how odd, bland or educational they may be.

What have we learned though? We learned that all games are different, and that gamers should all bond over how they all get enjoyment over silly pixels on a screen rather than fight over what pixels are better than others. Odds are that if something is labeled and sold as a game, it’s a game no matter how bad and horrid it may be (MOST of the time).

Some people play God of War, and some people play Cooking Mama. Anyone can play League of Legends for hours on end, and then finish their night playing a dress-up game like Style Savvy or a phone game like Candy Crush in bed on their 3DS or phone before they sleep. We’re all one in the same, and we should all step back and see that we should all unite, not fight.

So next time you meet someone who says they like games and they give examples like Nintendogs, Bejeweled or some fashion game they downloaded on their phone for free off the app store, remember that just because they may be in a different part of the gaming community than you, doesn’t mean they aren’t part of the community at all. Who knows! Maybe you can tell them about some of the games you like and make a new friend, or even take a second to learn about why their game is so special to them!

Until next time!

-Em