Late last year, I took a brief look back at Super Castlevania IV, in celebration of the 20th anniversary of its release here in the United States. With Halloween approaching, I decided to revisit Super Castlevania IV and see if I was still up to the challenge of taking Dracula down nearly 21 years after playing it for the first time. It was a fun journey to take, and I covered it on Twitter and via photos on Instagram. Super Castlevania IV still holds up as one of the best games in the series, though issues with slowdown and some overly frustrating sections fed some doubt into my opinion in my piece last year that the game was “fair” with challenge.
One of the notable things about Super Castlevania IV to me is that the first half of the game covers Simon Belmont’s perilous journey to Dracula’s castle. By the time the castle door is reached, Simon has already faced significant challenges. It’s a small victory just to get that far– and then the game really begins as Simon battles his way through rooms including the castle library, dungeon, and treasure chamber. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, which I consider to be the best game of the series, takes place almost entirely within Dracula’s castle. While there’s plenty of exploration inside of the labyrinthine take on the castle in Symphony of the Night, I did miss that sense of “the journey” that Super Castlevania IV gave to players.
The other thing that still stands out for me is the use of Mode 7 graphics. There are three areas where Mode 7 really shines. The first is Block 4-2, which I like to call the Rotating Room. When I got Simon to the whip holder and held on, despite knowing what was coming next, I was still impressed with seeing the room rotate and then having Simon battle that annoying group of Medusa Heads. It’s a tense moment; the platform that Simon stands on is pretty narrow and one hit from a stray Medusa Head usually sends the vampire hunter falling to his death. Block 4-3 is the Spinning Room, which is meant to give players the illusion of being on a walkway inside of a spinning cylinder. Unfortunately, the relatively slow clock speed of the Super Nintendo’s CPU leads to a chugging frame rate in this room. Everything seems to move at half-speed. We tended to overlook this a bit more back in 1991, but in 2012, it’s much more difficult to ignore. The last major use of Mode 7 takes place in the second half of Block 6-1. Simon must jump across giant swinging chandeliers, and there’s definitely some tension here because a misstep or failed jump sends Simon all the way back to the start of the block, which is tough to navigate without taking at least some damage.
Slowdown doesn’t happen all the time in Super Castlevania IV, but when it does, it can have negative effects on gameplay. The treasure chamber in Block 9-1 has platforms made of gold that disintegrate as Simon crosses them. As this happens, the frame rate drops significantly and response time for jumps and attacks dips as well. Some adjustment in timing is required to get through this block, but a few cheap deaths can result while making this adjustment. If you’re going for a high score or trying to beat the game with no continues, these cheap deaths can be very frustrating. It actually took me a few continues to learn the adjustment and apply it. Block 9-1 is just one example of this slowdown; there are other areas where it’s noticeable as well, if not also at least somewhat hampering to gameplay. It doesn’t break the game or make it unplayable, but it’s certainly worth mentioning after a full playthrough in terms of impressions and what was taken from the overall experience.
I did have some nagging difficulty with a few sections of the game. These occurred during the second half of play, inside of the castle. I already mentioned Block 9-1, which was frustrating on a few levels. The slowdown problem was part of it, but there were also instances of classic platform cheapness where enemies appeared in the exact spot that Simon head to jump to, leading to his getting hit and knocked backwards to his death. Block A-1, the Clock Tower, was more of an exercise in trial-and-error in terms of (re)learning where obstacles were and exact timing for certain platforming sequences. Block B-2 was also trying; collapsing stairs meant death if Simon made one wrong move, and then floating platforms late in the stage took practice to learn and predict movement.
I was surprised that I had relatively little trouble with the boss battles until late in the game. In fact, I had breezed through most of them until the last four. Slogra proved difficult until I picked up its pattern of movement, and it got harder when Slogra changed its attack to its charge after its life bar had been depleted halfway. When I did get past Slogra, I only had one hit point left and the next boss, Gaibon, killed me quickly. Then came Death, who gave me the hardest time of all. I blew through no less than ten lives trying to dispatch Dracula’s right hand demon, and a lot of those were because I could not figure out the correct pattern. Aside from boomerang-like sickles (which drain Simon’s health meter quickly with repeat impacts), Death also has a two-pronged gravity and scythe attack that can do some major damage if the correct evasive tactics aren’t followed. As for Dracula, I actually had little problem taking him down. My memory kicked in and I followed the strategy that I used over 20 years ago. I did lose one life, but that wasn’t bad.
Playing through Super Castlevania IV was a generally enjoyable experience for me, despite the flaws that came up. I do cut it a little slack, given the age of the game and the hardware that it was developed for. The slowdown is bothersome and the cheap deaths can be a bit annoying, but the game overcomes those problems. The music is still some of the best in a Castlevania game (Sorry, Michiru Yamane), and there is a definite sense of accomplishment that you feel when the credits roll. There aren’t any difficulty settings or sliders here; if you beat the game, you beat the best that it could throw at you– especially in the later stages.
Feel free to share some of your Super Castlevania IV experiences or opinions in the comments section below. If you haven’t played it in awhile, why not give it a spin and compare notes with mine? I’d love to hear what you think.
Bonus: Below is a slideshow of the pictures that I took during my Super Castlevania IV experience. I played the game on my GxTV using the original cartridge in my SNES and snapped the shots using my iPhone 4S. I thought it would be neat to share these images with you. I hope you like them!
It’s another work day for me today, but since I have a little bit of downtime before heading out, there are a few things that I wanted to talk about.
For starters, Super Mario Galaxy 2 is the real deal. It’s a beautiful game with another brilliant soundtrack. The play controls carry over familiarity from the 2007 original while gradually implementing new tweaks, such as the return of Yoshi or some of the new suits that Mario finds. What I really enjoy about the game as a retro fan is the virtual tip of the cap to Mario games gone by; even early on, influences from Super Mario World and Super Mario 64 become apparent. I always thought that the original Super Mario Galaxy paid tribute largely to Super Mario Bros. 3, which is arguably the pinnacle of the series… but Super Mario Galaxy 2 seems to go far beyond that, and I like it more that way. The game is also considerably harder than the first. I’ve lost a good 15 lives or so over my three play sessions so far, and many of those were attributed to the Flip-Swap Galaxy. I have read some complaints about the difficulty or about the lack of originality here, but these complaints aren’t as bad as they seem. Yes, the difficulty is harder, but continued play and practice does lead to eventual success. The lack of originality is hard to fault, though; the first game was so radically different than most other Mario games before it and now this game is almost like a second serving of video dessert. This is the first game that’s been able to keep my attention on the Wii for longer than an hour at most, so that’s a good sign. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is, quite simply, an excellent game.
I’ve been spending a lot of time playing pinball. Virtual pinball, that is, by way of Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection. I now own both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the game and am happy to support these kinds of games… even though I’m not holding out much hope for a new collection from Crave Entertainment anytime soon. It’s too bad, really, because this particular collection does pinball just right. The tables included in the Williams Collection are at least solid, if not stellar, examples of great pinball machines from years gone by. Gorgar was one of the first pinball machines to implement speech. Pinbot was right behind High Speed in terms of pinball popularity in the late 1980s and early 1990s. No Good Gofers and Medieval Madness showcased some of the late greatness of the Williams tables. The ball physics feel great; shots realistically ricochet off of side bumpers and careen through rollovers with reckless abandon. To me, these games are symbolic because they bring back that arcade feel which has been gone for far too long. I remember days kicking around arcades in my local malls and watching somebody rack up big points playing Whirlwind or Space Shuttle; I’d sometimes get credits left to me if the played had to bail early and even remember some dominating runs where two tokens could last me an hour or more. While Crave’s earlier Pinball Hall of Fame offering– The Gottlieb Collection– had its fair share of glitches and unfamiliar tables, this collection gets just about everything right. This is, unquestionably, the best pinball video game available. If you can find it and you’ve ever enjoyed playing a pinball machine in your lifetime, this very affordable collection is worthy of a purchase– and the tables have never looked better than they do in high definition.
Speaking of arcades, Game Room support has improved and we’ve been seeing new titles weekly for the past few weeks. River Raid highlighted today’s releases, and is easily worth the $3 to own. I’m thrilled to see that new games have been arriving with regularity, even if some of the release decisions are a bit odd. Konami‘s arcade releases, for example, have been rarities and relative unknowns. Even with my vast arcade experience, titles like Strategy X and Mega Zone don’t ring any bells with me. Time Pilot did get a release, which is nice, but there are still much better– and more recognizable titles in Konami’s vast coin-op library that need to start getting some attention. What about Time Pilot ’84? Where’s Hypersports or Boot Camp? How about Double Dribble or Super Basketball? I can certainly appreciate seeing rarities and getting to play games for the first time, but this should be balanced out with more familiar titles that will get the more casual player to take an interest.
Moving on to sales talk for a bit, Red Dead Redemption continues to be a monster at retail. At least in my anecdotal experience, as soon as new copies are received, they sell within hours. The game continues to be the main topic of conversation at the store level as customers either talk about their own experiences with the game or have questions about it. While Super Mario Galaxy 2 seemed to have strong sales on launch day, interest has begun to decline already. While I believe that Galaxy 2 will have legs, it’s definitely being swallowed up by the buzz around Redemption. What interests me is how that title became the juggernaut that it’s become. Is it because of the Rockstar name? GTA associations? Is it the violence or controversial content? All of these factors may be important, but the trend lately has been word of mouth; people are interested because they heard friends talking about it or saw other people playing it. Whatever the reason, I’m sticking with my prediction that Red Dead Redemption will gun down Super Mario Galaxy 2 to be the best-selling game for May. Both the 360 and PS3 versions will find spots on the Top 10 charts, along with Pokemon SoulSilver and HeartGold, Super Mario Galaxy 2, and UFC Undisputed 2010. Blur and Split/Second are cannibalizing each other and I fear that neither game will have a great month.On the hardware side of the house, I’m not quite ready to predict numbers yet, but the order of platforms will likely remain the same: Nintendo DS, Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. I hope to put up my NPD predictions for this month sometime early next week.
I made the move today.
Gone is the PlayStation 3, which was supplanted by the Xbox 360 in almost every facet of gaming imaginable for the HD generation. Blu-Ray wasn’t enough to save it, and exclusives like inFamous and Uncharted 2 just don’t have enough to hold my interest. Truthfully, I hadn’t played a meaningful game on the PS3 since March. Perhaps I’ll replace the console at another time, but with a price cut possible sooner rather than later, the window of time was closing to get the best possible value on the PS3. I know that some of you will scoff at this decision and tell me that I’ll regret it come E3, but I’m not convinced. God of War 3 was the last remaining exclusive that I held out hope for, and that game is not coming for awhile.
In the place of the PS3 is a new Wii. Why? A few reasons. Some of the recent game releases like Punch-Out!! and Mad World became hard to ignore. More publishers and developers are starting to focus more resources on Wii game development. The Wii is still the best source of classic console gaming, as well… I’m always going to have a soft spot for games from the 8-bit and 16-bit generations, and the Wii has the goods in this department. Now that SD card support has been (finally) enabled, I can buy as many classic games as I want without having to constantly pick and choose which games to keep on hand. All of these reasons– along with some strong games in the Wii library like Super Mario Galaxy and Metroid Prime 3– added up to enough of an impetus to make the switch.
Here’s what I picked up for the Wii today:
- Castlevania Judgment: This is the only game in the series that I’ve never played. Yes, it’s a fighting game instead of the classic action/adventure formula that we’re used to… but it’s still Castlevania, it has characters from most games in the series, and the Castlevania atmosphere seems intact.
- Ghost Squad: The first of two light gun-driven games that I got, Ghost Squad is fun for quick gaming sessions. There’s a fair amount of replay value to be had in trying to uncover all of the unlockables and see where you rank on the leaderboards. I’m going to enjoy this, I think.
- House of the Dead: Overkill: I’ve heard some really good things about this game, so I’m giving it a shot. Maybe it’ll be a bit over the top in terms of violence and profanity, but I think I can handle it. Will I be any good? Well… that remains to be seen.
- Mad World: This purchase was solely rooted in word of mouth advertising. I like the art style, and many colleagues have said that they really enjoy it. Between this game and Overkill, I think that I’m going to get my share of gratuitous violence. I hope I like this one like I enjoyed No More Heroes, for the most part.
- Pinball Hall of Fame: Williams Collection: Although I have the PS2 version of this, playing with the Wiimote and Nunchuk will simulate flippers… and I am a huge fan of pinball sims. Pinbot, Whirlwind, and Funhouse? Sold. If Crave releases a version of this for the Xbox 360, I’ll gladly triple-dip for Achievements.
- Punch-Out!!: I impulse-bought this game after some quick indecision. The tipping factor? Nostalgia. I was never great at any of the Punch-Out!! games, as Soda Popinski would gleefully point out. However, the game’s allure fell on its easy play control and quirky character designs. Next Level Games sure looks to have kept the nostalgia while adding a Wii touch. If I can’t get into the motion control, at least there’s a more traditional control pad option for me to experience the game with.
- Wii Play: A second Wiimote with a cheap tech demo? Sold.
I also got 3000 Wii Points today, so I’m deciding what Virtual Console games to buy to start with. I’m sure that those points will be gone fast. I can almost guarantee that I’ll be spending more of my Wii budget on Virtual Console and WiiWare games than I will on disc-based titles… much like I’ve been doing with the Xbox 360. (I did snag one 360 game today… Crackdown for $15 new.)
I’ll be posting my Wii Friend Code soon… but for now, I’m relaxing as I’ve been battling a bug lately. Thankfully, Retro Game Challenge on the DSi has been keeping me company during downtime. Look for some impressions over the long holiday weekend… which I hope that you and your families are able to enjoy.
It’s been a long time in coming, but I am headed back to Funspot in Weirs Beach, NH in late May to participate in the 11th Annual Classic Video Game Tournament. This will be my third time in this event– I attended in 2001 and 2002, as well. I won’t be there for the entire event, unfortunately; I’ll be arriving on Friday, May 29th and will be leaving a few hours before the event wraps on Sunday, May 31st. That will still leave me about 2 full days of competition time… and, with the 175 tokens that I’ll be getting as part of the $30 entry fee, that should be plenty of time for me to defend my Twin Galaxies-recognized records and see how I fare against some of the best competition in the world.
The 2002 event was awesome not just because of the mark that I set on Mania Challenge, but also because of the electricity surrounding the appearance of Billy Mitchell. Irregardless of you may think of Mitchell after seeing King of Kong, there’s no mistaking his love of coin-op video gaming and his ties with Twin Galaxies. Up until Twin Galaxies’ recent partnership with the Guinness Book of World Records, involvement from Mitchell– as well as other record holders including Todd Rogers, who is a personal hero of mine– was paramount to keeping the record-keeping entity alive and well. The presence of both Mitchell and Rogers in 2002, along with the energetic Chief Referee of Twin Galaxies, Walter Day, made for a truly memorable event.
I have a few machines that I devote a lot of my time to… mainly Sea Wolf and Track & Field, along with Mania Challenge. Sea Wolf and Track & Field are finite games that end either after time runs out or after you’ve completed all of the events, respectively. Mania Challenge is infinite; I had a CD player with me back in ’02, and will be carrying the iPod Nano with me this year to keep me company as the hours pass and I make a scoring run. I try to touch on a lot of different games over the course of the event, though. In ’02, I must have tried 30 different coin-ops, ranging from Vanguard to Alpine Ski to Frogger. I hope to match or eclipse that mark this year.
One of the interesting things about this event is that it not only takes a considerable amount of skill and practice to be ready to take on the records that players have set in years gone by… but it also takes stamina. To be able to sit for hours at a time playing the same game, with no break and full concentration, is a pretty amazing feat. Some of these guys will start a game at just after lunchtime and can still be playing the same game– on the same credit– when some of us head out for supper. Truth be told, I’m nowhere near as skilled as many of the other competitors are who make the trek to New Hampshire. Many make the trip every year; in fact, if you have seen King of Kong, you’ve probably seen some of them. I think that the players and the marks that they set are awe-inspiring and remarkable.
Now that I have a camcorder-type device to play with, I’m hoping to catch some random footage from the event. I’m certainly excited for the end of May to get here. I’ll be back in my element and even taking a trip back in time, to when arcade gaming was actually relevant. Look for more blog entries about this as we get closer to the event date.
Finally, the moving process has come down to the last 96 hours of work. There’s been a ton of packing and moving unnecessary stuff into storage (since I’m going from a full apartment to a two-room living space), and that’s going to be continuing through Thursday. I’ll be offline from Thursday afternoon until at least Saturday (January 31), but the movers will be here on Friday and I’ll be “officially” relocated then. After that comes the unpacking and setting everything back up again. Fun. This will indeed be my worst week in a while; between working an extra karaoke show last night, recovering from this cold that won’t go away, and the general aches and pains that come from moving a ton of stuff… I think I’m going to need a vacation after this week ends.
I do thank those of you who have been checking things out here recently, and I promise that things will be back to normal in within another week or so.
Here’s what’s been going on in my absence from writing:
- Rediscovery: I’ve rediscovered my PlayStation 3 recently, and it’s been nice. My PS3 collection has swelled to number 15 games, and it’s been quite a while since I’ve shown more than a passing interest in the console– aside from watching movies on it. I’m giving Fallout 3 another go (more on this shortly), enjoying Ridge Racer 7 (as I’m a huge fan of the series), and hitting the links with Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds. What’s even better is that we’re on February’s doorstep, a month that is set to deliver Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection and Street Fighter IV. Welcome back to the fold, PS3.
- Fridge-cleaning: An unfortunate result of adding these new games is that many of them required installations to my PS3 hard drive, and my free space is a shade over 18GB… and that’s after deleting a lot of downloadable games that I bought from the PlayStation Store (such as Ratchet & Clank: Quest for Booty, Mortal Kombat II, and others). I suppose that buying a bigger hard drive should be in the cards, but I am not a good person to perform any kind of surgery on my electronics.
- Boo-thesda: This story is the reason why Fallout 3 will be the last Bethesda game that I purchase. Look… I’m fine with other platforms getting the DLC expansions as they were promised, but not bothering to patch Fallout 3 to remove level caps and allow players to keep playing after the game’s ending on the PS3 is inexcusable. Why the slap in the face to all of the PS3 owners who dropped $60 on the game? Did Microsoft slide Bethesda a little more money? Did the game not sell enough units on the PS3 side? I have no idea and won’t hypothesize here, but if you’re a multiplatform publisher, there’s no reason to arbitrarily decide which platforms get patches like this one. I’m seriously contemplating unloading Fallout 3 now for decent trade-in value and 5GB of my HDD space back after hearing of this.
- Xbox Update: Recent additions to my Xbox library– which now outnumbers on PS2 library– include Capcom Classics Collection Vol. 2, The Simpsons’ Road Rage, Forza Motorsport, and Super Monkey Ball Deluxe. I saw a copy of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Battle Nexus for $10, but I don’t know if I could justify the $10 just because I wanted to unlock and play Konami’s TMNT arcade game.
That’s about it from here for now. During the move, I’ll still be active via my Twitter feed… so,. if you have a Twitter account, drop me a quick 140-character hello. If not, drop me a comment here and I promise to reply as soon as I am able. It’ll certainly be nice to not having moving as part of my daily recap come next week. Unpacking may be a big part of it, but I’ll take that over moving. Ugh.
Oh, and before I go… even though I’m pulling for Kurt Warner to lead the underdog Arizona Cardinals to victory in Tampa on Sunday… I just don’t see it happening against that vaunted Pittsburgh Steelers defense. Pittsburgh will force Arizona to try and win the game on the ground and will key on the Cardinals’ wide receivers (like Larry Fitzgerald), and unless Edgerrin James can find some holes, I think that the Cardinal magic ends Sunday.
Pittsburgh Steelers 31, Arizona Cardinals 21.
Before I head to bed for a few hours– after an exhausting day of moving boxes and heavy furniture– I wanted to share a few more thoughts that popped up while surfing the web earlier tonight… errrr… this morning:
- I’m bothered by the fact that SEGA is not releasing OutRun Online Arcade for the PlayStation 3 (via the PlayStation Store) here in North America. Europeans are getting it, so what’s the deal? Is it a SCEA decision? Did Microsoft pony up some money for exclusivity here? I haven’t read or seen any evidence to support any sort of argument, but it’s a pretty lame decision. If it’s an exclusivity deal, it’s likely a stupid move. If it’s a licensing or approval decision by Sony, then shame on them. More games for sale usually equates to more revenue. No matter what the reason is, I’m frankly pretty upset by it as I’d been looking forward to playing this game.
- I think that it can be argued that the PlayStation 2 is the NES of the 21st Century. The game library is vast and varied, the number of units sold is frankly astounding– 50 million PS2 units have been sold in North America alone. I do think that there are some key differences, most notably that the NES controller remains the most accessible console controller ever due to its simplicity (whereas the PS2 Dual Shock controller sports 4 face buttons, 4 bumpers buttons, plus Start and Select buttons). Still, like the NES, the PS2 library is diverse and plentiful, and it will be considered a benchmark in console gaming for years to come.
- As far as my move is concerned… it’s progressing. It’s been slow to develop as I’ve been working at the new place getting things ready. Monday was a furniture moving day (my back is still screaming at me), and the rest of this week will balance the completion of cleaning the new space and getting it ready for the move and prepping boxes and stuff from here for the move. I’ll be completing the move on January 30th and will be officially moved into the new place by the Super Bowl (hopefully).
I’m hoping, if time allows, to take a trip down to GameStop later today to try and put an e-mail coupon for 20% off used PlayStation 3 games to good use. Money is still wicked tight, but I need to jumpstart my PS3 interest and am hoping that, by finding a used game or two, I can use the console for more than just DVD and BD playback. I look to also have some gaming time in the cards over the next couple of days, which will be nice after a weekend full of moving prep.
That’s it from here for now. As always, feel free to chime in with your comments and other input. I do have another trip to Video Game Castle planned for late February, so I’m still taking suggestions for Xbox and PSX games that you think I should be on the lookout for. I may even try to snap a few cell phone pics to show you what the store looks like.
Until next time…
Well, I just returned home from my trip to Video Game Castle– an independently owned video game store that’s as much a cluttered gaming museum as it is a store. Since money’s been tight as of late, I really haven’t had the urge to visit until today… but I’m glad I did make the drive. I was able to stay within my set budget of $40, I saw some interesting stuff, and I ran a fun Tweet fest while at the store.
Before I mention what games I added to my collection, I wanted to talk a little about the store. Upon entering the store, the first thing that you notice is that it’s rather… disorganized. If you can get past the aesthetics, though, the inventory looks like a console gaming museum. Today alone, I saw games for the 3D0, 32X, Sega Master System, CD-i, and Vectrex. There was a used SEGA CDX just waiting to be bought, plus I saw a top-loading NES and Tiger’s ill-fated Game.com. The owner still buys all systems and software, too. I’ve actually been privy to take a peek at the store’s storage area in the basement, and the number of consoles and games down there is astounding. I love going to the store just to get a look at the games of the past and remember when they were relevant.
I still remember the first game I ever bought from Video Game Castle… it was a new game called Secret of Mana, back in 1993. Yup. That was over 15 years ago. Since then, I’ve made periodic trips back there to buy games and systems. I once bought a 3D0 from there, but it died within a month; so the owner took it– and all of the games I bought– back and refunded me with no issues. These days, I just drop by to see what rare stuff there might be.
As for today’s additions, I scored five Xbox games, with some feedback from my Twitter buddies. They are:
- Crazy Taxi 3: If you read my most recent blog entry, you’ll remember that my first Epinions review was for Crazy Taxi on the Dreamcast. I was– and still am– a huge fan of the game, so picking up Crazy Taxi 3 was really a no-brainer. I will admit that I was rather underwhelmed by Crazy Taxi 2, but a disc that has all three Crazy Taxi games on it for $9 is a good deal. (No manual, though. Boo.)
- OutRun 2: Look, another SEGA arcade driving game! Upon the recommendation of mister_raroo, I made the decision to snag this… and it was a good thing, since it was the last copy and the over package was in great shape. This one cost me $9, as well.
- Burnout 2: Point of Impact (Developer’s Cut): I love the Burnout series… even Burnout Paradise. Adding this game to my collection for $8 was something I wanted to do mainly because of the Crash Junctions. When you don’t have time for full races, or if you just want to wreak all kinds of metal havoc, Crash Junctions are a quick way to have a blast. Burnout 3: Takedown is still my favorite in the series, but I’ll have fun with this game, too.
- ESPN NHL Hockey: I am a hockey fan. I love the Skills Competition. The game was $3. It was a cheap moment of weakness.
- Gunvalkyrie: Again, I took mister_raroo‘s advice. I’m a little nervous about this game, as I have read that the difficulty isn’t exactly forgiving… but it’s an action game and looks interesting… and hey, it’s from Smilebit! It’s worth taking a chance for $8. if any of you have advice for how I should approach playing this game, pleasde let me know.
Well, now it’s off to the mall to exchange a shirt that doesn’t fit me. I’m hoping to get some game time in later tonight, though. Between these new games and two new games I downloaded from the PlayStation Store (Mahjong Tales and Cuboid), I have plenty of catching up to do. I also need to put together a game collection list. Any suggestions on how to approach that?
OK… time to put my coat back on. See you later.
I had a notion this morning of getting out of bed and taking a trip down to my local mall, much like I used to do in years past. My trips to the mall are painfully predictable, and yet extremely satisfying as I hit all of the video game-related storefronts: GameStop, Target, Sears (awesome clearance deals), FYE… and then, I’d wrap up the trip with a visit to the arcade.
Sure, the golden age of coin-ops passed by long ago, but there is something to be said for playing these games and getting lost in an arcade atmosphere as the ambient sound engulfs you. I’m almost embarrassed to admit how much time I’ve spent in various arcades over the years, but coin-ops have always been a large part of my life. Camping trips were made more tolerable by a trip to the rec hall and some time in front of Mr. Do’s Castle or Galaga. Weekly visits with my grandmother always culminated with a visit to a mall arcade, where I played everything I could with my $5 in tokens… I still remember the first time I beat Dragon’s Lair and had a bunch of people watching behind me. As I grew older, arcades became an escape from the trials of young adult reality… I would spend evenings at the local mall arcade playing NFL Blitz or Top Skater to kill time until I was to meet some friends at karaoke.
As console gaming has grown in popularity, the need for and allure of local arcades has all but vanished. I was recently shocked to see that the same local mall arcade that I used to frequent for years recently closed its doors. Now, aside from a few coin-ops at local bowling alleys, the era of the arcade is nearly at an end. While it’s true that the spirit of these games lives on thanks to retro compilations (such as Namco Museum, Capcom Classics, Midway Arcade Treasures, and so on), playing the ROMs of these games just isn’t the same as standing in front of the original coin-op cabinets and pitting your skills against the machine or against a human opponent who you may (or may not) know.
Arcades had a great run, and I’ll always have stories and memories to share. I’ll hold onto my last token and keep it a symbol of what once was. It may have no cash value, but its sentimental value is priceless.
It may sound odd to ring in the new year talking about an “old” console, but my Xbox is still at the forefront of my video gaming time.
The collection is now up to 44 games, and I even took some time to burn some audio CDs to the hard drive so that I can use the custom soundtrack feature for the games that support it. I had forgotten how painfully slow that the Xbox is in burning audio CDs to the HDD, though… I think I got through about four of them before I decided to stop in order to actually play some games during what little spare time I’ve had recently.
The highlights of my latest haul are probably Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and its sequel, The Sith Lords. I had debated using this week’s special GameStop coupon (25% off PS2/Xbox/Gamecube used games) to score both Xbox Jedi Knight titles, but I declined as I do remember some limited (and personally less-than-stellar) experiences with both titles as rentals. Yes, they are rather rare finds now, and it defeats the purpose of beginning and maintaining a collection… but I consider my collection to be an assortment of games that I find to be very playable, and will hopefully feel that way for a long time to come.
Here are the all of the newest additions:
- Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
- Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic: The Sith Lords
- Burnout 3: Takedown
- Need For Speed: Most Wanted
- NBA Jam
- Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2x
- Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3
- Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows
- State of Emergency
- Rallisport Challenge
- Major League Baseball 2K5
I was also able to find a better copy of Darkwatch, which had been defective when I bought it originally… but I have not had a chance to try it out yet. I’m hoping to do that during some down time over the next couple of days.
I know that some of you may get a snicker or three at some of these titles (like State of Emergency), but some games were just cheap enough to be attractive. I was able to get a couple of races into Rallisport Challenge and found it already to totally be worth the $4 that I paid. I jumped at the two Tony Hawk titles on that list because, even through the Xbox Controller S D-pad is almost criminally sub-standard, I just couldn’t help myself for just $5 for the two games… and there are Xbox-exclusive levels! Come on!
My goal over the next two days is to continue trying out all of the games to ensure that there are no defects left before resuming my collection trips. Money’s also a bit tight this week (gotta love bills). Now that I’ve cased both Gamestop stores closest to my home, it may be time to venture out to maybe Sears and KMart for clearance stuff, or maybe to my local independent stores to see what they’ve got. I’m still keeping an eye out for Psychonauts, plus I’d like to try and nab Burnout 2: Point of Impact if I can find it. For some reason, Spikeout is resonating in my mind as a decent beat-’em-up… or, at least, better than some other games of its ilk, like Final Fight: Streetwise, for example. I’d like to compile a list of all of the games that I really want to own before resuming the collection mission… and I’m still taking suggestions, if you have any.
Believe it or not, I do actually have some current-gen stuff to talk about, but I’ll reserve that for its own blog entry within the next day or two. In the meantime, keep that feedback coming!
Before I go too far into tonight’s update, I want to thank Dan and Andy for their comments and suggestions. Psychonauts is now on my priority list, and I’m going to give Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic a shot next time I go on a haul. Before I got these comments, I had already made a return trip to exchange yesterday’s games that were not working and wound up finding a few more games… which I’ll discuss shortly.
I realize that my decision to take a generational step backwards may seem a bit puzzling. It may even sound rather silly. I had forgotten to mention that issues with my current ISP also had something to do with my decision. It was hard to justify spending the money on a 360 and Xbox Live when my internet connection just isn’t consistent. From my experience with the 360 in the past (for a short time in ’06), the online community is part of what makes the 360 so great… so missing out on that costs you half the fun. I’m certainly still going to get a 360 in the future– but yesterday’s decision was fuled by a ton of factors, and this was a personally important one that I’d failed to note.
That being said, I’ve been having a blast with the Xbox so far. I was up last night playing NFL 2K5 until nearly 5:30am and simply didn’t realize how late it had become. It’s been awhile since I’ve had a session like that where I just lose track of time out of sheer enjoyment. It’s awesome. It reminded me of the time when I started playing Ninja Gaiden on a friend’s NES when I was staying over… I just played, played, and played some more, while my buddy had fallen asleep what seemed like hours before. It’s like “finding the zone”, where the outside world fades away and it’s you and the game you’re playing. Granted, it may be the newness of the experience, but it’s still highly enjoyable, regardless of how old the system may be. I’ll probably be doing the same thing after I write this, trying out the games from today’s haul.
I did promise to update you when new games were added to the library, which has quickly ballooned to 33. Here’s the list of additions:
- Fable: The Lost Chapters
- Shenmue II
- NHL Hitz Pro
- Project Gotham Racing
- NHL 2002
- Castlevania: Curse of Darkness
- Doom 3 (which wound up being the Collector’s Edition disc!)
- Capcom Classics Collection Volume 1
- High Heat Baseball 2004
- MLB Slugfest: Loaded
- Jade Empire
Looking at my collection, you’ll probably notice a few things. For starters, I do love my sports games. It may seem silly buying them with obviously outdated rosters and content, but playing the Xbox versions of these is noticeably better than a similar PS2 experience in most multiplatform instances… no memory cards is a big plus, and the visuals are usually better. You may have noticed a pretty severe tilt towards Midway games, such as the three retro compilations, Gauntlet: Dark Legacy, and a couple of Midway’s sports games. In reading past entries in this blog, you’ve probably seen references to Midway before… including a rather lengthy ode to the NBA Jam games, which I adore to this day. Midway games are just special to me, I guess… good, bad, and in-between. (Hey, I still own NBA Hoopz!)
Before I split for the new year (really this time… I have a gig tomorrow), I’d like to reflect for a moment on something I said about my fear of the PlayStation 3 possibly repeating the Dreamcast doom scenario. I know it’s an arguably immature thing to say, but the abrupt demise of the Dreamcast really jaded me. I went from ignoring SEGA after the 32X and Saturn debacles to cautious optimism upon first hearing about the Dreamcast and getting to play an import copy of Sonic Adventure to extreme enthusiasm when September 9th, 1999 finally hit and I spent well over $600 that day alone. A couple of generally positive years went by, and then… BAM! Sammy bought out… errr… merged with SEGA, and the Dreamcast was dead.
I reacted angrily.
I immediately gathered up anything and everything Dreamcast-related and brought it down to my local video game shop to trade it in towards a PlayStation 2. I remember buying Ridge Racer V (which I still own), Swing Away Golf, and SSX to go with it. I washed my hands of the Dreamcast and of SEGA, trying valiantly to spite them for screwing me over.
Dan brought up an excellent point, which I only occasionally considered until now– nearly 7 years after the fact: If I’d held onto the Dreamcast, the games that I owned wouldn’t have died out. They’d still likely be at least as enjoyable as many of the games as I own for the PS2 or XBox today. One can argue that the best versions of Marvel vs. Capcom 2, Street Fighter III, NBA Showtime, NFL Blitz 2000, and several other games were on the Dreamcast… and I owned them all. Perhaps my Xbox purchase is rooted in the same philosophy. Sure, there aren’t any new Xbox games now… but the system still has a great library. I can collect my favorite games from that library and explore new ones, all at relatively low price points as compared to when the Xbox was at the height of its life cycle.
I’m now ready to head to the living room and play. I wish you all the best for 2009.