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Oct 222013

Welcome back. Not too long after the success of the original Castlevania game, there came the sequel Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest for the NES. I must admit, when the title says “quest” they aren’t kidding.

Although the task is the same as in the first game, with an additional prologue, this game takes on a whole different approach.

That’s right. Castlevania 2 is indeed a quest game. As the story goes, after Simon Belmont defeats Dracula in the first game, Dracula’s body parts were scattered in five separate mansions. Now it’s up to Simon to gather them all up, bring them to Dracula’s castle, and defeat the Count once again. Oddly, the body parts only consist of Dracula’s rib, heart, eyeball, nail, and ring. So where’s the rest of him? Back at his castle?

In a way, it’s like the Legend of Zelda franchise. You go through different towns to talk to people, hunt around for hidden items and clues, and collect hearts by killing enemies and use them for currency to buy items and weapon upgrades. Normally I hate those kinds of games, mostly because I never know where to go, but this game is one of few exceptions because I have a map in a Nintendo Game Atlas. But let’s face it, no matter how many times I play this game, I need the map every time.

There are points that are annoying like when it becomes day and night, leaving the impression that Simon’s task takes days to complete. The enemies are stronger at night and the townspeople are all asleep while zombies roam the streets. On the bright side, it helps you collect hearts because the items and upgrades are expensive. One thing I find odd is that the time elapsed is unaffected inside the town buildings and mansions. Okay, does that mean all time stands still when you’re indoors?

Unlike the other Castlevania games, the bosses are pretty tame and it’s not because there are only a couple of them. I wonder if it has to do with including the Grim Reaper in this game, since he’s a boss in every Castlevania game, at least all the ones I’ve played.

It also includes Dracula himself. He’s actually pretty easy as long as you have the golden knife and some laurels to make you invincible for a short time.

Even though I have this game figured out, thanks to a Game Players strategy VHS tape, one thing that usually puzzled me was the ending sequence. There are actually three different endings and it’s hard to tell which one you’re going to get. Does it have to do with how many items or hidden clues you find? I’ve been trying to figure that out for years since there were no other sources that mentioned it. Then not too long ago I finally find the answer, thanks to YouTube. The ending sequence is entirely based on how fast you get through the game. Wouldn’t you know it? Just like with Metroid, it’s all about speed.

Needless to say, Castlevania 2 is an improvement from the first game. The graphics are better, the obstacles and enemies aren’t as irritatingly difficult, and despite the need for a map every time, the game play is enjoyable. It’s not over yet though. Check my blog for part 3 for the next classic Castlevania game.

Oct 182013

It’s Halloween once again and I have something real special for my blog this year. I’ll be going over one of the most popular video game franchises in the horror genre. No, it’s not House of the Dead or Resident Evil. It’s none other than Castlevania, which is about the heroic vampire hunter Simon Belmont. He fights his way past all sorts of monsters that are based on classic horror icons like bats, mummies, zombies, knights, ghouls, flying Medusa heads, etc., all led by Count Dracula.

There are many Castlevania games, but the only ones I’m going to focus on are the original four, starting with Castlevania for the NES.

I originally first heard about this franchise from the classic cartoon series Captain N: The Game Master, where Simon Belmont was one of the featured heroes. He’s courageous and skilled with a whip, but is also vain and full of himself. Now I don’t recall that being part of Simon’s persona in the games and he looks nothing like the Simon that’s featured on any of the video game covers.

Anyway, here is Castlevania. When I look at the title screen, where the only moving graphic is a bat flying from a distant castle, it makes me think about the horror themed video games back in the 80s compared to the games of today.

There’s not much of an intro to this game because it has no story line, but the task is simple. Kick monster butt as you go through the many levels. Of course that’s easier said than done. Luckily, Simon can gather weapons and points by whipping candles everywhere. As for life restorers, they are hard to find, so it’s worth whipping the wall blocks to search for them.

Normally when I play any video game, the high score isn’t that important to me. However, you need points more than ever in this game because it provides extra lives. Sure that’s important in other games also, but this one is even more so because of one fatal flaw. There’s no password feature. Now come on, the other Castlevania games have it. Why not this one? It certainly boggles the mind.

This game has its share of interesting bosses, but one boss I really dislike is the Frankenstein monster because of the Hunchback that jumps around in no given direction and shoots fireballs. He’s hard to dodge and Simon’s life meter drains too quickly. I’ve never made it past this boss, which means I’ve never beaten this game either. I can only assume that it gets harder later on. Any suggestions?

Overall, Castlevania is a fun game, even though it’s one of the hardest to get through. This is only the beginning though. Check my blog for part 2, which will be about its sequel.

Jul 192013

Welcome back. With the success of Bugs Bunny’s Crazy Castle the Looney Tunes continue to shine with their second NES title, Bugs Bunny’s Birthday Blowout. This game was released the following year, 1990, as a way to celebrate Bugs Bunny’s 50th birthday. So how old does that make him now?

Unlike Bugs Bunny’s Crazy Castle, this is an adventure platform game where Bugs has to reach his own birthday party. Out of jealously, the other Looney Tunes try to stop him. On a positive note, Bugs has a hammer for a weapon and he can actually jump this time. That would’ve been more convenient in the Crazy Castle game.

There are six stages with four areas each. Bugs must fight his way through forests, caverns, and deserts while collecting carrots that become platforms with Warner Bros. Symbols on them. At times they can be useful, especially when there are disappearing platforms everywhere.

Bugs Bunny also has a life meter. When he gets hit, he can’t use his hammer until the stars around his head disappear. That can be annoying when there are a ton of enemies attacking at once. Secondly, the life meter is hard to understand sometimes. There are three hearts total. First the heart is red, then white, then black, then clear, and it disappears. The process repeats with each heart, so how many hit points are there exactly?

The boss battles are intense, even though you can defeat them with three hits with the hammer. Tweety Bird hides behind bushes, Elmer Fudd uses rabbit traps, Pep Le Pew fires his skunk spray, Sylvester rides a skateboard, Yosemite Sam fires his gun, and even Wile E. Coyote and Foghorn Leghorn make appearances.

Daffy makes lots of appearances throughout the game, but at least you don’t have to fight him.

The final boss is Taz. Unlike other bosses, you can’t clobber him with the hammer. You have to reflect the footballs he throws back at him with perfect accuracy and it takes six hits to beat him. Somehow that reminds me of Super Mario Bros. 2 when the final boss, Wart, has to be beaten with twice as many hits as the other bosses and it must be done in a different way.

This was a good game too. It’s definitely an improvement over Bugs Bunny’s Crazy Castle when it comes to control. After playing awhile, it makes me wonder. Seriously, how far away is this party? Couldn’t Bugs have just taken a cab instead of walking these dangerous roads?

Jul 162013

The Looney Tunes have been around for ages with a franchise of cartoon shorts, movies, and even the current TV series, The Looney Tunes Show. Right now I’d like to focus on two of the classic NES video games based on them.

The first one is Bugs Bunny’s Crazy Castle. When I first heard about this game it looked interesting like an adventure game, but it wasn’t really what I expected. It’s actually a puzzle game, where Bugs Bunny looks for carrots in different locations. Once they’re all collected, you earn an extra life and move on to the next stage. Sounds simple enough, but it can also be overwhelming because there are 60 stages total. That’s right 60. Good thing there’s a password option.

The enemies you face are other Looney Tunes characters. They include Daffy Duck, Yosemite Sam, Wile E. Coyote, and three Sylvesters. These characters may appear to be pushovers, but don’t take them lightly. If Bugs is touched by any of them just once, he dies.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Bugs doesn’t jump and his only attack is a boxing glove, but he has to find one first. Even if Bugs collects a boxing glove from a previous stage, he can’t use it in the next one. Now that’s a rip off. There are also crates, safes, baskets, and 10-ton weights you can drop down, but you have to be precise, or they disappear on impact.

Occasionally you find carrot juice that makes you invincible, like the starman on Super Mario Bros., but it only lasts a few seconds, so take advantage of it whenever you can.

Although every stage is different, it seems like there are only three areas, a brick building, a sewer, and a barn, each with its own music. Still, as I progressed through the game it was nice to anticipate what the later stages would look like.

The furthest I ever got in this game was level 30 and that is where things really start to become intense with a “No Carrots” sign. If you touch it, you go back three stages. At first that actually creeped me out because I would’ve never seen it coming. Like I said before, good thing there’s a password option.

Bugs Bunny’s Crazy Castle was good for its time and had quite a few sequels, which I never played. Now even though the object of the game is for Bugs Bunny to rescue his girlfriend, it isn’t Lola Bunny. I know because Lola’s first appearance in the Looney Tunes franchise was on Space Jam, which premiered in 1996 and this game was made in 1989. It makes me wonder what had ever become of that other girl bunny.

It’s not over yet. Check my blog for Part 2, where I’ll be talking about the second Looney Tunes NES title Bugs Bunny’s Birthday Blowout.

Feb 082013

I remember first learning the term “P.O.W.” in history class when I was in junior high. All I understood about it at the time was that P.O.W. stands for Prisoners of War and that’s it. Then when I found out about the NES title P.O.W., the term made more sense, but only to a point because this game does not make a good reference for homework assignments about the real P.O.W.

Anyway, in this action game, Captain Bart of the U.S. Special Forces must infiltrate an enemy organization called G.O.O.N., which stands for Government of Offensive Network, and take out the leaders. That sounds simple enough.

The game has four stages and Bart must collect weapons from enemy soldiers in order to survive. Sometimes you have to go in some caves and buildings to get them, but not without defeating a few more soldiers inside.

The most useful items to collect are brass knuckles to punch better and armor to shield from projectiles. Once in a while, you’ll find a gun, but with only ten bullets and no option to reload. In one way, it’s a rip off. On the other hand, it’s more practical since you’re just taking an enemy’s weapon after he drops it.

Some enemies just walk by and can be taken down with one punch, but they are heavily armed with guns or grenades. If either of those get you, you’re dead no matter how full your life meter is.

This is a good game with a real simple story line. There’s also plenty of challenge, mostly because the enemies usually arrive in groups of two or three and will always try to gang up on you. Isn’t that typical?