Tag Archives: castlevania

The Next Castlevania Game Is Coming To Phones

Konami quietly announced a new Castlevania game at the Tokyo Game Show last week, called Grimoire of Souls. Before you get too excited, you might want to check out the trailer first.

It’s coming to phones and phones only, and while it features appearances by series favourites like Simon Belmont and Alucard, it also looks like a DeviantArt user took a Castlevania IV screenshot and painted over it.

Grimoire of Souls is coming to both iOS and Android.

Source: Kotaku.com

Stop Calling Games ‘Metroidvania’

Let’s talk about one of my least favorite words in the video game lexicon: metroidvania. A portmanteau combining the video game titles Metroid and Castlevania, it takes two made-up video game titles that are pretty cool and evocative on their own and inelegantly mashes them into something worse. And now, that word is one we use to talk about a whole genre of incredible video games.

Let us count the ways the word is a disaster. Aesthetically, it’s miserable and inefficient, five syllables in the mouth and rakish in the ear. Worse, it is completely meaningless to anyone unfamiliar with either of its root words. Words which are also portmanteaus—Metroid, the story goes, is a combination of the words “metro” and “android.” Castlevania, meanwhile, is a merging of the words “castle” and “Transylvania” into something that actually worked out pretty well.

Imagine stringing out all those words individually: metro android castle transylvania. It is both 1.) way cooler, and 2.) far too much to dump on a person and expect them to know what you mean.

Years of use have acclimated people who play and talk about games a lot to the convenience of “metroidvania,” and it doesn’t hurt that the game that it most often points to, 1997’s Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, was a watershed moment in video games, reinventing one classic franchise by borrowing liberally from another. (The borrowing, ironically, came not so much from Metroid but from The Legend of Zelda.) So influential was Symphony that the term “metroidvania”, which was apparently cooked up and popularized by former 1UP.com writers Scott Sharkey and Jeremy Parish sometime in the early 2000s, was used to denote a formal movement of video game design, with Symphony of the Night as the template.

Here’s where my other problem with “metroidvania” comes into play: It’s at odds with the language we use to talk about video game genre.

Video game genres tend to be categories of interaction. They describe what you do in a video game at a glance. A first-person shooter puts a gun in a character’s hands and a camera where their eyes would be. A turn-based strategy game involves board game-style interactions in the service of a specific goal.

These aren’t perfect terms; they’re not as evocative as genre categories in, say, film, where terms like “horror,” “romance” and “comedy” describe emotions and feelings that you might expect to experience as a viewer. But there’s a logic to them, and they serve a purpose: establishing the ground rules of how you’re going to interact with a game. In that way, video game genre terms are most similar to genres of music, which use a certain set of basic rules for works in categories both broad and specific. Blues tunes will likely use blues scales and lots of improvisation. Conversely, baroque four-part chorales will adhere to an extremely rigid set of rules of composition.

I used to write about video games at publications geared towards people who didn’t necessarily play a lot of games, so I have spent a lot of time thinking about words that we’ve become accustomed to but are really just nonsense to anyone outside of this particular subculture. In real life, too, I’ve seen how quickly someone’s eyes can glaze over when they’re presented with something outside their comfort zone. Reducing those potential pain points in the way we talk about games can do a lot to help more people join in on that conversation, especially if it’s as painless as ditching a word like “metroidvania.”

Genre terms are more for our benefit more than that of the art in question. Genre is a loose system that we have for talking about similar works and establishing canon—an academic exercise more than an artistic one. Those conversations are valuable and sometimes even vital works of scholarship, but they also tend to be exclusive, understandable only to those already steeped in the culture.

Video games need to be easier to parse, not harder. We talk a lot about diversity and inclusion in games—how we games could become a better, more welcoming space if we just figured out a way to represent more perspectives both in the games we play and in the studios that make them. These are necessary, urgent steps. But I also wonder how many people have never bothered because we’ve spent all this time using the wrong words.

Source: Kotaku.com

In Defense of Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest

The original Castlevania was one of the first NES games I played. So when the sequel came out for the NES in December 1988, I knew I had to play it. Simon’s Quest mixed up the first game’s action-platforming formula and gave players a Metroidvania-style game with RPG mechanics, revolving around a curse that Dracula has inflicted on Simon Belmont.

Even back then, I didn’t love Castlevania II. I’ve watched and laughed hard at both of the Angry Video Game Nerd’s Simon’s Quest reviews, and I can acknowledge many of the game’s flaws. But there’s also a lot of things Simon’s Quest did right and which I actually really liked. It’s no mistake that Koji Igarashi attributes the existence of the brilliant Symphony of the Night, my favorite in the series, to the second Castlevania and the foundation it laid.

Dwelling of Doom

Last year, I wrote about my love for Zelda II. After that, a few people requested I take a look at Castlevania II next. It’s for good reason, as the two sequels have a lot in common, especially in the way they branched away from their predecessors and experimented with the formula set in the first.

One of the most interesting elements that Zelda II and Castlevania II share is that they explore the consequences of the protagonist’s actions following the first game in the series. Both Ganon and Dracula are dead. What happens after the credits roll? For Simon, his fate is harsh. Dracula cursed him the moment he died, and Simon’s body begins slowly rotting away. Devastation is obvious all throughout Transylvania and Dracula’s evil is manifested everywhere you traverse. The townspeople are deceptive and sometimes outright antagonistic. No one cares that Simon is dying, even if it was him that saved all of them in the first place.

The game has a day-night cycle. In the evenings, the townspeople retreat to their houses and monsters run rampant. For the longest time, I thought (erroneously) that when the game shifted from day to night, the townspeople transformed into the zombies that haunted the town after hours. It creeped me out, but also explained why they acted so strange during the day. “Don’t make me stay. I’ll die,” an old man in the town of Ondol pleads. The pastors in the churches are in grayscale, replenishing Simon’s health but unable to leave the confines of their platform where they anxiously pace back and forth, afraid to leave. Many of the people who actually can help are in hiding, and the only way to reach them is to break down the walls they’ve built to keep intruders out.

Belasco’s poisonous marshes drain away at Simon’s health. Forests are full of dead trees. There are scared townspeople hiding in graves who only come out with the smell of garlic. Simon is trying to collect Dracula’s body parts, and the five mansions where they are being held are overrun with monsters. Corpses are everywhere, especially in the rooms that hold Dracula’s parts. They don’t even have boss monsters within because things are so decrepit. Dracula’s reign is over, but his violent legacy still casts an ominous shadow.

Simon’s Quest answers the questions of why the Belmonts have to hunt Dracula down and take him out instead of just letting Dracula chill in his castle(vania). He is a destructive force, even in death. But Simon’s first quest had changed him, which is visible in his appearance. Simon has a new outfit reflecting his darker outlook, clad in blood red and a destitute black. Fortunately, he has also been growing as a vampire hunter. Upgrades to his whip remain permanent, and every level up strengthens his ability to endure pain. His most useful sub-item is the holy water, which you pretty much have to use everywhere to uncover secrets and expose invisible pits. Even though a sense of unease pervades, Simon is better equipped to face the challenges.

The Silence of the Daylight

I love the fact that there’s a day-night cycle in Simon’s Quest. It’s true, as many critics have pointed out, that the transitions are jarring. But we have to consider the game in the context of the late 80s. Back then, the shifts added another layer of complexity and realism for an 8-bit game that almost no other games at the time had. All the environments get stained in ominous hues at night. Enemies become more dangerous, their health being doubled. There’s no safe haven, even in the towns. Every passing day increases the effect of the curse on Simon.

The currency system is based on hearts the enemies leave behind. I thought that was a gory, but gruesome, representation of what’s valued in their society. Kill enemies, take their hearts out, and exchange them for better weapons. What do the merchants do with those hearts? I have no idea. The townspeople were all so weird.

I never thought to question the weirdness though. It was part of the experience, and the obscurity of the puzzles only amplified the sense of Simon’s desperation. I’ve learned since then that while Simon’s Quest intended to have deceptive townspeople, their dialog boxes in Japanese would make it clear when they were being deceptive, but that nuance was unfortunately lost in translation.

What transcends languages is the bloody brilliant soundtrack. Every song is iconic, from the hopeful Bloody Tears during the day time to the dread-inducing Monster Dance at twilight. The music in the towns is arguably one of my favorite town themes in all gaming, and I can hum it all day.

Message of Darkness

There’s no getting around it; some of Simon’s Quest’s puzzles are impossible to figure out, and I couldn’t pass certain areas without help from a FAQ. (Holding the red crystal and ducking at Deborah’s Cliff is one of the more notorious examples.) I remember throwing holy water at every block in the game just in case I missed something. Fortunately, there are hidden books that give you clues, like the fact that you have to kneel at the lake with the Blue Crystal. But those are difficult to track down, and if you accidentally click through the text box, there’s no way to review the hints again.

The mansions themselves are a shrine to the remains of Dracula. His followers have lost their leader and are, in a sense, lost. They keep a part of their fallen leader encased within an orb in the hopes of his future resurrection. The jumping puzzles in these sections are tricky, as are the invisible holes in the floors that lead to plenty of frustrating drops. What’s interesting is that despite Simon’s Quest’s reputation for difficulty, the game is generous with its restarts. You respawn where you died, and there are unlimited continues. The main drawback is that when you lose three lives, you lose the hearts (money) you’ve accumulated. But compare that to Zelda II, where the loss of your three lives has you starting all the way at the opening temple as well as losing all your experience, and it doesn’t seem so bad. It required a lot of bloody tears, but I was finally able to gather all of Dracula’s parts.

Four of the pieces you possess (or “prossess,” as the game’s awkward translation has it) actually give Simon additional abilities. I found the Rib the most useful for the shield it provides against enemy projectiles, which is why I had it equipped for most of the game. I do wish that some of the effects could have been passively functional, something I also think would have been nice in Zelda II. Dracula’s Nail lets Simon break blocks with his whip, and the vampire’s Eye shows secrets—but only if you have them equipped, which meant I never got to take advantage of those abilities without removing the all-important Rib.

In stark contrast to the protagonists of most RPGs, Simon never feels like a hero. There’s no grand reward after you find Dracula’s parts. In the town of Doina, someone yells, “You’ve upset the people. Now get out of town!!” Another states, “After Castlevania, I warned you not to return.”

The final confrontation is a lonely march to face off against Dracula in his caverns underneath his castle. I remember wondering what awaited beneath. A part of me felt disappointed that there were no enemies to obstruct my way, but it’s clear this was an intentional choice, as the developers could have easily crammed the area with enemies. The final section reinforced the sense of connection with the first Castlevania. I’d already defeated its enemies and conquered the original.

When Dracula’s part are finally combined in the crypt, he doesn’t look anything like he did in the first game. I actually thought this game’s Dracula resembled a skeleton in robes with a pilot’s goggles on top of his head. The battle is easy, even without exploiting the subweapons.

Soon afterwards, I found out why it was so easy. I got the bad ending the first time I played. Simon dies. It was one of the bleakest and most depressing experiences I had. Nintendo games weren’t supposed to be this dark, were they? All that hard work I’d put in had meant nothing. I didn’t know there was a way to get a better ending—which ironically might be worse, as Simon lives but Dracula comes back to life. I’d both succeeded and failed at Simon’s Quest.

That dissonance is the theme of the game. There’s aspects of Simon’s Quest that are fascinating, and others that are jarringly frustrating. At the same time, it’s this sense of experimentation that paved the way for a more sublime symphony in future Castlevania outings. For that, I’ll always be grateful.

Source: Kotaku.com

Bloodstained: Ritual Of The Night, As Told By Steam Reviews

What is a Kickstarter-funded spiritual successor to Castlevania? Either a miserable or non-miserable pile of secrets (and gameplay mechanics), depending on which Steam reviewer you talk to.

Whether they love it or feel lukewarm about it, like Kotaku’s Joshua Rivera, nobody’s pretending Bloodstained: Ritual Of The Night is something that it’s not. This, pretty much everyone agrees, is a Metroidvania throwback in the style of director Koji Igarashi’s beloved classic, Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night, albeit with some modern quality-of-life updates and elements from more recent Castlevanias like Dawn of Sorrow. But is that enough to pass muster in ye newe year of 2019? That’s the real question. Broadly, Steam reviewers seem to think it is, with 93 percent of reviews registering as positive so far. But not everybody’s in agreement.

Source: Kotaku.com

New Switch Game Is Like Symphony Of The Night With JRPG Graphics

Timespinner is a game that’s trying really hard to be Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. It’s got the platforming, the inventory, the experience points and all sorts of artifacts that give main character Lunais new paths to explore. It’s the most Symphony of the Night game I’ve played that wasn’t actually Symphony of the Night.

Kickstarted in 2014 and released last year for the PC, PlayStation 4 and Vita, Timespinner is a game I should have played prior to this week’s Switch and Xbox One releases. It wasn’t on my radar until this past Sunday, when Jason Schreier offered up a code in our work Slack. He said it is “basically Symphony of the Night,” which should be on the game’s official marketing materials.

Instead of the son of Dracula, Timespinner stars Lunais, a blue-haired hero chosen to wield the ability to control time. Upon taking up the mantle of Timespinner, Lunais’ village is invaded and her mother murdered by the evil Lachiem Empire. Transported to a strange world far in the past, Lunais must reclaim her Timespinner powers so she can travel back to the present and get revenge. As the story unfolds, our hero learns that history isn’t always right, and nothing is ever as simple as it seems.

As with all good Metroidvanias, a term coined to describe Symphony of the Night, Lunais’ path is almost never straightforward. Using her ability to warp through time, she bops back and forth between the past and present at will, slowly uncovering all the nooks and crannies of two different but somewhat similar sprawling maps. There are out-of-reach ledges that can’t be accessed until Lunais earns the ability to double jump. Later on she earns the Water Mask, a relic that allows her to breathe and maneuver underwater. Sometimes her path is blocked by more mundane means, like keycards or petrified vines that can be burned in the past but not the future.

There’s a lot of backtracking. Fortunately, the combat and movement in Timespinner is excellent. It’s got that good sticky friction, making tricky jumps easy to pull off. Lunais’ pirouetting double jump is lovely, great for exploration and enemy avoidance. And then she’s got a slide move, like she’s some sort of vampire offspring or something.

In battle, Lunais wields a pair of orbs that can be swapped out and leveled up. Currently I have one that spawns a small sword when I attack and another that shoots fireballs. Both are augmented by a Scythe Ring, which adds spinning blades to the orbs so anything that comes into contact with Lunais takes damage. Finally I’ve got the Colossal Blade necklace as my major magic power, spawning exactly what it sounds like for a massive attack in combat.

Traveling back and forth across maps in the past and future never gets old, especially once Lunais gains the ability to fast travel to special gate rooms scattered about the game world. If anything, fighting and exploring is a bit too compelling, as I have a tendency to out-level enemies, making challenging boss fights much less so.

Timespinner does Symphony of the Night quite well, but it’s not that great at spinning time outside of switching between maps. Lunais has the ability to temporarily freeze the action, based on the amount of sand in an hourglass located in the top left corner of the screen. When frozen, enemies become platforms, which is a neat way to explore out-of-reach space, but it feels like it’s hardly ever necessary. I’ve hit the button to freeze time accidentally more than I’ve done it on purpose.

Time manipulation in Timespinner feels like an afterthought, but when the forethought is Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, that’s not so bad.

Source: Kotaku.com

The New Castlevania Collection Is A Bloody Good Time

Castlevania: Bloodlines.
Screenshot: Kotaku (Konami)

Castlevania Anniversary Collection isn’t quite as good as it could be, but even a limited feature set can’t stop these classic games from still being great in 2019.

Released Thursday for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, and Switch (the last of which I played), Castlevania Anniversary Collection brings together eight of the early games starring members of the Belmont family, all of whom are renowned for being adept at killing vampires but bad at not falling through staircases. The $20 package includes the original Castlevania trilogy for the 8-bit NES, the first two Castlevania Adventure spin-offs for the Game Boy, Super Castlevania IV for the SNES, the never-before-rereleased Castlevania: Bloodlines for Genesis, and the never-before-translated Kid Dracula for the NES, which previously was only available in Japan.

It’s the presence of that last game, which Konami translated into English for the first time for this collection, that keeps me from saying that the publisher did the “bare minimum” for this release. After all, Castlevania fans can’t even agree on whether or not this game, a cutesy spin-off in which you play as a chibi Dracula fighting cartoonish parodies of classic Vania villains, is even officially part of the series. Nobody would have batted an eye had Konami chosen to not include this. But it went the extra mile anyway, and thereby significantly raised the appeal of this collection, since Kid Dracula is a lot of fun.

Kid Dracula.
Screenshot: Konami

Having played around in each of the eight games for a while, I’m not seeing any issues with the emulation except for, as other players have noted, a weird high-pitched beeping sound that occasionally plays during certain music tracks on the NES games. Hopefully that can be patched out quickly. Otherwise, everything seems fine. This collection’s version of the Game Boy game Castlevania: The Adventure is a sluggish mess riddled with slowdowns, but I checked on an actual Game Boy and that is perfectly accurate, so there you go. (The sequel plays a lot better.)

There aren’t a whole lot of settings with which to mess around. There’s a single save slot for each game, which feels a little stingy. Wouldn’t it be nice to have multiple saves at various points in these challenging adventures, especially in games like Castlevania III, which has branching paths?

The available display options are fairly industry-standard by this point. You can display the games in their original 4:3 aspect ratio, choose the less accurate but perhaps more visually pleasing “pixel-perfect” mode where each pixel is a square, or stretch the whole game out to fill your 16:9 television if you’re a total weirdo. You can put faux scanlines on these images if you want that classic cathode-ray aesthetic. And you can either leave the unused space blank or put one of two frames around it.

Note: This is just a Photoshop. You cannot actually divide the screen up like Neapolitan ice cream. This is just to show you the different Game Boy color options.
Screenshot: Kotaku (Konami)

The Game Boy games get a different set of display options. You can view them in the original black and white, choose a Super Game Boy-style sepia tone, or choose a “dot matrix” filter that adds a hair-thin outline to each individual pixel and uses a green color palette, for an experience that closely resembles the original Game Boy’s cheapo low-tech display. You can even put scanlines on the Super Game Boy style, which is a nice detail.

The only bonus feature is what is basically a PDF ebook filled with information about these eight games, including an interview with celebrated Bloodlines composer Michiru Yamane, lots of design documents and sketches, and more. There’s a significant amount of stuff in there for Castlevania fans, so it’s just a shame that it’s presented in such an inelegant way. It’s really annoying to have to scroll and zoom around a PDF to read the text and view the images.

Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse.
Screenshot: Konami

Much like Konami’s Arcade Classics Anniversary collection, you’re currently stuck playing the U.S. versions of each of the games. This is especially disappointing for Castlevania, since the subject matter of the games meant that they were often significantly altered for U.S. release under Nintendo of America’s then-strict standards. Playing the Japanese versions means more crosses on tombstones, more Satanic imagery, and more, I don’t know, ancient marble statues with their boobs out. Castlevania III also had much better music in its Japanese version, thanks to a special sound chip. Konami, to its credit, might not have gotten this right the first time but has promised to add Japanese versions in via a patch that will arrive “shortly.”

If the company is patching those in, maybe it’ll add some other features too, like extra save slots and button remapping. Dare I dream? As it sits now, Castlevania Anniversary Collection is an excellent deal. The emulation is accurate, the features are all right, and the games themselves are great. I’d really love to see a follow-up collection with later games like Rondo of Blood, Symphony of the Night, and the Game Boy Advance trilogy. For now, this is a solid, if imperfect, collection of the origins of a classic series.

Source: Kotaku.com

The New Castlevania Collection Is A Bloody Good Time

Castlevania: Bloodlines.
Screenshot: Kotaku (Konami)

Castlevania Anniversary Collection isn’t quite as good as it could be, but even a limited feature set can’t stop these classic games from still being great in 2019.

Released Thursday for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, and Switch (the last of which I played), Castlevania Anniversary Collection brings together eight of the early games starring members of the Belmont family, all of whom are renowned for being adept at killing vampires but bad at not falling through staircases. The $20 package includes the original Castlevania trilogy for the 8-bit NES, the first two Castlevania Adventure spin-offs for the Game Boy, Super Castlevania IV for the SNES, the never-before-rereleased Castlevania: Bloodlines for Genesis, and the never-before-translated Kid Dracula for the NES, which previously was only available in Japan.

It’s the presence of that last game, which Konami translated into English for the first time for this collection, that keeps me from saying that the publisher did the “bare minimum” for this release. After all, Castlevania fans can’t even agree on whether or not this game, a cutesy spin-off in which you play as a chibi Dracula fighting cartoonish parodies of classic Vania villains, is even officially part of the series. Nobody would have batted an eye had Konami chosen to not include this. But it went the extra mile anyway, and thereby significantly raised the appeal of this collection, since Kid Dracula is a lot of fun.

Kid Dracula.
Screenshot: Konami

Having played around in each of the eight games for a while, I’m not seeing any issues with the emulation except for, as other players have noted, a weird high-pitched beeping sound that occasionally plays during certain music tracks on the NES games. Hopefully that can be patched out quickly. Otherwise, everything seems fine. This collection’s version of the Game Boy game Castlevania: The Adventure is a sluggish mess riddled with slowdowns, but I checked on an actual Game Boy and that is perfectly accurate, so there you go. (The sequel plays a lot better.)

There aren’t a whole lot of settings with which to mess around. There’s a single save slot for each game, which feels a little stingy. Wouldn’t it be nice to have multiple saves at various points in these challenging adventures, especially in games like Castlevania III, which has branching paths?

The available display options are fairly industry-standard by this point. You can display the games in their original 4:3 aspect ratio, choose the less accurate but perhaps more visually pleasing “pixel-perfect” mode where each pixel is a square, or stretch the whole game out to fill your 16:9 television if you’re a total weirdo. You can put faux scanlines on these images if you want that classic cathode-ray aesthetic. And you can either leave the unused space blank or put one of two frames around it.

Note: This is just a Photoshop. You cannot actually divide the screen up like Neapolitan ice cream. This is just to show you the different Game Boy color options.
Screenshot: Kotaku (Konami)

The Game Boy games get a different set of display options. You can view them in the original black and white, choose a Super Game Boy-style sepia tone, or choose a “dot matrix” filter that adds a hair-thin outline to each individual pixel and uses a green color palette, for an experience that closely resembles the original Game Boy’s cheapo low-tech display. You can even put scanlines on the Super Game Boy style, which is a nice detail.

The only bonus feature is what is basically a PDF ebook filled with information about these eight games, including an interview with celebrated Bloodlines composer Michiru Yamane, lots of design documents and sketches, and more. There’s a significant amount of stuff in there for Castlevania fans, so it’s just a shame that it’s presented in such an inelegant way. It’s really annoying to have to scroll and zoom around a PDF to read the text and view the images.

Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse.
Screenshot: Konami

Much like Konami’s Arcade Classics Anniversary collection, you’re currently stuck playing the U.S. versions of each of the games. This is especially disappointing for Castlevania, since the subject matter of the games meant that they were often significantly altered for U.S. release under Nintendo of America’s then-strict standards. Playing the Japanese versions means more crosses on tombstones, more Satanic imagery, and more, I don’t know, ancient marble statues with their boobs out. Castlevania III also had much better music in its Japanese version, thanks to a special sound chip. Konami, to its credit, might not have gotten this right the first time but has promised to add Japanese versions in via a patch that will arrive “shortly.”

If the company is patching those in, maybe it’ll add some other features too, like extra save slots and button remapping. Dare I dream? As it sits now, Castlevania Anniversary Collection is an excellent deal. The emulation is accurate, the features are all right, and the games themselves are great. I’d really love to see a follow-up collection with later games like Rondo of Blood, Symphony of the Night, and the Game Boy Advance trilogy. For now, this is a solid, if imperfect, collection of the origins of a classic series.

Source: Kotaku.com

Castlevania spiritual successor Bloodstained will be out on June 18 for Xbox, PlayStation, and PC (J

Castlevania spiritual successor Bloodstained will be out on June 18 for Xbox, PlayStation, and PC (June 25 for Switch), the developers said today. You can watch the ridiculous new launch trailer, complete with promises to address all of those player complaints, right here.

Source: Kotaku.com

Konami’s New Arcade Collection Could Have Been A Lot Better

Haunted Castle.
Screenshot: Konami

Konami’s Arcade Classics Anniversary Edition is out this week, collecting eight of its classic coin-op games like Haunted Castle, Gradius, and Twinbee. While the games and the emulation are solid, Konami has taken a strangely bare-bones, region-locked approach to the collection that makes it a lot less exciting than it could have been.

Here are all the games that are included in the $20 package, which is available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC:

  • Haunted Castle
  • Typhoon, aka A-Jax
  • Nemesis, aka Gradius
  • Vulcan Venture, aka Gradius II
  • Life Force, aka Salamander
  • Thunder Cross
  • Scramble
  • TwinBee

One of the primary issues with Arcade Classics is that it only contains one version of each of its games. But arcade games often had multiple variations across regions (or even within them) with distinct, often major, differences in the graphics, sounds, and gameplay. Modern-day classic game collections generally include multiple variations of the games in an effort to give players their preferred version, or to let them play all of them and see the differences.

This isn’t a big deal for, say, TwinBee, which only had minor variations between its chipsets. But some games, like Gradius II and Thunder Cross, were actually quite different depending on whether you played the U.S. version or the Japanese version, for example. These differences could be adjustments to the difficulty, or major graphic changes. Rather than being able to pick the one you want, you’re locked to one version.

The fact that this is happening with this collection is particularly baffling, since most of these games and their multiple versions are already available (on PS4, anyway) as standalone releases in Hamster’s Arcade Archives series. Since Hamster actually developed Arcade Classics Anniversary Edition as well, it would seem like the decision was Konami’s and not due to any inability on the developer’s part.

Nemesis, aka Gradius.
Screenshot: Konami

To be fair: In the case of Haunted Castle, an arcade version of Castlevania, the lack of regional selection would appear at first to be a bigger problem than it actually is, since the U.S. version was notoriously made much more difficult, with standard enemies taking off half of protagonist Simon Belmont’s life bar and having a limited number of continues. But, playing through Haunted Castle via this collection today, I found that, even though it was the U.S. version, it had been tweaked to have unlimited continues and an option to adjust the difficulty. So it’s not as bad as it could have been had Konami simply used the U.S. version without tweaking it.

Additionally, you can’t play the vertically-oriented shooters in “tate,” or vertical, mode—not even on the Switch, where it would be most convenient since you can simply rotate the tablet to play them that way. Again, this is a feature already supported by Hamster’s standalone rereleases of these games.

At first, I thought that I might be able to try the Japanese versions of the games if I logged in to the game on my Switch using a Japanese account. That’s usually how it works with Switch games, which generally have all regional versions included in the same file. If you buy a game on the U.S. eShop, then log in to the Japanese eShop and look at that game, it’ll generally tell you that you already own it, because the file is identical between all the regions.

But for Arcade Archives, if you own the U.S. version and load up the Japanese eShop, you’ll see that the Japanese version of the game is, unlike most other Switch games, a totally separate item on the store, and you’d have to pay another 3,000 yen, or about $30, which is 33 percent more expensive than the U.S. version.

I’m not sure why Konami decided to hack up this collection into separate regional variations and give them fewer features than the individual Arcade Archives versions, but it’s made what could have been a definitive collection into something much less interesting. This doesn’t bode well for the upcoming Castlevania and Contra collections—it would have been fun to get to pick between the different versions of those games, too, but that doesn’t seem like it’s in the cards, now.

Source: Kotaku.com

Castlevania Collection Will Bring The Adorable Kid Dracula To The U.S. For The First Time

Screenshot: Konami

When Konami releases its Castlevania Collection on May 16, it will include eight classic games from the venerable series, including one that has never been released before outside Japan: Kid Dracula, a comical action game in which you play as a pint-sized version of the vampire king.

Released in 1990 for the Famicom (NES) in Japan, Kid Dracula is Castlevania but funny, with goofy versions of classic characters and familiar settings. A Game Boy version of the game did come to the U.S. (and it’s quite rare and expensive now), but the original NES version never came here, even though the series was quite popular.

Castlevania Collection will rectify that, and even better, the game will actually be translated into English. Check out where it says “Normal, Level 1″ on the screen above. That reads「ノーマル 1 ステージ」in the original Japanese version. The game uses a good amount of text between its main stages, so having it in English will be awesome. Even though ROM hackers and fan translators have localized hundreds and hundreds of Japanese classic games into English and other languages, it’s still exceedingly rare and exciting to see a publisher do an official translation of an old game.

And, uh, while they’re hacking around in the ROM, they’re probably gonna want to change the design of the boss character above. Just saying. (Japanese players would see this character as a “spooky ghost with a manji symbol on its hat.” Maybe not so much in the U.S.)

Other games in the collection, which will be released for Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC, include Castlevanias I, II, III (NES) IV (SNES), Bloodlines (Genesis), and the first two Castlevania games for Game Boy, Adventure and Belmont’s Revenge. It will cost $20.

Today, Konami released a similar collection known as Konami Arcade Classics for the same platforms, which also includes a Castlevania game—the arcade version, known as Haunted Castle. And in “early summer,” it will release a Contra collection along the same lines.

Source: Kotaku.com