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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Game 1 - Castlevania

System: Nintendo (NES)
Release date: 1986
Developer: Konami
Genre(s): Platforming
Series: Castlevania


For Starters:

    This was the first Nintendo game I ever experienced growing up. I first found the game at the local Circle-K convienience store, in the form of coin-op arcade game. In fact it was the Nintendo Play Choice 10 machine. I had heard a friend
of mine mention this cool new game that he had played that involved battling skeletons, monsters, and ultimately, Dracula. Being a 10 year old boy, I was of course intrigued. What more could a boy that age want? A game that involves killing all the classic horror movie monsters....HELL YES!!!

    So after scrounging around my piggy bank and finding a few quarters, off I went to try and defeat this exciting new game.

The Good:

    Lot's of good things about this game. Where to begin? Graphics are great for an 8-bit mid 80's game. The music is absolutley amazing. I love playing this game in the dark, just for the added ambiance the music brings to the table. The secondary weapons are great, my favorite of course being the boomerang with the triple-shot.

    The game play itself is good. Good control, levels that are all uniquely different, challenging enemies, opportunities to restore health (although they are not too common), and even the ability to find some meaningless hidden treasures along the way.

The Bad:

    Boss battles. UGH! I will admit the first few bosses are fairly easy, once you figure out a strategy. The later bosses are difficult as hell, as would be expected in a good video game, but some of them are just ridiculously difficult. It took me a long time to finally be able to defeat Medusa in a single go, but only after realizing that you could freeze her using the stop-watch weapon. Too many times I tried to use the triple-shot boomerang, and would end up coming oh so close, only to be defeated.

    Dracula of course is the hardest enemy in the entire game, as is expected. Unfortunately, the difficulty you face from Frankenstein, and the Grim Reaper along the way....you will need all the luck in the world reaching him.

    The minor enemies for the most part are not too bad. The ones that stand out in my mind as being the worst are:

    - Fleamen (hunchbacks). These little bastards hop all over the place in a spastic fit. They are also low to the ground, so if you want to hit them with your main whip attack, you either have to be crouched down, or hit them when they are still in mid-air. I have found that using the holy water on these little turds does an effective job, but god help you if you do not have it, or if you lose it along the way. The stop-watch is the better weapon however.

    - Mini Medusa heads. I cannot count the number of times I have been trying to cross a span with gaps, only to be knocked off by one of these little blue flying menaces. Of course if you have the stop-watch, you can freeze them, and progress, but again, if you do not have that item, you are staring down an Alcatraz sandwich.

    - Merman. Even though these enemies are not flying across the screen, their ability to jump up out of the water is just as annoying. Sometimes they will even land on a platform and spit fireballs at you. When this is combined with bats flying across the screen at you....watch out! The stop-watch works well against them when you are required to cross the water filled gap by either jumping, or by using a moving platform.

    - Birds/Bats. The birds are few and far, but are annoying in that they are always perched atop something near a gap you need to cross. They are effective at knocking you backwards off the platform you are on, and in to the pit you are trying to kill. Bats too are good at knocking you backwards off of a gap span you are crossing, and since they re-spawn like other enemies (mini Medusa, merman), they can be used to stock up on hearts.

     One aspect of the game that, to me, seems pointless, is the bags of money you will pick up from enemies, candles, and hidden blocks. You can't use this money to purchase items in a shop, and the only value of the points system is to earn extra lives. I have never once completed this game, and immediately looked to see what my points score was. In fact I don't recall ever seeing anything that indicates what your final score even was, nor does it have a "High Scores" table that records your final score. So these bags of money along the way are completely pointless. Why not replace them altogether with minor health restorals. I know they
already have them in the form of hidden pork chops, but honestly, it would make the game better if they would just replace the bags of money with a simple scrap of food to restore a little bit of health.

Overall:

    The first Castlevania game is a classic side-scrolling platform game that will continue to stand the test of time. This is evidenced by the fact that it has spawned multiple sequels on several consoles, including a few of Nintendo's competitors (Sony PlayStation, Sega Genesis, Commodore, PC).

    What is it that makes this game a classic? Is it the music, the challenging levels, the high replay value, and of course the nostalgia of reliving a child-hood game? Yes. But there is more to it than just these reasons. And each person who plays this game will provide their own reason for why it is a classic game.

     For me it is a combination of nostalgia, the music, the high replay value, and the fantasy of fighting all the classic monster movie villains, I grew up hearing stories about. My friends and I would spend our time making up gruesome tales to try and scare the ever-living shit out of ourselves. They would involve stories about Freddy Kruger, Jason (Friday The 13th), Bloody Mary, Dracula, zombies, and sometimes even our own made up creatures. So when a video game came along that involved fighting various monsters, we were all excited to see our imaginations come to life....even if only in an 8-bit representation.