Castlemania - Castlevania (NES)

Stage 13... I start off grinning ear to ear as yet another classic tune starts up (Heart of Fire). The grin turns upside-down pretty quickly when I'm faced with skeleton bone-lobbers and hunchback jumpy guys all at once. At one point a skeleton leaves the screen completely then jumps back on, killing me. It's the standard platformer practise of throwing several different obstacles at you - all of which have to be avoided in different ways, which usually means avoiding one puts you in danger from the other.

Thought I'd have a quick bash on Mega Man and was quickly reminded why I didn't choose to tackle that particular series.

Castlemania - Castlevania (NES)

That was a pain in the arse.

The stage 12 boss proved to be a bit annoying... it's a combination of Frankenstein's Monster and one of the little jumping guys - who also fires shots at you. Again, the stopwatch doesn't work, so I can assume it's not going to from now on (unless it only freezes life, and the last two bosses have been undead?). Anyway, much, much restarting was done until I got into to the mindset of being patient. Usually I'd just go in and try to thrash the boss before it did the same to me. The problem with that is... going toe-to-toe with a boss doesn't work out too well does it? The Big Guy himself doesn't actually pose much of a threat, he just shuffles back and forth, but it's him you need to hit. The little guys jumps all over the screen and does quite a bit of damage by both hitting you physically and with his slow-moving shots. I found that if you hit the little guy he freezes for a couple of seconds, and in that time you can get a few hits in on Frankie. Still, it was a close thing with a great deal of luck involved.

There were a lot of unnecessary deaths throughout this stage thanks to iffy collision detection and a couple of unfair moments. Only the boss had me chewing the pad and swearing though. It can only get worse I expect!

Castlemania - Castlevania (NES)

Second crack at Castlevania. The Medusa heads are still the most annoying things in the game, but those little guys that jump around you come a close second. Got to the beginning of stage 4 where I suffered some unfortunate jumping problems (jumping over water while trying to avoid flying enemies). Progress is swift though, considering this was my second ever go on the game. I've found that the way to beat bosses is to simply make sure you have the stopwatch and just freeze them and thrash. I wonder if that will work all the way through...?


I didn't really want to go to bed this morning, so around 4am I decided to start playing random NES stuff. I settled on Startropics and was immediately charmed. It's really simple and linear and holds you hand tightly, but it's also a lot of fun. There's overworld exploration and conversations with NPCs, then you're handed a quest and you venture into some dungeon or similar to carry it out. There it zooms in a bit and you have a very Zelda-esque series of rooms you need to progress through. There are monsters, switch puzzles (albeit very basic) and boss encounters.

It's got a bit of the stiffness of the 8-bit era, but on the whole it plays well. I think I'm going to stick with it.

Back to basics

I don't do anywhere near enough drawing (in fact, I barely do any). I don't really enjoy it and always have to break through a boredom / disinterest threshold soon after I've started. However, I am making a concerted effort to start drawing stuff and keep at it - it's pretty important after all!

Castlemania - Castlevania (NES)


Just had my first proper crack at this one. Apart from some glitches it actually plays pretty well (I fell clean through a moving platform at one point). Lost my first life to the first boss before coming back and spamming magic axes at it, then I succumbed a couple of times to the spiky presses on level 2 - which have a very unforgiving detection and timing. Also got my first NES taste of those damned Medusa heads, which have wound me up in every version I've played. Still, lessons learned!

Castlemania - The Mission

OK... so I had an idea today. Probably one of my more stupid ideas, but at the moment I'm quite excited and up for it. I was thinking about how I tend to sample a lot of games but stick with very few - even when I'm very much enjoying the ones I move away from. This got me thinking about the many classics I've missed out on over the years. Games I've played, sure, but not ones I've finished or even put any decent effort into.

So, seeing as exciting new games are thin on the ground and I'm a grumpy old retrohead anyway I've decided on a mission. I'm going to take a classic game series and play through it from the debut title to the most recent - to completion. No abandoning because I'm having trouble with a boss, no drifting away because some new RPG comes out that I want to play 10 hours of then forget about. Nope, I'm going to go back to the old days in both respects: old games and the old attitude I used to have about them - that I would beat the damn things.

Choosing the series came pretty easily, though I whittled it down from a shortlist. I settled on Castlevania - a series I've dabbled in to various degrees and been thrilled and frustrated by, but one that I've not really put a lot of effort into (the closest I've come to finishing one was 95% or so on Circle of the Moon, but gave up on being unable to defeat Dracula). It's remained resolutely 2D for the most part, and even the entries that have gone into 3D have only done so in a limited manner - unlike Metroids move into the first-person realm (the one reason that series was discarded). I like the style of game it's developed into but in the past I've had issues with frustrating bosses. I gave in too easily! The earlier games make a refreshing return to simpler A-Z platforming, too, and to my shame I can admit I've barely touched any of the NES entires before.

So, without further ado here's the list, in the order I'll be playing them. Each will be completed before I move onto the next. One caveat I have is that I only need to see a victory screen - it doesn't have to be a 100% effort (in the case of those titles where exploration and item collection are factored into the completion rating).

Castlevania - NES
Castlevania II: Simon's Quest - NES
The Castlevania Adventure - Game Boy
Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse - NES
Super Castlevania IV - SNES
Castlevania II: Belmot's Revenge - Game Boy Color
Akumajo Dracula X: Rondo of Blood - PC Engine
Demon Castle Dracula X68000 - Sharp X68000
Castlevania Bloodlines - Megadrive
Castlevania Dracula X - SNES
Castlevania Symphony of the Night - Playstation
Castlevania Legends - Game Boy
Castlevania 64 - N64
Castlevania Legacy of Darkness - N64
Castlevania Circle of the Moon - Game Boy Advance
Castlevania Harmony of Dissonance - Game Boy Advance
Castlevania Aria of Sorrow - Game Boy Advance
Castlevania Lament of Innocence - Playstation 2
Castlevania Dawn of Sorrow - Nintendo DS
Castlevania Curse of Darkness - Playstation 2
Castlevania Portrait of Ruin - Nintendo DS
Castlevania Dracula X Chronicles - Playstation Portable

There was an MSX game that came out prior to the NES one, but as far as I can tell it's the same thing...

Well. I can say no more other than: updates will be forthcoming!

Halo 3

Well it's finally here, and it's really, really good. Best of all I seem to be able to play it without motion-sickness problems, which is a huge relief. I still get a little bit queasy when the action takes place in cramped areas with a lot of movement, but even then it's almost insignificant - certainly not enough to stop me playing. I don't know what it is about the movement of Halo that makes it different to any other FPS in that regard, but I am extremely thankful for it.

As for the game itself... it's Halo, but it's Halo polished and refined to perfection. It won't convert anyone who didn't like the first two but for those of us that do it builds and expands on what's great already and offers up plenty of new elements. At the moment I'm playing through the solo campaign mode on Heroic difficulty. I haven't touched the online stuff yet, but it's obvious from the reaction across the media and the net that online Halo 3 will be played for years. Endlessly customizable multiplayer maps added to Bungie's own added content will see to that. There's so much in there it's staggering.

My favourite thing of all though is the Theatre Mode. Evey time you play a session it records the game to the hard drive, and you can play it back from any viewpoint, edit clips and take screenshots. It's an awesome tool for revising strategies, coming up with dramatic scenes or just reliving the action. It also brilliantly shows off the artistry in the visuals.

So yes - the wait was worth it. The game completely lives up to my expectations so far, and it's justified in getting all the praise it is.