January 2, 2013
Platform: Game Boy Advance
Developer: Konami Computer Entertainment Kobe
Release Date: June 11, 2001
The resurrection of Dracula isn’t enough to deter feelings of resentment and rivalry in Hugh Baldwin. The young vampire hunter is distraught after his father, Morris Baldwin, gave his treasured Hunter Whip to Nathan Graves, the protagonist of Castlevania: Circle of the Moon. The three arrive too late to the Austrian castle where Dracula is being revived. The dark lord captures Morris and isolates himself from the two young apprentices.
Rather than seek out their mentor together, Hugh sets off on his own wanting to prove himself to his father. Hugh’s sour feelings are brought up multiple times as the player encounters him while exploring the castle, but there’s no depth to this plot. Ultimately, Hugh realizes the darkness in his soul would be his downfall and redeems himself. Lackluster story or not, it’s all supplementary to the player’s exploration of Dracula’s castle.
Exploration has been one of the hallmarks of the Castlevania franchise since the beginning and Circle of the Moon retains this element. Dracula’s castle is both expansive and limiting and the same time. The player is limited from outright exploring every area due to obstacles that cannot be overcome until a required item is unlocked. There are many such roadblocks to progression forcing the player to explore the castle sections at a time. Still, the player has much freedom to wander about and discover rooms with stat boosters and tougher enemies. The design methodology seems to encourage players to spend time exploring while preventing them from encountering enemies much too tough for them.
As players traverse Dracula’s castle and defeat enemies, Nathan levels up and becomes stronger and more resilient. Players also have a few options for customization by equipping different pieces of gear or making use of Circle of the Moon’s unique Dual Set-up System. The gameplay draw for this Castlevania game, the DSS, allows users to combine magical cards they’ve come across to enhance their combat proweress. By combining an action card and an attribute card, players can unleash special attacks or increase their stats. I wasn’t impressed with the system for the majority of the game, tending to rely on a combination for many hours without alternating. As Nathan’s quest became more difficult though, I experimented more and by the final battle with Dracula, I was switching between three combinations depending on the circumstances.
Apparently the score is mostly composed of songs from past games in the series, slightly revamped. I’m not intelligible enough in regards to the series to say whether or not these versions are better, but I can say that I sought out a few of the tracks and put them on my iPod I liked them so much. “Awake” was introduced in Circle of the Moon, “The Sinking Old Sanctuary” is from the Genesis game Castlevania: Bloodlines and “Clockwork” is from the NES game Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse. I would’ve embedded them, but WordPress doesn’t allow mp3s, so I’ll just say search them out.
Castlevania: Circle of the Moon was on the receiving end of some controversy in the late 2000s when Mr. Castlevania himself Koji Igarashi struck the game from the primary timeline. This action is something only the most fervent fans will care about, but it sent a message that Circle of the Moon was not as respected other titles. (Perhaps this was personal though as IGA didn’t have any involvement.) Still, Circle of the Moon is well enough worthy of the Castlevania moniker – it’s a superb action game.
October 29, 2011
When I was bored at work earlier today I realized my only obligation on Halloween this year is school, and that’s only until noon. Seeing how I live in a rural area and I don’t get trick-or-treaters, I’ll have the rest of the evening to myself, and probably some friends. Naturally, I began concocting a list of Halloween related games I could potentially play.
The first on my list, and one I will definitely play is Batman: Arkham City. Primarily because Calender Man hinted that I should visit him on Halloween, but also because dressing up as a superhero is commonplace on Halloween.
Bloodrayne. Maybe it’s time to revisit Bloodrayne: Betrayal.
Castlevania. I’ll probably have nothing better to do on Halloween so I might as well play a game in this great series and slay Dracula.
Condemned: Criminal Origins. A really good game.
Costume Quest. I actually don’t have this, but it’s onlya download away. This role-playing game came out last October and features a group of children trick-or treating. A solid title from the well-regarded studio Double Fine Productions.
Dracula Unleashed. Or perhaps any other “spooky” game on the Sega CD like Night Trap, Mansion of the Hidden Souls, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem. I’ve always wanted to play this game and this is the perfect excuse to pick it up.
Fester’s Quest. This NES game has players controlling Uncle Fester from the TV show The Addams Family. Scary indeed.
Geist. This poor GameCube first-person shooter might just be at the right place at the right time this Halloween.
Grabbed by the Ghoulies. More ghosts?
Illbleed. This Dreamcast game seems really strange.
Juggernaut. Speaking of strange, this PlayStation adventure game is off the charts.
Left 4 Dead. What list of Halloween related video games would be complete without Left 4 Dead, or any other game featuring zombies.
Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. Playing the full-motion video Sega CD game would remind of my youth in the 1990s, and it’d be the perfect excuse to write about one of my favorite Sega CD games.
Overblood. This Resident Evil clone has a soft spot in my heart, just like another spooky PlayStation video game: Space Griffon VF-9.
Resident Evil. Any game from this survival-horror series would be right at home on Halloween.
Shadowgate. A spooky point-and-click adventure game perhaps?
The Simpsons: Night of the Living Treehouse of Horror. I received this poor Game Boy Color platformer for my birthday one year and never progressed far in it.
The Thing. I did just see the new movie.
TimeSplitters: Future Perfect. One of my favorite levels from this game was a horror themed mansion.
Alone in the Dark
Dead Head Fred
Friday the 13th
House of the Dead
The Nightmare Before Christmas: Oogie’s Revenge/The Pumpkin King
Zombies Ate My Neighbors
Anyone else planning something similar? What titles did I forget about?
Real quickly I wanted to talk about the demos for two games that I won’t do a full first impression of.
The first is Deadliest Warrior: Legends. It is a downloadable fighting game released for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 based on the TV series of the same name. I chose from a roster of famous warriors spanning history, but there were only two in the demo. I could move my character around in full 3D space and attack with multiple weapons, but the movement and combat felt loose. My wins came very easy and I didn’t really like the feel of the game, but I be it’d be a hoot with a second person. Deadliest Warrior: Legendswas developed by Pipeworks Software and published by 345 Games.
The second game was just released today; it is Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet. Its demo gave me the impression there wouldn’t be any voice over, that the game’s narrative would be conveyed through animated cutscenes. A good choice considering the game’s art is striking. I controlled a space ship through a side-scrolling world, not really being sure of my objective. I ran across upgrades for my space ship and had to do a little backtracking once I found an upgrade that would allow me to progress farther, and yes, the game is apparently inspired by Metroid and Castlevania. I really liked the look of the game, and could imagine enjoying the gameplay as I ventured into unusual new areas. Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet was developed by Shadow Planet Productions aka Fuelcell Games and Gagne International and published by Microsoft Game Studios for the Xbox 360.