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.
June 7, 2012
Back when arcades ruled the video game roost, light gun games were widespread. The genre wasn’t as ubiquitous on home consoles, but it seems like each console from back in the day had a light gun. One game with a big presence back then was Lethal Enforcers. It was originally released as an arcade game in 1992, but was ported to the Genesis, Super Nintendo, and Sega CD from 1993-1994. Developed and published by Konami, each version came bundled with the Konami Justifier, a blue light gun modeled after the Cult Python, the iconic .357 Magnum revolver. Enabling cooperative play is the harder to find pink light gun, although it works across all three platforms.
Lethal Enforcers contains little narrative, but little is needed. Crime is being committed and as a cop, it’s your (and your partner’s) duty to uphold the law. You’ll shoot through scenes in which bad guys pop their heads up from cover looking to blow yours off. Without quick timing and precise accuracy, game over comes quickly. Once those qualities are on lock-down though, you might just be able to make your city a little cleaner. While that sounded like an ad, that’s pretty much the best way I can sum up the game.
My friend and I played the Genesis and Sega CD versions of Lethal Enforcers and I only noticed one difference between the two versions – the soundtrack of the Sega CD version was of a higher quality. Both games looked identical, although the Sega CD version should look much better than its Genesis counterpart. I imagine the Super Nintendo version is identical to the Genesis version, although without playing it myself, I can’t say with certainty.
My friend and I had a rough go at the game. It was easy to complete the first level, a bank robbery, and even do so without losing lives, but to unlock the next level, we had to have 70% accuracy. We eventually managed this, but the second level, a trip to Chinatown, upped the difficulty, while also asking us to have even better accuracy. The game has five stages and I’m sure this continues to be the case throughout the game.
I really enjoy light gun games, and Lethal Enforcers seems to be one of the genre’s better examples. It’s tough, but it doesn’t force players to memorize enemy locations. With quick reflexes and good accuracy, anyone can have fun. Playing cooperatively is a treat because at that point, you’re into the experience for at least thirty bucks, but it’s definitely much more fun with a partner. Lethal Enforcers is a fun game, although for the best experience, it will be slightly costly/difficult to track down. It’s worth noting that Lethal Enforcers won’t work on HDTVs so if you’re interested, make sure you have a CRT TV or something you can play it on.
November 17, 2011
Yesterday my girlfriend and I went to the movies and watched J. Edgar. As we were walking out I spotted a small, dark room containing about a dozen arcade games. The first thing I noticed when we walked in was two teenagers making out in a cockpit. Once I was done staring at them, we walked around and I told my girlfriend about the games. We stuck to one wall avoiding the other couple and after getting change we played a few games.
The first game we played was Cyber Troopers Virtual-On. It was developed by Sega AM3, published by Sega, and released around 1995. We picked two anime inspired mecha and fought each other until someone won two rounds. I liked that we had to sit down in a cockpit and pilot out mecha with two joysticks. In practice though we didn’t have time to figure out what the buttons did. By the time we were starting to grasp the controls, she had won. Next up was X-Men.
X-Men was developed and published by Konami in 1992. It’s a side-scrolling beat ‘em up and what I thought X-Men for the Sega Genesis was going to be. I played as Storm while she picked Wolverine; it was much easier to understand than Virtual-On. The graphics seem very detailed for when X-Men came out; our characters in particular were very large, good looking sprites. I think my joystick might’ve been messed up because I had a difficult time getting Storm to walk down. We didn’t last long but I enjoyed the minute or two we played it.
Lastly my girlfriend played Maximum Force, alone because one of the coin slots wasn’t working and it stole my change. Maximum Force is a light gun shooter developed by Mesa Logic and published by Atari Games in 1997. I didn’t find this game very attractive. The environments were poor 3D while the characters were 2D sprites. The enemies (monsters or aliens?) jumped into screen quickly and popped up all over the area, making it easy to get flustered. She lasted a while, but Maximum Force didn’t look very fun. You know what? I don’t think Maximum Force is the game she played because the descriptions of it on the internet differ from what I’ve just said.
There were plenty more arcade games but I only had three dollars worth of change and it went fast. I liked X-Men and could see myself wanting to stay and play through it, but overall it was kind of a poor experience. That doesn’t diminish my want to visit a proper arcade jam-packed with games or California Extreme, a large arcade convention, those would be fun with a friend or two. But until I do, my arcade action is limited to the movie theaters.
August 1, 2011
No More Heroes: Heroes’ Paradise is an enhanced port of the 2008 Wii game No More Heroes. Originally developed by Grasshopper Manufacture and the notorious Goichi Suda (Suda51), the game was a vulgar, outrageous action game that was actually really good. Heroes’ Paradise was developed by feelplus as they were being absorbed into AQ Interactive. Heroes’ Paradise is set to be published by Konami for the PlayStation 3 on August 16, 2011.
While No More Heroes utilized the Wii Remote only, Heroes’ Paradise can be played using the PlayStation Move or a DualShock 3. Lacking a Move myself, I was only able to play the demo using the DualShock 3.
Playing with a controller was not ideal, but I grew used to it by the end of the demo. My major qualm is with the finishing moves. When an enemy’s health bar is depleted, an arrow pops up and if I had a Move I would swing it in the direction of the arrow. Using a controller I instead had to press down on the right analog stick and then move it in the direction of the arrow. Coupled with pressing L2 to lock onto enemies, this was a little awkward. Playing with a Move seems like a necessity.
Heroes’ Paradise will contain many additions over NMH. A few bosses and side-jobs from No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle will be added, as well as a score attack mode. And there are some changes to the original formula too. Special attacks can be saved instead of automatically activating. There has been some streamlining done to the side-jobs as well. I’m not sure if they fixed the awful handling of Travis’ motorcycle however…
With the changes and additions in No More Heroes: Heroes’ Paradise, it looks to be the ultimate version of No More Heroes. However, having done everything there was to do in NMH and No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle, I don’t feel like there’s enough difference to warrant my purchase. Heroes’ Paradise will be just as pompous and fun as it was in 2008, and if you haven’t played NMH check it out, but only with a PlayStation Move.