You know, I still remember checking out Castlevaniaon the NES in the early-to-mid 2000s, marveling at the foundations of the series that spawned one of my favorite games at the time, Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow. This had to have been late in my middle school years, perhaps even my first year of high school. I had already been turned onto video games for a year or so, and not too long before I had scored an incredible haul from a garage sale that furthered my interests in retro gaming. It was a NES with, like, all the heavy hitters. I’m talking multiple Super Mario Bros. and Zelda games, Metroid, Contra, the Zapper, and of course, Castlevania. What stuck with me most about checking out Castlevania was its difficulty. I could only get so far – maybe the second boss – before burning out and throwing in the towel.
Fast forward to Halloween afternoon, 2021 and I STILL hadn’t played a thematically appropriate game for the month of October. As one does with scary stories, horror movies, and the like, there’s just something fitting about consuming them in October. At least here in North America, fall is starting to FEEL like fall. It’s getting darker earlier and colder, which makes it harder to enjoy physical activities outdoors, and on top of that, everything’s dying. Why not revel or find solace in a piece of entertainment that mirrors the increasingly dire situation that surrounds oneself? Well after days of seeing Philip Summers – aka “The Hand-Drawn Game Guides guy” – post about his Castlevania exploits on Twitter, I decided I’d do the same!
Like Shanghai, there’s not much to discuss when it comes to Rocky. Based off the popular film franchise, this 1987 Master System game was developed and published by Sega. Assuming the eponymous star, I needed to outclass three rival boxers to succeed. Rocky moved automatically, although I had a modicum of influence. The same is true for the type of punches I threw. Although I didn’t play much I found it quite confusing. A different training minigame took place before each bout and granted a helpful buff if I overqualified. Simple at first blush, I was able to button-mash my way through the first fight and two minigames. This tactic failed me in the second match and that’s ultimately where I tapped out. For such a simple game, the manual implied a convoluted level of control, something I didn’t grasp and didn’t care to. If I did, I would only have to outwit one more boxer to reach the end. It’s a tough, short, and good looking game that I didn’t find enjoyable enough to keep on fighting.
It’s been nearly a year (!) since I last played the Sega Master System or recorded gameplay, but I’m getting back in the groove. First order of business: highlighting Enduro Racer! Originally released as an arcade game around this time of the year in 1986, it was another popular hit designed by Yu Suzuki. The Master System port released a year later and perspective-wise, was quite different. Whereas the arcade version featured a behind-the-back perspective akin to Hang-On, this version featured an isometric viewpoint more like Zaxxon. That difference aside, gameplay still revolved around racing dirt bikes and catching big air. Once I understood the mechanics, I was off to the races and had a great time. Continue reading Enduro Racer [Sega Master System] – Review and Let’s Play→
Although I’ve long been aware of Space Harrier, playing through the Master System version provided my first hands-on impressions of it, for better or worse. Originally released by Sega as an arcade game in late 1985, it was one of the first games designed by the now legendary Yu Suzuki. The following years saw a multitude of ports to popular home computers but it wasn’t until the 1987 Master System port that one of them had the distinction of being handled internally at Sega, helmed in part by the similarly iconic Yuji Naka. The resulting version faithfully adapted the fast-paced shoot ‘em up gameplay, vibrant stages, and varied enemies of the original release, despite the technically inferior Master System hardware that could’ve been a devastating drag on quality. Continue reading Space Harrier [Sega Master System] – Review and Let’s Play→
After obsessing over The Ninja, attempting to complete it and then doing just that, I found myself in a void, unsure what to play next on the Master System. I tried a few different games but nothing satisfied me the way that game did, nothing that I felt was worth devoting the same amount of effort. Wonder Boy finally got me out of that rut. Continue reading Wonder Boy [Sega Master System] – Review and Let’s Play→
Ghostbusters really caught me by surprise. My formative video game years occurred during a generation when almost every movie tie-in was garbage. It wasn’t always that way but I was nonetheless blown away by the ambition and, mostly, enjoyable execution of the multiple gameplay genres and mechanics in this game. Further research shed a light on why I felt this way: David Crane designed it! He was one of the early luminaries of the video game industry with a spate of terrific and influential titles to his name. Now truly, this game didn’t begin life as a Ghostbusters tie-in, but the concepts originating in the film were applied and executed in such a way that that fact is not obvious. Continue reading Ghostbusters [Sega Master System] – Review and Let’s Play→
My interest in the Sega 32X has evolved from something of an ironic curiosity to that of a genuine fan. Completely disregarding the business sense the unpopular Genesis add-on made, it’s hard to argue that it didn’t host some solid games. Its limited library of about forty is one of the prime drivers of my interest: the smaller library should make it easier for me collect and play each title. So when I came across After Burner for a fair price at Game Cycle of Pittsburg, Kansas, I had to jump on it. Continue reading After Burner [Sega 32X] – Review→
When I beat Super Mario Bros. for the first time last year, I felt I had marked an item off of a video game bucket list. It was a momentous achievement not just because it’s such an influential and important game to the medium, but because it was challenging as well. It took many, many failed attempts, progressing slightly farther each time before I was able to conquer Bowser and when I did, I felt like I accomplished something! For the same reasons, I’ve recently come to the Mega Man series.
For someone who fancies himself a collector and a knowledgebase of video games, it’s been hard for me to reconcile the fact that I’ve only played one Mega Man game; not even a core title in the series either but a spinoff: Mega Man Network Transmission. With compilations of both the classic and X series, I decided it was finally time to rectify this omission. With little deliberation, I shelved the Mega Man X Collection and decided to begin where the franchise did: with Mega Man. Granted, playing the Xbox version of Anniversary Collection on the Xbox 360.
It didn’t take long to dawn on me once I’d started, but this game and this series helped define the action-platformer. In a basic sense, Mega Man plays like Super Mario Bros. with guns. It retains the precision platforming of that game while featuring more frantic action, especially with the bosses. The stages are relatively brief affairs but each one hosts unique platforming challenges. Even with their brevity, it would always take multiple continues before I could reliably reach the boss; if I didn’t decide to halt that stage for the moment and move onto another after losing my stock of lives.
Another influential aspect of this game is the open-ended nature in completing it. Before Mega Man has the opportunity to settle his score with Dr. Wily, he first has to beat six of the mad scientist’s robot masters. Their stages could be selected in any order and what’s more, once beaten, Mega Man obtained their weapon. I could freely switch between the weapons Mega Man had acquired and was rewarded for doing so as each robot master was weak to another’s weapon. After obtaining a new weapon, I’d try a stage and make it to the boss to see if it was weak to the weapon just acquired and do so until I found my match.
Once the robot masters had been defeated and the path to Dr. Wily became available, the challenge really began. I went through a decent amount of continues before reaching the Yellow Devil. This iconic Mega Man boss was highlighted to me with his annoying inclusion in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U where he transfers chunks of his body horizontally from one side of the screen to the other rebuilding itself, a difficult attack to evade. Now I know where that originated. That exact same tactic is present here and was one of the hardest video game obstacles I’ve had to overcome in recent memory, maybe since beating Super Mario Bros. last year! It took me so much time and effort (multiple sessions across a couple of days even) that I naively thought this was the final boss. Because of course it wouldn’t be DR. WILY! Come on John, think about it!
So once I’d finally conquered the Yellow Devil (which literally made me exclaim WOOHOO!), I was crestfallen to realize there was more to do… much more. Dr. Wily’s stage was four sections long – each ending with a boss fight, or set of boss fights. Each of the robot masters that Mega Man had beaten previously had to be beaten again. Thankfully, the game allows unlimited continues and mercifully, when used in Dr. Wily’s stage, they restarted me in the current section and not at the very beginning of the stage – pre-Yellow Devil. With that ability, I was actually able to make it deep into the final section of Dr. Wily’s stage when that nightmare scenario we all have while playing video games happened – I lost power. ARGH!!!
With that, I was done with Mega Man. Not just for that night but for a long time. At least, that’s how I felt for the next fifteen minutes until I had a chance to cool down. This was something I still had on my video game bucket list, something I still felt I needed to do in order to broaden my gaming knowledge. A few days later I returned and with little resistance was right back where I was pre-power outage. Most thrilling of all was the rematch with the Yellow Devil. What had once taken me an eternity to overcome I could now topple in a few attempts!
With the robot masters bested again and these sections completed, there was one thing left to do: put Dr. Wily in his place. Like the Yellow Devil, this was another tough matchup. Dr. Wily had two forms, each with an eternity of a health bar. After a few attempts I knew what I had to do: I had to cheese him.
In the original Mega Man, there’s an exploit that allows Elec Man’s weapon to damage an enemy multiple times with one shot. This weapon’s projectile is long and branching like lightning. As soon as it made contact with Dr. Wily, I pressed the back button on my Xbox 360 controller – pausing the game. Upon unpausing the game, it damaged him again as if this was the first time the projectile made contact. This exploit wasn’t removed from the Anniversary Collection and I milked it across a half-dozen attempts before the mad scientist finally bowed to Mega Man.
Although I wound up cheesing the final boss, I have no regrets. I overcame so many obstacles while testing my reflexes, dexterity, and memorization that I still feel accomplished. Besides, literally every FAQ and forum commenter I came across suggested the same thing. I’m not sure anyone’s beaten Mega Man without utilizing that exploit! Nonetheless, I can cross beating Mega Man off my bucket list and can feel a little more confident in my gaming prowess and knowledge. Foremost of which is the fact that Mega Man is a precisely tuned action-platformer that’s tough but rewarding. Now, onto Mega Man 2!
When you have a video game collection like mine, it can be hard to play all of the games. This is especially true when additions are made on an almost weekly basis. Still, I appreciate nearly every game I’ve accumulated for this reason or that. In the hopes of improving my writing through continuous effort and promoting ongoing learning of these games, I’m going to compose brief, descriptive articles.
I can still recall the garage sale I got my first NES, this game, and about a dozen-and-a-half others including Contra, Metroid, and The Legend of Zelda. I was already interested in vintage video games having read Tips & Tricks for a while at this point, marveling at the Collector’s Corner section mostly. To find all these goodies, and for practically nothing, I was ecstatic. I actually haven’t played this game too much, which is a shock considering I’m such a fan of the more modernreleases. It’s a very difficult game and I can only recall getting to the third or fourth section of the castle. The gameplay was solid however and the soundtrack is an undeniable classic. Something I need to play more of for sure.
Castlevania was developed and published by Konami. It was first released on the Famicom Disk System in Japan on September 26, 1986. Its first release in North America was on the NES on May 1, 1987. It was later ported to the Game Boy Advance as part of the Classic NES series. It has also been ported to all of Nintendo’s Virtual Console services (Wii, Wii U, and 3DS – what a mess, needs consolidation!).
Adapted from Alex DeMeo’s Atari 7800 original, Title Match Pro Wrestling for the Atari 2600 is more of a conversation piece than an enjoyable game. Published by Absolute Entertainment (formed by a wealth of Activision employees) it was released in 1987. 1987! This game came out ten years after the Atari 2600 launched, amidst the heyday of the NES, and just two years before the Sega Genesis. I find it bewildering to consider games were still being commercially designed for a system that Atari had already released two successors to.
Regardless, it was included in Activision Anthology thanks to Activision’s later purchase of Absolute Entertainment. The most enjoyment to be gotten from this game should stem from the multiplayer, but my friend and I didn’t have much. Honestly though, I can’t speak too much to the game’s quality considering my limited exposure with it.
For me, one of the big downfalls of older wrestling games like this one is the limited or confusing move sets, brought about by the limited number of buttons on a controller. I find that to be the case with this game. My friend and I spent very little time playing Title Match Pro Wrestling, and even with a single button and a joystick, we didn’t divine much information about the controls. Some more time spent with it and its manual would likely alleviate this issue, but whatever. It’s a functional game, is technologically proficient considering the platform, but most of all, surprising considering when it was released.