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!
As someone who browses the video game section nearly every time I enter a Walmart or Target (sorry honey), I know from experience that the former never really puts games on clearance. Heck, in the year of our lord 2021, the closest Walmart to me STILL has a few licensed PlayStation 2 games. And they have the GALL to charge a ten spot for them! Listen, Walmart, I don’t think anyone is going to drop ten bucks on The Naked Brothers Band: The Video Game at this point. That game came out in 2008 – 13 years ago! The developer has gone out of business in the years since; THQ, the publisher, went bankrupt and has even come back in the intervening years! Just discount those games, or trash them, there’s no point in having them take up shelf space!
This is all to say I was surprised to actually see Walmart put a handful of games on clearance. And no, not THOSE games for some reason, but actual good games, like Indivisible. Being slightly familiar with the game’s Valkyrie Profile inspired battle system, and the prospect of a couch co-op RPG, the nine dollars practically flew out of my wallet. Unfortunately, the co-op didn’t wind up being as much of a draw as I had hoped; just as with the SNES Final Fantasy games, the second player really only participates in battles, so the non-combat sections leave them… waiting to play. BUT! It’s an otherwise enjoyable, refreshingly brief-for-an-RPG, video game.
While SteamWorld Dig is the second entry in a versatile series of steampunk video games, it was the first that caught my attention. In part, because it has appeared on every major platform since in debuted on the Nintendo 3DS in August 2013; and for good reason, it turns out. The mining gameplay bears a resemblance to the classic Namco games Dig Dug and Mr. Driller, but Gothenburg, Sweden-based Image & Form Games were able to carve out a unique identity for SteamWorld Dig by elaborating upon the basic gameplay foundations introduced in those games. Continue reading SteamWorld Dig [Nintendo 3DS] – Review→
Follow the video game industry closely enough and you’ll hear a common refrain. Something to the effect that it’s a miracle any video game gets made, regardless of quality. Ensuing explanations cite a myriad of ways that development could have, and may well have, gone off the rails. Bearing this in mind, it’s astounding that Axiom Verge is the product of a sole individual: Tom Happ of Las Vegas. Never mind the fact that it’s a nigh-perfect action-adventure experience, paying homage to Metroid and many other classic influences while introducing mechanics that differentiate itself. Originally released March 31, 2015 for the PlayStation 4, it has since been ported to numerous platforms, including the Switch, where I played it last week. Continue reading Axiom Verge [Switch] – Review→
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!).
Pitfall II: Lost Caverns is the sequel to one of the most popular and prolific games on the Atari 2600. Released in 1984 for that platform and a handful of others, Lost Caverns is even more advanced and expansive than its predecessor.
While the core gameplay of tracking down treasure via exploration and platforming is the same, there are many differences from the first game. Players are no longer racing against the clock to complete the game, nor are they limited by a set number of lives. This time around, when the player is injured, they’re taken back to the most recent checkpoint; Harry has an infinite life as it were. This makes it less of a burden to explore the caverns that Harry has found himself in, although that doesn’t make it an easy game.
Thanks to the game’s setting, it’s logical that the environment is deeper than it is wide. The caverns are eight screens wide but an astonishing 24-plus levels deep; because of this, Lost Caverns offers a style of platforming not seen in Pitfall! – vertical movement. Personally, I found it had a lot in common with Metroid, a game I played through and mapped out shortly before starting My Brain on Games. Again, because of the verticality of Lost Caverns, there’s much tougher navigation due to the increased possibilities for dead ends and tricky ways to enter rooms.
Lastly, just jumping and evading enemies is a challenge. Even in Pitfall!, I was surprised by how accurate players had to be when jumping over enemies. I felt like I had to wait until the very last moment to successfully complete jumps. It’s no different in this game, but it seems like there’s increased risks from flying enemies. Evading these requires a keen eye on their patterns and swift timing to take advantage of their upward movement.
Pitfall II: Lost Caverns is very appealing to me. The expansive environment is begging to be mapped out on graph paper and the elimination of a time limit and set number of lives should make it a more manageable task. More than that though, it’d be an entertaining and challenging trial.
When played in Activision Anthology, achieving scores of 45,000 and 99,000 points will unlock a new gameplay mode and patch. Again, this patch requirement matches what player’s originally had to strive for.
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.
Bored. Thought I’d post something, but don’t have anything ready to go up yet, actually that’s not true, I have a review of Universal Studios Theme Park Adventure for the GameCube ready, but whatever. I finished Final Fantasy XII earlier in the week and need to begin writing about that. It’s daunting trying to think where to start, but I know that once I do it’ll just flow out.
Since completing that I began playing Animal Crossing: City Folk for the Wii, just this morning in fact! So far I’m grooving on it, but then again I spent an inordinate amount of time with Animal Crossing and a little less with Animal Crossing: Wild World, needless to say Animal Crossing is one of my favorite games. I’m also playing through The Legend of Zelda on the Nintendo Entertainment System. I’m making a graph paper map of the entire game, so it’ll take much longer than if I just played through it normally. Fairly recently I got the urge to make encyclopedias for the The Legend of Zelda and Metroid series’ containing plot synopses, maps, bestiaries, etc. So yeah.
I also played Gun.Smoke on the NES after completing Final Fantasy XII, but could only get to the third stage. I’d like to play it again and try to complete it, but it is a rather difficult game. And lastly, a friend came over and besides playing You Don’t Know Jack, we played The Typing of the Dead cooperatively on the Dreamcast. We were able to make it the final boss but were unable to beat the game. I really enjoy that game, I find it very funny with its terribly cheesy story and funny word prompts to type, besides the humor though, it’s a genuinely fun title to play.
I’ve had fun playing Metroid Prime Pinball. It’s a strange game, and while some might say it would be better off not existing as a Metroid game, at least it’s a quality pinball game. Samus Aran’s ability to transform into a ball lends itself well to a pinball game, even though it is a shallow reason for one. The game is essentially a retelling of Metroid Prime, minus any exposition or context. All the tables are based off of the worlds from Metroid Prime and you fight the same bosses. The music as well is from Metroid Prime, although here it is slightly remixed. Unlocking new tables is confusing, unless what the manual says is correct, but I never pay attention to those things… Anyways, to unlock new tables you collect a certain amount of artifacts, like you did in Metroid Prime, and you’ll get the ability to play on new tables, which isn’t that confusing as it turns out.
The tables are simple, but fun to play, and with time easy to get good at; the same can be said for the bosses; they take time to figure out strategies, but once you do, it’s hard to lose. Having bosses, to me, seems out of place in pinball, but it’s done well here; it ties itself well to Metroid Prime, breaks up the standard goal of focusing on points, and differentiates itself from other pinball games. That said the game can get repetitive. After only a few hours, I had seen all the tables that were unlocked had to offer, and progressing seemed like it would take more luck than skill and so went my enthusiasm. I would end up dying quite early, and I would think I didn’t have enough artifacts unlocked to continue on, so I’d restart. But as I learned the tables and my grasp on my purpose became clearer, it was evident I would need equal amounts of skill and luck, as is often the case with pinball.
Artifacts come from succeeding at minigames and beating the bosses. The minigames are quite simple; the wall jump for example transports you to a separate area where you alternate the L and R buttons to wall jump, eventually reaching an artifact. Others are played on the board such as activating an enemy battle; space pirates, shriekbats, metroids and other familiar creatures will populate the board and you are tasked with defeating them all within a time limit. You’ll see all the minigames relatively soon, and then they become rote, although there being two types of tables: normal tables and boss tables, play strategies get significantly altered. The game comes with a rumble pack, and that’s pretty much that. It doesn’t seem very powerful and it makes a loud noise every time it rumbles, which can be distracting; it just doesn’t add much to the experience.
Metroid Prime Pinball piqued my interest initially because pinball games are somewhat of a rarity, as I played more I began to get burned out as it seemed like beating the game would require more effort than I cared to put in, once I got to the later tables though, I regained my ambition and trying for the ultimate goal, beating the game, became exciting again. As I do with most handheld games anymore, I played Metroid Prime Pinball in bed before falling asleep each night. I thought it offered enough fun in the relatively short bursts I played it, yet enough content to satisfy longer play sessions. It’s a competent and fun pinball game, its ties to the Metroid universe might as well be nonexistent, but it does nothing to foul the name of the series. Samus’ Morph Ball ability may be a shallow purpose to play a pinball game, but at least it’s a worthwhile pinball game.