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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Favorite Tunes #73: What a Horrible Night to Have a Curse

If you could guess what the focus of this Favorite Tunes was based on that title, give yourself a roasted ham behind a brick wall. I've been wanting to use Castlevania as a centerpiece on Favorite Tunes for the longest time and with it being Halloween, I can't think of a better opportunity. This series has some of the most fondly remembered music in the medium so enjoy a sliver of my favorite selections.

Wicked Child - Castlevania (NES)

I'll bet you were expecting me to start this feature off with Vampire Killer, weren't you? For me, the true difficulty spike in Castlevania comes when you reach the third stage. Those annoying Medusa Heads are present and they just love to appear when there are bottomless pits. Then there's the boss, which is two mummies. Yeah, they share the same life bar, but the fact that there's two of them doesn't make it any easier. Things I like about the third stage? I do like how you get a nice view of another portion of Dracula's castle, what I'm assuming is the final room where you battle him. And Wicked Child is one of my favorite tracks from the game, right up there with Vampire Killer.

Bloody Tears - Castlevania II: Simon's Quest (NES)

The black sheep of the NES trilogy, Castlevania II doesn't pack the gut-punching difficulty that it's predecessor and successor do but this didn't prevent the game from giving players a massive headache back in the day. You see, Castlevania II is very much a guide game in that, you pretty much need a guide to get anywhere in the game at all. The less liner approach turned off a lot of players and is the sole reason the game has the less than stellar reputation that it has today. Even so, the game has some nice visuals and a splendid soundtrack. Without this game, we wouldn't have Bloody Tears, a fan favorite that has gotten plenty of remix love.

Aquarius - Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse (NES)

What many consider to be the pinnacle of the NES Castlevanias, the third entry lets you play as three different characters, each with their own play styles, including Alucard. Castlevania III is also one of the toughest games in the series, giving the original a run for it's money. Castlevania III has two distinct versions of the game, the original release on the Famicom in Japan and the NES version released in America and Europe. Among the differences between the two versions are the soundtracks. The Famicom takes advantage of the extra sound channel to give the music a bit more oomph. Many fans prefer the Famicom soundtrack, but the NES score is still amazingly good.

The Submerged City - Super Castlevania IV (SNES)

A retelling of the original Castlevania story, there's still plenty of new material in series' first 16-bit outing. For the first time ever, Simon can influence the direction of his jumps (to a small degree) and the whip can be used to attack in eight different directions. There are also brand new areas and stages to extend the length of the game, although it's still short overall. Taking advantage of the SNES sound chip, Super Castlevania IV has an outstanding soundtrack featuring old favorites and fresh tunes. This is many fan's favorite traditional Castlevania title. In Japan, Super Castlevania IV was released in 1991 on October 31st. History repeats itself with the game re-releasing on the Wii U's Virtual Console service on this very day for America and European gamers.

Bloodlines - Castlevania: Rondo of Blood (PCE, PSP)

For years, this particular entry in the series was only available to those in Japan on the NEC PC Engine console. In 2007 an enhanced version was released on the PSP along with the orignal Japanese version and Symphony of the Night as unlockable bonuses. If you want to experience the original version of the game on a home console, you can download it off the Wii's Virtual Console. Having completed it earlier this month, I can honestly say that it's one of my favorite titles in the franchise in spite of the many, many deaths I suffered.

Calling From Heaven - Castlevania: Bloodlines (GEN)

The first of only two Castlevania games to be released on a SEGA console (the other being the SOTN), Bloodlines brought back the multiple character system introduced in Castlevania III, but once you pic either John Morris or Eric Lecarde, you're stuck with them through the whole game or until you lose all your lives and both continues and are forced to start over. Yeah, as tough as Casltevania always was, for whatever reason, Konami decided to make it all the more punishing by placing a strict limit on your continues. Still, this game is certainly worth your time. Before Michiru Yamane worked on Symphony of the Night, this was where she started writing music for the series and it is awesome.

Requiem for the Gods - Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PS, SAT)

The game that started the whole Metrovania craze that the series has been on for over a decade, Symhony of the Night is a direct sequel to Rondo of Blood. In the prologue, you play as Richter, but you're quickly thrust into the black boots of Dracula's offspring, Alucard, who's on a quest to end his daddy's madness. I don't really need to harp on about why this game is so awesome because everyone and their cat already knows it.

Anti-Soul Mysteries Lab - Castlevania: Lament of Innocence (PS2)

While not the first 3D Castlevania, this title was seen in a much better light than the two N64 installments. Platforming has been a series staple, and even though there's very little of it in this entry, Lament of Innocence still has plenty of whip wielding action and a moody soundtrack by Michiru Yamane.

New Messiah - Castlevania: The Adventure Rebirth (WiiWare)

Did you ever play Castlevania: The Adventure on the Game Boy? I did and I can honestly tell you that you weren't missing out on much. Stiff controls, even more stiff than what the Belomnts usually get, super sluggish gameplay and no sub weapons made it a forgettable game. And yet, Konami saw the need to remake it, though one could use the term "remake" lightly here as there so much new stuff that it feels like a brand new game. Rooted in the um, roots of Castlevania's original play style, there is no Casltetroid to speak of. You make your way through six brutal stages but by stage 3, you'll probably wanna hurl your Wii Remote through your TV. That old-school 'Vania difficulty is back in full force. Like Contra ReBirth, this game arranges many songs from existing Castlevania titles, New Messiah was originally used in Casltevania II: Belmont's Revenge, another GB Castlevania entry and the sequel to Castlevania: The Adventure.

Vampire Killer (Arrange Mode ver.) - Castlevania Chronicles (PS)

Well here's that Vampire Killer tune you were all waiting for. It's not the original, but a sweet rave-tastic remix. Castlevania Chronicles packs two game modes, the 1993 X68000 Castlevania remake that was exclusive to Japan and arrange mode, a remake of the original Castlevania title. You'd think music like this was composed just for a listening CD, but nope, you can hear this very music in gameplay if you play on arrange mode. Party at Drac's!

Favorite Tunes Database

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

10 Games to Play for Halloween

Not going to that Halloween party this year? Maybe Halloween just isn't your bag. I now it isn't mine. I don't really need an excuse to stay home and play some video games but in the spirit of the holiday, I have a recommendation of ten games that are just perfect for this time of year.

01.) Castlevania: Rondo of Blood (PCE)

Dracula, the unkillable cockroach has once again returned but this time, he makes things personal by kidnapping Richter Belmont's girlfriend. This set's Richter on a one man whipping mission to rescue his gal and put Dracula down until he inevitably rises from his grave once more. But Richter isn't the only one that has a beef with the lord of vampires. Maria, a prisoner that Richter can rescue has a stake in this mission (pun sort of intended) and once Maria is freeded, she becomes a playable character. While Richter plays like nearly everyone else in the Belmont Clan with those super stiff controls, Maria is another story. Maria's attacks are even more short ranged than Richter's whip, but she can move while she attacks, posses a double jump and she can slide. With tons of alternate routes to take, and two playable characters to control, another knock out soundtrack featuring familiar songs and original music, Castlevania: Rondo of Blood gets my pick as the Castlevania game to play this Halloween out of the plethora of other entries I could have listed here. If you don't have a PC Engine, you can hope on the Wii's Virtual Console and download this excellent game for a mere 900 ($9) Wii points. Alternatively, there's the Castlevania: Dracula X Chronicles on the PSP, which includes a remake of Rondo of Blood as well as the original, which can be unlocked.

02.) House of the Dead: Overkill (Wii, PS3)

Mutants. Issac Washington and Agent G just can't seem to get away from them. Circumstances force these two reluctant allies to team up in a town where most of the population has turned into flesh eaters. Most of the House of the Dead games feature serious plots that are hard to take seriously with the bad voice acting. Overkill is not one of those House of the Dead games. With clear inspirations being drawn from films like Grind House and tons of other corny B movies, Overkill is more of a parody that pokes fun of the genre, never taking itself serious and get this, has good voice acting! If you aren't doubling over in laughter from the absurdity of the story line, it will be gut busting back and forth banter between Washington and G that will leave you in stitches. The on rails shooter genre saw a bit of a revival on the Wii thanks to the nature of the point and click Wii Remote and the shooting gameplay here is rock solid. You can shoot a mutant in the leg to slow them down but a well aimed head shot will end their undead existence for good. It's good old fashioned shoot to kill fun that's great if you're playing solo or with a buddy. If you want some extra content and shinier visuals, cop the PS3 version. Just know that you'll need some Move controllers to play it.

03.) Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon (3DS)

Luigi's uneventful night of slumber at home is interrupted when the Dark Moon of Evershade Valley is shattered, causing the friendly ghosts in Professor E. Gadd's estate to turn violent. The cooky old man summons Luigi to return to his ghost busting duties, equipping him with a better Poltergust device than before and a flash light that can stun ghosts as well as find things that can't be seen with the naked eye. No longer confined to a single huge mansion, Evershade Valley offers multiple areas for Luigi to explore such as the Gloomy Manor and the Old Clockworks. Since there are now numerous mansions to explore, the game sends you on various mission objectives, allowing you to explore the areas several times over. Of course you can still get rich while catching ghosts. Search every single nook and cranny you can find to discover stacks of hundreds of dollars, coins, gold bars and gems. Lovable coward Luigi is as lively as ever, stumbling through the ghoulish areas, humming the background music and leaping for joy when he completes a mission.

04.) The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask (N64)

All Zelda games are dark on some level, but none are as dark as Majora's Mask. In fact I dare say this one is pitch black. The Skull Kid stole Majora's Mask from the Happy Mask Salesman. Theft sucks but what makes this crime especially heinous is the fact that Majora's Mask grants the wearer extraordinary powers. With the Skull Kid's new-found abilities, he summons The Moon. Wait, The Moon? Well, that doesn't seem so bad. See the above screen shot? THAT'S The Moon and it has a serious bone to pick with the residents of Termania. In three days, The Moon will descend upon Termania and kill everyone, leaving Link very little time to stop it. Thankfully our elf-like hero has the almighty power of time travel on his side and can turn back the clock as many times as he needs to to save Termania. Not only that, but Link can also collect various mask that, granting him a variety of abilities. In case you haven't guessed by now, Majora's Mask is vastly different from other Zelda titles. Sure, it runs on the same engine as Ocarina of Time, but you're on a time limit and each day lasts only about 20 minutes. You think that Moon is scary when you look up at it and see that death glare? You should see when it finally comes down and kills everything. It's the stuff that nightmare fuel is made of.

05.) Super Metroid (SNES)

You know, if Samus had simply exterminated that last baby Metroid at the end of Metroid II, she would have saved herself a whole mess of trouble. But then, if she did that, we wouldn't have what so many of us consider to be the crown jewel of the Metroid series. Super Metroid may not be a horror themed game, but there's still lots of creepy things about it. The remains of alien life that crumble after a Metroid sucks the life out of it, Chozo Statues that come to life and attack you, a space colony full of dead scientists after Ridley's attack and that's just to name a few. The fact that Samus is alone on a hostile planet full of alien creatures out to get her is also an unsettling thought. Good thing Samus is more than capable of taking care of herself and has an upgradable power suit that can turn her into a one-woman army.

06.) Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts (SNES)

Princess Prin Prin is a lot like Princess Peach. Neither one of them can stay out of trouble. But I'll say one thing for Peach. At least she doesn't put Mario through half the BS that Prin Prin puts Arthur through. Mario's quest to save Peach gradually gets difficult. Arthur's journey is stupidly hard from the get go. However, to make things a bit easier, this time Arthur can get stronger armorer that upgrades his weapons to deal more damage. That double jump he's packing is also a life saver. Still, the minions are as relentless as ever and will make every attempt to swarm Arthur until all that's left is a pile of bones. And just like the original, upon "completing" the game a first time, you have to do it all over again on a much harder difficulty. If you don't mind a lot of frustration on Halloween, this devilishly hard platformer is the game for you.

07.) Alien vs. Predator (ARC)

Capcom has made a copious amount of awesome beat 'em ups. Final Fight, Cadillacs and Dinosaurs, Knights of Round and then there's this little beauty, Alien vs. Predator. There have been tons of games based of this licences over the years, but this is arguably the only one you need to bother with. This three player beat down gas you playing as cyborgs Major Dutch Schaefer, Lieutenant Linn Kurosawa or the Predator Warrior and Hunter in a city overrun with the Aliens. Naturally, it's your job to rid the town of these drooling, disgusting menaces. You can use hand-to-hand battle tactics against your opponents or attack them with your weapons since each character comes armed. This adds extra spice to combat and while some weapons need to recharge, it's always nice to always have one on hand and have more than one means to dispose of your enemies. Whether you choose to use a weapon to send the Aliens to their maker or your fists, dropping wave after wave of Aliens never gets dull, even in a repetitive genre like this one. You'll have to MAME this one to play it since it hasn't seen an sort of digital release or HD remake.

8.) Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem (GCN)

In Eternal Darkness you begin as Alexandra Roivas in the present day, investigating her grandfather's murder. During her search, she comes across the Tome of Eternal Darkness and each chapter thrusts you into the role of a character from a different time period that has been cursed by said tome. Playing through different time eras with the appropriate weapons of that era is a pretty cool concept and without spoiling the plot, the story of ED is very enthralling. But what makes ED a truly stand out game in the survivor horror genre is it's sanity meter. A green bar on the left side of the screen, when your character encounters an enemy, he or she will turn green. Literally. Contact with the enemy will almost always result in a loss of sanity and that loss can have varying affects on your character. They lower the sanity meter dips, the more screwed up your character will become. They may move more sluggishly in a skirmish causing you to take more damage from a group of enemies. Worst case scenario is when your sanity meter is empty and the sanity effects lean on the fourth wall to try and get to you, the player. I won't spoil any of them, but suffice to say, some of them are pretty cruel and border on trolling. Great as the sanity effects are, ED has so much going for it. Inventory items can be combined to make more powerful weapons and there are even healing and offensive spells to aid you when you're at death's door, which happens quite frequently in this game. On top of that, the overall story is very compelling with some interesting characters to move it along. ED is one of those games I would recommend to someone that isn't into the survivor horror genre.

09. Batman: Arkham Asylum (PS3, 360)

One of the coolest and moodiest heroes ever, Batman had been getting the short end of the stick in video games after the 16-bit era. Then in 2009, all that changed with the release of Batman: Arkham Asylum. The world's greatest detective must reclaim Arkham from the Joker, who's taken control of the insane asylum. Not only must the Dark Knight contend with the low level thug inmates, but he'll also cross paths with members of his rogue's gallery like Poison Ivy, Scarecrow and Bane. Since Batman is a detective first and a fighter second, you'll spend a lot of time in detective mode solving puzzles and finding out the best solutions for dealing with various situations. The actual combat is simple but entertaining and you get a few of Batman's gadgets to play with like the grapple gun and Batarang. There's even a tight story to back up the gameplay written by Batman: The Animated Series writer Paul Dini along with topnotch voice work from Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill among others. If you haven't played this title, you'd do well to check it out. The Game of the Year Edition is dirt cheap and even if you've already played it, consider giving the gritty halls of Arkham another visit.

10.) Resident Evil (GCN, Wii)

Come now, you knew a game from this series would be here somewhere. If any Resident Evil deserved a remake, you'd think it would be RE2. At the time, it was hailed as the best game in the series. As important an entry as the original was, RE2 was clearly the superior game. But no, Capcom went back to the drawing board and went all out, giving the first RE an incredibly sexy makeover both in terms of gameply and visuals. The first thing you notice about RE is the visual presentation. Saying it looks unbelievably gorgeous does not do it justice. These are the graphics that we see in a lot of HD remakes today, yet the GameCube was pumping out this stuff back in 2002. In another ten years, this game will still make gamer's eyes fall out from it's looks. But RE isn't just a pretty face. The gameplay has also been improved from the original 1996 game. The clunky "tank" controls the series is known for are still present and accounted for, but the 180 degree turn is your savior when you've got zombies at your heels. Defensive weapons also come in handy when you want to conserve ammo. There's nothing quite like stabbing a zombie in the face with a knife or blowing one's head off with a grenade. The voice acting is much better than the original game and the script was re-written. Add that with the mindblowing visuals and improved gameplay mechanics and you have a game that blows the doors off the original. On top of that, this RE is legitimately creepy. Play alone at in the dark at night if you dare. I wasn't sure which entry to include in this feature at first, but after thinking it over, this seemed to be the obvious choice.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Latest Purchases #60

I LOVE A Goofy Movie. It has incredible animation, a fantastic soundtrack, and it's just a wonderful film about a father trying to bond with his son when he's at that age where kids want to distance themselves from their parents. I should have picked up A Goofy Movie ages ago, but I guess I was waiting for the right price and $10 is tough to beat. It has some nice bonuses on here as well like two episodes from Goof Troop, one of my favorite cartoons.

Speaking of cartoons I adore, I finally got around to picking up TaleSpin Vol. 2. Wal-Mart had a new shipment come in and I figured it best to just pay the $10 to buy it in store rather than pay an added cost for shipping at Amazon. Just one DVD set shy of the whole series, and I recently learned Disney released the final 11 episodes on a two disc Vol. 3 set back in August. I hope the other Disney Afternoon cartoon series get the wrap up treatment.

Wal-Mart's bargain bin is becoming one of my best friends. It says $20 for most things in there, but when I run them through a price check,  a lot of them come up at $10, like Midnight Club 3: Dub Edition Remix and the ICO & Shadow of the Colossus Collection. I already have the PS2 vrsion of Shadow of the Colossus, but not ICO, so it was another reason for me to pick this one up. But for $10, I would have grabbed it even if I already did have ICO.

I love me some plushies and it seems like it's been a dog's age since I bought one. With it being The Year of Luigi, I thought it best to give the man in green his due before his older brother. So I got Squirrel Suit Luigi and Tanooki Suit Luigi. Most of the plushies I've been getting over the past year have been bought online at Amazon and they've been imports, like the two above. A lot of these plushies aren't sold in stores but I imagine you can find a lot of these in Nintendo's store in New York. Both of these plushies were nearly $20 each but hey, it's Luigi and if anyone is worth it, it's him.

Game Art #62: Pokémon Gallery

Well it's been a long time since Pokémon took center stage here on Game Art and with the recent release of X and Y, this seems as good a time as any to give Nintendo's million selling franchise some art dues. Enjoy.

By Sekkosiki
By Italiux
By The-Blue-Wind
By Haychel
By Lolo and White
By Temk
By Homare
By Ame Moti
By Yamicol
By csnel
By 68
Pixiv ID
By huiro
Pixiv ID
Pixiv ID
By Vermeilbird
By Kyuu
By Atori
Pixiv ID
Pixiv ID
By may
By Kabocha Torute
By Kabocha Torute
By Kabocha Torute
By phation
By Sapphire
By Nuriko-kun
By may