Castlevania: Bloodlines (Switch): COMPLETED!

Just in case I was misremembering that this was one of the good linear Castlevania games, and my thoughts on Vampire’s Kiss were based on warped memories, I decided to give this a go. It’s on the Switch Online Mega Drive collection too so it wasn’t difficult figuring out a way of running it.

And, I was completely right. It is so much better than Vampire’s Kiss it makes that game look like a dodgy c-tier “Dracula’s Castle” knock-off and not a legitimate title in the series at all. Bloodlines (or “The New Generation”, if you prefer) is faster, slicker, more varied, longer, less frustrating, and much more fun. The bosses are excellent, there are all sorts of nifty graphical effects that the Mega Drive can’t do except it can – tilting towers, sprite scaling, splitting the screen up and shunting bits of it around, and so on.

I played through as Eric Lecarde – the one with the trident – as I think I played as Mr Whippy last time, and the reach of his tool (careful now) makes certain sections much more doable – he can stab baddies on platforms above him, for a start.

I’d probably go as far to say that this is the best linear (rather than SOTN style) Castlevania game. Yes, even better than Super Castlevania IV.

Castlevania: Vampire’s Kiss (Switch): COMPLETED!

Vampire’s Kiss is A Bad Game. I’ve no idea why Konami decided to dump this poor Super Castlevania IV followup on the Castlevania Advance Collection because it’s neither a GBA game nor is it a “metroidvania” style game. And it’s rubbish.

I’m trying not to represent it badly because it isn’t the same genre as the other three games on the collection, and it’s several years older, but no – it’s just no fun to play. It’s short, it has about three near impossible sections but the rest is pretty easy, and it plays really, really slowly. It does, however, look incredible, especially early on in the game, and the fact it’s a Super NES game makes that all the more impressive. It’s just a shame it’s way too clunky to go with it.

I mentioned Super Castlevania IV partly because that game is so much better than this, although it doesn’t look as good. It’s also linear, and also slow, but it’s much more fun to play. Vampire’s Kiss is just bobbins,

Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (Switch): COMPLETED!

And that’s it. The Unholy Trinity of Game Boy Advance Castlevania Games, all completed.

Once again, I found this easier than I remembered. Something else I had obviously remembered wrongly was that I’d thought this was the best of the three games, but in fact, this time around I think I enjoyed Harmony of Dissonance more. A combination of the dash moves, the double castle and the lack of the silly “broken up map” of Aria of Sorrow, perhaps.

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy this, though, as I did. Very much. It’s still better than 99% of other games and even better than most other Castlevania games. It’s so slick, so well put together, and just so playable it can’t be anything but – but – but, I liked Harmony more. Tch, eh? Yes, this one has even better graphics and Soma doesn’t have Juste’s Ready Brek glow, but still.

Nudity? On a Nintendo platform? Won’t someone think of the children?

100%ed this one too. But now I’m sad that there’s very little chance the three Nintendo DS Castlevania games aren’t likely to appear on the Switch (unless they edit all the second screen stuff out somehow), and of course the series has been dead for years. Boo.

Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance (Switch): COMPLETED!

No sooner had I completed Circle of the Moon I made a start on Harmony of Dissonance. Two things are immediately apparent: 1) the background and enemy graphics are much, much more impressive than the previous game, and 2) your main character, Juste Belmont, looks incredibly garish with a clashing outline. The reason for the latter is probably because Circle of the Moon got a lot of stick for being too dark to see on the original GBA. Back then, handheld consoles didn’t have lit screens and relied on you sitting in the sun (but not too much sun as that made it worse) or under a reading light in order to actually see what was going on, so making Juste stick out like a clown at a funeral was the solution.

Anyway. The DSS card system is gone, but Juste has become much nippier with forward- and back-dashes and actually, I didn’t miss the cards at all. Certainly not grinding for them, anyway.

The game also has some pretty impressive bosses, but I discovered it was much easier than I recall from my last playthrough. I had the same thing with Circle of the Moon too, and it’s not really a problem, just in my mind these games were hard as nails and it seems I’ve been remembering wrong all these years,

I liked the dual castle system, where the map was the same but the items, graphics and enemies differed between the two. I even hunted round everywhere to get the 200% complete stat, and also saw all three endings. Well, actually four but two are almost identical so probably don’t count?

Aria of Sorrow next!

Castlevania: Circle of the Moon (Switch): COMPLETED!

More than 14 years after last completing this, it was re-released on modern consoles as part of the Castlevania Advance Collection along with some of the other GBA Castlevania games (it’s missing the NES Classic original on there) and Castlevania X for some reason. Since it really needs to be played on a handheld, I bought the Switch version and then played it almost entirely on the TV. Tch.

The general consensus is that of the three GBA IGA-vania games, Circle of the Moon is the weakest. I’ve seen a lot of people say so over the years and it’s my recollection from playing through them all that time ago, but I found this playthrough fantastic so even if it is weakest, it’s still a top tier Castlevania.

Reading back over my previous diary posts on the game, I’m surprised how many of the boss fights I struggled with. This time through, I was marvelling at how easy they were, and it can’t be because I remember how to defeat them because I didn’t remember any of the game at all. Maybe I’m just awesome now? I still struggled with a few “normal” baddies in various areas, especially when you have a few gang up on you, but nothing insanely tricky like my memory suggested. I also used hardly any of the magic card powers, tending to stick to just the “flames that swirl round you” one.

Really good, and great to play through again. Harmony of Dissonance awaits!

Castlevania (Switch): COMPLETED!

Yes, the original NES game, here in the Castlevania Collection on the Switch. And oh my was it harder than I remember. Mainly the medusa heads in the later levels.

It’s still a great game, and having played other NES platformers this year so many of them just don’t play well these days – and they’re all the bloody same. But not this one!

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (Switch): COMPLETED!

A lot has been said about how terrible the Switch version of Bloodstained is compared to the other platforms it’s available for. Low quality graphics, 30fps not 60, longer loading times, and so on. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I don’t actually care. It’s the version I wanted, and short of being broken (and it’s not) it doesn’t matter to me about the rest. And I was right, as it’s pretty much a perfect Castlevania game and I enjoyed it very much.

Not sure female rock guitarists have been a baddie in Castlevania before.

We all know it’s by Iga, so is going to be the most Castlevania game ever, but I wasn’t expecting it to be almost literally Castlevania in every way possible. Every baddie is a reskin of a classic CV foe, every character is analogous to someone from a CV game. There’s a castle, there’s a vampire, and although it’s named differently, Soma’s (from Castlevania Dawn of Sorrow) soul mechanics are here too. All it’s missing is an end boss called Dracula and Castlevania in the name.

Some sort of lab with creatures in tubes round here.

As a Castlevania game, after completing it, I felt I needed to get 100% of the map (or 100.4% or whatever it is here), but unfortunately I’ve reached 99.8% and I’m stuck as to where I haven’t opened up. I’ve resorted to checking completely unlocked maps online and comparing them with mine, and I’ve found every single hidden room shown. I’ve no idea where the remaining ones are.

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon (Switch): COMPLETED!

Bought, played, completed. In under two hours. But this definitely not Castlevania is supposed to be short, and there’s supposedly more to be had from replays, so I’m not going to complain.

Not that there’s much to complain about anyway – it’s a decent platformer with some great bosses and a character swapping mechanic which (as each one has different skills) allows different ways of tackling rooms and reaching hidden areas and power-ups.

But it’s hard not to see this as a Castlevania game. As well as having the same graphical style as the original NES titles, one of the characters is basically a Belmont, as she wields a whip in just the same way. Another is clearly Alucard. The main character you start off as has a sword like Soma, but looks like Simon Belmont, and there’s a monk who admittedly isn’t much like anyone from that series. Then there’s the levels which try to distance themselves from Castlevania levels but there’s still the castle and although the baddies are different most behave just like Castlevania baddies.

The bosses, however, are very much new. And also very much easier than anything in a Castlevania game, although that’s not negative point – Castlevania bosses can be past the fun side of difficult.

If I’ve heard correctly, Curse of the Moon is a prequel to the full Bloodstained game which is still due to come out. If that is anything like this, then I’m all over it. Hopefully on the Switch!

Castlevania: The New Generation (MD): COMPLETED!

Or Castlevania: Bloodlines, if you prefer. Personally, I think both names are rubbish, and pretty much irrelevant.

Castlevania: The New Generation
Castle? Tick. Whip man? Tick. Moon? Tick. CASTLEVANIA.

My experience of this game previously has been that I own it, I’ve played it a few times, but because it wasn’t a Metroidvania style Castlevania (which I used to prefer over the older linear type) I never persisted with it. Of course, these days I enjoy most 2D Castlevanias, and since I just read about Castlevania: The New Generation this week in the excellent Hardcore Gaming Castlevania book and remembered that I’d never finished it, I thought I’d give it another go.

Castlevania: The New Generation
Nice doggie.

It’s excellent. Perhaps better even than Super Castlevania IV on the SNES. The graphical tricks the game pulls (sprite rotations and so on) were very unusual for the Mega Drive, not least because – as SNES fans would gleefully remind Mega Drive owners – there was no Mode 7 on the Sega console. The music, a vital ingredient in the series, is also incredible although perhaps not as iconic as in other Castlevania titles. It’s also a lot easier than Super Castlevania IV, which surprised me.

I played through as John Morris – the guy who isn’t a Belmont in name but is by blood, apparently, so can wield the Vampire Killer. He was in the original Dracula book too, apparently. The other character you play as is Eric, who has a pike or something. So yeah, I didn’t bother with him. Why would you? Tch.

Castlevania: The New Generation
Now… kiss!

There were some great bosses, marred slightly by Death’s Tarot Wheel of SuckySuck(TM), most of which I don’t think I’ve seen in other Castlevania games. Dracula also suffered from Irritating and Unnecessary Gaming Cliché #3, which was a shame but pretty much expected. I’m tempted to play more CV games now, but there aren’t any on the Mega Drive and that’s what I’m focussing on right now. There’s a sort of clone on the Master System though? Hmm.

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Castlevania: Spectral Interlude (Spectrum): COMPLETED!

cvsi-1That’s right, folks – I’ve completed a Spectrum game. But not a Spectrum game from 30 years ago – one from last year. Or this year. It’s new, anyway.

And it’s also really good. A new Castlevania game (a fan one, not a Konami one) that manages to fit into the Castlevania canon, with astounding graphics and sound considering the hardware it’s on. And it’s a full adventure experience too, like Castlevania II was on the NES, which abilities you gain from bosses giving you access to new areas of the map.

cvsi-2I’d forgotten how responsive the controls on Speccy games could be. All too often there was some vagueness and input lag, but here it’s perfect – and it needs to be for some of the later sections where you have to be pixel perfect and make use of your double-jump or warp abilities. Or both.

Like all good Castlevania games, Spectral Interlude is a bit of a challenge. OK, it’s a lot of a challenge. Nigh on impossible, in fact. Thankfully, I was playing on an emulator, so I could make use of save states. This was probably just as well as it’s a big game too, and took me several hours to finish.

Screen_Shot_2015-03-31_at_18.37.39An utterly superb game. Please don’t ignore it because it’s for such an old system, as it stands up really well today despite the limitations. Not that you’ll even see any limitations, really, aside from the usual colour clash. Go and download a copy here.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow: Mirror of Fate (3DS): COMPLETED!

It seems like years ago when I last completed a game. I blame the crippling twin time vortexes of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate and Animal Crossing: New Leaf, because escape from them is almost impossible.

But, here and there, I’ve worked through the final chapter of the story – playing as Simon. His section actually fits before Trevor and Alucard (which run pretty much concurrently), and although I’d spotted where it was going well before it got there, the reveal after “defeating” Dracula was still excellent.

Dracula himself was really rather difficult. Not only do you have to counter or avoid his attacks, but he alternates between light and dark magic – which you must also do to actually cause him any damage. His “flaming towers” attack is especially deadly, as if you get caught in it, he can easily hit you repeatedly before you are able to recover and dodge. It took a good half an hour to finally best him.

Now I have Hardcore Mode unlocked, but I’m not sure I’ll be up for that. It was hard enough on Normal!

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow: Mirror of Fate (3DS)

A game with a sub-subtitle? Amazing.

First things first. This is not quite like the Metroidvania Castlevanias that I love so much (like Dawn of Sorrow or Symphony of the Night). It’s also not quite like the “original”, more linear Castlevanias like those on the NES and SNES. And it’s not even quite like the new “reimagined” Lords of Shadow game for the Xbox 360, despite the title and the fact it follows on from that game’s story.

It is, instead, a mashup of all three types of game. It’s pretty linear, like the originals, but it does have some map colouring and exploration (and the “new items unlock new areas” thing) from Metroidvanias. Finally, it has an approximation of the combat from the 360 game, with combos and air attacks and all sorts, plus that version’s art style.

I thought I’d hate it. I actually love it. The graphical style of the 360 title translates to beautiful 3D backdrops, but the game plays out on a 2D game – which is great as I’ve hated every 3D Castlevania I’ve ever played. The combat and levelling up system is a joy, and the game is suitably hard with seemingly impossible bosses that suddenly become walkovers once you learn their patterns and weaknesses – just like all the best Castlevanias.

Without wishing to impart spoilers, I’ve played Gabriel’s intro, then Simon’s bit, and now I’m into Alucard’s bit. Although I think I’m pretty close to the end of that.

The Irregular Lazy Catch Up Post

Yep. Another one of those. You love them really. So, here are things I’ve been playing recently:

Lego Harry Potter: Years 5-7 (360)

I’m now, I dunno, half way into the first of the two year 7 films? I have no idea. Things seem to have hit the fan though, as the beardyman has died and the moon has turned into a Lego skull and everything was on fire.

Literally no idea.

Skylanders (360)

My daughter is able to play this really well now, so we play in co-op and she pretty much manages by herself without me needing to control her or anything. She even goes and collects keys and things, and knows to hang back when there’s a load of baddies to dispatch. Awesome. We’ve done a few more levels, and redone some earlier ones again, but I’m not sure how far from the end we are now.

Batman: Arkham City (Wii U)

It’s fantastic. I’m now almost 9 hours in, and have just completed the Demon Trials bit, which is how far I got on the PC version before giving the PC version up because it’s the PC version and who plays PC games? Eh? I’m surprised I’d played it for that long on the PC though. In fact, I probably played it a lot longer, as I recall a lot of aimless wandering, side quests, and Riddler Trophy hunting – none of which I’ve really done in the Wii U version yet.

The Wii U Game Pad makes it a lot easier to manage gadgets and stuff too, and it doesn’t look any worse than the PC version did on my machine, so it’s better overall. Nice.

The Cave (Wii U)

Still on my first runthrough. I don’t know how long the game is, but I’m now doing the third “individual” puzzle section – for the Time Traveller – having already done the Hillbilly and the Twins bits. The Twins one was hilarious. And dark. The controls have clicked now too, which is great. It’s a shame there’s no Game Pad Only mode, though.

Zen Pinball 2 (Wii U)

I still only have the Marvel Infinity Pack of tables (I think that’s what it’s called, anyway – Avengers, Infinity Gauntlet, World War Hulk and Fear Itself), but they’re all great. I’m at the top of my friends list on all the high score tables now, and have broken the top 50 in the world on a couple of them – and 5th in the UK on one!

F-Zero (Wii U)

The SNES game for 30p. I’m not a fan of F-Zero (and never really have been, actually), but at that price, you can’t say no. So I didn’t say no.

It’s as good (or “average”) as I remember it. Quite good fun, but the tracks with the 90 degree “square” corners are too hard, the “cars” are too floaty, and the collision detection, particularly with walls, too ropey, to really enjoy properly. At least it’s in 60Hz. Miiverse would explode if it wasn’t…

Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate (Demo) (Wii U)

It’s Monster Hunter Tri, only in HD. And with more bits. But basically, that. It looks utterly fantastic, plays well, and I really want it, but… the controls! Oh my!

They were terrible on the Wii, but you’dathunk on the Wii U, with more buttons and a touch screen for easy item access, they’re be easier? Right? Wrong. You still have to hold L and press Y and A to cycle through your inventory. Why?! Madness.

Tank! Tank! Tank! (Wii U)

This is now free. At least, being able to play one of the multiplayer game modes up to three times a day is free. Rude not to download it, really.

It plays like EDF 2017, only with big happy cartoon graphics, Japanese photobooth style silly photo avatars, and tanks. It’s fun, but it’s Story Mode I think I’d get most out of, and that’s not free. Sure, it’s only £7.99, but I’ve a lot of other games on at the moment and it’s likely the disc version will be nearer that price (with all the other content included) soon. I’ve seen it for £15 so it’s only a matter of time.

2 Fast 4 Gnomz (Demo) (3DS)

I played another game in this series on the Wii U. It was terrible. This, however, is… good? It’s a simple autorunning platformer, but it was fun. Fun enough to buy when there are a billion similar cheaper-or-free alternatives? Not so sure.

Fractured Soul (Demo) (3DS)

Erm. I’m pretty sure I’ve played an almost identical game to this before. Maybe on the Wii. It’s a “two planes” game, where you swap from one to the other (one on each screen) to progress – as enemies, switches, platforms and lasers only appear on one or the other. It’s a bit like Mighty Switch Force, but not even one tenth as good. I won’t be buying this.

escapeVektor (3DS)

Another few levels into this. Still great.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow: Mirror of Fate: Demo of Game: Sub of Title (3DS)

It’s a 2.5D Castlevania, that looks like the 360 “reboot” graphically, plays a bit like it in terms of combat, but have the classic Metroidvania blue-map-filling thing going on. I hated the 360 game (it just wasn’t Castlevania), but this… this is awesome. It’s now on the list!

Castlevania: The Adventure (3DS): COMPLETED!

It’s about time I actually completed something! Skyrim has sucked most of my time, and although I’ve been playing other games, none of them are that near the end. This game was pretty short though, if a bit difficult.

I wrote this about it last time I completed it (back on an actual Game Boy!):

Oh my! Only four levels? Just as well as if there were any more, things may have been broken on purpose.

Level 3 is the real killer. The spikes are really rather hard to get past. Once you do, however, the rest of the game is pretty easy in comparison. The boss at the end of Level 3 was some sort of Harpy, who was easy to dodge, and then it was on to Level 4. It looked like there was going to be a SuckySuck(TM) bit, with all the previous bosses one after another, but thankfully it was just the first one. Again. And again. And again. I must have killed him about ten times on this level alone.

After some more spikey bits (which were actually pretty easy), I finally made it to Dracula. And killed him on my second attempt. He turns into a bat after you die, but thankfully he’s not too difficult.

These sentiments still stand, really.

Games I’ve been playing recently

Mutant Mudds (3DS)

It’s really hard now. I’ve done all 16 main levels, some of the secret levels, and collected all of the diamonds so far. I’ve done the first three Moon levels, but the last one? Nightmare. It’s so difficult!

It doesn’t help that you can only have one power up at a time, and you really need all three to make it through. I’ve swapped around which ones I’ve been using, but it’s too hard with any of them.

Rhythm Thief and the Emperor’s Treasure (3DS)

So awesome. I’ve just obtained the second (third?) treasure, from the Opera. The “waiter exam” rhythm game was pure excellent stupidity, but the fake-Mexican I ran into? Amazing.

Why amazing? Because he made me play Samba de Amigo. YES!

Castlevania: The Adventure (3DS)

With so many fantastic games I could have bought from the eShop, such as Kirby’s Dreamland 2, obviously I would buy this pile of old pants. Which I already have for the Game Boy, and which I already completed and declared rubbish. Tch.

It’s rubbish.

I’m on the third level and am really concerned for my sanity. Why did I buy this?

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 (iPhone)

Not played the iPhone version of this in ages, but sadly now can’t. Recent iOS updates seem to have left it a jerky, juddery mess, with the action pausing for seconds at a time. Controlling it is now impossible. Boo!