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!

Racing Fever (Evercade): COMPLETED!

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My new Evercade cartridges arrived! I have no idea why this is the game I played first, but I did, and because it’s very easy, I’d soon completed it too.

I’d never heard of Racing Fever before, but it’s clearly an attempt to bring a game like the Neo Geo titles Over Top and Drift Out to the Game Boy Advance (where this first appeared). I think this also marks the first Game Boy Advance title to appear on the Evercade too, actually.

There are 12 tracks, many of which feel the same despite the changes in scenery. Some of this is probably because you never actually drive down the screen, despite the fact you have several laps of each track! That is to say, you only go left, right and up (and diagonally up) on the screen and yet still somehow end up back where you started.

It’s a bit low rent, and as I said, very easy, but it was fun enough until I finished it.

Things I’ve been playing recently

tumblr_n1ad5ghslg1svmpf2o1_400Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy (3DS)

Have I posted about this yet? I can’t remember. It’s the main game-on-the-go-that-isn’t-called-Animal-Crossing on my 3DS at the moment, having started it soon after finishing off Zelda. So far, it’s a slight deviation from previous Layton games, as there are a lot of locations and travel between them. This makes the game seem a lot bigger, but as you’ve the option of finishing up several of the locations in any order (or at least, it seems that way) so it feels almost open world.

In addition, there are millions of downloadable puzzles this time round. Possibly literally. I’ve spent a few hours on those as well.

This_game_is_too_hard._Well__not_this_exact_bit__but_in_general.Bit.trip Presents… Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien (Wii U)

In between bouts of Duck Tales (Woo-oo) I’ve been running (ha!) through this. It is so very, very hard. Leaving it for a couple of weeks and coming back is not a good idea, as you forget all the controls. Still, an hour or so’s play and it mostly comes back, and I’ve managed to reach world 4. Or 5? Yes, 5. Which I think might be the final world! The end is in sight!

Best_game_ever.Advanced Lawnmower Simulator Advance (GBA)

Actually, I’ve been playing it on an emulator on the iPhone. There’s one called GBA4iOS which you can install without jailbreaking and you don’t go through the App Store, which makes me think it’s just going to vanish one day, but until then… Advanced Lawnmower Simulator Advance is there.

It’s the best game ever, which of course I would say because 1) it is, and 2) I wrote it. Marvellous.

tumblr_n13xxprbyk1svmpf2o1_400Steel Diver: Sub Wars (3DS)

This nice little FPS in slow motion (submarines aren’t known for their speed and manoeuvrability)  is, for the cut-down version at least, free on the 3DS eShop, and was a surprise offering during last week’s Nintendo Direct.

I’ve not played a lot of it yet, but it seems fun enough.

Gauntlet (GBA)

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The other half of Gauntlet and Rampart, obviously.

And, like Rampart, it’s an excellent conversion even on a very small screen. I did get stuck on Level 14 though – I had a pocket full of keys (© The Rock) but had to pick up another to progress. But I couldn’t. Thankfully, the old hang-around-for-a-few-minutes trick worked and the walls all turned to exits.

Rampart (GBA)

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Another of the Play Asia package today. This one is actually one half of the “Gauntlet and Rampart” double game cartridge (which, at the time of typing, you can get for a bargainous £5 from here).

And? It is, as it always was, ace. I remember I was on holiday with a friend one summer and we walked three miles to the nearest arcade just to play this. It loses a little with just one player, but still plays fantastically (even on a Game Boy Micro’s screen!). I managed to win five “levels”, before being unable to finish the sixth.

Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis (GBA)

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This arrived in the post today, along with some other stuff, from Play Asia. And, since ugvm Retro Week has been extended into this week, it was ideal for playing!

Or so I thought. It turns out that in the process of simply porting the original Megadrive Sonic game to the GBA, Sega couldn’t help but rape my childhood memories by making it worse than those shoddy “fan-made” Flash-based Sonic games. It has more issues than a journal library. Par example:

1) You only get to see around 60% of the screen. The edges have been trimmed to fit the GBA. Not a huge issue if you know the layout of the levels off by heart (like me), but it means far too many leaps-of-faith and running-off-the-edge-of-things otherwise.

2) Horrific slowdown. Even when the screen isn’t busy, the game will slow down for seemingly no reason.

3) Inconsistent scroll speeds. Scrolling up and down is twice as quick as left and right. Or perhaps it’s just Sonic moves twice as quick when jumping? Either way, he doesn’t control like Sonic any more.

4) Things don’t draw in. You know the edges of the platforms in Green Hill that crumble when you stand on them? Sometimes they’re not there. But you can stand on them, and they crumble under you, but you can only see them as they crumble. The swinging platform on Green Hill Act 2 vanished while I was standing on it too.

5) Things simply aren’t there. You know the baddie in the air when you fly up into all those rings after the tunnel bit on Green Hill Act 1? The one you generally rebound off and aim back left to get more of the rings? Gone. Not just “not drawn in” – he’s gone.

6) The sound effects are broken. Some of them simply aren’t there. Others sound out of tune. Some sound completely wrong.

7) The music is awful. It’s like some 12 year old has “rerecorded” the original tracks using a dodgy midi sequencer.

8) The special stages are impossible. They run three times faster than the rest of the game. And no, it isn’t just 50 vs 60Hz issues – they’re WAY faster. And there’s the smaller viewport to contend with too.

Basically: Fuck off, Sega.

Densetsu no Stafi 2 (GBA): COMPLETED!

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World 11 was, in fact, the final world. Dark Castle and all!

As expected of the final world, many of the levels sort of repeated some of the puzzles and routines of previous levels, although obviously mixed up a bit. Thankfully, there was no SuckySuck(TM) bit either. The end boss, however, did do the usual trick of dying, only to change form and regain all his energy – twice. I wasn’t too bothered though, as each form was very different, none were especially hard, and if you died (and I did three or four times) you didn’t have to start from the beginning again. And you healed fully after each transformation too, making it fair. Hurrah, eh?

And then it was all over. I killed his final form, rescued someone who appeared to be my dad (a previous starfish “hero”, it seems), and banished the boss to a pot with a face on. However, my clam friend accidentally dropped the pot during the end of game sequence and let him out again. Tch.

Overall then, it was a great little platformer. It had a few irritations, e.g lots of similar sections – the dragon flying, balloon riding, fish surfing, and koala jumping bits especially – were reused a lot, albeit differently each time. Also, some of the puzzles were impossible to solve due to being in Japanese, but luckily trial-and-error won through. That’s not really the game’s fault, obviously, but why haven’t Nintendo released any of the Stafi series (of which there are four games) over in the UK? Now I just need to find copies of 1 and 3 in the set, and play through 4 on the DS!

Densetsu no Stafi 2 (GBA)

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It seems that World 8 (my next “most likely last level”) wasn’t the final world either, even though it was a castle. It was actually the castle of goodies, not baddies, so clearly there was more to do.

I’ve got a few more power-ups now too – a double jump (finally!), and a more powerful, and faster, dash-spin-kill attack thing. Of course, the game fights back to negate some of these when it can with stronger water currents, wind, and higher platforms. As is the way with platformers!

World 10 wasn’t the final world either, so my Platform Game Senses would dictate that World 12 would be the next likely candidate, but World 11 (which I’ve reached but not started) is a giant dark castle, seemingly set in space. Double whammy! Pretty much has to be the final world now, yes?

Densetsu no Stafi 2 (GBA)

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Didn’t play this for that long today, although I did manage to get as far as World 6-3. It’s still not getting very difficult, but it’s slowly getting more complicated, if you see what I mean. The puzzles (and most levels have at least one) are getting more involved, and I’ve had to solve a couple with trial-and-error simply because I can’t understand what it is I’m supposed to be doing.

I was under the impression (although I don’t know where I got this idea from) that there are six worlds. Well, World Six is too happy and bouncy to be the last level. One of the Rules of Platform Games is that the final level/world/area is a castle, an enemy base, or set in space. Or a combination of them all – not some sort of garden with smiling flowers. Or something.

Densetsu no Stafi 2 (GBA)

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This really is a most excellent platformer, you know, even though I fear I’m missing out on some totally riveting storyline with the amount of Japanese dialogue going on.

Progressed past World 4, killing the Ice/Fire Dragon boss at the end that was somewhat heat bi-polar, and now I’m into Tree Tops World (World 5). Yes, a starfish in the trees, which are conveniently full of water and stuff. I’ve gained the ability to double-jump now too.

I did have a few bizarre “smack four things in order” puzzles to contend with, and no idea which order to smack them. Managed two by trial and error, and my wife solved the third one for me.

Densetsu no Stafi 2 (GBA)

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After playing Hide and Seek with some small turtles (or whatever they are), it was time to move on to killing the boss at the end of World 3. It was a thing riding a giant moth.

Like the previous bosses, it was pretty easy, and I was soon onto World 4, which is Ice World. So lots of falling ice spikes and slippy floors.

Densetsu no Stafi 2 (GBA)

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You know, this is a deceptively deep platformer. In between the platforming and swimming, there are puzzles, spikes (and stars to collect) trapped in blocks you destroy, and a pretty large array of moves. Who knew a starfish could be so agile?

I’m up to 3-3 now, and I seem to be hopping around the back of a giant turtle. You know, as you do.

Densetsu no Stafi 2 (GBA)

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I already have, and have played a little of, the 4th game in this series. I was hoping to start with the first game, but can’t get it for under a million pounds, and this was about 9p on Play Asia a while ago so I picked it up.

It’s a cute platformer with some puzzley elements and collection, and many of the levels involve some sort of quest.

So far, I’m on level 2-2, having just collected some furniture for a fish. Including a chair. For a fish.