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Satisfyingly difficult versus satisfyingly long
November 3, 2011 9:17 AM   Subscribe

In 1987 the first Castlevania was released. It was followed by Simon's Quest in 1988. The difference between the two games is stark. Although they both have the same basic plot lines (kill Dracula) and setting, Simon's Quest introduced an open world and RPG elements, giving eventual rise to the genre known as "Metroidvania". Sequelitis looks at the difference between these design decisions and shows that maybe Metroidvanias aren't quite as much fun as you might remember.
posted by codacorolla (66 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
What a terrible night to have a curse.
posted by Dark Messiah at 9:22 AM on November 3, 2011 [25 favorites]


I've never heard that genre term used anywhere, but I like it. Some games, like Kid Icarus, even used the same engine as Metroid (come to think of it, I'm not sure which of those came first). There was an interesting rather brief period of time when side-scolling adventure/roleplay fusion really took off (even influencing the first sequel to Legend of Zelda) but then they sort of faded away. Too bad really, I for one loved those kinds of games. They're still around, but few and far between.
posted by trackofalljades at 9:37 AM on November 3, 2011


Man, I loves me some Metroidvanias, it just seems like Simon's Quest is shitty designed one. Metroidvania style gameplay didn't really work well in the NES era (exception: Master Blaster). The first Metroid is borderline unplayable but Super Metroid is one of the best games ever made. What a difference a map, some moody music, and reasonable graphics makes.

The next episode of Sequelitis is just him talking about how awesome MegaMan X is.
posted by cirrostratus at 9:39 AM on November 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Simon's Quest wasn't very fun, I'll agree readily with that. But the Metroid games hold up, I think. And I played through Symphony of the Night again recently and it's still pretty fucking fantastic. I don't buy the "genuine satisfaction" argument.

Oh God and Shadow Complex! Shadow Complex (a couple years old, now) was one of the best, most satisfying games I've played in quite a while. Imagine if Uncharted was a Metroid game.

That said: this video was awesome and hilarious and thank you for pointing me to somebody else on Youtube who makes great videos for me to subscribe to. I have been running out.
posted by penduluum at 9:46 AM on November 3, 2011


Having played Simon's Quest as a kid, I'm ok with the fact that it made me waste lots of time. I had plenty at the time.
posted by drezdn at 9:46 AM on November 3, 2011


Shit, I forgot the NSFW tag for language. If other people don't mind flagging the post as well, I'm memailing the mods at the moment to add the tag.
posted by codacorolla at 9:48 AM on November 3, 2011


There are good Metroidvanias, even in the Metroid and Castlevania serieses. Castlevania 2 and the original Metroid are awful. These are not mutually exclusive statements.
posted by kafziel at 9:52 AM on November 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I loved Simon's Quest at the time for how gutsy and weird the concept was. There was a sense of mystery and depth to it that was missing from most games. I can't really argue with most of his criticisms though. The sountrack is still as awesome as ever.

I just realized Zelda II came out half a year before Simon's Quest and had a similar thing going on - a big world free to explore, towns, RPG elements, dungeons, side scrolling gameplay, mystery and lots of secrets - but without all the problems. Now there's a game that deserves a reevaluation.
posted by naju at 9:54 AM on November 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


I have nothing constructive to ad, except these games were so cool.
posted by alex_skazat at 9:54 AM on November 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


For trackofalltrades - people interested in 2D side-scrollers, and remember far back enough to love the BBC 32k and Exile could try this indy freeware game - Nameless. Originally named Exile, but changed due to copyright issues.

Its very good! [Disclaimer - I have a very slight connection to it, but love it]
posted by Cheradine Zakalwe at 9:57 AM on November 3, 2011


This video narration (NGYAAH!), it reminds me of the RadioLab podcasts.
posted by roger ackroyd at 10:03 AM on November 3, 2011


I liked this criticism, but would like to point out that most of their complaints would apply to life as much as it applies to Simon's Quest.
posted by drezdn at 10:04 AM on November 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'll disagree night and day if you claim Metroid is awful. In some ways it's still the best game in the series. Super Metroid added a lot of refinement and polish, but it also added a lot of design and sequencing as well as an obvious "best way" to explore Zebes. Metroid, by way off contrast, barely looks designed at all; it actually does feel like you're exploring tunnels that are just "there," mostly the result of natural processes with bits of abandoned industrial equipment scattered around, and that's a legitimate design decision. And I am allowed to say this, because I'll be damned if once I didn't complete Metroid all by myself, without the aid of a walkthrough. I've rarely had as much fun with a game.

These "obvious order" problem is part of a lot of trends in game design right now; games that are intended to be truly non-linear often get ragged on for being "aimless." I would say that some of the actual Metroid people probably agree with me; Metroid: Zero Mission, intended to be a remake of the original game, adds in Super Metroid's heavier sequencing but actually includes secret ways to sequence break, intentionally.

Simon's Quest isn't bad in many ways; the difficulty is fairly low for a Castlevania game, but that also means it's more approachable. Many of the townspeople lie, but why would you expect everyone you talk to to have insight towards actually completing the game -- if they know so much, why aren't they saving the world?

What is problematic is there are two or three places where you have to do something completely unheralded by the game to proceed, like selecting a crystal at a dead-end and kneeling for several seconds. The idea, do something strange and arbitrary to proceed, isn't necessarily bad, but with absolutely no clue this has to be done it's extremely unfair to the player, especially since the first such instance comes in the first third of the game.
posted by JHarris at 10:05 AM on November 3, 2011 [12 favorites]


I just realized Zelda II came out half a year before Simon's Quest and had a similar thing going on - a big world free to explore, towns, RPG elements, dungeons, side scrolling gameplay, mystery and lots of secrets - but without all the problems. Now there's a game that deserves a reevaluation.

I agree totally, although for different reasons. Zelda II has a much stronger ordering, although casual sequence breaking is possible if the player desires it. It's also a very hard game -- even now I can't always beat it on one "credit." I like that, and as a result it's the Zelda I've played through the most times lately.
posted by JHarris at 10:08 AM on November 3, 2011


Stupid nerd clarifications:

Metroid: Japan 1986
Simon's Quest: Japan 1987

Then you have Castlevania return to platformer roots for III and IV and Rondo of Blood (plus portable versions). Castlevania then goes and apes Super Metroid ('94) pretty dramatically with Symphony of the Night in 1997 for Playstation.

After Symphony, pretty much every Castlevania for.. more than a decade?.. was a straight Symphony copy, while Metroid didn't get another game for some time (and then it mostly moved into 3D territory).

Anyway, point is Simon's Quest had very little to do with Metroidvanias; Super Metroid begat (in weird ways) Symphony of the Night, and corporate masters decided that every Castlevania after that was going to follow the formula (on account of it being ridiculously successful). One thing that distinguishes the Castlevania sorts from the Metroid sorts is that most of the post-Symphony CV have RPG elements in experience points and levels, while Metroid is straight gear-based.

Also, I think it's commonly accepted that Jeremy Parish was the originator of the term but I could be completely off-base on that.
posted by curious nu at 10:09 AM on November 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


selecting a crystal at a dead-end and kneeling for several seconds

GAH! I was stuck for SO LONG before I heard about this. Doing that kind of thing wasn't even on my radar.
posted by Jpfed at 10:10 AM on November 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


So there seems to be this school of cynical video game reviews with razor sharp analysis written from the world view of someone with ADHD that I, being cynical, analytical and having ADHD can really relate to. Will this school of analysis be coming to other products any time soon?

Also, despite an internet full of wannabees with no unified editorial force, I keep encountering good cynical analytical ADHD video game reviews without feeling like I'm up to my ass in game reviews full of unfocused whining, cluelessness and a bad impression of Tourette's syndrome.

Hooray for social editing!
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 10:18 AM on November 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


IIRC, my brother and I solved the crystal at the deadend problem, thanks to some intel from one of my brother's friends. Remember the days when video game tricks were traded like samizdat?
posted by drezdn at 10:20 AM on November 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Man, I rented Simon's Quest as a kid one time because I (rightly, in hindsight, once both I and the genre had matured some) thought it would be my kind of game, but I went in blind on it—there was no internet access, calling a Nintendo Counselor was not a thing to do even if I fantasized about being one when I grew up, and I had lost my copy of Nintendo Power #2—and I got tripped up early by some sort of obscure thing in it and that was it.

One of these days I should go back and play through it.
posted by cortex at 10:30 AM on November 3, 2011


What weird timing. I just thought yesterday that it'd be fun to replay (or re-trytoplay) one of the Gameboy Advance games, and five minutes ago was thinking that as much as I can appreciate the genuine harmonious dissonance produced by the clash between Harmony of Dissonance's pretty, detailed visuals and the rather mediocore soundtrack, the music doesn't really inspire me to play the game for more than ten minutes. What's interesting is that the other Castlevanias I've liked do--Symphony of the Night manages to be genuinely stirring, mysterious and creepy, mostly because the visual details and the wonderful music work so well together.

I think Knytt Stories might be my favorite--or one of my favorite--games in the genre, mostly because of the beautifully soft, dreamy music. I wish there were more games with a bedtime story atmosphere.
posted by byanyothername at 10:34 AM on November 3, 2011


Sequelitis looks at the difference between these design decisions and shows that maybe Metroidvanias aren't quite as much fun as you might remember.

Anyone who speaks poorly of the elements that formed into the perfect game, Symphony of the Night, will get a hot face-full of L R RD D DL L R square and then taste the hundred blades of Crissaegrim.
posted by FatherDagon at 10:49 AM on November 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


I love egoraptor
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 11:34 AM on November 3, 2011


Anyone who speaks poorly of the elements that formed into the perfect game, Symphony of the Night, will get a hot face-full of L R RD D DL L R square and then taste the hundred blades of Crissaegrim.

Late in the video he actually praises that game, as well as other recent 2D Castlevanias
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 11:36 AM on November 3, 2011


Huh. I don't remember the crystal/kneeling thing at all, but I know I won the game so I must have either figured it out (unlikely; to this day I have no tolerance for stupid, arbitrary puzzle elements like that) or heard it through the junior high grapevine. I really wanted to like Simon's Quest; in theory a rambling adventure through the world of the original Castlevania should have been awesome. In implementation, I remember there being a hell of a lot of tedious walking back and forth through the same screens, and not as much atmosphere as in the original. The Mansions were fun, because they were more like the original levels.
posted by usonian at 11:37 AM on November 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Batman Arkham Asylum is one of the best Metroidvania games ever.
posted by straight at 11:42 AM on November 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm playing through all the Zelda games, and I got to Zelda 2, which should be called Zelda 2: I AM ERROR. A game ruined by mind-numbingly poor gameplay decisions

1) Introduces a pointless coin-op-derived "lives" system to Zelda, and when you run out, you go back to the starting location of the game. Not the dungeon. Not even the continent. THE START OF THE GAME. Then you make your way fighting through the same old enemies in the same old locations to get back to where you were.

2) Occasionally you get arcane badly-translated clues from villagers, but many of the game's crucial secrets are solved by grinding out random guesswork. Avoiding this is the greatest achievement of later Zelda games: they make gamers feel smart for piecing together complex puzzles with effective but subtle clues. Not endless grinding.

However, I can strongly recommend playing this game using the following enabling techniques: 1) GameFAQs; 2) Action Replay for infinite lives. Good times.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 11:45 AM on November 3, 2011


Proposal: Capcom and Nintendo collaborate on Castlevania: Duet of the Stars, a co-op-only platformer in which Samus Aran and the cyberwarrior Dh'Shnock Belmont collaborate to eradicate a clan of Space Vampires from a remote colony world.
posted by cortex at 11:47 AM on November 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


then taste the hundred blades of Crissaegrim.

Augh. I repeatedly cleared the same corridor of Schmoos in the Forbidden Library for hours to get that thing. Then did the same thing during the second playthrough in the Paranthropus corridor to get the Ring of Varda. Oh, the memories.
posted by cog_nate at 11:55 AM on November 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wait was it Paranthropus or that Frankenstein creature? Regardless, SOTN was fucking awesome. Is there anything like it on the PC or a modern console?
posted by cog_nate at 11:57 AM on November 3, 2011


Embarrassing fact: Simon's Quest was the first game to give me recurring nightmares (where at night EVERYTHING GOT EVIL). Followed by Chip and Dale, as six year-old psyches are bizarre fragile things.

Then after I played The Dark Eye I slept with the door open for two weeks.

I was 13
posted by Betty_effn_White at 11:57 AM on November 3, 2011


Augh. I repeatedly cleared the same corridor of Schmoos in the Forbidden Library for hours to get that thing. Then did the same thing during the second playthrough in the Paranthropus corridor to get the Ring of Varda. Oh, the memories.

And then, once you have both (or really, either) the game loses what small amount of challenge it held.

Wait was it Paranthropus or that Frankenstein creature? Regardless, SOTN was fucking awesome. Is there anything like it on the PC or a modern console?

There're a good amount of indie developed Metroidvanias. A recent one is Unepic.
posted by codacorolla at 12:00 PM on November 3, 2011


Pretty much every 2D Castlevania released since Symphony is modeled after it. So anything on the Game Boy Advance or DS, as well as the Harmony of Despair multiplayer game that came out on 360 and PS3 last year.

Also try Shadow Complex for the XBox Arcade. It's excellent.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:00 PM on November 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


anyone who got stuck as a kid should give it a playthrough in emulation. Why?

YOU NOW PROSESS DRACULA'S WALKTHROUGHS
posted by Earthtopus at 12:01 PM on November 3, 2011 [6 favorites]


I loved WASTING MY FUCKING TIME watching this video.
posted by Anima Mundi at 12:11 PM on November 3, 2011


I loved WASTING MY FUCKING TIME watching this video.

He makes so many good points, and speaks so clearly about game design, but I really wish he didn't rely on that schtick. It gets especially bad in the Megaman X video where he uses violence against women for a laff in a very gratuitous way (which is why I didn't link it). I don't know what it is about videogame critique that makes people feel they have to have some silly gimmick.
posted by codacorolla at 12:16 PM on November 3, 2011


I really loved Castlevania II and played it all the way through many times. Could never stand playing Zelda II long enough to get anywhere -- it was so grody in its art and color scheme.
posted by hermitosis at 1:21 PM on November 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


y'all should try out Hero Core
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 1:40 PM on November 3, 2011


Metroid: Zero Mission, intended to be a remake of the original game, adds in Super Metroid's heavier sequencing but actually includes secret ways to sequence break, intentionally.

Which enhances replayability, as a pleasant side effect.

corporate masters decided that every Castlevania after that was going to follow the formula (on account of it being ridiculously successful)

There were multiple tries to make 3D Castlevania games, but they were... unfortunate. Most of the GBA/DS games are fun, but the repetition shows at times.
posted by ersatz at 1:41 PM on November 3, 2011


Having watched the whole video, I can't believe they think original Castlevania is so brilliantly paced and colored. The colors were SO GARISH, and even as a kid, I kept thinking, "Isn't it supposed to be dark in here?? Why is everything bright orange? Why am *I* bright orange?"

And I find dying over and over again for no reason until I memorize some pointless strategy more obnoxious than having to grind for hearts.
posted by hermitosis at 1:44 PM on November 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


He makes so many good points, and speaks so clearly about game design, but I really wish he didn't rely on that schtick. It gets especially bad in the Megaman X video where he uses violence against women for a laff in a very gratuitous way (which is why I didn't link it). I don't know what it is about videogame critique that makes people feel they have to have some silly gimmick.


I agree. This is an excellent piece of media criticism, really thoughtful and with some nice heft. And I haven't even played the games! (I was kinda a wimp about "scary" games as a kid). But the schtick is frustrating.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:44 PM on November 3, 2011


1) Introduces a pointless coin-op-derived "lives" system to Zelda, and when you run out, you go back to the starting location of the game. Not the dungeon. Not even the continent. THE START OF THE GAME. Then you make your way fighting through the same old enemies in the same old locations to get back to where you were.

I like Zelda II a great deal. The game is designed around the start-of-the-game thing, if you think about it. Each level is placed in its own "node" of the overworld exploration tree, so you don't really end up exploring everything that's gone before to get to each one. And after the first game, I can understand if they went through a lot of effort to make the world seem organic and explorable, even if there are radically fewer secrets than Zelda I.

The game gives you shortcuts to get past the early areas once you get the hammer. The lives thing means the game can use instadeath pits to add a bit of extra danger to platforming areas. (Later Zeldas would just take a heart off your health, which is pretty much the lamest falling penalty ever. Falling into a death pit == getting hit by a low level enemy, got it!)

The swordfighting is excellent and difficult, and the game remains the only Zelda (maybe until the one that's out later this month?) that makes you think about where you put your shield. Because of the swordfighting the game is still a decent challenge even if you know all the secrets, which makes it actually replayable.
posted by JHarris at 2:08 PM on November 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


When I was like, 10 or whatever, I saved up $44 of my own monies to get Simon's Quest. I knew it sucked then, but I never knew how many WAYS it sucked until now.

That said, this video is pretty funny, but while the original Castlevania WAS indeed awesome, his praise of it comes off a bit hipster-precious. Also, maybe it's just my preference speaking, but it sounds like he wants to be Plinkett so bad it hurts.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 2:24 PM on November 3, 2011


> I'll disagree night and day if you claim Metroid is awful. In some ways it's still the best game in the series.
> it's still the best game in the series.
> the series.

There's your problem right there.
posted by clarknova at 3:46 PM on November 3, 2011


I'll go ahead and recommend Outland. It's a Metroidvania mixed with Ikaruga that has fantastic art direction and really tight gameplay.
posted by Talanvor at 3:56 PM on November 3, 2011


clarknova:

Huh?
posted by JHarris at 4:02 PM on November 3, 2011


shows that maybe Metroidvanias aren't quite as much fun as you might remember.

Why would you say this? Why would you even do that.
posted by clockzero at 4:09 PM on November 3, 2011


Goonies II was my favorite of these.
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:22 PM on November 3, 2011


Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought the term 'Metroidvania' was invented after Symphony of the Night - a truly great game that was modeled after Super Metroid (also superb). So, the reason that "Metroidvanias aren't quite as fun as you might remember" might be that you never remembered Simon's Quest as a Metroidvania.

That said, I had fun with Simon's Quest because I had read about the horrible kneeling with the blue crystal thing in Nintendo Power. I don't think it would hold up now, though, because it created the illusion of vast explorability, and as a grownup, I know it's actually a fairly small world.
posted by ignignokt at 5:12 PM on November 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Anyone remember the TV commercial for Castlevania II? It was directed by Sam Raimi, possibly his last minor gig before going out to California and getting really big. I was the kid in the commercial, so I got to play the game before it came out, in between takes. The phony show business guy dealing with me on the set told me he'd make sure I get a copy of the game, but of course that didn't happen. At least I got to brag about it for a while. (Hang on, I'm still bragging about it!)
posted by BinGregory at 5:44 PM on November 3, 2011 [18 favorites]


Man, I would brag about that every chance I got.
posted by cortex at 5:48 PM on November 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why would you say this? Why would you even do that.

Because a Metroidvania doesn't offer satisfying gameplay so much as it offers a chance to make numbers go up in a database. The solution to many problems in any one of these games (more the vania side) isn't to improve your skill, but rather to grind until your avatar improves. The ones that are well designed are few and far between, and many of the games rely on backtracking, grinding, and other mindless activities to pad out gameplay that isn't well designed. This can also be extrapolated to modern games, like Oblivion, which is the master of dull "well, at least I'm making my character stronger even if I'm not having fun" gameplay.
posted by codacorolla at 7:05 PM on November 3, 2011


This commercial?

It's funny how they show doctored game footage to make the night transition seem instant instead of painfully slow.
posted by codacorolla at 7:06 PM on November 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


I haven't played any modern Metroidvanias, but:

- Super Metroid did not involve any grinding, unless you really wanted it to. I've played through it about five times over the years and not once did I sit there leveling up. The closest I got was "grinding" in order to restore health.

- In Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, the experience points you got from an enemy was scaled to its level in comparison to yours. So, repeatedly killing the wolves from the beginning of the game (or anything else that was easy for you) didn't get you far. If you were really interested in leveling up, you had to find someone tough to kill, which would require more skill of you. It never occurred to me to grind. Or to even think of my level after a while. I spent my time thinking about where I could find this or that or of how to get to this other area. Or sometimes, I just enjoyed wandering.

Maybe these games inspired games that missed the point, but I don't think the genre demands grinding in its games and can be a fine stage for non-tedium.
posted by ignignokt at 8:45 PM on November 3, 2011


Internet! Is there anything you can't do? I'll be showing my kids this tonight, codacorolla, thank you so much. I think there was originally a 1 minute spot too, but I could be wrong.
posted by BinGregory at 12:16 AM on November 4, 2011


It's funny how they show doctored game footage to make the night transition seem instant instead of painfully slow

"What a horrible night it will be to have a curse in a minute, just hold on, don't press anything"
posted by Adventurer at 12:41 AM on November 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


(Just remembered, I have played a modern Metroidvania - Cave Story. No grinding, but I did find the multiboss thing at the end tiring. Overall, a great experience, though.)
posted by ignignokt at 5:32 AM on November 4, 2011


codacorolla, you're thinking about RPGs in general more than Metroidvania-style gameplay. Metroid doesn't have levelling at all; it's Symphony of the Night and its descendants that do that, it's by no means an inseparable part of the gameplay. (Even in RPGs, it's generally substandard design that produces this phenomenon -- which the fact that general people are finally waking up to it, possibly due to its ubiquity in MMORPGs, gives me some hope for the genre.)
posted by JHarris at 7:27 AM on November 4, 2011


I didn't get a NES until it had been out for a couple years. For my first birthday following the purchase of the NES, I got $40 that I was able to use to buy anything I wanted, and of course I wanted an NES game. So I go down to the local Walmart with my mom and find that I could get one brand new game, or two older games. Since the NES was a recent addition to my life, every game was new to me, other than the Super Mario/Duck Hunt game that everyone has at least two copies of nowadays. The two games I chose was Castlevania and Simon's Quest.

The thing I remember about Castlevania is that late in the game, it got to the point of ridiculous hard for my tiny hands, and it only took 4 hits to kill Simon in the later levels. The Grim Reaper held me up for years, and I remember the day I finally beat him: I paused the game and ran down the street to my best friend's house excitedly, telling him I finally beat the Grim Reaper, and today, TODAY would be the day I finally beat the game. Considering how long I spent on the Grim Reaper, Dracula was cake, despite the multiple transformations that I wasn't prepared for at first. And that was that.

But long before that exciting day, I had already beat Castlevania II. I don't remember much in the way of concrete puzzles in the game (that kneeling/crystal thing was long forgotten until someone brought it up, and I don't remember it causing problems for me). I do, however, remember vague things about the gameplay itself, though. I remember the constant back-and-forth across the terrain, to the point of annoying. I remember the way weapon hits didn't feel the same as the first game. I remember that they nerfed some things, especially the Holy Water (which, let's face it, probably needed to be nerfed a bit). I remember grinding for hearts, and the frustration of dying right before hitting town to buy whatever it was you needed the hearts for. I remember the muted color palette, compared to the first game. I also remember that after finally getting to Dracula at the end, I thought he was an incredibly cheap boss (let's just teleport around the screen at near instant speed!), and ultimately he was very easy to beat. After all that, the satisfaction of beating the game was nothing compared to beating the first game years later.

I've always been a fan of the Castlevania series after these two games, though. Castlevania III is easily one of my favorites, and I've beaten it with every companion multiple times. Super Castlevania had an interesting mechanic with the whip and was a pretty good rendition of Castlevania. Symphony of the Night is a lot of fun, and I like the fact that it has a "second quest" that you can play through. The DSi games are great, too, though they feel like flashier version of Symphony and the dialog is often cheesier (is that even possible??). For the systems I don't own, I've played the Castlevania games on emulators, and have been generally pleased. The 3D PS2 games are...ok, though they don't feel as fun as the 2D game series I grew up with. Oddly enough, I haven't played any of the PS3 or Wii Castlevania games, but this is probably due to my shift in priorities and free time availability - I have beat perhaps 10% of the games I own for these systems.

Simon's Quest is probably one of, if not the worse game in the 2D Castlevania series. Even so, it still holds a place in my heart as not only one of the first non-Atari console games I ever owned, but as the second in a long line of simply great games.

Also, I really like The Adventure of Link, and still defend it as one of the most underrated sequels of all time.
posted by mysterpigg at 8:09 AM on November 4, 2011


If you have the Holy Water, there is a way to beat the Grim Reaper/Death very easily. When he arrives he always appears on the right-most platform. Make sure that there's a Holy Water explosion there when he shows up. He'll freeze in place. Keep jumping and throwing out Holy Water. So long as he's frozen, the scythes will never appear! (The same trick can be used to freeze Frankenstein's monster before his obnoxious little friend can launch off his shoulder.)

If you don't have Holy Water (there is none to be found from candles in Stage 15, you'll probably have to carry it in from a previous stage), the best way to beat him is with the Boomerang and triple shot. Death actually has a fairly simple movement pattern, but the scythes overload most players who try to dodge them all. Filling the room with Boomerangs will help cut down on the number of things you have to track, and also incidentally damage Death a bit. Really though, the hardest part of Death is making it through Stage 15 with enough health and hearts to survive the scythe onslaught -- the lead-up to Death has Axe Knights and Medusa Heads. To help in this, there is meat in the wall behind the stairs leading to the top part of the stage.
posted by JHarris at 8:45 AM on November 4, 2011


Oh, I can beat the game with no problems now...at the time, I don't think I fully appreciated the power of the Holy Water. It is likely the most powerful weapon in Castlevania due simply to the freeze mechanic. I can totally see why they nerfed in in Simon's Quest. I think you are right, though - the lead-up to Death was insane, and I remember how joyed I was when I did make it up there with full life - only to be crushed when I died seconds later, of course.
posted by mysterpigg at 8:52 AM on November 4, 2011


The guys who do Video Games Hot Dog played Castlevania 2 as an assignment a few weeks ago (episode 24). They didn't like it.
posted by painquale at 11:08 AM on November 4, 2011


snuffleupagus, a coworker and I were just "reminiscing" about Goonies II and how much it sucked. When you die, you lose all your weapons and have to grind to get them back, even though you spawn in the same place with the hard-ass enemies. And if you have to cross the rope bridge, that metal-face fucker is going to steal your good weapon/item. SO FRUSTRATING. Goonies II was like Simon's Quest layout with Castlevania's difficult enemies. OUCH! WHAT DO YOU DO?

The only really good thing about Goonies II is the front/back dichotomy. I've always dug games, novels, films, etc. that have different realms that resemble each other on the surface and are linked by puzzles. Zelda III, Silent Hill 2, The Matrix, Pan's Labyrinth, The Throat. It's very Gnostic.
posted by infinitewindow at 1:08 PM on November 4, 2011


snuffleupagus, a coworker and I were just "reminiscing" about Goonies II and how much it sucked.

I actually like it a lot, although many of your criticisms are somewhat valid. Part of it was that game design was still evolving at the time. You can always return to the starting location though by entering a password.

The rope bridge, however, is a fairly interesting place, because the enemies there can inflict a kind of damage other than health loss (they eat your boomerang if you have one; if you don't have one, they are harmless), which is at least an interesting play element. Grinding for weapons and (especially) keys does suck, though. The worst part of it though, really, was the adventure rooms. It isn't obvious to US gamers, but according to Chrontendo, this was actually Konami's attempt to cash in on the "visual novel" craze that was going on in Japan at that time.

The only really good thing about Goonies II is the front/back dichotomy.

I would agree, except Goonies II really kind of messes it up. There are warp zones in that game, in the adventure rooms, that can take you to arbitrary locations on the map, which really mess up the continuity of the game world.

It's very Gnostic.

I'm sorry, but, what do you mean by that?
posted by JHarris at 8:13 AM on November 5, 2011


I mean that in these games you wake up in a world with conflict and suffering caused by a powerful demiurge (Greek for "boss") who is holding the land's ruler or source of power hostage in a remote location. You find yourself imprisoned in a weak body with weak abilities and surrounded by archons (Egyptian for "turtles," the inspiration for the Koopa Troopas). Through arming one's self with gnosis (Greek for "protips") and moving into higher or greater "levels" of reality, often shifting back and forth between the "real" world and an idealized/dystopic world, one can overcome the demiurge and allow the monadic creative force (Japanese miyamoto, literally "before the beginning") behind the game/movie/novel to shine forth and illustrate the greater truth that lies at the heart of the artifice.

Nah! I just mean I like the idea that there are two worlds that are linked-but-different and what a character does in one world has a direct effect in the other. That was the part of Gnosticism that leapt out at me as a kid and is kind of the thing I associate with it.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:30 AM on November 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


The rope bridge, however, is a fairly interesting place

Man, between the Goonies II thing and the narrow "you have a narrow chance of being attacked and almost certainly killed by Warmech" walk up toward Tiamat in Final Fantasy, I'm starting to think someone should do a survey of Notable Bridges in oldschool games.
posted by cortex at 9:51 AM on November 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Remember that bridges were used as a general sort of difficulty divider in Dragon Quest games (although they often didn't do that good a job of that). Also there were the hateful "cheep cheep" levels in Super Mario Bros, 2-3 and 7-3, and most of the third stage of Castlevania.
posted by JHarris at 10:03 AM on November 5, 2011


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