Archive for the Video games Category

Found Objects: Roundhouse-kicking history in the face

Posted in Stuff I think is cool, Video games with tags , , on March 2, 2009 by bradellison

While digging around through the Chris’s Invincible Superblog looking for all of his Anita Blake annotations, I came at last upon his review of Chuck Norris’ novel The Justice Riders.  I wish I’d written that, especially the bit about Evil McStone. had been aware of this book before, but now perforce must read it for myself.

Why should you care, continued: the Belmont Legacy

Posted in Video games with tags , on February 6, 2009 by bradellison

In the NES days, there were two sequels to Castlevania.  The first picked up after Simon Belmont’s victory, and concerned itself with his efforts to lift the curse laid on him after he slew Dracula.

The third installment is where things get interesting.

Castlevania 3: Dracula’s Curse actually goes back in time.  215 years back, and concerns itself with Simon’s ancestor, Trevor Belmont.

There were also two Castlevania games for the Game Boy.  These featured a third Belmont, Christopher, and his son Soleil.

Four generations.

Then there was the game Castlevania: Dracula X (which was a remake of a Japanese-only game with a much better title, Rondo of Blood), which featured Richter Belmont.

Five generations.

Each game had its own storyline.  Most of them took place in different centuries.  There’s an element of the mythological to the way the overarching story comes together from these disparate parts.  Whenever Dracula rises up to trouble the world, there is a Belmont to oppose him, Vampire Killer in hand.It is a legacy whose origin is vague, a feud with no revealed cause, but it is constant and inevitable.

Bloodlines was the only Castlevania game for the Sega Genesis, and the first Castlevania game I ever played.  It was also the first game to actually tie into the book Dracula, and the first to be set in the 20th century.  It also featured this music, which is one of my favorite pieces from the series.  In Bloodlines, the year is 1917, and as the Great War rages across Europe, the Blood Countess Erzabet Bathory is seeking to resurrect her cousin, who was struck down more than twenty years ago by a group of hunters that included Belmont descendant Quincey Morris.  One of the protagonists of the game is Quincey’s son, John Morris.  From the ruins of Castle Dracula to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, to a German munitions factory guarded by Frankenstein’s monster and on through the haunted Louvre to a manor in England, you follow Bathory’s trail, and ultimately destroy both her and the restored Dracula.

Seven generations.

The series hit a high point with the game Symphony of the Night, whose hero, for the first time, was not a Belmont.  Instead, you play as Adrian Fahrenheit Tepes, whose stubborn opposition of his father is symbolized by his adopted name: “Alucard.”  Symphony of the Night was, is, and will continue to be one of the finest 2D games ever made.

The series had less luck with 3d games, however.  So far, the only one that’s been more or less decent has been Lament of Innocence.  This is probably the only game I own that I keep for reasons other than gameplay.  It’s fun enough, especially playing around with the subweapon system, and it looks good, but the gameplay is breathtakingly repetitive.  The reason I still take it out and play it occasionally is the story.

1094.  There are two heroic knights who share a friendship stronger than brotherhood: Mathias Cronqvist and Leon Belmont.  Mathias was a master alchemist and tactitian, whose mental state suffered a great deal when his beloved with Elizabetha died.  Leon was a pure-hearted warrior whose beloved fiancee, Sara Trantoul, disappeared one night.  Leon consulted Mathias, who told him she’d been taken by a vampire named Walter, and was held prisoner in his castle at the heart of the Forest of Eternal Night.

It did not occur to Leon to ask how Mathias came by this knowledge.

Leon rushed headlong into the forest.  A friendly alchemist named Rinaldo provided him with a weapon, the Whip of Alchemy, which was created specifically to kill the undead.  He fought his way through to the heart of the castle, and came face to face with the vampire, who immediately released Sara and vanished.

Sara was infected.  Returning her, tainted as she was with the curse of vampirism, was simply Walter’s way of hurting Leon Belmont as much as possible.

Ironically, this proved to be Walter’s downfall.  In order to empower the Whip of Alchemy with the strength needed to slay a vampire lord, it had to be transformed in a ritual that involved killing a vampire.  Sara insisted that this be done.

Through innocent blood freely sacrificed, the Whip is transformed into the weapon that will serve the Belmont clan for more than a thousand years.  And with the Vampire Killer, Walter is soon dispatched.

Which is the point where Mathias appears, and reveals that everything that happened was part of the incredibly elaborate plan he’d formulated to transform himself into a vampire, the strongest in all the world.  He had renounced God and the Church, betrayed his closest friend, and indirectly murdered an innocent woman.  As Mathias flies off into the darkness, Leon brandishes the Vampire Killer and cries out, “From this day on, the Belmont Clan shall hunt the night!”

And for a thousand years, they do.

Castlevania: Why should you care?

Posted in Video games with tags , on February 5, 2009 by bradellison

In ancient times, there was the Nintendo Entertainment System.  And lo, I was the only kid in the neighborhood who didn’t have one (and with it, the ubiquitous Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game).  Only able to play Nintendo when visiting friends, I never developed the intense obsessive reflexes most of my generation got.  And to this day, I have never actually, personally, beaten the original Castlevania.  Because it is freaking hard.  I mean, seriously, Simon Belmont moves with all the grace and agility of a garbage truck, and they expect me to beat Death with him?

And of course, by the time I really got the chance to dedicate myself to trying, I also had the far, far superior Super Castlevania IV available to me.  So I played that instead. The game that first brought me into the franchise was Castlevania: Bloodlines.  The game that sealed the deal was Symphony of the Night. But we’ll begin this by discussing the original Nintendo-hard installment.

It looked like this.

The brown blob in the middle is the hero, Simon Belmont.  The white blobs are zombies.  The line between them is the Holy Whip, the Vampire Killer.  Your goal is to maneuver that clumsy brown blob through the castle, over various bottomless pits and up and down stairs that will kill you if you’re careless when you try to get on or off them, and past skeletons, fishmen, suits of armor throwing axes at you, and all sorts of other blocky blobs of 8-bit color.  Your goal is to track down Dracula, who’s back from the dead again, and give him a good thrashing.  By itself, this does not sound like much to spark the imagination.

There was also music.  It sounded like this.

But to him who is faithful, it is known that the 8-bit sound is but a placeholder for this, or perhaps this.

This is the story of Simon Belmont.  The heir to a long legacy of heroism, his peaceful life ends when a castle appears where no castle was before.  The time has come, as it must once each century, for Dracula to return to the world of the living, and with him comes his demon-haunted citadel.  And only one man has the strength to send the evil lord back into the darkness.  One man who has the strength to wield the sacred whip that was forged for the sole purpose of slaying evil, sanctified with innocent blood willingly shed centuries ago; a weapon borne by your ancestors.  The night is dark, and the path is long, but at last you find yourself at the gate of the castle.  It stands open, welcoming you.  Once you cross the threshhold, it shuts behind you.  No turning back.  No seeking aid.  You stand alone, ready to fulfill your purpose in life, even if it costs you your life.

One man ventures forth alone into the darkness, with nothing but heart, faith and steel.  That’s the heroism of legend right there.

Next up: the Belmont legacy!