Review: Super Punch-Out!!

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After a several weeks of intense SNES RPG action, I decided to take a step back and relax with something a bit simpler. I was browsing thru my Virtual Console library and came across a game that I purchased a couple years ago, but never actually played. That’s right, Super Punch-Out! is a classic SNES title, but one that I never experienced in my youth. So this review is based on my first playthrough ever of the title.

Now, while I never played the Super Punch-Out! in my younger days, I was a rabid fan of the original. I consider myself to a Veteran Punch-Out! Player. I figured my experiences in Punch-Out! would have me somewhat prepared for this game, but I found that not to be the case.

Super Punch-Out! is a direct sequel, and in many ways is similar to the original. You play as Little Mac (although he looks a bit different in the game), there is a cast of colorful opponents – each with their own quirks and strategy, but the feel of the game is very different.

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First of all, instead of three one minute rounds, we now have one three-minute round. This makes the fights feel a little longer, and also keeps the momentum going. But at the same time, it makes it harder to escape from a bad situation. There’s no breaks and no rest between beatings. Also, the controls work quite a bit differently. Blocking and dodging is not as simplistic as it was in Punch-Out!

The first time I played the game, I got my ass handed to me on the second fighter, Bear Hugger. Even more so on the following fight. The game controls felt a bit sluggish to me, compared to the original. Keeping in mind that these are two different games, I took a moment to regroup and re-analyze the situation. Eventually, I was able to get a feel for the way things work in this game and I started to get better.

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The best part of the game is the cast of colorful boxers. A handful of characters from the first game also make an appearance here, but there’s a whole new slew of comical opponents.  The 16-bit graphics also prove to be a plus here, as the characters have much more detail and there’s even some short bits of recorded speech thrown in here and there (which at the time was really something special).

There are three standard circuits that you can progress through during the game. However, if you manage to complete all three with zero losses, you unlock a special secret circuit that features some really challenging fights.

For those that are unaware, the Punch-Out! games actually debuted in the 80’s as arcade machines. When Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out! was released on the NES, it was very different from the arcade titles. This game sort of restores the looks and feel of the arcade versions. But I’m not really sure if I like it. I found Super Punch-Out! to be entertaining, but nothing really memorable.

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Difficulty: Hard  – I found this game to be a bit tougher than the original title, and overall to be a pretty good challenge. It starts off easy, but the difficulty increases with each new fight. The secret matches are really rough. The game can be pretty frustrating early on, but once you get the hang of things, it does get a bit easier to deal with. Each boxer has their own strategy.

Story: There’s really not much to say here. It’s a comical boxing sim. It is what it is. It doesn’t really need much of a plot.

Originality: A lot of concepts in this game are carried over from the arcade titles and the original NES game. However, it manages to stay fresh enough that it doesn’t feel recycled.

Soundtrack: The in-game music is fitting, but not particularly memorable. Not good, not bad.

Fun: For those who enjoy silly characters and like a challenge, this game can be quite fun. Some younger players or inexperienced gamers may quickly be frustrated.

Graphics: The art work is colorful and very well done. It’s a vast improvement over the original game. This time around, we have a semi-transparent Mac. This is made possible due to the graphic capability of the SNES. Little Mac is all grown up!

Playcontrol: Players expecting a play-feel similar to the NES Punch-Out! will be in for a surprise. This game has it’s own feel. But once you get the hang of it, it’s easy to handle. The controls are responsive and I did not experience any lag or playcontrol frustrations.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 2 – Super Punch-Out! is not a bad game. But it’s not an especially good game either. It suffers a bit by standing in the shadow of it’s predecessor. The characters are entertaining and memorable, but the game itself was largely uninspiring. For those who love first-party Nintendo titles, it’s certainly worth picking up digitally.

Currently available on:  Wii Virtual Console

Other Review In This Series:

Punch Out!!Super Punch Out!! – Punch Out!! Wii

Review: Final Fantasy VI

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Here we are with the third and last Final Fantasy title in the 16-bit era. Final Fantasy VI. This game also marks the end of the “number confusion”. Originally released in the US as Final Fantasy III, this was the west’s second taste of 16-bit FF glory.

These days, there’s a few options for the people looking to play the game. The original FF3 version is available on the Wii virtual console. The playstation network sports another, better rendition of the game, complete with the correct title and an improved translation. However, the latest release is Final Fantasy VI advance for the GBA. This version features updated visuals, improved translation as well as some additional content (spells, espers and optional dungeon). Having never played this version before, I chose the GBA version for this playthrough.

The game begins with two Imperial soldiers escorting a mysterious girl into a town. The three of them are piloting walking war-machines (aka Magi-Tech Armor). It is revealed that they have been sent to capture a frozen beast, known as an Esper, that was recently uncovered on the outskirts of town. The three of them encounter resistance from the locals and it is revealed that girl is under some sort of mind control. The Esper reacts to the attack and fights back, in the scuffle, the mind control over the girl is broken. But she is suffering from a case of amnesia. She is taken in by a local who recruits her into a secret group of rebels. The story unfolds from here…

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Like it’s predecessors, Final Fantasy VI features a lush and brilliantly crafted storyline. It is often considered to be one of the best in the series. The game features a cast of characters that are impossible to forget, each with their own background and personality. While this has become a staple of the series, it really shines here. This game also features one of the most sadistic and insane arch-villains in video game history. I’m not going to spoil anything, but even in the old days where Nintendo censored just about everything, the wartime tactics of Kefka were jaw-dropping.

As if the story wasn’t enough, it’s made even more potent due to the amazing game soundtrack. Again, I’m tempted to say it is also, best in the series. I’ve been told that some selections of the score are even taught in Japanese schools beside other classical music masterpieces.

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The graphics are certainly a step up from FFIV and V. These are slightly improved again in the GBA version. Detail on the character sprites are done pretty well, but most gorgeous art in the game comes from the scenery and monster art.

Much like Final Fantasy IV, there are no pre-set character jobs, but each character has their own role and set of skills. In early parts of the game, your hand is held a bit when it comes to party formation, but later on in the title you have the ability to create a group using the entire roster. This is where personal preference and deep understanding of each character and their abilities really shines.

Having played this time a number of times over the years, I was excited to see what changes the GBA version brought. There are four new Espers available to Terra as wells a several spells and a new dungeon. The dungeon features an optional and ultimate boss, the Kaiser Dragon. This boss is legendary among fans because it was discovered to have been coded into the original game, but there was no way to encounter it. Apparently cut out of the title at the last minute, it is finally available for those wanting a real challenge.

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Difficulty: Medium  – This game is on par with the rest of the series. The patient will survive. Players can grind their way to ease if they really feel so inclined. But the real trick to the game is learning each character and their abilities and then applying them to overcome obstacles. The new optional content in the GBA is quite difficult and is really included for veteran players.

Story: Final Fantasy VI features what can arguably be called one of the greatest RPG storylines of all time, and I’m not exaggerating. It’s that good. My summary above covers about the first five minutes of the game, if I were to try to summarize this entire plot, we’d be here for hours. And the kicker is, there’s never a dull moment. This was the title that showed the world why Final Fantasy would become synonymous with RPG genre as a whole.

Originality: In reality, there’s not a lot of new ideas brought to the table. Everything in this title, storyline aside, has been seen elsewhere in the series. However, the biggest difference here is that everything has now been polished to perfection.

Soundtrack: One of Uematsu’s best works, and arguably one of the best game soundtracks to date. I literally have three different version of the game soundtrack in my personal library. Everything about the music in this game is sheer perfection. It’s truly art.

Fun: This is one game that never leaves me disappointed. It’s very fun and addictive title. So much so that it is often the title I recommend to those looking for a starting point in the series. The story sucks you in and the gameplay makes sure you don’t let go until the very end.

Graphics: Again, an improvement of the previous entry in the series. This game pretty much set the bar for RPGs in terms of what to expect visually. As I mentioned above, the monster art and scenery are amazing. The Mystic Forest area of the game was, at it’s time, breathtaking.

Playcontrol: As with most RPGs, control is not an issue. All works as it should with one exception. The character Sabin features some special abilities that rely on fighting-style button combos to execute. While these are fairly easy to input on Nintendo style gamepads, I’ve found them to be a bit trickier on Sony hardware. Nothing major, but worthy of mention.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – For many players, myself included, this game *IS* Final Fantasy. I am a fan of the entire series, but for me, VI represents everything that made the series great. The storyline, the music, the art – it’s all here. If you are looking to escape reality, or if you’re curious what all the hype is about, this is the game to play.

Currently available on:  Wii Virtual Console and PSN.

Other Reviews In This Series:

I – II – III – IV – V – VI – VII – VIII – IX – X – X2 – XI – XII – XIII – XIII 2 – XIII Lightning Returns – XIV – XV 

IV: After Years – VII: Dirge of Cerberus – VII: Crisis Core – VII: Advent Children (Movie) – XII: Revenant Wings – Type-0 – XV: A King’s Tale – XV: Brotherhood (Anime) – XV: Kingsglaive (Movie)

World of Final Fantasy – Explorers – Mystic Quest – 4 Heroes of Light 

Tactics – Tactics Advance – Tactics A2

Dissidia – Dissidia 012

Crystal Chronicles – Ring of Fates – My Life as King – My Life as Darklord – Echoes of Time – Crystal Bearers

Dimensions – Record Keeper – Brave Exvius – Mobius Final Fantasy  – Justice Monsters V – King’s Knight 

Review: Final Fantasy V

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Onward with the 16-bit Final Fantasy playthrough, we have one of the more obscure entries in the early series, Final Fantasy V. Again, this is another title that was not available in the US upon it’s original release. Released in 1992, North American players did not get a taste of the game until 1999 when the game was bundled with Final Fantasy VI for a Playstation compilation called the Final Fantasy Anthology. This collection was my first taste of the game.

Sadly, I can’t claim it was a very enjoyable experience. I never owned an original Playstation. My first Sony system was the Playstation 2. Final Fantasy V and the PS2 didn’t get along very well. There was a terrible graphical corruption bug that would rear it’s ugly head 90% of the time you tried to save or load your game in FFV. This only occurred on the PS2. Determined not to let that hold me back, I eventually memorized the layout of the save screen and was able to save the game blindly.

Luckily, this issue was eliminated with a later release for the Game Boy Advance. For the sake of this playthrough (and my sanity), I used the GBA version. Like many of the other re-releases in the series, the remake contains some content not found in the original game. Aside from a much improved translation, the GBA version also includes four new jobs (more on this later) and as usual, an optional dungeon.

Before continuing, I will note that while I consider the GBA remake to be the definitive version of the game, there is actually a newer version of FFV released on iOS. Personally, I don’t consider iPhones or iPads to be viable gaming devices. I play and enjoy iOS games, but I feel like playing something like Final Fantasy on a touch-screen is far from ideal. That being said, the iOS version features improved graphics. There has been talk of a 3DS version, but at the time of this writing, nothing has materialized.

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Final Fantasy V focuses very heavily on story. This playthrough took me over 40 hours, the longest so far. The game focuses mainly on a young man named Bartz and his pet chocobo. Bartz witnesses the crash of a meteor in a nearby forest and decides to investigate. There he meets a strange old man who is seemingly suffering from amnesia. The two travel together to a nearby kingdom where their adventure begins. Throughout the game’s story, more heroes join the fold and team learns that a magical seal that has long kept an evil warrior at bane has been shattered. As one might imagine, there’s a lot more to it than that, and like all the other games in the series, the story should be experienced firsthand and not read.

One interesting element this game brings back is the Job System from FFIII. Throughout the game new lobs are unlocked and can be assigned to characters at will. Over time, skills from the job equipped can be permanently learned by that character. The original release of the game contained 22 jobs, while the GBA version has 26.

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Graphically, the game is on par with FFIV. The GBA version does feature slightly smoother graphics, but nothing too noticeable. When it comes to music, the game has some interesting pieces. Overall, the soundtrack is fitting and very well done, but I do feel is pales in comparison to the wonderful score of Final Fantasy IV.

With me, typically, my favorite part of playing a Final Fantasy game is the story and the atmosphere. This game, is an odd exception. My favorite part about FFV is actually the gameplay. The Job System is very well done and lots of fun. Grinding away to unlock abilities might be part of what made my playthrough so long. The storyline of FFV is great, don’t misunderstand. There’s plenty of twists and turns to keep you interested, but overall, it is probably my least favorite. Many people may disagree, but that’s just my opinion. It’s hard to follow up a game like Final Fantasy V, and I feel like it shows with this title.

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Difficulty: Medium  – The same rules apply here as with the rest of the series, patience is key. Mastering the Job System is the trick to the whole game. In today’s world of digital hand-holding, I wonder how that will sit with many younger players. For this reason, I feel that FFV is a little harder than other entries in the early series. But still, overall much easier to master than some of the twitchy platformers of the 16bit era.

Story: Final Fantasy V features a very rich and detailed story. It’s excellent, but just not as good as I expected. Don’t get me wrong, even the worst Final Fantasy storyline beats most other RPGs hands down. It just didn’t light the same fire in me as other titles in the series. Regardless, the game does have some very memorable characters. Lenna always puts a smile on my face.

Originality: A lot of this game is borrowed from other titles, and that’s ok. The job system is revamped enough from FFIII to seem original. But other elements of the game do tend to fall into the “standard Final Fantasy experience”.

Soundtrack: Good score, but not great. Not my favorite that’s for sure.

Fun: As I stated earlier, the job system can be a lot of fun even if the rest of the game drags a bit. I did enjoy my time playing the game, but I felt like it was a little too long

Graphics: The graphics are about what you’d expect. The GBA provide a nice little boost and of course the iOS version is beautiful. It’s a mixed bag depending on the version you’re playing. I do feel that the original developers could have been able to squeeze a little more “pretty” out of the game if they tried harder. But, the art is certainly acceptable.

Playcontrol: As with most RPGs, control is not an issue. All works as it should.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 3 – As I mentioned, FFV is a good game. If you’re a fan of the series, it’s certainly worthy of playing. Personally, I don’t feel it reflects the best the series has to offer. Even though it is currently out of print, if you can get your hands on the GBA version, this is the one I recommend. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a more modern remake.

Currently available on:  PSN, Steam

Other Reviews In This Series:

I – II – III – IV – V – VI – VII – VIII – IX – X – X2 – XI – XII – XIII – XIII 2 – XIII Lightning Returns – XIV – XV 

IV: After Years – VII: Dirge of Cerberus – VII: Crisis Core – VII: Advent Children (Movie) – XII: Revenant Wings – Type-0 – XV: A King’s Tale – XV: Brotherhood (Anime) – XV: Kingsglaive (Movie)

World of Final Fantasy – Explorers – Mystic Quest – 4 Heroes of Light 

Tactics – Tactics Advance – Tactics A2

Dissidia – Dissidia 012

Crystal Chronicles – Ring of Fates – My Life as King – My Life as Darklord – Echoes of Time – Crystal Bearers

Dimensions – Record Keeper – Brave Exvius – Mobius Final Fantasy  – Justice Monsters V – King’s Knight 

Review: The Legend of Zelda – A Link to the Past

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I have spent the last week continuing my retro playthrough with two excellent Zelda titles. This first review is for the SNES classic, A Link to the Past. This was the game that finally brought the story of Zelda and Link to the 16bit era. But not without ruffling a few feathers and causing some mass confusion among fans.

In this game, we again play as the heroic youth Link on his journey to uncover the secrets of Hyrule and rescue the captive Princess Zelda… but it quickly becomes apparent that the storyline presented to the player does not quite match that of the first two games. With no explanation, players soon realized they were enjoying a prequel of sorts, but with seemingly a different “Link”.  It was many years until Nintendo finally explained the mysterious timeline of the Zelda series. But that is another post for another time.

In a Link to Past, Nintendo took a step back from the side-scrolling experiment that was Zelda II, and we are once again given a great top-down adventure game. The mechanics are very similar to that of the original Legend of Zelda, but the game itself offers a much richer environment and storyline.

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In this game players are able to explore the Kingdom of Hyrule in two separate dimensions, Light World and Dark World. Often switching between the two phases to solve puzzles and overcome obstacles. Ultimately, Link must locate and rescue seven sages whose combined power will allow him to invade Ganon’s tower and rescue the princess.

Much like the other games in the series, Link must explore and uncover hidden treasures and powerups that will assist him on his journey. As mentioned earlier, the ability to switch to the Dark World adds a whole new dimension of exploration and gameplay not seen in the series so far, but one that becomes a staple of the series.

This is one of those classic games that sucks you in and won’t let you quit until you’ve explored every nook and cranny.

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Difficulty: Medium  –  The difficulty of this title seems to be quite balanced. While still a little tougher than many of today’s games, it’s not very frustrating and fairly easy to complete for most gamers

Story: The self-contained story is very well done especially for this type of game. Lore-hungry players will find a lot to keep them satisfied in this title. As far as connecting the events of this game with the previous Zelda titles, that’s where things get a little tricky. This game is a prequel to Zelda and Zelda II, and actually features a different “Link” than the hero of the original games. While very confusing, this does become a little clearer as the series progresses.

Originality: While keeping many aspects of the original game, there’s a lot of new concepts and ideas presented in A Link to the Past. The Dark and Light world makes for a really interesting experience, and was something unheard of at the time.

Soundtrack: Excellent stuff here. The soundtrack is one of the stand out features of the game. Several new pieces are included along with classic theme song. 16bit sound at it’s finest.

Fun: If you like fantasy or puzzle games, you can’t go wrong with this title. Players that enjoyed the original Legend of Zelda will feel right at home with this title.

Graphics: The art work for this game is colorful and somewhat cartoonish, but it suits the game well. This game is another example of Nintendo doing what they do best; creating beautiful visual worlds.

Playcontrol: Excellent play control. Overhead titles like this don’t usually suffer in this area. Everything feels natural and the controls are precise and spot-on.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 –  This is one of the greatest games in the Zelda series and one of the best action fantasy games of all time. This is one of those Super Nintendo titles that should not be missed.

Currently available on: Wii Virtual Console

Other Reviews In This Series:

LoZ –  LoZ II – Link to the Past – Link’s Awakening – Ocarina of Time – Majora’s Mask – Oracle of Season & Ages – Wind Waker – Four Swords – Minish Cap – Twilight Princess – Phantom Hourglass – Spirit Tracks – Skyward Sword – Link Between Worlds – Breath of the Wild

Review: Super Mario World

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With the release of the Super Nintendo came the delivery of another entry in the Mario series; the fabled Super Mario World. Considered by many to the ultimate Super Mario experience, this game took everything that was great about the previous games, and combined into a 16bit powerhouse of a title.

The games features the classic platforming elements expected from a Mario title, with the overworld map/level select system from Super Mario 3. Those familiar with Super Mario 3 will feel right at home with this title. One of more notable features of this game is the introduction of Mario’s dinosaur sidekick, Yoshi.

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What makes this game a little unique, is that there is a whole slew of optional levels that are not required to finish the game. These “special” levels are actually the hardest the game has to offer. Your reward for beating them? Some of the monsters appear as alternate models. Woo. Still, you can’t help but want to clear them all.

I first encountered this game at the house of one of my Japanese friends. Of course, on his Super Famicom, it was titled Super Mario Bros. 4, but regardless of the title, we spent and entire weekend playing the game. We took care to uncover the secret levels, find the multiple exits to those stages that featured them, and the ultimate challenge: collect all of the Yoshi coins on each level.

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A few years ago, a slightly redone version of the game was released for the Game Boy Advance. But aside from some minimal cosmetic changes and some silly voice acting, there’s really nothing of note in this version. More recently, the game has been released for the Wii U virtual console and features Miiverse integration. I find it fascinating to read and watch the young people today playing the game for the first time, posting questions and answers on Miiverse. It’s a bit heartwarming to know that even after all this time, the game still holds up.

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Difficulty: Medium  –  This is a middle of the road Mario title. Most the main levels are easily passable after a few tries. It’s the optional levels that can really be a bit nervewracking.

Story: Again, it’s Mario. Blah blah blah Bowser. Blah blah blah Princess. Help Help. We’ve seen it all before. But, that’s part of the charm isn’t it?

Originality: The transition to a 16bit environment really did a lot of the series. Despite featuring very familiar gameplay, the title is kept fresh with the introduction of new power-up and of course, Yoshi.

Soundtrack: A very catchy and nostalgic soundtrack, but really not that inspiring in my opinion. I can’t really find anything to complain about, but there’s not really any thing about the game sounds that stand out either.

Fun: As far as a fun game that you can play over and over, this is the Mario title I turn to. Hours of fun for the entire family here. This is the “family game night” title to start with.

Graphics: For a launch title, this game surprisingly featured the best of what the Super Nintendo has to offer. Beautiful, crisp cartoonish graphics. A work of art.

Playcontrol: Spot-on play control on the original system, but it does take a little getting used to depending on what controller you’re using. Wii Players would do good to play on either a Classic Controller or Classic Controller Pro. Wii U players, can play using the Wii U game pad, but to me, it feels a bit awkward. I recommend getting a Wii U Gamepad Pro.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 –  Another classic first party title from Nintendo. This is one of those games that you should have in your library no matter what. Great visual, fun pay, and imaginative levels make for a perfect title.

Currently available on: Wii Shop, Wii U eShop

Other Reviews In This Series:

SMB   –   SMB Lost Levels  –  SMB 2  –  SMB 3  –  SM World – SM World 2-  SM Land  –  SM Land 2  – SM Land 3 –  Mario 64 – Mario Sunshine – New SMB – Galaxy – Galaxy 2 – New SMB Wii – Mario 3D Land – New SMB 2 – New SMB U – SMB 3D World

Paper Mario – Thousand Year Door – Super Paper Mario – Sticker Star

Wario Land 2 – Wario Land 3 – Wario Land 4 – Master of Disguise – Wario Land Shake It

Luigi’s Mansion – Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon – Super Princess Peach

Remembering the Super Nintendo

Not long after Nintendo gave the gaming world a way to play games on the go, they redefined the way we played games at home. Enter the Super Nintendo. Despite the grumbling of parents over the lack of backwards compatibility, every kid (myself included) wanted one. This system offered everything a serious gamer could want at the time. Crisp colorful 32bit graphics, better sound and bigger more complex games. All of these promises were proven true with the very first SNES game many of us ever played, Super Mario World.

Nearly every successful franchise saw a release on the SNES, further cementing it as the new standard for home consoles. With pretty much every game developer on board, Nintendo proved again that they were champions of home gaming.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll be doing mixed reviews of both the SNES and Game Boy era titles that influenced me as a kid. I may even cover a few classics that slipped thru my fingers the first time around.

This post is here to serve as both an introduction to many of the upcoming game reviews as well as a salute to one of the greatest home systems of all time

 

Review: Castlevania – Dracula X – Rondo of Blood

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The next stop on my playthrough of the series is the mythical “Rondo of Blood” this game was originally released on the Turbo Graphix16, a system I never owned. Long hailed as one of the best Castlevania games of all time, I was always very curious about it. There was a watered down version of the game released for SNES, but it left a lot of be desired. Eventually, a more “proper” version of the game made it’s way in the form of Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles for the PSP. My wife was kind enough to buy this game for my birthday a few years ago, and I’ve loved it ever since.

For the purpose of this review, I’ll talking about the PSP version. Since, it is both easily available and considered by many to be the definitive version of the game. For those curious about the original version, it was made available on the Wii Virtual console a couple of years ago.

The game starts with a cutscene showing a black mass. An evil priest named Shaft and his cult are sacrificing a virgin in attempt to bring Dracula back from the dead. They are successful and the armies of darkness decimate the countryside of Transylvania. During their strike, they come across a young girl named Annette, she is the betrothed to Richter Belmont, the hero of the game. Dracula recognizes this connection and orders her locked up in the tower of Castlevania as bait for Belmont.

Just like always, the Belmont family answers the call. The first level is a brief introduction that shows Richter racing to the scene on a carriage where he encounters Death, the reaper.

There are some really nice “throwbacks” in this game. For example, the first level is a burning town. For those that have played Castlevania II, it might look a bit familiar, it is the town of Aljiba, the last city before Castlevania. I thought it was a nice touch.

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For the most part, this game plays much like Castlevania 1, 3, and 4. There is a fairly straightforward level, with a boss at the end. The goal is to reach Castlevania itself, and ascend your way to Dracula’s chamber. What makes this game a bit different is that it contains hidden levels and unlockable things. On level 2, you can obtain a key that will open a locked gate. Entering the locked area you will encounter a little girl; Maria. Once you have freed her, she actually becomes a playable character.

Maria is much easier to control, as she is faster and her attacks have a longer range. However, she is not a strong or powerful as Richter. There are three other maidens that you can rescue as well. Finding them is not always easy, but only by doing so will you receive the TRUE ending of the game. I had a lot of fun combing each level trying to find all the secrets that are tucked away.

Aside from the maidens, you can also unlock the original version of Rondo, and Symphony of the Night (this game’s direct sequel).

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Finally, on level 7 after a little mini boss-rush, you battle the dark priest shaft. If you managed to rescue all of the maidens (one of which is Annette), the boss of level 8 will be Shaft’s ghost. Only by defeating the ghost can you actually defeat Dracula completely and win the game.

The battle with Dracula is very reminiscent of the first and third games in the series. If you’ve played them, you know what to expect. If you’ve defeated Shaft’s Ghost, Dracula will unleash a third form that is a bit more challenging. However, once you defeat this form, he will perish and Castlevania will begin to crumble.

As I said before, I had a GREAT time playing thru this title. Partially, I think, because it was new to me, but with that familiar old school feel. The soundtrack was very impressive, and the unlockable content kept me exploring. I can’t say enough good things about the title.

I chose to play the remastered version for my playthrough. Aside from new graphics, and the unlockable titles, it is no different from the original. The dialogue is essentially the same, the levels are pixel perfect, and there are no major changes to report. The only difference I could find was the original game present the cutscenes in a comic-book format, while the new game presents them in a nice gothic CG style.

1476: Castlevania III — Trevor Belmont, Sypha Belnades, Grant, and Alucard vs. Dracula.
1576: Castlevania Adventure – Christopher Belmont vs. Dracula
1591: Castlevania Adventure II – Christopher Belmont vs. Dracula
1691: Castlevania, Super Castlevania – Simon Belmont vs. Dracula
1698: Castlevania II – Simon Belmont vs. Dracula
1792: Castlevania: Rondo of Blood — Richter Belmont and Maria Renard vs. Dracula
Difficulty: Medium Compared to the other games in the series, Dracula X is a bit tamer. While, still challenging at times, the PSP version is not quite as hair pulling as the older titles. (I cannot say the same for the old SNES or TG16 version). Finding all the hidden stuff may present a bit of a challenge.
Story: Again, we have the simple, Dracula has returned set up. But unlike previous titles, we get to see a little more detail. Also, the cutscenes are a great addition to the series.

 

Originality: A familiar Castlevania style, but with some new touches that really go a long way. The most fun for me was finding the hidden zones and characters.

Soundtrack: As far as the PSP version goes, TOP NOTCH. The best soundtrack in the series thus far. The PSP version offers CD quality audio and remixes of the tracks found in the original game. New songs, series throwbacks, it’s all here.

Fun: I had a ball playing this title. In fact, I daresay it’s one of my favorites. The summary above speaks for itself.

Graphics: The PSP version is phenomenal. It’s defiantly a testament to the hardware. The original version were both stellar at the time. Even the cheapened SNES version really pushed the limits of what the system could do. However, the Chronicles version of this game is the best you’ll find.

Playcontrol:  I’m not a fan of the classic PSP layout. But I found this game to be comfortable to play and very responsive. No complaints at all.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – One of my favorite Castlevania games. This game represents the end of an era for the series. I recommend it, and it can usually be found fairly in expensive these days.

Currently available on: Sony Playstation Portable, Wii Virtual Console

Other Reviews In This Series:

CVCV II – CV IIICVACVA II – Super CVDracula X BloodlinesSotNCV64 – CotM ChroniclesHoDAoSLoIDoSCoDPoROoECVA RebirthJudgment 

LoS Los: Mirror of FateLoS II

Evolution

NintendoStack

So far I’ve written about my experiences growing up with the original 8bit Nintendo. But naturally, like many other kids who came of age in the 80s and 90s, I was also the proud owner of it’s successor the Super Nintendo.

The SNES was a thing of glory to behold. Better graphics, better sound… I mean you could actually hear real speech in like 10 second fragments!!! This was a big deal. And the games that were available! Super Mario World, Super Metroid, Zelda: A Link to the Past…. It was enough to make your head pop. It’s hard to make a statement like this, but I daresay that the Super Nintendo was just as important in the mythos that is now legacy gaming as the original NES. I look at the NES as the seed and root and the SNES as the vine and blossom of Nintendo’s success.

Some of the greatest RPGs of all time saw the light of day on this box of 16-bit goodness. In fact, the SNES has been hailed by many as the greatest RPG platform of all time. Not only did Nintendo’s first party titles and various RPGs flourish on this new system, but the early 90s saw the rise of two-player fighting games, these also soared into popularity on the Super Nintendo. Games like Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter II only further cemented the success of the console.

As I mentioned in another post, around the mid-90s my attention waned a bit from console gaming. I became more interested in social activities. Any gaming I did during this period was in front of a PC. My consoles sat on a shelf collecting dust while I learned the ways of new games like DOOM, Quake, and Diablo.

In 1996, the Nintendo 64 was released. By this point Nintendo was so far off my radar I barely noticed. I vaguely remember seeing an ad for Mario 64 and I thought to myself “Wow. Would ya look at that!” To date, the N64 is probably my most neglected era of gaming. I have since gone back and experienced many of these great games on the Wii, but I feel like I missed being in the middle of all the action. It is a pox on my gaming record to be sure.

Around the same time, Nintendo faced it’s first serious competitor: The Sony Playstation. Sony’s console made the move from cartridge-based games to CD-ROM. My old roomate had one and after seeing it for the first time, I remember wondering if Nintendo’s days of dominance were over. It certainly seemed that way. The N64 fell in popularity over time and the Playstation earned a much larger audience. Third-party developers jumped ship in record numbers. The Final Fantasy series moved exclusively to Sony’s console. As did many games from Capcom and Konami.

Sony followed up their success in 2000 with the release of the Playstation 2. This console changed everything. It was leaps about bounds above anything seen before. Many PC defectors, like myself, were lured back to the living room thanks to the PS2. In attempt to strike back, Nintendo released the GameCube. It was a cute looking device that accepted odd little mini-discs. The GameCube was responsible for some good titles, but by this point it seemed that Nintendo has officially lost the battle and the home console scene now belonged to Sony. Nintendo was able to weather the storm due to the popularity of their handheld gaming devices.

It was around this time that Microsoft decided to enter the scene. They brought the Xbox to the table and for the first time ever the console battlefield included 3 main competitors. It was during this time that I stepped back on the console scene. I had been recently married, and my love for Final Fantasy had been rekindled. I purchased a PS2 and caught up on many of great games I missed over the years. My wife came home one day with a GameCube and through it I was able to get reacquainted with many of Nintendo’s offerings. I was slowly on my way back to being a full-fledged gamer again.

2005 was the year that console gaming came back full force. Microsoft unveiled the Xbox 360. For the first time a modern game console was combined with the power of the Internet. Sales surged and Sony’s dominance took a hit. To retaliate, Sony struck back with the powerful but pricey Playstation 3. I believe that price alone is what kept many people away from the PS3 initially. Due to this, the Xbox retained the top spot in many households for a time.

By this time, I was fully back in my gamer persona. Nostalgia had worked it’s magic on me and I watched Nintendo’s next move with baited breath. Rumors had been flying around the Internet of Nintendo’s new project; codenamed “Revolution”. Everyone was talking. I remember the guy at my local Gamestop almost salivating as he claimed to have the inside scoop:

“I’ve seen it! It’s a pyramid. On each facet of the pyramid is a slot for a different cartridge!! There’s one side for Nintendo, one for Super Nintendo, N64, Gamecube, and then their new discs!!!” He explained.

Naturally, I had to point out that pyramids only had four sides, but that didn’t seem to matter to him.

What Nintendo did produce was the now famous Wii. Like many others, I was put off by the name. “Play with my Wii” jokes flew around the office. But I was intrigued by the new motion controls. I remember thinking “this will either be revolutionary or a complete bomb”.

The Wii was a smash hit, outselling everything else. The secret to it’s success was it’s appeal to all audiences. Heck, even my parents bought one! Thru the Virtual Console feature, new gamers were able to experience classic NES and SNES games that they had never seen before. Nintendo had returned!

That brings us to today. The three-way console race is still on and it’s hard to say who dominates. The beautiful thing is, it doesn’t matter anymore. Games are released across multiple platforms and these days and it makes little difference which you choose. I personally own all three systems and I enjoy each of them.

Now that we are all caught up, the main focus of this blog can finally begin. It is in this world that the modern gamer finds themselves. If you’re like me, you work full time job. You have a family to raise, and life away from the computer or television screen. Time is limited. You love games, and you still want to experience them all, what do you do? I mean think about it. There’s new great titles being released every day. Now with things like Xbox Live, Playstation Network and the Virtual Console almost any legacy title you want is only a download away. It can be frustrating.

The answer is time management and focus. I’ve learned this the hard way. I also find a lot of my free time sucked away by MMO games. This blog is going to be my personal chronicle of my journey through the world of gaming. I’m going to be reliving the games of my youth as well as tackling the games of today. I hope you stay tuned.