Tuesday, December 14, 2010

[Archives] Gamepro Hot Tips Adventure Games

Archives is my catch all topic header for things involving Castlevania that are not actual games.  Things like magazine articles, hint books, toys, CDs, ect, ect.  These are the goodies that helped bring the games to life, gave us a helping hand, or as Mel Brooks said, "MERCHANDISING!  Its where the real money is made!"  Wisdom.

As I have mentioned December is the hell month for me where I barely get much project related things done.  Work extra hours, holiday blahs, and just general chaos from Thansgiving through the first week of January.

But I am preparing for Castlevania 2.  As folks probably know, and the legendary James Rolfe got his big start discussing this game, Simon's Quest is confusing and illogical, an NES version of a Sierra Adventure Game.

This is a game where you need a map (or a good memory, something I don't much have.  My brain is too full of stuff.  Right now its more focused on Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey things.  Next month it might be full of something else.) and some help for really oddball puzzle solutions nobody is going to figure out without hours of boring trial and error.

Thus hint guides were born.  Both a way for game companies to make some extra cash selling the solutions to their ridiculous leaps in logic, and a way for magazine and book publishers to make an easy buck in the days before the Internet was there and somebody on Gamefaqs will solve the game in less than a month from release date and want to be the first to put up a full solution guide just so they can have the minor fame of doing it.

(And any gamer who isn't a total nostalgia whore can be irritated at their Game of the X polls which always end up with either a Squaresoft or Nintendo game winning anyhow.)

Game magazines did this the most and the fastest, with legendary publications like Questbusters and Nintendo Power providing maps and walkthroughs, which would later on get compiled into book formats.

The overly excitable little kid of the magazine crowd was Gamepro.  Their magazine was a multiformat console rag (mostly) for the the good old USA and aimed at a younger crowd.

They too got into this, taking their "Protips" which were little tips in previews and reviews and more full on strategy articles and making some books.  (Protip has become a meme largely due to many of these tips being something anyone with an IQ higher than a Fox News viewer would figure out within minutes of play anyhow.)

Note the cover of this pre SNES era book cover:

Now its 1990 and by IDG.  The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are pretty much THE thing on the schoolyards.  Of course its gonna be the cover art and first game mentioned.

What does our back cover say since I was 15 at the time and actually had to use my own money earned from doing the ridiculous level of chores my mother assigned when she wasn't just yelling at me for the hell of it?

OMG IT WILL MAKE ME A VIDEOGAME STAR!  Ok.  Not really.  But 10 bucks wasn't a bad price for a 207 page book (plus ads in the back for dumb stuff) in the Trade Paperback type format.  (You know, bigger than your usual paperback book, but smaller than most hardbacks.)

Pages 8-186 are a mixture of basic game information with various hints and cheat codes, 188-197 are previews of upcoming games (its a BOOK.  Does this really even need to be here?), and 199-207 are just cheat codes for other games.

The book covers NES, Genesis, and Turbografx 16 games.  (Or Famicom, Mega Drive, and PC Engine if you are a wanker.)  Obviously being this early on in the Genesis and TG16 lifespans the book is more heavily focused towards Nintendo which also makes sense given how Nintendo had like 90% of the videogame market or so.

The big first section had a chance to be nice quick walkthroughs and mini reviews, but it fails on both counts, being more kiddified general overviews of the games covered, some photographs of screens, and haphazard hints, tips, and codes.

Since this is a Castlevania blog, let us see them.  Perhaps we shall learn some good things when I get off my keister and go through Simon's Quest eh?

Wait.  This is from a magazine whose contributors were all aliases and cartoon identities.  And if Diehard Gamefan taught us anything, you just cannot trust such a magazine.  Or a book made of magazine stuff.

For a simple basic overview of the game its not too bad, albeit it sounds a little like a marketing speech.  They had a chance to also make a nice capsule review of the game, informing kids, their parents, and teenagers who weren't cool enough to be buying booze and smokes if the title was worth it.  

But that last paragraph was SOO needed.  Ugh.  I feel dumber having read it. 

While not a full walkthrough of the game, given how Simon's Quest does puzzles and all, the bullet point tips actually kind of HELP for this game without taking you step by step.  Back in the day, I beat the game with a FULL walkthrough that included maps from Game Player's.  Its a lot easier and faster, though this might be better from a spoiler standpoint.  But really.  Look at a few of the tips.  If you are THAT hopeless at videogames to not know to talk to everyone or how the healing system works you MIGHT want to reconsider your videogame selection.

This bit annoys me.  Instead of providing a nice mini map which could fit here if done simply (Gamefaqs has a nice quarter page game map right now.) or some extra tips we get a game destroying set of passwords.  I guess its nice if you lost your password notes or just had a couple hours with a game, but.. I never much cared for passwords being posted in magazines and tip guides.  It goes from helping you through the game to basically playing it for you.

And that's basically what the book is like.  Its not awful or anything, but its only somewhat useful.  But its a nice bit for my Castlevania collection, and there is a blurb for Castlevania 3 in the back.  I might post that when we get to said game, possibly in February.

I am forgetting there is art in the book too.  Art of various games that compared to some of Gamepro's terrible videogame drawings isn't all bad.  I am unsure if they are cover art, interior, or a mix since I didn't read Gamepro much (even I had some standards back then!) and its been TWENTY FREAKING YEARS.

This is one of the best pictures in here, though its accuracy to the game I THINK it is supposed to be art of (the legendary Phantasy Star on the Sega Master System) is quite questionable.  Odin with a lightsaber?  Alisa Landale getting about ten years of age and a bleach job?  Myau and Noah turned out pretty solid though.  However.  SEGA MASTER SYSTEM GAMES AREN'T COVERED IN THIS FREAKING BOOK.  Way to just use art you own guys!

I really can't say anyone should want or need this book, but its a nice little curio I already owned and its fun to share the memories.  

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sunday, November 21, 2010

[Games] Castlevania 1 Level 5

The penultimate level.  Much frustration was to be had.  I very nearly broke my savestate rule.  But that ONE LAST TRY did it.  I made it through this entire level without dying AND I won the day quite impressively as you will soon see.

It took me nearly as many tries to beat this level as the other 4 COMBINED.  But I did it.
And next time?  Next time I rectify over 2 decades of failure and do to Dracula what Wesley Willis did to the Goddamned Batman.

Let's get this game done before November ends.  Because after November rains it becomes December snow, slush, and extra work hours for holiday hell.  Its not just the Retail sector that works extra this time of year.

With luck we can get through Simon's Quest by mid January.

Monday, November 15, 2010

[Games] Castlevania 1 Level 3

I would like to be announcing that my D&D Castlevania game is up and running here, but the people who were happy with me running it decided to change their minds, discussing how they wanted to play something else after the fact and having another person run a game, informing me of this a couple days after I was starting to actively promote the game.  WHAT A WONDERFULLY DOUCHEY MOVE.

But my now available free time I was spending researching 15th century Romania can now be spent playing Castlevania videogames meaning another update.

Level 3 is done and beaten for your enjoyment:

I've already got screen captures of the next two levels, but THAT BOSS has been giving me issues so I cannot properly cover it till its completed.  Even with my rule of being able to use a start of level save state the Triple Boomerang isn't mighty enough to get me to THAT BOSS even if it would make short work of him.  Veterans of this series know who I speak of.  Now if I had Triple Axe?  He is merely tough, and its MUCH easier to reach him.

But the trick is to get there.  And boy howdy is it tough.

But we are moving swiftly along.  I promised 2-3 posts a month and this is what?  Number 6?

The holidays make doing anything difficult due to work schedules on top of the normal melancholy * I get in this season.

But let's see if I can't get through this game before Black Friday ruins any enjoyable shopping experiences for the next 6 weeks or so...

* No relation to obnoxious Japanese schoolgirls who may or may not have control over all reality.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

[Games] Castlevania 1 Level 2

Moving swiftly along (well I was at Ellis Con today so not that swift I guess...) we are up to Level 2 with its introduction of a foul and hated new foe.

I am moving along at a fair pace now.  I even have the screenshots for the next 2 levels done, albeit without having completed the second one.  I would probably be done with the game already but I was goofing around with the Game Boy titles and various forms of playing them, leading to completing the second title while listening to fine podcasts of TF Radio, home of Radio Free Cybertron , one of the first podcasts before that term was even used.

Plus I like gaming with podcasts playing.

See ya next time when we finish the first half of the game!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

My Collection. Let Me Show You It.

My currently owned collection of Castlevania games, products, and magazines I know of with Castlevania data in it.  (I also have some Retro Gamer magazine issues but we can see those when I cover them.)

Outside of one of the GB titles, most of these games were bought from stores when they were new, and most of them that weren't I at least played when they were recent.  (I will go into purchase memories when I cover each game.)

But this?  This is my humble collection of gaming goodness.  Except for the first Game Boy title.  I was mucking about with it today.  Its.. not so good.

                    (Click for big.  Its such an enormous picture I don't want to break tables and stuff.)

We have a LOT of fun ahead of us.  Well you might have fun.  I have hundreds of pits to fall in to, while questioning my life.

Update:  I had a thought of where another magazine might have been.  It was not there, but other issues were.  One of them has like 20 PAGES of Castlevania 3 info.  And I found some Bloom County collections.  Plus?  A pair of still mostly working Tiger Handheld LCD games.   SWEET.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

[Games] Castlevania 1 Level 1

Let's get this party started.  The night is young and the Count is hungry.

Argh:  Text box issues.  2 in the same comic!  The one in the 4th panel is supposed to have in it: "if you die".

Monday, November 8, 2010

More Work for the Project

Instead of playing more Wizardry: Tale of the Forsaken Land, or doing work on my main blog I have been preparing for my grand experiment in playing 2d Platformers with Dracula elements in them.

I have dug out most of my games so far, not even realizing I owned Castlevania 2.  It was unboxed and antimanualed, but I have it.  Sadly it was in a Funcoland crappy case so I swapped it with my case for Super Mario Brothers.  The one that didn't have Duck Hunt with it.  (I have that one separate.  I may be one of the only NES owners who in its heyday got SMB AFTER the system.  I got the one in 86 with ROB and the Zapper so mine had Gyromite (which is actually kinda fun if you get rid of the damn robot.  I traded mine for Dungeons & Dragons stuff.) and Duck Hunt.)

I have even found a couple old gaming magazines with info on the games.  Sadly just Symphony of the Night era mags so far, but I haven't dug through my EGM Buyer's Guides yet.

My challenge now is to figure out how exactly to play some of them.

See I am a Mac user.  Our emulators suck balls because this one Bannister guy programs most of them and keeps the gamepad controls as a paid product.  And he revises the programs now and then which start yelling at you for having out of date versions, especially if you use the paid enhancer program in its free version.

Now I guess I could use Windows emulation but I don't much like Windows.  If it wasn't for Blood Bowl, Dawn of War 1-2, and other older PC titles before I became a card carrying latte sipping MacTard in late 05 I wouldn't bother with it at all.

(Though at this point a 500 dollar laptop probably would outperform my 2.8ghz dual core Imac at most gaming tasks even with Boot Camp.  An 07 high end Mac is probably a 2010 Emachine special laptop.)

Also in Windows land I have a nice Konami collection with all 3 NES Castlevanias on it, albeit without the funnybad manuals.  I just see no screenshot function.

So I may mess around with Windows emulators to properly play my legitimately purchased software so I can take pretty pictures.

What?  I should just use my digital camera and buy the games on Wii Virtual Console?

Yeah.  For the NES games NO.

Once I get out of NES land we will see what tricks I have to pull, but for now its emulation.

I mean, have you ever SEEN RF cable or even RCA Composite on an HDTV?  Ugh.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Good Evening!

I bid you.. welcome.

Enter freely, and of your own will.

What is this blog gonna be about?

Well, one of my favorite gaming franchises is the Castlevania series.  Gametrailers' recent 5 part retrospective on the games plus the combination of Halloween season and my watching of the Spanish language version of the 1930's Dracula movie made for a dangerous combination.  (Lupita Tovar was amazingly gorgeous.  And the kinda fat guy playing the sanitarium chief was awesome.   Their Renfield was easily a match for Dwight Frye's iconic performance.  Its just really really GOOD.)

So I busted out Castlevania Chronicles on the PS1, a game I got years ago and never completed, and finished it.  Still hungry for more monster whipping I dropped a tenner on WiiWare and bought Castlevania Rebirth and finished that too.

And now I am working on a Castlevania campaign using 4th edition Essentials Dungeons & Dragons, taking place in a fantasy Romania in the year 1500.

 (Not the fanciest formatted poster, but beats what most players wanted posters do.  Still probably won't get any interest in the real world.  Already had IRC folks ask where I lived cuz they want to play though.  I hate my antisocial state.)

I feel the need to whip monsters and watch guys in capes drink blood.

I want to share these adventures with all of you, adding in various things related to Dracula and the era he was created from.

So this blog will have reviews of Dracula goodies, information on my Castlevania RPG campaign, discussions of the movies starring the REAL greatest Vampire of all time, and..

The most important part of the blog.

My adventures through EVERY 2D CASTLEVANIA GAME RELEASED IN THE USA (with possible sidesteps into foreign only games and maybe some of the 3d ones.).

See I have most of the games already.  Just won an ebay bid for the first 2 Game Boy games complete with manuals and I own every other US released game in some legal format except for Dracula X on the SNES and Legends on the Game Boy.

Yes, that's another self imposed restriction.  I have to legally own every one of the games.  I will most likely play them through emulators so I can take screencaps and save my progress where it is convenient to me.

Sadly Ebay and Amazon sellers seem to think most older games are worth ridiculous amounts so my 2 missing games from the series will be a ways off, hopefully till I can find them complete and under their original MSRP.  (But I would pay 5-10 bucks for working cartridge only if I had to.)

I am not counting the Kid Dracula games either, but again, if I can get them cheap or any of the knockoff Castlevania games like that weird Sega Game Gear game with "Doctor Social" in it I may visit those games as well.

I make no promises to FINISH every single game, especially as most of the Gameboy Advance and DS titles are quite long and I have already completed them.  But each game will get at least 3 hours of play before I can move on.  Expect maybe 2-3 posts per month if I can finagle the time.  I do have an existing hobby games blog as well that is still my prime blogging project.

If I can get things cheap I may even visit the MSX Vampire Killer game, the Haunted Castle arcade game which got a PS2 release in Japan, and various formats of the same game.

So get out the Wolfsbane, ready your holy water, and make sure your silver daggers are sharp.

Its time to start whipping one of the most legendary villains in all of fiction in the face!