Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Valis IV - PC-Engine Duo-R


The Valis: The Fantasm Soldier series appeared on many platforms, but the PC-Engine titles really stand out from the rest, much like the only Castlevania title to apear oin this platform over shadowing it's SNES and Genesis brothers.

Valis IV is the forth title for the PC-Engine and perfected what the series had been come to be know for, namely - incredible anime style cutscenes and hard-as-nails platforming gameplay.


In this iteration, you have three characters to choose from, which can be selected at any time and each has their positives and negatives. There's Yuko, the main character, the heroine, a Maria-style character who actually throws birds and can double jump and a tall robot-looking guy who comes in really, really handy in the ice-platform stages.


The cutscenes are really pretty amazing for the time, but still look good today, slightly more defined and better realized than even some of the scenes in Chi No Rondo. I can't speak a lick of Japanese, but you can pretty much get the gist of what's happening from watching them anyway.

Not that it matters much. All of the levels are composed of many parts and your objective is always the same - get to the end and fight a boss. Which may sound repetious, but it never feels like it.

The platforming is excellent, with tough enemies and harder jumps, especially during the 'test' stage where you only control the heroine and have to climb up a tower where one fall takes you to the beginning of the stage more often than not and where the enemies just love to knock you off the smaller platforms. It also doesn't help that it's timed like all the other stages and requires very fast movement to insure you make it to the end in time.


Did I mention the difficulty? It's really hard. Really, really hard. You know that kind of hard where you break controllers, hit stuff nearby like you want to send it straight to hell with a punch and where you growl in anger. Not yell - growl. Like some sort of otherworldly beast. Yup, you'll do that alot in this game.

Which is not to say its a bad game. Oh, far from it. When you get a stage right, it's amazingly rewarding and exciting, more so than any game I have played in recent memory. It's just so rewarding that you strive to get each stage almost perfect and really plan for each boss.

I'm currently on stage 6 and have made only a level or two in. The ice pilars are tough and the later parts of the level are brutally difficult - but hella fun. Highly recommended.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Akumajō Dracula X Chi no Rondo (Rondo of Blood) - PC-Engine


People talk about Akumajō Dracula X Chi no Rondo (Rondo of Blood) in the same hushed tones usually reserved for stellar, groundbreaking RPG's, such as Final Fantasy VII or Chrono Trigger, that imbue it with a sense of grandeur rarely expressed for a platforming title. And damn - it's truely well-deserved.


Rondo of Blood takes the traditional Castlevania elements and further refines the excellent and addictive play style. Konami went all out, creating some of the best graphics of the traditional 2D Castlevania titles and adding unbeliveably good music to make this game much more than the sum of its parts.

It was first brought to the PC-Engine CD/Duo systems as a CD format game and later remade and ported to the PSP as The Dracula X Chronicles and with the original title and Symphony of the Night also unlockable. Many hail Rondo of Blood as the best 'secret' Castlevania as it wasn't available originally on these shores, unless you imported it for the expensive and soon-to-be-overlooked Turbo CD/Duo.


I never got a copy of the game when it came out, having almost no knowledge of its existence. Over the years, I heard little about the game, but when I did, it was always that it was the best Castlevania and my curiosity grew. When Konami announced their remake of the game for the PSP, I knew I'd have to try it out.

I bought my copy of Dracula X Chronicles, excited to play through the remake, but really taken aback by the original. The graphics and music are really amazing for their time and the classic Castlevania gameplay is honed to near perfection. Unfortunately, the original version unlockable on the PSP title suffered from some wicked blurring and made the later stages very difficult to play through and made the game massively frustrating.

So, being the Castlevania fanatic that I am, I set out to get a PC-Engine Duo-R and a copy of the game to play the original and see if it held up to all I had heard and come to believe about it. I found a Duo-R on the PC-Engine FX forums at an excellent price and went for it.

It arrived a few days ago and I cleaned it up and popped in Dracula X as soon as I got home that night. Each night since then, I have been playing until waaaaaaay too late in the evening, totally absorbed in what could be one of the greatest games of all-time.


You start off controlling Richter Belmont and he controls the way you expect a Belmont to control. The weapons are still the classic whip and sub-weapon type, but where the title totally shines is in the graphics, music and stage settings. Each stage has an attention to detail that is exceptional, with fantastic parallax scrolling and settings. A number of the stages have multiple paths with maidens to rescue, including Maria, another playable character that makes the game even that much more fun on a second playthrough.


For those of you wondering if its worth buying a console to play Akumajō Dracula X Chi no Rondo - I'd have to say yes. In much the same way fighter or STG fans purchase HORI joysticks at $200 a pop to get the most out of their favorite titles, it's worth easily that and more to play this Castlevania as it was originally intended. It doesn't hurt that there are a ton of other good games for the system, a few of which I have on the way, like the Valis series, Dragon Egg, Super Star Soldier, Gate of Thunder, etc, etc.

Konami truly crafted a gem in Akumajō Dracula X Chi no Rondo, a fitting end to the classic 2D platforming Castlevania titles, and an excellent pre-cursor to the outstanding Symphony of the Night for the next generation PS1.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Battle Garegga high score #1


Such a fun game. I have scored higher than this on a few occasions, but not by much. I was going to wait until I hit 3 mil+ before I posted a score, but wanted to give myself a good starting point.

Pretty good run overall using Bornum, ending at 2,512,950 at the beginning of stage 4. I hit the flamingos for some good points at the beginning of stage 2 and got my medal count up decently high, but kept losing it in stupid places. I have been trying out almost every charcater and like Gain, but he just moves a bit too fast for my taste. Bornam seems to be my character of choice at the moment.

The rom hack makes playing this game so much easier - no resetting to lower rank, no entering in the code. Awesome.

Going to play this one for a while. I'd love to get a letter score and while that might take a long time, I'm eager to start trying.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Snatcher - Sega CD digital novel/action/adventure game


I have always wanted to sit down and play through Snatcher as I am a pretty big early Hideo Kojima fan (enjoying everything up to the end of the tanker scene in Metal Gear Solid 2) and since I am on a bit of a vintage console kick at the moment, I decided to take the plunge and dive right in.

Snatcher is a kind of action/adventure/digital novel, created for a number of platforms, including the MSX2, PC-Engine and the Sega CD, which is the version I decided to play as it is the version the team put the most into, with an extra chapter at the end and better graphics and voice acting than the other games.

The voice acting is actually very, very good and must ahve been pretty unbelieveable when it came out. Although I knew a couple people who had Sega CD systems back in the day, none of them had or even knew about Snatcher. In fact, most of the guys that had Sega CD systems were envied instantly, and then much less so when you got a chance to play the games on the system and we pretty much wrote it off after that, looking forward to the Playstation and its generation.


The game borrows heavily from Blade Runner and cyberpunk concepts of the time, but the plot is neither trite nor does it feel recycled. Right from the get go, you feel involved in the story and want to see what happens next, kind of a page-turner if you were to think of it as a novel, but definately an engrossing experience as a game.

And that's really what grabs you in this game - the writing. It is very well composed and deep, exposing character faults and moving the plot forward with a deft stroke which never seems heavy-handed. It's also very much geared toward a mature crowd, with pretty gory scenes at times and startling music. Even the music that plays outside Jean's house is dramatic and immediate feeling, making you want to keep progressing forward.


The graphics are really very good, especially for the time, with a distinct style that tries to stay mature and away from anime stereotypes. I'm a huge fan of Japanese animation from this time period, especially the cyberpunk classic Bubblegum Crisis, and this game very much pays tribute to that kind of cyberpunk world. The city feels gritty, the backgrounds are stark but colorful and the city is filled with Neo-Kobe's archetecture in such a way that you actually feel connected to it.

I played it until midnight last night and went to bed, really wanting to see what happened next and woke up thinking about it, ready for the next chapter in the adventure. I'm enjoying the hell out of it and will hopefully finish it today.

What's really dissapointing about the game is that it hasn't been re-released on any other more modern console. There has a been a hacked, proof-of-concept demo available for DS flash carts, showing that it will run and actually look good on the DS just fine, but nothing from the Konami or Kojima camp.

It feels a little like a lost franchise, one that Kojima probably had to let go to keep plodding along with Metal Gear, which is unfortunate. We can only hope that with all of the Capcom remakes, someone at Konmai wakes up, sets two or three guys on it and we get a true classic, re-released for more modern - and much smaller - systems.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Castlevania III - Dracula's Curse - finished!


Not a huge, headline worthy gaming accomplishment by any means, but for me a very satisfying one indeed. I finally beat ol' Dracula this evening, switching back and forth between the boring Monday Night football game and the last stage of Dracula's Curse.

I know that beating a two-decade old NES title may not be the most spectacular gaming accomplishment, but this is one hard game and it feels good to finally lay Dracula to rest. That is, until Super Castlevania IV.

It took me a good month of on and off playing to get to the end as the second to last stage is brutally tough, requiring many, many perfect moves and jumps up the long a** staircase to get to the end, though the end boss, Doppleganger, might be the easiest boss ever in a Castlevania title.

I'm going to start a game with Grant and see what his stages are like. I'm also going to work towards the 1CC, which would be really satisfying, but will definately take some time.

I'm still pretty stoked to play Castlevania III and that's saying a lot about how good this game is. Kind of a forgotten title in the Castlevania series (though, not to Castlevania fans), but a gem nonetheless.

Metroid Zero Mission & Fusion


After playing through the Super NES classic Super Metroid a while back and enjoying the hell out of it, I bought Metroid Zero Mission and Metroid Fusion and played through those as well, being on a bit of a bender for 2D Metroid titles at the time. And I have to say, they are some of the best GBA games ever made.

Relentlessly fun and interesting, they take the gameplay elements that Super Metroid implemented and extend them while further refining the speed (Samus was a bit slow in the SNES title and the addition of the dash button was uninspired) and jumping mechanic of Samus and really making the game a fluid platformer.

Zero Mission is a remake of the first Metroid for the NES made for the GBA. It is this kind of lovingly done remake that makes you compare every attempt to revitalize an old franchise with snazzy graphics and new gameplay elements to this one. It is exceptionally well done, a perfect update with much care taken to redo the game where it was lacking (quick health power-ups, maddening bomb-jumping mechanic) and further polish the elements that were good in the first game (all of the sub-weapons).

The stages are still alot of fun and the exploratory nature of the game is enhanced fully by the addition of a 20 point health power up that happens to spawn way more often, where the NES version only had 5 point ones for 90% of the enemies in the game, making it very hard to refill your energy. They seem to appear more often as well and you end up pushing farther quicker because you don't need to stop and fill all your energy tanks after some particulatly hard sections.

The soundtrack has also been redone and the remixed versions of the stage themes are even better, more involving and even more striking. Brinstar has never been creepier.

There is also an extra section added into the game once you defeat Mother Brain in the Chozo Ruins where you have to sneak around with only a weak stun gun to find your suit and all the sub-weapons to tackle the end boss in a pretty brutal fight. It's pretty fun, but honestly, I skipped it after the second play through of the game as it can get tedious. Plus, having all of those fun enhancements to Samus stripped away from you is a little bit of a let down.

Metroid Fusion kind of picks up where Super Metroid left off in terms of graphics, layout and extras in the game (recharge stations, map uploaders). The story and atmosphere are solid, still keeping the languid creepyness so prevelant in the SNES classic.

I'm just starting my third playthrough and I'm still pretty excited to dive into the 2D excellence that is the Metroid franchise. They both play very well on the GBA Micro and seem almost tailor made for its small screen and controls.

One of these days I'll have to give the 3D Metroid offerings a shot, but with 2D games as good as these, I may never get a look at them.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Shin Megami Tensei - Persona 2 & Nocturne


A couple weeks ago, Atlus sent out an email stating that they were repressing copies of Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 2 for the PS1 in 'ultra-limited quantities' for sale on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca only. Needless to say, as soon as I got the email, I went and bought one from Amazon without thinking twice.

After checking out, I thought about it - how cool is this? For a company to reprint a two-generation old game is pretty awesome, even if most people think they did it to capitalize on their rabid fanboys needing a sealed copy of the game. Personally, I applaud any company that knows how valuable their old properties are and tries to make their fanbase happy.

When the game arrived, I was home sick and got a chance to play it, although, I have only put about three hours into it total. Even with such limited playtime, I can honestly say the the game is fantastic.


The Persona system seems pretty much the same as Persona 3 and the battle command system is streamlined and simple to use, if only a bit boring as you set your battle commands and just watch your party do their thing, round after round until they all die or win. Honestly, I like it. It's simple and fun, requiring little in the way of micro-management, but its there if you need it.


But the real draw for me at the moment is a mix of its tremendous story and fantastic characters and the world where the game is set. It's set during the present day, incorporating a heady mix of surrealism with it's rumor system, where you spread rumors and they can become true(!), evidenced early on in a resturant where an npc makes a phone call declaring that the resturant you are in is selling firearms (when, at that moment, they aren't) and a cut-scene later, a waiter has a silver case open in front of you, letting you know they have anything you need. Now that's cool.

I look forward to getting some time in on this in the comming weeks, but as Persona 4 hits shelves next week, I have a feeling I may be waiting until after the new year to get into this one fully.


The game I did put a bunch of time into while I was confined to quarters, was Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, a PS2 offering that had a reprint last year and I bought it, but never played it under the deluge of other titles I have been playing.

I dove into it and put about 30 hours into it in three days, trudging through the tough parts, committing fully to it and after 32 hours, I'm giving up.

It's not a bad title by any means, but one that requires you to A) be very into collecting and B) like to have your a** handed to you by every boss you encounter, multiple times before you have any idea how to defeat them.

The collect-a-thon element comes from gaining monsters for your party, which have certain attacks, strenghts and weaknesses and when fused together correctly, can be a reall asset to your party when it comes to boss battles. Unfortuntely, you have no idea what you need until you fight each boss.

Each boss requires a very strict strategy of buffs, debuffs and attack methods, which can be fun to figure out early on, but later, bosses will pretty much one-shot your party if you aren't sure which strategy to employ. Very frusterating, especially when you are sick and cranky.

Then the collecting comes in big time, as you need to find a bunch of monsters and convince them to join you, which can take a good amount of time, and then dive into the fusing system, trying out different combinations to find those which work best for your current strategy. Like Persona 3, you will have a few keepers in your party that have a fair variety of spells, but you need to adopt new menbers constantly, collecting them often, which kind of takes you out of the experience and can be a very boring trudgefest, fusing them, leveling them up and trying them out on the bosses before you have a good idea if they will work.

For all the headaches that the boss battles gave me, the game does have some standout points, like the characters and storyline, which are both well-thoughtout and exectued. The game takes place during the modern day, after the end of the world (the 'conception' as its referred to in-game) and in Tokyo. It's the desolate, sparse overworld and matching dungeon setting that really makes the atmosphere of this game startling. It's very mature and serious, even if almost all the characters are teenagers.

The gameplay is very similar to other SMT titles, though instead of recruiting other humans into your party, you recruit other monsters that you usually fight. This is a fun sort of minigame that you can indulge in in each and every battle in the game, except for boss battles. Instead of fighting, you can talk to the monsters and proceed through a conversation tree, giving them items and money to influence them and answering questions from them to convince them they should join you. It's a fun change of pace from typical rpg character involvement. It does get a bit tedious as you can fuse them together like in the Persona titles, but there is a lot of trial and error. Since you usually pay them in part to join your party, it can get expensive as well, especailly if they refuse to join you after you have given them a bunch of cash.

For all the difficult elements there are, and there are a number of them, the game is a solid jrpg, but not enough so to draw my attention away from the other SMT titles I am be playing, namely Persona 2 and next week, Persona 4.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

1CC Castlevania NES - 189,800


Lately, I have been pretty obsessed with the NES version of Castlevania, even buying the GBA Classic version to play on the go and practicing the game at home an insane amount.

I have been able to beat the game with 1 continue, usually at Dracula, a few times, but I have never 1CC'd it until today.

And I have to say that it feels awesome. I love this game and not only was this a 1-miss, 1CC, but a solid, really good scoring one, even without point pressing, like in stage 16 or so with the imp men (they infinately spawn). 200k would be pretty easy with just a little work.

I did play a bit of the second loop, finally dying at stage 24 with 225,520 points, but I wasn't really trying at that point. I was too stoked on the 1CC!

To beat a tough game from my childhood is pretty satisfying, but to 1CC it, espically a title as hard as Castlevania, makes me super happy.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Castlevania III - Dracula's Curse - NES


There are so many games that you will end up going back to where your memories of them are of fun filled afternoons growing up, good times with friends, or great solo quests. And then there are those which you never played, but may have loved the series, like Final Fantasy or Dragon Warrior. Most action titles, if good, got a play through or two back in he day as the good stuff for the NES rose to the top quickly through word of mouth and schoolyard bragging rights of those who actually owned the games.

Castlevania III - Dracula's Curse was one of those games that slipped between the cracks. I didn't like the series when I was younger, always despising the difficulty, but I never heard about anything it after Simon's Quest and before Symphony of the Night. Well, I definately missed out.

Castlevania 3 is quite possibly the best of the series for me and the sheer variety of levels is a bit daunting at first, but like hard alchohol, after a few, it goes down smoother.


I have been playing through it, attempting a level a night (when I get a chance to play it) and it is the king of motherf**kery, a super-difficult game that at first feels as if it was designed by people who hate you. There are so many little spots in the game where the game knows what you want to do - and makes you do something different or quicker or way more exact. This pretty much starts at level 4 and carries through the rest of the game.

At first, I really got pissed when I would have to pause for a second before decending a staircase as there was a bird that may fly out or an axe from an Axe Lord that would clip me, but after a while, I liked it. It's as if the game creatrors played the hell out of the game and knew where you could take shortcuts, or move through areas without much trouble and broke up all the easy patterns into way more difficult and exacting ones. Which, it turns out, are way more rewarding anyway.


Take that excellent level design, which would be enough for any series' part 3 and add three other playable, swappable characters, a password system and you have an truely amazing game.

8-Bit sound defiantely has its lovers and I am among them, but the Japanese got the better version of this one, installing another sound chip in the Akumajō Densetsu Famicom cart to give it an unbelieveably awesome soundtrack. Definetely worth getting an adapter for.

I am up to level 8 at the moment and just enjoying the hell out of this one. It now ranks up in my top five of all-time. It's that good.

I'm hoping to finish this one soon and give it another play through as I am finishing it with Sypha first, then trying Alucard again as my first playthrough hit a snag at level 7 and I hated playing through the falling block level a dozen times trying to get it right.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

New PCB: Dangun Feveron - Cave


When I was introduced to Cave via emulation, I played this a bunch and liked it for its novel approach to a shooter, but never really clicked with it. That is, until I played the pcb down at gunbird18's place at the Missouri Cave Matsuri and knew I woul have to get one.

Dangun's maniac speed, acid jazz soundtrack with disco-themed visuals and DoDonpachi-esque sprites are awesome, if only a little strange. This becaume the second pcb I got in trade for the Aero Table and it's friggin' fantastic.

I figured this one would be in the cab more than the other newcommer, Battle Garegga, as its just a bit more accessable and a little less punishing, but Garegga has steadily remained in the cab since I got it set up to it's current, official version. Not that Dangun has had any lack of playing time - I still have managed to pump quite a few credits through it and I am pretty impressed with it.

The scoring system is based around destroying enemies and collecting the disco men they drop - allowing one to go off the top of the screen resets your disco men count - without losing your count. So you frantically collect disco men and dodge bullets from the patterns which vary from later generation Cave bullet mazes to Strikers-style speed and punishment. There is a brutal difficulty spike at stage 4 and this one will be very tough to 1CC.

There is a certain amount of memorizing that you need to do to score well, by using your option shot (bomb, in my case) and anticipating enemies, you can easily collect your disco men. In the case of Dangun, it's actually fun to memorize bits of the stages as you can reap huge rewards from taking larger enemies out by making more enemies appear on screen, meaning more disco men to collect.

I defiantely need to get more time in on this one, but Garegga is just soooo good.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Battle Garegga NIPPON version/zakk ROM hack


I got the rom chips in from Steph over at hobbyroms.com (hella good guys) and popped them into my pcb, then clipped the jumpers from 3 & 4 on the pcb and viola! NIPPON version, with the Mahou Daisakusen characters available without imputting the code each time and rank reset after each credit! YES!!

After playing for a little bit, I struggled to get 1 mil and knew something was up. I couldn't get anywhere! I know I'm not the best STG-player, but I'm certainly not that bad.

I checked the dip switch settings and lo and behold - the pcb was set to 'very hard.' I set it up for free play and normal difficulty, turning off the attrach music and went to work, racking up a 1.6 mil score the first time out and then playing with the game for a few credits, trying different ships and trying to dodge the second boss's first five patterns and bomb the center (pretty hard to do right now).

This game has me totally entranced. It is beautiful, dark the music is the best shooter soundtrack ever released - Namiki, you're a genious!- and the gameplay is so deep that each time I play it, I can try something new, improvise and enjoy the game in a way you often cannot with shooters.

I'm going to shoot for a 3 mil score, which shouldn't be too hard to do with the second boss trick and medal bridge on the beginning of the third stage, provided I can keep my medal count maxed.

Just stupid amounts of fun.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

New PCB: Battle Garegga - Raizing/8ing


So hard, so brutal and very, very enjoyable. This pcb has the China version (Ver Tue Apr 2 1996) rom chips installed (larger, yellow bullets, no stage editor), but I have a set of the original, official version (Ver Sat Feb 3 1996) chips on the way, courtesy of Steph over at Hobbyroms.com. These are the modified roms, where your rank resets after each game ends instead of increasing with each credit and where the Mahou characters are unlocked always, so you don't have to keep entering the code to play them. Check out the 'Hey Poor Player!' blog to learn more about the guy who created them.

I can honestly say I am pretty impressed and daunted at the same time. This game is punishing and there are massive amounts of information on rank and playthrough tactics out there and you'll need them to get anywhere. But the game has so much depth and so many little programming gems (the flamingos on stage 2, for instance) that you feel compelled to play it more and more, even if it kind of hates you. Yagawa built a really challenging game here and one that requires dedication and a bit of OCD-ness to get good at, but one that is also enjoyable - as long as you don't mind lots and lots of deaths and a stark, dirty, military-feel to your STG's.

I'm just the guy for it. To control your rank, good players will have to suicide at certain points. It's so counter intuitive, that when I learned of the game originally, it dropped to the bottom of the list of games I must play/own someday. Then, after doing some reading, watching some replays and learning about the depth and strategy involved, it creeped its way back up and became a pcb I wanted to own badly.

A high score isn't even a priority at the moment. Just learning the game is enough right now. I'm hoping to get sometime in on it in the next few weeks, learn enought o post a high score, but with another new pcb waiting in the wings, it will have some competition for cab space...

Monday, November 3, 2008

Missouri Cave Matsuri 2008


I noticed a post in the shmups forum a while back that gunbird18 was planning on having a meet down in Central Missouri and kind of shrugged, thinking it would be cool to do something like that here. Then I looked at the distance to drive it - 6 hours, give or take a bit. I had just driven 7 for the CAGDC contest and that only had one shmup - made in 1986!


I had to do it. First of all, gunbird18 is a very nice and respectful forum member, whcih carries a lot of weight in my book and knowing that we could bring a cab to up the total of cabs to 2, I thought it would be a great idea. I asked Dave if we could bring his cab down as he has a first floor place and all we would need to do is unplug it, wheel it out to the Element and go. He was down. I realized that we could probably fit in the newly acquired Aero Table in the truck as well, if I could get some regular Sanwa sticks into it and maybe some buttons that didn't stick and actually registered all the time. I hacked one of my Astro City plates, used a bunch of leftover bits when me and Dave had bought our cabs and it was ready to go.

The list of boards that were going to the event was epic: Muchi Muchi Pork!, Guwange, Fixeight, Outzone, Ketsui, Deathsmiles, ESP RaDe, ESPgaluda II, Ibara, Dragon Blaze, Battle Garegga, Fever SOS, Battle Bakraid, all 3 Strikers titles, Dimahoo, Raiden Fighters 1,2 and Jet, Armed Police Batrider, Progear, DOJ, Raident Silvergun, Soukugurentai, Mushihimesama and Strikers 1945 Plus - plus every good shooter for the Saturn, Dreamcast and PS2. Unbelieveable. I barely got a chance to play half of them!


We got there Friday night and met up with Todd aka gunbird18, who really is a nice guy in real life and unloaded all the cabs, pcb's, the tv and luggage and ended up playing until 2 a.m. that first night.

The next day, I woke up early, so stoked to play some of the titles I had been waiting to play for years and made coffee, played SOTN on my PSP and started in on some of the console titles while people arrived, like Raiden III, which I had never played and ended up enjoying for a bit.


Almost everyone was there by 1 p.m. and people swapped games in and out of cabs at a pretty prodigious rate, trading Raizing titles for Cave, Cave for Psikyo, Psikyo for Toaplan and on and on.


The Aero Table got a lot of play, which I was pretty stoked about. In fact, caldwert like it so much, we worked a trade for it as he needed a jamma cab that was easy to turn horizontal and I needed room! I ended up with Dangun Feveron and Battle Garegga - two pcb's that have been on my want list for a while now. Glad I brought it!


For me, the best game that made it was MMP, a title which I hadn't paid that much attention to - even owning the OST/DVD combo didn't get me that stoked to play it. But playing through it for the first time I realized that it is a really deep and fun game with a great art style and soundtrack.

I also set a new high score for myself on Batsugun Special Version at 4mil+, which was a great accomplishment for me. But, shortly there after, stuminator set at it and killed it with a second loop run that had a number of people standing around watching in amazement.


Some surprise hits of the get together were the Simpsons pcb, which, if it didn't need to be swapped out for Guwange shortly after it arrived in the cab, would have probably been in for the entire meet!


The Wii and 360 also got a work out when people were taking a break from STG-ing, with Tennis and Golf the favorites. Dave certainly got into it and his curses rang out louder than those of any other gamer. I also got a chance to play Bomberman Live, which, being a huge fan of the Bomberman series, was awesome. Multi-player Bomberman is just stupid amounts of fun.

Kudos to Todd for putting on such a great meet and to all of the attendees who brought pcb's to make this - in the words of szycag on shmups - 'THE MEET EVER!'

Batsugun Special Version high score #3


Put some time into this at the Missouri Cave Matsuri and reached a new high score of 4,254,110, dying midway through stage 5 after suiciding at the turrents which, when bombed give you ~59,630 points, thinking I had another life, which I didn't. Bummer.

Super-stoked on this game. So good, so old skool and the best of Toaplan's efforts.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Ketsui Death Label DS


Ketsui in portable form + new world record superplay DVD = stupidly good deal.

I knew I had to have this as soon as it was announced, even though initial impressions were left wanting more, I knew, if only for the fun of playing something even resembling Ketsui, that this would be a good buy. Especially with the DVD included.

And I was right. Ketsui Death Label is awesome and the gameplay is actually fun and very similar to the feel of the arcade, even if the screen is tiny. I was fairly impressed with the play control and expected something like the vague, slow feeling of Nanostray, which stayed in my collection for all of two days.

I have beat all of the modes except for Doom and Death Label, but I'm working on those at the moment. It can get frustrating as you will die a lot even in a good run (at least I do) and I have had to put it down due to massive frusteration more than once.

But don't be misled - it is a tremendous game.

Included in the package is a new superplay DVD with a craxy 500 mil+ run, which is produced with the same quality as the DOJ PS2 DVD and a welcome change from the INH DVD, which I have watched something like a billion times.

It's a fun game and a must buy for any Cave fan. It's certainly the best portable STG ever made.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Castlevania: Dracula X Chronicles PSP


OK, so I know I'm not exactly johnny-on-the-spot with this one, but I have been picking up inordinate amounts of Castlevania titles recently and playing them with an uncomfortable addiction.

I wanted to get some Castlevania portable love, so I picked up Portrait of Ruin, the GBA Double Pack and Dracula X Chronicles. I played a bunch of Portrait,some of Aria of Sorrow (I think) on the GBA double pack, but really got into Dracula X, a faithful remake of Rondo of Blood, originally a PC Engine game.

I played through and beat Dracula X and unlocked the original Rondo of Blood, a bunch of the BGM tracks, almost all the prime stages and loved the game for all of that. Then I unlocked Symphony of the Night and played it for the very first time, aware of all the crazy love it gets from Castlevania fans and knowing that the hype behind the game was something approaching Ketsui-like proportions. And just like Ketsui, the hype is to be believed.

I zipped through the first castle blind, not knowing any of the secret room locations, but finding a few, not knowing about how to find the good weapons and armor and not even knowing how to turn on the familiars - and I still totally fell in love with the game.

The play controls have some of the classic Castlevania stiffness, but now add a level of fluidity in movement and truely represent some of the best character animations the series has ever seen. The story is also excellent, if only a bit overly dramatic in the voice over department, but nothing approaching Resident Evil levels of cheesyness.

After playing through and beating Richter in Dracula's castle, I expected to get to the inverted castle - and then nothing. I checked the internets and found out about the magic glasses and green orb, familiars and the inverted castle and then I really, really got into the game.

I couldn't put it down for the life of me. I got the Crissigrim, all the good armor, beat Shaft and Dracula with a level 64 character and filled out the map to the full 200.6 percent. And I still can't put it down. I may try and play through it again, as I haven't had this level of addiction to a game since Final Fantasy X-2, which I played through back to back sessions of, killing the Via Infinito and leveling up to 99 on all my characters.

Super fun, and now pretty cheap, this is for all Castlevania fans, or really, for anyone who owns a PSP. If you own a PSP, stop reading, go buy this now.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Vs. Castlevania - NES meets the arcade


When I got my first NES back in something like 1987, my gaming skills were ok, but I had only been able to hone them on Atari 2600 titles and a select few arcade games that I could get to in Seattle when I got the chance. When the NES came out, I, like virtually everyone else who played one, became amazed at what could be done in a video game. No more simple one-screen games - now you could have side and vertical scrolling adventures with depth and hours of play, even if some of those early titles like Kid Icarus were disgustingly difficult.

I spent so much time on games like Metal Gear and Final Fantasy, totally entranced by their complexity and open world gameplay. I played the hell out of Super Mario Bros. and loved finding all the secret stuff, but RPG's really captured me and I kind of gave up on action titles of the time, especially ones that I thoght were way too difficult.


Castlevania was one of those titles. I played it at a friends first and just thought it was too hard. It moved slower than SMB and the play control os Simon Belmont felt too restrictive, especially getting knocked back when you got hit and more than likely ended up in a pit or falling to your watery death.

But I always kept a place for it in my heart, vowing to someday give it a serious go and really tackle it when I got better at games.

Enter the Wii. I really got into downloading games for the Virtual Console and spent a good deal of cash on older titles I never got a chance to play, mostly shooters and some platformers like Do Re Mi Fantasy and Super Turrican.

And one night, I decided to buy Super Castlevania IV, thinking that it was about time I gave the series another go. I played for about an hour and remembered the stiff play controls and unashamedly difficult stages. But this time, I loved the challenge.

For the next few months, I bought a smattering of Castlevania titles, including both DS titles, Simon's Quest, Dracula's Curse, Dracula X Chronicles and finally the challenge of my youth, the first NES Castlevania.

Holy hell, I love this game. Vampire Killer, the stage 1 music has been in my head for the better part of three weeks and I have played up to stage 13 three times, still working on keeping the holy water for the Grim Reaper, who I haven't yet been able to beat using anything else (EDIT - Just beat the game - two days after this post - for the first time!). I've been really, really into the game, from the awesome and incredibly memorable music to the super fun stages and little secrets hidden throughout the game.

Then, at the CAGDC Tourney, I picked up a Vs. Caslevania pcb from Jason Spindler, who, in my opinion, is a god among men, and got a chance to play it in his Vs. cab while I was there. Yup, it was awesome. Yup, the play controls were even better and it felt so fun to be able to play it in a cab.

The game is exactly the same, save for the time - you only have 170 seconds to finish a stage, so you really need to move. More than once, I got caught out trying to be cautious.

This is an awesome addition to the collection and with the Vs. adapter, I'll be able to pick up a few other NES Vs. titles like SMB and my secret favorite sports title, Golf to play in the Astro City or Aero Table.

Playing NES classics in an arcade cab is just way too fun - especially one you have learned to love for the very first time. Thanks, Jason.

Batsugun Special Version high score #1 and #2


I played for about an hour this morning and decided to post my first Batsugun Special Version high score of 1,306,100. I got through most of stage 4, but ate it right before the four planes that fly up from behind you because I was waiting for those planes and neglected to worry about what was actually firing on me at that moment.


Not a bad first score, though I know about the stage 5 trick of bombing all of the little gunner pods on the rails towards the end, which net some crazy amout of points each, so if I can 1CC it, the score wil be a lot higher.


Played a bunch of credits all afternoon and got a new high of 1,742,900, dying on the stage 4 boss. I'll be pushing for the 1CC this week and hopefully get there. I've credit fed to the second loop and its a helluva lot of fun.

Batsugun, Dodonpachi, Cotton 2, Darius Gaiden, Saturn Bomberman and Baku Baku Animal - Sega Saturn


A little while ago, I decided to take the plunge and delve into vintage gaming. The oldest system I still had was a Nintendo 64 and I quickly augmented my vintage console collection with a Sega Sautrn and a bunch of other stuff which I have already covered in an earlier post. Suffice it to say, I bought a lot of stuff and have been gaming on the NES and SNES for a little while now waiting for a score of Saturn games.

I missed out on the Saturn era of consoles, mainly because I was in college, but mostly because I kind of fell out of touch with gaming and systems were getting more expensive right around the time I had a lot less cash to burn through.

Knowing that the Saturn had all these great shooters made for it, I had to start collecting there and delve into all of the great titles I had missed out on so many years earlier. I found about half of what I was looking for from bleem on the shmups forums. From him, I picked up all of the titles in the header minus Darius Gaiden which I got over at People Play Games, and I have been playing them non-stop for the last 24 hours. OK, well, I slept some and ate breakfast, but that's about it.


Batsugun is tremendous. Toaplan did it right with their last STG and you can easily see the beginnings of the trademark early Cave-style prevalent in ESP Ra.De and Dodonpachi.

Dodonpachi is fantastic as well, very close to the arcade pcb from what I can tell, having played it a bit in mame when I started to get into STG's. The music is very good and I haven't got as much time into this as I want to, but Batsugun is commanding most of my time.

The Saturn pad is just so excellent for tapping through patterns that I can't believe they didn't make joypads for all of the current gen systems.

I'm stoked to get some time in on Cotton 2 and I have already played through the first world in Saturn Bomberman. Being a huge Bomberman fan,. I have always wanted to play this version and it doesn't dissapoint. The opening is excellent anime style action which kind of sets up the game. The game play is exactly the same as other titles and the music, as always, is catchy and you find yourself humming along during the levels seemingly without notice.

I also picked up Darius Gaiden and have played enough to know that it beats the hell out of Darius Twin for the SNES, a game I 1cc'd just trying it out in an emulator. The graphics are pure 2D sprite goodness and the music is phenomenal with kind of an acid jazz, lounge feel that really stands out from other guitar driven soundtracks like Dodonpachi.

I'm working on a high score at Batsugun at the moment and hopefully I can turn a 1 mil score before the weekend is up. It shouldn't be too hard, especially since I have some awesome Hello Boss Japanese canned coffee and a lot of time.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

CAGDC Mini-Tourney Fall 2008 Day 2 and Final Standings


I woke up in the morning, ready to go set some world records at a blistering pace, but after looking at the high score tables, I realized I wasn't going to better my place in the standings without considerable effort and I didn't have the time for that. I also realized that I was having more fun hanging about, taking pictures and cavorting with the players who were still dueling with each other than I would working one title until the last moments of the tourney, eschewing everything else in search of a better score.


Up until the last day, Donald Hayes and Mark Boolman were playing each other at Nova 2001, constantly outdoing each others score until the games started to hit marathon pace. Donald blew the old record out of the water with a final score of 1,735,270, a staggering result with a game he had only played a few times before the tourney.

I had given it a go a few times, but even when I scored into the 480K range, I found my brain needing some more time to learn, not having the gaming tool box to draw from for late level challenges that both Donald and Mark have. Not being able to beat either of them didn't bother me though, because I got the chance to watch them play. A number of other players also took to coming over and watching a few rounds in between their games, making for some good gaming comradery and conversation, truely highlighting the fun and friendly nature of these types of contests.


The best part of the event for me was the love Beastie Feastie got from the gamers. I'm a huge fan, obviously, but a considerable number of guys turned in scores on it and watched each other play, getting tips and learning tricks from Donald and myself. I didn't break 400K, or 300K for that matter, holding my final score at 270K, which I'm plenty happy about. Donald, however, totally killed it with a final score that was set after the event of 408,506, setting the first world record on a dedicated Beastie Feastie.


It was an honor to see such great gaming from all the attendees, especially Donald Hayes, who is not only a tremendous player, but a helluva nice guy. He walked with first and Fred Ochs took second while Jason snagged third. I ended up in fourth, out of the money, but no worries. I had so much fun, I really didn't think too much about the cash, especially when I ended up picking up a vs. Castlevania pcb from Jason - a favorite classic Nintendo title and very sought after game for my collection. Just watching and capturing him set an 11 mil score of Turbo Sub was worth the trip alone, not to mention all of the other outstanding scores and multitudes of world records set.


I did happen to catch first place in Bomberman Panic Bomber, a puzzle game that was developed by 8ing for the Neo Geo, but that was mostly because the other gamers weren't into the puzzle titles. I had a few good scores for the event when all was said and done, including a second place only to Donald on Beastie Feastie, second on Gururin to Mark Boolman and second on Turbo Sub with 4.7 mil, beating both Donald and Fred, but nowhere near the new world record Jason set at 15,190,500, but still a result to be proud of.


I have to thanks all of the gamers for puting on such a great show and especially Jason and Angela Spindler, two very gracious hosts who treated me like one of the family while I was there.