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.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

CAGDC Mini-Tourney Fall 2008: Day 1


After spending most of Friday night pulling out games from the walls and verifying dip switch setting as a favor to Jason Spindler and Mark Alpiger, the owner of the J-Cade and the moderator of CAGDC respectively, I was itching to play some games. The line up for this tournament was excellent, with a lot of rare titles like Turbo Sub and my Beastie Feastie, as well as Nova 2001 by Universal and Journey, complete with cassette deck blasting out tunes every time you finished the five stages in the game.

I knew that this tourney would be really hard as Donald Hayes and Jason Spindler pretty much ruled each of the titles we would be competing on. But just like the last tourney, I wanted to go into it not worrying about score, just forcused on having a good time.


I set some good scores early in the day, including a 380K on Nova 2001, which the previous best on was something like 270K, so I felt pretty good. Unfortunately, it didn't end up lasting long. Between Mark Boolman and Donald Hayes, they drove up the score from 400K to 750K to an unbelieveable 952K. Most of us just sat back and smiled, watching some really great players do their thing and commenting about the enevitable hand cramps from the button top joystick.

I did set a pretty good score on Beastie Feastie, but I'm really going to give it a good run tomorrow and try and hit 400K, but I'll be happy with a 350K score. Donald hit a 320K score and keeps plugging away at it, probably even playing it as I type this, 2 hours from the end of Day 1, so I'll be really happy if I beat him.

Of the contest titles (Arabian, Panic Bomber, Beastie Feastie, Nova 2001, Gurrurin, Popeye, Tron, Turbo Sub, Centipede, Galaga, Roadblasters, Dr. Mario and Journey), I really only have some experience with a few titles, so I'm not expecting to make a late run for the money. There are a number of really good players here like Mark Boolman, Jason Spindler, Fred Ochs and of course, Donald Hayes. As it stands now, I am in fourth and have some work to do to try and snag third, but assuming that Donald gets first, Jason second, third will be pretty hard to wrestle away from the other guys. But I'm definately going to try.