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.

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