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Ack
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Re: Games Beaten 2017

by Ack Mon Nov 27, 2017 12:25 pm

Exhuminator wrote:
Ack wrote:When I wrapped up SoX, I couldn't help thinking to myself, "Really? This is it? At least tell me we got a burger with the president or something." Nope, no dice, just a generic "You won" screen.

I think it's pretty awesome that you beat Swords of Xeen, just on principle. Nice to see some proper retro-CRPG action up in here. I take it you've already beaten Clouds of Xeen, Darkside of Xeen, and World of Xeen? Personally I find the PC-98 versions of these games to have superior graphics and audio to the PC incarnates. Sadly the PC-98 versions aren't in English though.


I intentionally avoided beating 4-5 before playing Swords of Xeen, both because I found the idea of doing two M&M games back to back a little daunting after my runthrough of Might and Magic III but also because I'd heard Swords of Xeen was a bit of a step back. Popo confirmed this when he tried getting into it after doing World of Xeen. So now that I've beaten Swords, I'm getting into World of Xeen, starting with the Clouds side. I prefer to do things "properly" I guess, at least based on how I see it even if Swords is technically a later release. I'm now playing the DOS releases via GOG.

It's also caused me to install Mandate of Heaven and think about potentially backtracking to the first two in the future, though I'll wait and see how I feel after this two part juggernaut. I need to go back to when Popo played through them and read over his thoughts again.
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Re: Games Beaten 2017

by Exhuminator Mon Nov 27, 2017 12:35 pm

Ack wrote:I'm now playing the DOS releases via GOG.

You are doing it righter than right. I have a hard time getting into the original PC versions of earlier Might & Magic games, simply from an aesthetics point of view. It's not that the graphics are old, but rather the abecedarian art style employed. That's not to say the underlying gameplay isn't great, and of course the gameplay itself is the point. In that regard, I think it's great that you're playing through these classic CRPGs. Looking forward to your thoughts as they come.
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Re: Games Beaten 2017

by Ack Mon Nov 27, 2017 12:42 pm

Don't worry, they are on the way! My girlfriend wants me to play more in the living room, which means I'll probably be emphasizing CRPGs from the '80s and '90s a lot in the near future. I'm a little bummed that I didn't get around to Ultima III this year (and may not get the chance, as I'm leaving the country for several weeks in December), I still have my party from Eye of the Beholder II to shift over to EotB3, and then I've got others that I'm curious about, like Albion, Battlespire, Gorky 17, and so on. I hope to give more love to CRPGs next year, but we'll see what happens.
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Re: Games Beaten 2017

by marurun Mon Nov 27, 2017 2:07 pm

Exhuminator wrote:
Sarge wrote:Rondo of Blood / I do think it's kind of overrated

I agree. I enjoy Castlevania 4, Bloodlines, and even Dracula X more. Not saying Rondo is bad, but yes, a tad overrated. Likely so due to its scarcity for non-Japanese players during its day. Forbidden fruit's always sweeter.


I think nobody will be surprised that I'm weighing in, but let me elaborate a little on why by talking about all these games.

I love Castlevania IV, Bloodline, and Rondo (but not so much SNES Dracula X), in part because each of these games capitalizes on their respective platforms' strengths. Super CV 4 goes for more realistic shading and coloring, implements rotation and transparency into the game mechanics, and pairs that with a super-strong sampled soundtrack that is creepier and spookier than any of the other Castlevania titles. Bloodlines plays with the 68k to produce lots of weird special effects and sticks to a more "Western" feel, for lack of a better explanation, highlighting, and indeed playing off of, the Mega Drive's outsider status in Japan. It also gives Michiru Yamane her 'Vania debut by letting her do some crazy stuff with FM synth. Where Super CV 4 was an HD remix re-imagining of sorts of the original Castlevania, Bloodlines is sort of an alternate universe where everything works similarly, but a little differently. Both are alien to the original NES trilogy as a result of these advancements. They are great games, but they feel, in retrospect (largely thanks to Rondo and its legacy) like outliers.

The PC Engine Rondo, then, is left to play to the PC Engine's strengths. The PCE couldn't as easily do all the CPU tricks the 68k in the Genesis could, didn't have the various graphical hardware tricks the SNES did, and didn't have as many spare sprites to throw around as either system. It did, however, have an incredibly flexible array of sprite sizes, many available color palettes, the option for a Redbook audio soundtrack, and the storage capacity of a CD combined with the large memory cache of the Super CD 3.x system card. The PC Engine, then, focused on making sure there were enemies of all varied sizes (behemoth and stone golem, anyone?), colorful and varied sprite and enemy designs, a large mix of varied levels, and animation out the wazoo. It is no coincidence that Rondo forms the base inspiration for Symphony of the Night, connecting SoTN to the classic NES series and providing enemy designs that were often reused wholesale for several subsequent games.

Yes, Rondo is not as challenging as Bloodlines, but I think that's part of the appeal. It's not a punishing game, but for a newcomer to the series it is still challenging. And it's not that the enemies go easier on the player. Hell, some of the bosses have post-death attacks. It's more that Richter has a nice set of moves and the game takes them into account with both level design and enemy placement and behavior (it does not take Maria's moves into account, especially her secret super death attack). You suddenly have that many more tools to use to deal with what the game throws at you. That accessibility extends to falling into most of the game's pits not being fatal, but rather opening up new areas of levels. Include all the secrets like girls to rescue, alternate stage exits and paths, and even random secret rooms, and you have the title in the series that I think has the most replayability. And even some of the enemies have surprises. I can't think of another Castlevania game which features and enemy with an instant kill attack, yet somehow that attack doesn't feel cheap.

I can totally understand liking Bloodlines or Super CV 4 better than Rondo, but I don't think Rondo is overrated. I simply think that all 3 of these games are really strong games. But Rondo is the one I'm most willing to replay, because it feels so comfortable and so carefully crafted. It also feels familiar, because so many of the later 'Vania games in the SotN model, including SotN itself, draw so strongly on this title's art, animation, and themes. Rondo marks the transition point of Castlevania from classic to MetroidVania. It is worth several hundred dollars? Nope. But you can get this game cheaply in the Wii Virtual Console as long as you buy it soon before the store closes. The emulation quality is pretty good.

The only thing good about SNES Dracula X is the soundtrack, which is a very strong effort on Konami's part to use the SNES sound chip to mirror CD tunes. The graphics have more detailed shading, but don't really end up looking any better. They are mostly just less colorful. The animations aren't as good. The sound effects have that weird SNES echo effect and end up sounding weird. The level designs are weak. It feels like they were designed simply to be annoying and hard, not to be cohesive or interesting. It's a much harder game than Rondo, but the challenge feels far less fair than, say, Bloodlines. Instead of feels frustrating, like someone went for cheap hard instead of well-designed, well-thought-out hard. The game largely fails to show off the SNES's strengths outside of the music and it fails to show off the Castlevania series historically interesting game design chops as well. The game is ultimately surprising in just how mediocre it is.
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Re: Games Beaten 2017

by Exhuminator Mon Nov 27, 2017 3:02 pm

Ack wrote:Don't worry, they are on the way! / I've got others that I'm curious about, like Albion, Battlespire, Gorky 17, and so on. I hope to give more love to CRPGs next year, but we'll see what happens.

I hope to see you take on Ultima Underworld II and Arx Fatalis. They are both fantastic.

marurun wrote:The graphics have more detailed shading, but don't really end up looking any better.

I can't agree with that. I think Dracula X's graphics are quite nice. Plenty of detail, popping colors, cool special effects (those flames!), and large sprites.

Rondo of Blood:
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VS Dracula X:
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I don't think Dracula X is graphically inferior at all. I will say Dracula X's sense of scale is a littler larger than Rondo's. Rondo maintains a more traditional Castlevania aesthetic.

marurun wrote:The game is ultimately surprising in just how mediocre it is.

Sounds to me like you primarily don't like Dracula X because it's extra difficult. Which is a fair opinion. But one of the reasons I like X is because of its above average difficulty.
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Re: Games Beaten 2017

by marurun Mon Nov 27, 2017 3:24 pm

Exhuminator wrote:
marurun wrote:The game is ultimately surprising in just how mediocre it is.

Sounds to me like you primarily don't like Dracula X because it's extra difficult. Which is a fair opinion. But one of the reasons I like X is because of its above average difficulty.


Ah, no. I have no problem with a difficult Castlevania game. Bloodlines is rather difficult. I still can't beat it. But I much prefer it to Dracula X on SNES, which I have beaten. Dracula X isn't difficult in any way that is interesting to me. It didn't feel like challenges I needed to master but more like stupid crap I had to just keep doing over and over in order to get on with the game.

Instead it feels frustrating, like someone went for cheap hard instead of well-designed, well-thought-out hard.


I also think you picked some particularly bland screen shots on the PC Engine side. The PCE has a wider variety of environments and a larger graphical mix that I think looks more colorful and consistent. The SNES graphics, which as I said are indeed better shaded and are sometimes more detailed, just don't have as much personality or variety. My opinion on the graphics as a whole and in motion, rather than selected single-screen captures, is that the PC Engine is a more graphically impressive and better looking title in sum. I also don't think it's a matter of "size"; in fact I think the PC Engine actually has a larger sense of scale in bosses and set pieces, like when you traverse a massive pirate ship to face Death.
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Re: Games Beaten 2017

by Xeogred Mon Nov 27, 2017 3:53 pm

I don't think Dracula X was difficult, I think it was bullshit design. The second level with the crumbling bridge and merman is a pixel perfect required jump moment of many. There are death pits littered throughout the entirety of the game, someone got so excited about them that it's even in the final fight with Dracula which is ridiculous. That's just dumb and not fun. Graphically I think it's pretty bad compared to CV4 which predates it by a huge 4 years. I can't recall much of the music off the top my head. Everything about it felt like a very obvious rush job from Konami to try and get some kind of prequel out in the West before Symphony of the Night dropped. They could have done way better.

I played all the traditional CV's in 2015 so there is no nostalgia or putting Rondo on a pedestal here. Dracula X was just an average SNES game in general to me and one I don't think I'll ever touch again.

I can appreciate the legacy (and music) of the NES games, but I really didn't like them much. I prefer the 16bit era by far. Super CV4, Bloodlines, and Rondo were all incredible to me with their own strengths and differences.

Rebirth was okay but pretty forgettable.

I wish Chronicles got more love. I thought it was awesome.

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Love SoTN's score and those Metroidvania OST's... but the melodic music of the Classicvania line is way better.
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Re: Games Beaten 2017

by Sarge Mon Nov 27, 2017 4:22 pm

So I completely forgot about Dracula X, because I'm dumb like that. It's a game I enjoy, but I agree with Xeogred that some of the design is pure BS. The jumps are tricky, but they're not what bothers me. No, it's the ridiculously short invincibility frames, which can lead you to getting completely owned without being able to recover. Even Rondo, as short as that time is, is better in that regard. There are also some extremely troll-like areas where Medusa Heads or bats or whatnot will whack you down a pit, even more so than some of the worst of the series.

I still like it, though. I'm not even sure it's the weakest of the set. The unaltered X68000 version is pretty crazy tough, and like I mentioned earlier, it feels like it treads old ground. Dracula X is a surprisingly good remix of elements from Rondo, and I'm glad it exists.

As for the overrated bit, well, I think all of the 16-bit entries are a tad overrated. I put them all in the 8.0 or 8.5 bin, which is great, but not mind-blowingly fantastic. I reserve that for Symphony. It's actually very hard for me to sort out which classic-style entry is my favorite, though; I think even the NES entries bring things to the table that the 16-bit entries don't. The original game is still fantastic, and showed an attention to detail that was nearly unheard of in an NES game of its era.

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Re: Games Beaten 2017

by Exhuminator Mon Nov 27, 2017 4:23 pm

Well guys, as I said before, I'm used to being the solo Dracula X fan. *shrug*

Xeogred wrote:I wish Chronicles got more love. I thought it was awesome.


I beat Chronicles for the first time last July. You want to talk about contrived difficulty? Chronicles was chock full of trolling enemy placement, constantly designed to knock players backwards into death pits. Chronicles did have good graphics and a killer OST though.
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Re: Games Beaten 2017

by Xeogred Mon Nov 27, 2017 4:36 pm

Hmm, I don't remember Chronicles being too tough. Think you could save in between the levels or something but I'm not sure. Overall I think I would say that Super CV4 is the easiest game to me and Castlevania 3 was probably the hardest (think the Japanese version is easier and has a better final checkpoint from what I've heard?).

"They could have done way better" really sums up my final thoughts about Dracula X though. Looking at how incredible Super CV, Bloodlines, Contra 3, and Hard Corps all are and for a late gen Konami SNES game... if Dracula X wasn't rushed it could have probably been so much more. Crazy to think about.
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