Words On Wednesday

2015-05-06 Castlevania Review and Marvel’s Daredevil

Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest Review

I finally finished the second game in the Castlevania series. Here’s what I thought of it.

Story and Gameplay – 6/10

The original Castlevania, much like any platforming or adventure game during this era of video games, consisted almost exclusively of a single, obvious path forward. Simon’s Quest does not. When you begin the game (or any time you resume from password entry), you get dropped off on the upper level of a town with no indication of what to do.

The benefit of this type of nonlinear gameplay is the freedom to play how you want. Unfortunately, there isn’t even so much as a gentle push in the right direction. For comparison, games in the Elder Scrolls series allow players to do what they want, but generally give a sort of “you could start by doing this.” Not Simon’s Quest. NPCs make mention of towns and forests, but fail to tell you how to get there. They offer you items like a white crystal or holy water, but don’t tell you if you need them or even what they do (SPOILER: Both are absolutely necessary to progress in the game).

When I first started playing this game, I meandered around for probably half and hour and then gave up. I didn’t enjoy wandering around with no idea where to go. A friend convinced me to give it another try and keep playing for a little longer. Luckily, the game grew on me. After you figure out that your goal is to reassemble Dracula’s body parts in order to fully destroy him and you get an idea of how towns and areas are connected, the game becomes much more enjoyable. Be sure to keep a mental idea of how everything is linked together, however, since there is no in-game map of any kind.

As you kill enemies, you earn hearts (the currency of the game, used for both purchasing items and using some of the higher end special weapons) and experience. You must fight your way through mansions in order to obtain pieces of Dracula. Once you have acquired all available parts, you travel to Dracula’s mansion for the final showdown.

Controls – 10/10

A game as simple as Simon’s Quest doesn’t rely heavily on controls being perfect. Left and right move across the screen, up and down handle stairs, A is jump, B is whip, and pressing up and B together uses the currently equipped special weapon. A lot of the jumps require nearly exact precision. Not quite MegaMan pixel jumps, but you’ve got to be careful not to fall short. Belmont did what I told him to via button presses, so I can’t complain about the game not being fair.

Difficulty – 4/10

Simon’s Quest is way easier than the original Castlevania. I’ve still never beaten the original Castlevania, but I managed to beat Simon’s Quest in 2 weeks of very casual playing. Probably 6 hours total if I had to venture a guess. There was not a single point in the game that I was even remotely frustrated after the initial struggle of figuring out where to go. The 3 total bosses in the game were simple enough that I beat all of them on my first try.

Perhaps it would’ve been more difficult without having the best weaponry currently available or making sure to level up in all the new areas (the game cuts off experience gain after you’ve leveled up in an area), but this was nowhere near the difficulty level I’ve grown to expect of early Castlevania games. You’re afforded 3 lives before receiving a game over. Each time you die, you’re respawned at the last stable platform you touched. For a game over, you lose all your hearts and experience toward the next level, but you’re still respawned at the previous stable platform. No returning you to the last sanctuary you visited, just whatever piece of ground you last stood on. That made the game feel almost laughably easy.

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Arguably, the difficulty can be based more on which game ending you want to obtain. There are 3 different endings that can be obtained by beating the game within 8 game days, within 16 days, or any time frame. In order to shave off time toward the best ending, some players may forego grinding for levels (which isn’t necessary anyway) or obtaining certain gear. This would certainly make all enemies more difficult to defeat, and thus amp up the difficulty. In that light, the game is as tough as you want to make it.

Sound – 8/10

The music for this game is unnecessarily catchy (I still play the soundtrack rather frequently at work). If the game were much longer, I could see the 7 minutes and 27 seconds of distinct tunes becoming very annoying. Fortunately, the brevity of gameplay doesn’t give the tracks long enough to lose their appeal. Sound effects are limited, but not good or bad enough to stand out either way.

(By the way, for a particularly awesome cover of Bloody Tears, check out Rey187’s piano cover here: https://youtu.be/_MM_Q0nfaG0)

Graphics – 6/10

The sprites and 2D backgrounds of Simon’s Quest cannot compare with some of the newer Castlevania games, but it is running on much older hardware. There are a few unique textures and sprites, but most are heavily reused in different areas of the game. Much like the music of the game, the graphics could grow old in a longer game. Since you don’t see them for very long, they maintain a certain novelty.

Summary – 7/10

Overall, I found Simon’s Quest a very fun game. I enjoyed it more that the first Castlevania, mainly because it isn’t as absurdly difficult, nor is it as linear. The RPG elements in the form of a leveling system and upgradeable gear work well in the game. However, a blatant lack of direction and backstory make the game difficult to get into. Once you get absorbed into the gameplay, though, it’s a pretty fun title.

Perhaps the best way to elaborate on how I feel about Simon’s Quest is to compare it to my favorite Castlevania game, Symphony of the Night. Where SotN encourages exploration with the aid of a map, SQ offers an open world with no help navigating it. The depth of story, variety of enemies and environments, and other facets that make SotN such an amazing game are almost hinted at in a very raw form in SQ. Obviously, SotN is a much newer title with better hardware and I’m sure a much higher budget. With those advantages, it is expected that SotN would be a better game. However, given the era in which SQ was released and the infancy of the Castlevania series at the time, the game is as good as can be expected. Though Simon’s Quest may be inferior to Symphony of the Night, it introduced elements that paved the way for fantastic titles in the Castlevania chain.

 

Marvel’s Daredevil on Netflix

I’m not a huge fan of Daredevil, but this show is awesome.

Source: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3322312/?ref_=ttmd_md_nm
Source: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3322312/?ref_=ttmd_md_nm

When I heard that Netflix was getting a Daredevil series, I initially cared nothing about it. I’d never read the Daredevil comics, and the 2003 movie was complete garbage. The issue isn’t that I was opposed to the idea of the superhero (blind guy who fights crime with his other senses is honestly pretty cool), but rather that I’d never had incentive to investigate further. Netflix original programming tends to be pretty good (well received by critics, at least), but I didn’t really enjoy the movie so I decided against wasting my time with the series.

One Saturday morning, for whatever reason, I decided to watch an episode. If it sucks, at least I gave it a shot. Orange is the New Black looked stupid before I watched it, and now I’m itching for the next season to come out. Oh my goodness, am I glad I watched the first episode. The storytelling was just so enthralling. Fight sequences were well choreographed and the acting was nearly perfect. This show was awesome.

My wife popped in maybe 10 minutes in and decided to watch it with me. I expected her to hate it, and it would be one of those Saturday morning things I watch before she gets up. Oddly enough, she was hooked as well. She’s normally indifferent to comic-originated media, but she seemed to be all about Daredevil. Hooray for me, that means I can watch it in the afternoons with her.

We’ve only watched up till episode 5 so far (and so help me, none of you readers better ruin it for me), but there hasn’t yet been a bad moment. There’s a perfect balance of action and story, with flashbacks at all the right times. The show does a fantastic job of foreshadowing in some sequences and answering open questions in others. Some episodes end with pretty decent closing, and others are crazy cliffhangers. All the characters have a depth about them that I wasn’t expecting. Everyone has a different motive, and the line between good and evil is blurred at best.

One thing I’ve really enjoyed as someone who took a film class in college (ton of expertise and qualification, I know) is the way scenes are occasionally filmed in an unconventional manner. For example, the second episode ends with an action sequence that progresses down a long hallway. The fighting spills in and out of rooms on either side of the hall, complete with the breaking down of doors and people being thrown around. I noticed maybe halfway through the shot that something seemed different about it. After paying closer attention, I noticed that the camera hadn’t cut once the entire scene. Instead of bouncing around to different angles and following the action into rooms, the only movement is a slow track forward as the action progresses down the hallway. Once I discovered this, I was awed at how perfectly the sequence had to be carried out. If someone messed up, the entire thing would need to be shot from the beginning. Going off memory, the scene had to have lasted at least 4 or 5 minutes of a single shot (not the 20 minute single opening shot of Snake Eyes (1998), but impressive nonetheless). Not only was this a bold move on part of the director, but I believe it reflects a ton of skill in the cast AND the camera crew.

So far, I’m greatly enjoying this show. It is so much better than the movie, and has given me more of an interest in the Daredevil character. I would love to pick up the comics to get a little more exposure to this facet of the Marvel universe. If you’re looking for a new show to watch, Daredevil is absolutely worth checking out.

Meta:

Words: 1818 | Characters: 10068 | Sentences: 97 | Average Word per Sentence: 19 | Paragraphs: 29 | Reading Level: College Student

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