Tag Archives: moles

FGC #352 Bloody Roar 3

RAWRBloody Roar 3 is a fighting game about human fighters that may transform into anthropomorphic animals at any given moment. But are all animals created equal? Hell no. Here are the power rankings for the animalistic fighters of Bloody Roar 3.

Alice the Rabbit

Let’s start with the biggest loser in this cast. Alice is, like so many other women in fighting games, here exclusively for the fanservice. She’s been a fighter since the first game, appears in every sequel, and never, ever does anything useful in the plot. She’s a nurse, so that’s a fine excuse to squeeze her into a sexy nurse costume (never scrubs, which, take note, game developers, can actually be sexy) or a sailor fuku, because, hey, gotta compete with Dead or Alive somehow. Alice is here for every horny male in the audience, and, given the general demographics of Playstation fighting games, that might be the entire audience.

And, to further the fanservice, Alice transforms into a giant bunny rabbit. On one hand, it’s supposed to be sexy, as it’s a clear reference to the Hefner/Toriyama bunny girl of yore. On the other hand, she turns into the Easter Bunny, and, barring that one time in Reno, nobody has ever wanted to have sex with the Easter Bunny. I don’t care if she’s wearing a short skirt; the cold, dead, red eyes are a deal breaker. Bunny ears and a poofy tail can potentially be sexy, but hopping feet are a bridge too far. Ugh! I’m not going to be able to eat a Cadbury Egg in peace for the rest of the week!

Oh, also, bunnies? Not known for the fighting prowess.

Busuzima the Chameleon

Addressing Busuzima on the power rankings almost feels like cheating, as he is clearly intended to be the “joke” character of the game. He’s a lot more likely to win a tournament than Dan Hibiki, but his introduction still involves him mooning the camera, and his general fashion sense is laughable (hey, wait, we own the same shirt). Addressing the fact that the goofy scientist that can transform into a lizard might not be as strong as the lion commando is obvious from the moment he appears on screen, and I may as well be making bold claims like “Luigi will never marry Peach” or “Stryker might not be the champion of Mortal Kombat this year”.

LICKHowever, I have to address the cold-blooded elephant in the room: a chameleon is the worst choice for a fighting game. What is the chameleon’s one amazing skill? It’s a stealth monster! And what’s the one thing that that is never useful in a fighting game? Stealth! It’s a one on one match! You can’t “hide” from your opponent! Just ask Reptile! Turning invisible always sounds great in theory, but it’s not the easiest thing to control your imperceptible fighter. You’re a lot more likely to start punching air than actually achieve a hollow (ha!) victory.

And, yes, having a tongue whip is pretty cool, but there are other lizards out there. Are there any alligators in the cast? Dinosaurs? Come on, guys, we can do better.

Stun the Insect

Another one that is hard to judge. Let’s face it: Spider-Man has crapped in the hot tub, and now every other anthropomorphic insect has to take a poo bath. Spider-Man does everything a spider can, and he has “the proportionate strength of a spider”, so every insect or arachnid hero is expected to be on the same level. And can we really maintain that echelon of insectoid power? Of course not! If Spider-Man actually punched Doc Ock with the same power that could lift a Volkswagen, they’d be scraping up Ock brains over in Queens. Similarly, if Stun the Rhinoceros Beetle punched a random human with rhino beetle strength, we’re going to need the official Killer Instinct mop.

So once you drop the cool powers, what’s left for a giant insect? Not much. I guess being part of a hive or rolling around dung is cool an’ all, but it doesn’t really make for an interesting fighting character. And after that, you’ve just a got a head, thorax, abdomen, and not much else.

You know what would be cooler than a rhinoceros beetle? A freaking rhinoceros!

Xion the Unborn

“Unborn” my ass. That is a mantis, and I will waste no more time on yet another dumb bug.

Stupid bug

Jenny the Bat

Bats used to be cool. They’re nocturnal flying masters of the night, and man has feared their skittery advance for eons. They are the basis for any number of myths, and you’d be hard pressed to find a single vampire tale from the modern age that doesn’t include our favorite flapping fiend. And the blood sucking! Nobody is afraid of mosquitoes, but we’ve got a thousand Jungian archetypes surrounding our greatest naturally enemy, the bat.

And then we hit the age of Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. And now we know that bats are adorable.

I am the nightHave you seen the videos? You’ve seen the videos. Everyone has. Bats are basically highly mobile puppies. Did you see that one with the milk bottle? Or those three that were hanging upside down on a dude’s finger? Bats don’t strike fear into the hearts of the weak and cowardly lot, they’re about one step removed from being helper animals. They should give bats to disabled vets. Oh man, can we train seeing-eye bats? That would be delightful!

In conclusion, bats are not scary, and I don’t care if Jenny wants to cosplay as a vampire.

Bakuryu the Mole

Here is the opposite problem. Despite appearing to merely be the bane of golf courses, moles are kind of vicious. Have you ever tried to dig… anything? It’s hard work! Just moving the tiniest bit of dirt is a tremendous effort. But for a mole, that ain’t no thang. Digging the deepest, darkest hole is second nature to those little dudes. And why? Because they have shovels for hands. Sharp shovels. They’re basically born with sword fingers, but everybody treats ‘em like some manner of subterranean squirrel. Squirrels can barely deal with acorns, moles could ruin entire continents if they deigned to dirty their knife hands.

KARATE MOLEBakuryu the Mole thus becomes our first combatant that really chose an excellent animal form… and he gets no respect. Sure, he’s got a cyborg clone, but he’s not exactly the marquee character of the franchise. Typical. You choose one of the technically more impressive animals available, and you’re outshone by the freaking bunny girl. It’s all politics.

Yugo the Wolf

Wolves are scarier in packs. One wolf alone in a fighting tournament? Probably going to mess you up, but only a little worse than the giant bugs. Yugo only gets this position because I really can’t see a mole consistently defeating a puppy, left alone its more feral ancestor. It’s probably the vision advantage.

Uriko the Half-Beast

Uriko is another misnamed creature, but there’s a plot reason this time. In the original Bloody Roar, Uriko was a science experiment gone wrong, and was transformed into a Chimera. The Chimera is obviously queen of the roost, because, in a game about random animals fighting, the winner is the animal that is the most animals. Three in one? That’s going to do it. Unfortunately (or fortunately for her hopes of getting into a decent college), Uriko was “cured” of this chimera-ness at the end of Bloody Roar 1, and now the unfortunately named Uranus picked up her discarded goat/snake/lion powers.

Of course, nobody stays retired in fighting games, so Uriko was conscripted back into action, now with a “lesser” version of her Bloody Roar ultra beast form. Now Uriko is known as the “half-beast”. But in truth? She’s a kitty cat. She’s been demoted from final boss to our second fanservice character, and given the mysterious title “half beast” because it sounds better than Uriko the LOL Cat. Can she has cheeseburger?

CHOMP CHOMP

She can!

Though I suppose you’re asking why the character that barely even qualifies for beast citizenship is so high on the list. This is because Uriko is a cat, and cats are terrifying. Yes, they can be adorable little balls of floof that bounce around after laser pointers and lick all sorts of crazy things; but they’re also monsters that play with their prey, destroy the furniture, and occasionally sleep on your head in an effort to obtain an earlier breakfast. Basically, if cats could ever get out of that one place where the sun shines and get their tails together, they’d have the planet conquered inside of a week. And then it would be us humans being dragged to Petsmart for a manicure.

And a cat with human intelligence? Frightening.

Long the Tiger / Shenlong the Tiger

Double tiger backfire. Disqualified.

Gado the Lion

Imagine all the cunning and intelligence of the common house cat, but in a body that could topple a car. Now imagine that same beast attaining human intelligence, and, I don’t know, maybe it has hair like Cloud Strife. And it can smell fear.

MrowGado is a mercenary or soldier or something (does the United Nations have foot soldiers? They do in this universe!), and he can turn into a freaking lion. There’s no stopping that! Part lion, part warrior is the exact thing we have been fearing since that one Mega Man episode, and here it is after it got a gym membership. Gado was the final boss of much of Bloody Roar 2, and that’s no surprise when you’ve got the king of the jungle running around. The Lion is the winner. There’s only one apex feline so powerful, so fear-inducing that it could possibly top…

Shina the Leopard

Nope. Article over. Not thinking about this game ever again.

FGC #352 Bloody Roar 3

  • System: Playstation 2 almost exclusively, though there is an arcade version in Japan.
  • Number of players: Two bloody animals.
  • Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: It’s a Playstation 2 fighting game that is more or less a lot closer to the Playstation 1 fighting game mold (ala Tekken 3). This isn’t a bad thing! It might not be advancing the genre or anything so lofty, but it’s a fun time, and the whole beast mode system incorporates a very natural handicap into the gameplay. Really kicking butt? Try not morphing, and let your opponent recover some of that lost health while you’re more defensive. More fighting games should allow for such an obvious “gimme” (and also the ability to turn into a lion).
  • Favorite Character: Uriko the Half-Beast, because I like the fast, easy to use characters. And I’m a horrible person.
  • Sexual Dimorphism is a Scourge: The first Bloody Roar seemed to have the most robust, varied roster in the series, and among its members was Mitsuko the Boar. Mitsuko was Uriko’s mother, and she was the extremely rare “heavy” female fighting game character. And she was rad! She was a basically a lady Zangief, and a boar is a pretty imposing animal form. Aaaaand she was never seen again. Bunny girl has appeared in every game in the series, though.
  • Did you know? There was an official Bloody Roar Chia Pet. Don’t laugh! There are Guardians of the Galaxy Groot Chia Pets, so it’s clear these guys know how to capture the zeitgeist.
  • Would I play again: There are so many fighting games on the Playstation 2, and, while this is the only one where I can control a mole-man, I don’t think we’ll see this one again. There’s a fighting lizard man in Mortal Kombat if I get in the mood.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Metal Slug 3! Get ready to shoot every damn thing between here and Mars! Please look forward to it!

Hey, I used all the images for once
Ahhhhhhhhhh!

FGC #173 Super Scope 6

It's just superThe Super Scope is indisputably my absolutely most hated peripheral.

Nintendo, when you get right down to it, has released a lot of random crap over the years. We’ve already discussed the bongos and the Wii Zapper, but that’s just the tip of an iceberg made of pure, frozen piss. Anybody remember the e-reader? It was “we’re gonna sell you DLC before it’s cool” in trading card form. It probably would have been a good idea… if it didn’t need an entire extra Gameboy Advance to function in some games. And, speaking of which, there was the GBA/Gamecube link cable that led to some interesting proto-WiiU experiences… but was also another excuse to buy a big pile of GBAs in tribute to the latest Zelda. I’m pretty sure there was also that DDR/Mario crossover that used a dance pad for exactly one game. You better believe I’m blaming Nintendo for that one!

There are even the devices that everyone considers failures that I actually like. I admit that some of my affection for the system may come from not purchasing it until (well) after a price drop, but I always enjoyed the Virtual Boy and its neither-fish-nor-fowl portable wannabe console-esque experiences. Granted, this may have permanently damaged my retinas, but ya gotta break a few eggs for a good Wario game. I’ll always defend the potential of the WiiU and being able to play random grindy games while watching Netflix, and the ol’ Gameboy link cable was cumbersome but the only way to play the essential Pokémon. And ROB? ROB has his purposes.

The arguably most successful Nintendo whatsit of them all was the NES Zapper, a light gun so brilliant in its simplicity that it tricked the entire world into thinking light gun games would be fun over and over again. Oh, to be so young and naïve again…

While arcades are a different matter, I want to say the Playstation’s Guncon with Time Crisis and Point Blank was the only other time in history a home console got a decent shooting peripheral. Does The Typing of the Dead count? No, probably not. The Wii did a good job with its shooting games, but that was all based on its preexisting wiimote functionality, and not the zapper hunk of useless plastic. Other than those few standouts, all we ever seem to get are items like the Sega Genesis Menacer (what am I even looking at?) or generically produced third-party peripherals that look to be about the same quality as a quarter squirt gun.

And then there’s the damn Super Scope.

I HATE YOU

I hate everything about the Super Scope.

First of all, it’s a damn bazooka. While that kind of looks cool in the toy aisle (remember, this was the age of the Super Soaker Wars), to actually heap a Super Scope up onto your shoulder is no small task for a kid. A Zapper is a microphone, the Super Scope is a trombone, and the trombone has never been cool. But the gigantic form factor also leads to one other big problem: it makes the peripheral too personal. I don’t know about you, but my NES Zapper thrived on being “two player”. You just got a decent score on Duck Hunt, but come on, pass that back and I’ll show you what I can do. The Super Scope, complete with its titular scope that could be loaded for left or right handed use, seemed built to only be used by one person forever, and the idea of passing that enormous plastic tube back and forth seemed ridiculous. So, great, now I can either play with this thing alone, or have someone watch me play bazooka whack-a-mole while I get pestered about when we’re going back to Bomberman.

Then we’ve got the battery issue. The Super Scope requires six AA batteries. That’s two more batteries than the Gameboy’s required four. Fun fact: I’m pretty sure the Gameboy will last for about twelve billion hours with four AAs, but the Super Scope will survive a measly half hour. Alright, I’m sure it’s If only this worked for the batteriesnot that bad, but when you’re a kid and have to beg your parents for each new battery, it kinda seems like the Super Scope is draining power a lot faster than it should. It was like a gaming subscription service for a 1992 brat! You know what didn’t require any batteries? Every other SNES experience there ever was!

And, finally, there’s the required sensor bar/block. Dad won’t let me leave it up in front of the TV, so I have to fish it out of whatever drawer it migrated to every time I want to play with the stupid thing. That’s grody.

But what about the games? I mean, I can complain about the Super Scope all I want (and I will!), but who cares about the “controller” if the games are good? Well, bad news there, buddy, there are… let’s see here… a whole dozen games that support the Super Scope. That’s… not too bad? But the list seems to trim down when you really look at it: Battle Clash is unnecessary in light of Metal Combat, and Yoshi’s Safari barely qualifies as a Yoshi/Mario title. The Hunt for Red October, Lamborghini American Challenge, and Lemmings 2 (seriously?) all use it as a random, optional gimmick. Bazooka Blitzkrieg and X-Zone look kind of terrible, though I’ll admit I haven’t played either. And Operation Thunderbolt and T2: The Arcade Game are just hobbled together arcade ports. And one of those twelve is the glorified tech demo that came with the Super Scope, Super Scope 6.

So let’s talk about that nonsense.

Super Scope 6 claimed to be “six games in one!” back when that meant something. Well before the age of collections and compilations, the idea of six games for the price of one was always enticing. Unfortunately, during this era that always, always meant that you were going to get six games that all I hate thislasted maybe ten minutes. Super Scope 6 was no exception, and its meager offerings were about as limited as something you’d see on a Gameboy release. Heck, it was barely more gameplay than a Game & Watch title.

First we have Blastris, which was an attempt to marry Tetris and/or Dr. Mario to a shooting game. It doesn’t work. Type A is based on trying to line up blocks exactly like in Tetris, and Type B involves matching colors like in Dr. Mario or Columns. Unfortunately, with no “real” controller support, everything moves entirely too slowly, and the randomness of “what kind of block” and “where does block spawn” combines into something that is wildly frustrating. But that’s two “games” down! Mole Patrol is also part of the Blastris package for whatever reason, and it’s whack-a-mole with a gun. Man, even that description is more exciting than the tepid “can you look at the screen” adventure that is Mole Patrol. Blastris is a bust.

The other three games are part of the LazerBlazer package. Type A is basically a 2-D shooting affair, Type B is 3-D, and Type C is the boss fight. Whoops, I mean… no, that’s exactly what I mean. LazerBlazer was likely originally intended as a “real” game with different segments and perspectives, but it was diced up into three to satisfy the “6” gimmick. In fact, Ughsomeone could likely cobble together a complete game with the LazerBlazer levels (and stick Mole Patrol in as a “fun” bonus stage between battles) but, no, had to get this pile of dreck that never felt like anything but a tech demo. Seriously, I was a pretty easily duped kid, and even I recognized this was haphazardly slapped together.

But that’s the Super Scope for you. When even a dedicated “Nintendo Kid” recognizes something as a piece of crap, you know you’ve got a turd on your hands. The Super Scope is terrible, Super Scope 6 is terrible, and damn anyone that thought this wannabe bazooka was a good idea.

I hate the Super Scope.

FGC #173 Super Scope 6

  • System: Super Nintendo, and I doubt it’s going to spring up on the Virtual Console.
  • Number of players: One lonely child with a bazooka on his shoulder. Occasionally, one must wipe the tears from the plastic. … Okay, technically it’s 2-P, but good luck with that.
  • UghFavorite game: If I had to choose, it’d be Mole Patrol, as at least it features cute, sub-Pokémon alien moles. Come to think of it, remaking this title as a cell phone game with Digletts might be a best seller.
  • This guy are sic: I maintain that it is thanks to LazerBlazer that I misspelled the word “laser” for the following decade. I remembered there being a Z from somewhere!
  • Hey, you didn’t mention Tin Star: Eh, I kinda like Tin Star. I would rather see it with a better attached peripheral, but it’s passable. That’s better than most of the Super Scope library.
  • Did you know? Mario and/or Iggy Koopa occasionally cameo in the missile segments of LazerBlazer. I would have grabbed a capture of that, but that would require playing this game for longer than thirty seconds.
  • Would I play again: Not even if it was the only way to use the last AA batteries on Earth. I’d sooner chuck ‘em into a chasm, and doom the human race. This… is a very complicated way of saying, “No.”

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Wolverine for the NES! Bah, I guess it’s been long enough since our last X-Men game, right? And Wolverine is his own dude, right? Eh, please look forward to it, bub.

MOLES!

FGC #172 Pinball Quest

Questin' Time!It takes a lot to get my attention. I’ve slain dragons. I’ve cast magical spells that would cross a wizard’s eyes. I’ve helped lesbians turn into a crystal pillar that holds up an entire world. There is very little in the world of gaming that gets my attention anymore. I have flown through the skies as the majestic hummingbird, danced with the deities, and one time I got a kangaroo to punch a monkey. And, through it all, it’s all been pretty much the same genres and “game styles” over and over again. Sure, I might be slaying the entire Greek Pantheon this week, but it’s still pretty much “just a beat ‘em up”. Is there nothing new under the sun?

And then there’s Pinball Quest. Pinball Quest is one of the most oddly original games I’ve ever played, and, what’s more, it was released over a quarter of a century ago.

Pinball Quest, as you might be able to guess, involves some pinball. If you’re just interested in pinball, here you go, three pinball boards of varying skill and complexity. Nothing that hasn’t been seen before or since, and, yeah, the boards are pretty alright. Nothing special, nothing El Dorado, but it’s a fun pinball time from the era that still held some affection for “pinball… on your TV!” That part is pretty basic.

Then there’s RPG mode. RPG mode is exactly what it says on the tin: pinball in a RPG setting. It’s bonkers.

In a way, RPGs and Pinball games should work well together. RPGs are all about how you suck. Wait, no, that came out wrong. What I mean to say is that the combat in RPGs, the basic meat and potatoes of the genre, is entirely based on the fact that you will take damage. Pew Pew?This isn’t a Mario or Mega Man game where you could conceivably never take a hit; no, you’re getting smacked around by the first slime you see, and it’s your responsibility to make sure the party stays healed and healthy. In a way, this is an expression of the basic chaos of battle. You’re going to get a few scrapes and bruises, Gilbard is going to faint, but, in the end, (hopefully) you win. Pinball is very similar, in that you have the randomness of “where’s the ball going to go?” Sure, you try your best to hit those bumpers or whatever silly gimmick exists on the board, but, inevitably, that ball isn’t going to go exactly where you want it, and, sometimes, it’s going straight down the middle. Flick the flippers all you want, there’s nothing you can do, Gilball’s gotta die. Do your damndest, hope for the best, and plan for the worst. The pinball and RPG motto.

Pinball Quest’s RPG mode, meanwhile… well… in some ways, it’s much more an Adventure-style game, like Zelda. Each level is a different board arranged something like your typical double-decker pinball machine. Usually there’s some obstacle or gimmick on the lower portion that will grant access to the upper portion (like breaking the right gravestone [bumper] in the graveyard area, or pestering an ogre that will usher your ball into a minecart in the mine area), and then the second portion features a boss and flunkies of some kind. Ram the boss with the ball enough times, and you’ll be granted access to the next level. Repeat six times or so, and you will have defeated the evil king and rescued the princess. Actually, yeah, this is a lot like the original Legend of Zelda. There are even angry skeletons!

Get 'em!And, really, this would be a “Zelda type” if you had absolutely perfect pinball skills (or save states). After all, the gameplay isn’t Fight/Magic/Flipper, it’s much more of an overhead “dodge and stab” affair, with bosses that attack your flippers and a constant need to pelt the monster du jour with your weapon (which just happens to be “you”). This is much more “includes RPG-like elements” than “RPG”.

Except…

You’re gonna lose.

Actually, technically, you kind of can’t lose this game. It’s only possible to get a “game over” on the first (and, technically, “lowest” board), and, even then, you’re given an immediate chance to continue with very few repercussions. You lost, you suck, but the save point is right here, get back in there, soldier! On every other board, you’ll simply be returned to the next previous board, and, if you can nail the “exit” location on your first flip, you’ll be right back in the battle again. Even if your skills aren’t that great, though, you can re-defeat the boss du jour, and move on in that style. Sure, it’ll waste some time, but you’ll make it back… eventually.

But let’s say you’re a human being that actually doesn’t like having his or her time wasted. Well then, we’ve got some items for you! DON'T STEALBetween each stage is a shop, and, since you (naturally) accrue gold from every defeated monster, you can spend that cash on one of two types of items. You may purchase more powerful flippers, which will kill bosses faster, or you may purchase extra balls, which will cause you to immediately “return” to your highest level when you’d otherwise tumble down the gutter. Pick your poison! Are you the confident type that blows it all on a stronger sword, or do you stock up on phoenix downs in anticipation of a costly blood bath? Play the role of the ball, and plan for your game.

And, after a fashion, Pinball Quest proves to be a “real” RPG. The gameplay might be bopping around the adventure board all afternoon, and fighting wizards, demons, and succubae might show up in a few other genres; but what’s important here is that you, player, are planning ahead and determining how resources are spent… in a pinball environment. You’re going to need that potion, and it doesn’t matter if you’re using the fight command or flicking a ball at a perfect angle, it all winds up being an RPG in the end.

And we haven’t seen anything like it in 25 years. More’s the pity.

FGC #172 Pinball Quest

  • System: Nintendo Entertainment System, though, admittedly, kind of late in its lifespan (that would be defined as “anything after Castlevania 3”).
  • VIVA!Number of players: Thanks to controller passing, the “standard” pinball boards all allow for up to four players. RPG mode is, as ever, a solitary affair.
  • Favorite Standard Board: Viva Golf is pretty fun, as it includes more moles than Caddyshack, and the anime figures seem to fit into the course rather well. What? I have a peculiar fondness for the late 80’s Japanese aesthetic.
  • Favorite RPG Mode Boss: The boss of the fifth stage initially appears to be your kidnapped princess, but transforms into a deadly succubus after a few (maybe accidental) hits. I realize that this has become something of a standard trope in recent years (decades), but it seemed fairly original in 1990.
  • Speaking of Princesses: Ya know, there’s nothing that codifies the heroic Ball as male or female. Feel free to claim this is one of the few gender progressive NES games… even if you are rescuing a princess (yet again).
  • An End: Oh, and the finale sees the hero and princess trounce a gigantic (compared to a pinball), apparently sentient magnet.
    What?

    And here I thought gravity was the ultimate enemy.
  • Did you know? The box art for Pinball Quest shows a reflected skeleton warrior. Given the skeletons only exist for the first level, I’m going to assume the box artist did not get very far in this game.
  • Would I play again? Hey, sure. If I’m in the mood for pinball, I may as well knock over some turtles while doing it.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Super Scope 6 for the Super Nintendo! Oh boy! Bazooka action? Wow! Please look forward to it! Not at all sarcastically!

FGC #170 Castlevania: The Adventure (ReBirth)

WeeeeI often claim that I enjoy innovative failures more than trite successes. I choose to believe that I am the kind of person that sees past a product’s flaws, and finds “what they were trying to do” beneath the muck, and, hey, there’s a gem of a great game here, it just needs a little polishing. I really like to think that about myself.

I also know that I’m a pathological liar.

I know what I want. I would forsake steak once a week if it meant I’d get a hot pocket every day. I’ll watch 40 hours of some insipid sitcom because I know “prestige dramas” only produce ten episodes every six years. And, yes, I’d burn the entire videogame industry down if it meant I’d get a mostly new Mega Man title every six months or so. I know that I might regret my decision sometime in 2024 when I’m busting Man Man for the fortieth time, but, yeah, I know I’ll take “the same old with slight changes” over and over again without complaint.

Castlevania: The Adventure for the Gameboy is a Castlevania game that seems like it tried to be original. It is also completely terrible.

C:TA is the third Castlevania game ever released. Well, I guess that gets a little murky when you include arcade titles and whatnot, but the point is that C:TA was released before Castlevania 3: Dracula’s Curse. That’s important! This means that the game occupies that same unusual space as Super Mario Land. SML and C:TA were both released at times in their franchises’ histories when what would become “standard” hadn’t yet been completely codified. Yes, we had Castlevania (1) and Super Mario Bros. (1), but both games also had sequels that featured vegetable flinging and ferryman bribing. Where do you go from there with a portable sequel? Do you look to the first game for inspiration, bang your head on Deborah Cliff, or create something wholly original?

Die, Belmont!Castlevania: The Adventure went with the final choice. Okay, yes, C:TA is not completely unique. We’ve got a Belmont (this time Simon’s ancestor, Chris), and the poor guy has the trademark Belmont osteoporosis, so he moves about as nimbly as some redwoods. He’s also got a whip, and he’s hunting down Dracula, and there are some generally “horror-ish” things going on. But… that’s about it. Medusa Heads are missing. Eagles are more numerous than bats. Death has taken a holiday. Even Dracula’s “normal” teleportation pattern is forsaken for something that allows you to… whip his body and not head? Oh, why I never!

What’s been used to fill in the gaps of the Castlevania formula is… interesting. There are no staircases, just climbable ropes that are much more akin to the ladders of other platformers. It’s strange how this gives the game an entirely different feel, as it’s easy to discount how much Castlevania’s “obliquing” movement for vertical areas impacts its (normal) gameplay. Now we’ve just got a series of flat hallways connected by “ladders”, which is much more like a Mega Man game… albeit a fairly boring one.

You look like a jerkThen there’s the powerup system. Your typical dagger, axe, and holy water are all missing, and now Christopher has the ability to shoot fireballs from his Vampire Killer. That’s good! But you lose that essential powerup after a single hit. That’s bad! And, after another hit, your whip will decrease further into “absolutely useless mode”. Good luck finding another whip powerup before the next far-too-mobile minion. Basically, this adds “The Gradius Problem” to Castlevania: All is well as long as you can avoid getting hit, but the minute that happens, you’re pretty much doomed. Here’s a fun fact: we never needed another reason to be doomed in a Castlevania game. Can we get just one Konami game that you’re not completely screwed after one mistake? Gradius, Contra, Legend of the Mystical Ninja…

But it’s all new and interesting, right? This isn’t some Castlevania 1 portable remake, it’s a whole new animal. It has some problems… but there’s a good hunk of game here, right? A few touchups and…

No. This game is crap. It was passable as a portable Castlevania in 1989, but it’s practically unplayable today. The second level boss is a group of moles. That’s unforgivable.

OwieThen we have Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth. C:TAR was the final “ReBirth” game designed by M2 after Gradius ReBirth and Contra ReBirth. While it is technically a “remake” of Castlevania: The Adventure, it’s almost entirely its own game. And by “own game”, I mean “it’s an old school Castlevania game”. You’ve got bats, mermen, and giant skulls haunting an enormous castle and trolling for Belmonts to ruin. You’ve got daggers, axes, crosses, and holy water to lob at legions of skeletons. Death even decided to come back and toss that scythe around. It’s a Castlevania game! And, what’s more, this was the first “classic” Castlevania game in years, after untold ages of metroidvanias and the occasional bit of 3-D nonsense. I think the record will show that I’ll take a metroidvania over “traditional” any day, but it’s nice to visit with an old friend on occasion.

And C:TAR even seemed to maintain the more interesting aspects of its Gameboy ancestor. You can power your whip to flame-throwing levels, but now it’s limited by a timer, and not the gentle tap of a zombie. Rolling eyeballs are all over the place, and they’re slightly less deadly when you have jumping prowess beyond that of a slug (also an enemy). And the areas you explore are… kinda the same? I mean, how many different ways can you make a dungeon, m’I right, ladies?

PointyBut for all the changes and interesting concepts in C:TAR (did I mention the jumping across extending spike traps? That was neat), it’s still just a Castlevania game. It’s a good Castlevania game, likely better than Dracula X or Castlevania (1), and it’s a fun experience, but it’s still something we’ve seen before a number of times. The stage design reclaims the obliques of “regular” Castlevania, and there’s tremendously less tension when you know that one hit isn’t that big of a deal. Everything that was truly original about Castlevania: The Adventure is gone, and Castlevania: The Adventure Rebirth may as well be Castlevania: Rebirth and have no ties to its portable ancestor.

But…

I like Castlevania: The Adventure Rebirth sooooo much more than the “Gameboy version”. It’s night and day, and Castlevania: The Adventure is the horrible night to have a curse. That thing is more original, but it’s also more painful. C:TAR is unmistakably the better game, and I’d find it impossible for anyone to see it differently.

So, yeah, when push comes to shove, I’ll take good ‘n predictable over innovative and crappy any day. I want to support inventiveness, but… man, there are only so many hours in the day. Slaying vampires doesn’t need originality.

FGC #170 Castlevania: The Adventure (+/- ReBirth)

  • System: Gameboy for the original, WiiWare for the wiibirth. Sure would be nice if someone ported that to a portable…
  • Number of players: One Belmont against the forces of the undead.
  • Favorite Boss (Adventure): They make you fight a series of moles! Moles! There is nothing scary about moles until you’re over forty!
  • GoopyFavorite Boss (Adventure Rebirth): Meanwhile, the boss of this Stage 2 is an ersatz Incredible Hulk, and no one can tell me otherwise. He gets my vote.
  • What’s in a name? The original American release of Castlevania Adventure misidentified Christopher Belmont as Simon Belmont. It doesn’t impact a single thing (as the game has no plot beyond “kill vampire now”), but it was officially retconned by Castlevania Adventure 2, when Chris had some family issues that never impacted single Simon.
  • Family Matters: Also, Christopher was mentioned as one of Simon’s ancestors in the Japanese instruction manual for Castlevania (1). Castlevania had a surprisingly complex mythology starting back from the NES days, which is a far cry from games like Zelda (he’s… I don’t know… some kid with a sword? Wait… she?).
  • Did you know: There was also a comic book series based on Christopher Belmont’s exploits. It was released in 2005 by IDW, and it made no impact on anyone whatsoever. Why didn’t it feature Simon, Trevor, or even Alucard? Meh, probably just too many vampire books at that company for anyone to really notice.
  • Would I play again? Castlevania: The Adventure is a definite no. Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth would be a maybe… if it wasn’t available on the same system as Castlevania 3: Dracula’s Curse. Guess which one I’m more likely to play?

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… B.O.B. for the Super Nintendo! Aw, ROB, I didn’t know you cared… oh… wait… it’s just the name of a game? Lame. But there is a robot involved, I suppose. Please look forward to it!

Right on up