Video Game Review: Castlevania (NES)

Every kid in the ‘8os played Castlevania. Well, if they didn’t, they missed out on one of the greatest experiences of their generation. Sure, it wasn’t as massive as Super Mario Bros. or The Legend of Zelda but it is just as much a classic and has had a similar level of staying power, as sequels are still made and it even has an anime show on Netflix that is currently running.

The game sort of takes the Universal Monsters and throws them into a 2D side scrolling adventure of badass proportions. The big boss is Dracula but you also face Frankenstein’s monster, a hunchback, a mummy, several gillmen, as well as other classic monsters that weren’t in the Universal Monsters canon like the Grim Reaper and Medusa. There are also zombies, giant wolves, giant bats and dismembered Medusa heads that fly at you. There are deadly traps, pits and water that is instant death. The game throws a lot at you and pulls no punches.

Seriously, this really pulls no punches. The game is hard as hell. And maybe the difficulty level is it’s only real negative. It isn’t an unbeatable game, as I have conquered it. But man, it is an incredible challenge that takes hours upon hours of mastery before one can actually beat it. But that was what the best old school NES games were about: mastery.

Another slight negative is the mechanics. Sometimes the jumping is wonky and it’s easy to get overzealous and screw up. Also, the stairs can be a total pain in the ass but eventually you’ll get it.

Castlevania is one of the best games of its era. It had to be to create a franchise as strong as it did. It is a true product of the ’80s and a real blast for old school horror fans.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: The other NES Castlevania games: Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest and Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, also PlayStation’s epic sequel Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.

Top 25 Console Video Games of All-Time

*Written in 2011.

For the record, I am only selecting one title per series, otherwise there’d be a lot of dominance from a few franchises. And chances are, I forgot something while in my drunken stupor.

1. The Legend of Zelda (NES)
2. Final Fantasy VII (PS1)
3. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (PS2)
4. Red Dead Redemption (PS3)
5. Uncharted 3 (PS3)
6. Mario 64 (N64)
7. Metroid (NES)
8. Fallout 3 (PS3)
9. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (XBOX)
10. Twisted Metal 2 (PS1)
11. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PS1)
12. Goldeneye (N64)
13. Bioshock 2 (PS3)
14. Rygar (NES)
15. Spider-Man Vs. The Kingpin (GEN)
16. Killing Time (3DO)
17. Kingdom Hearts II (PS2)
18. Batman: Arkham City (PS3)
19. Silent Hill 2: Shattered Dreams (XBOX)
20. Double Dragon (NES)
21. Megaman 10 (PSN)
22. Just Cause 2 (PS3)
23. Dragon Warrior (NES)
24. Gun (XBOX)
25. Wolfenstein (PS3)

Video Game Review: The Legend of Zelda (NES)

There have been a lot of games in the Zelda franchise. Most of them have been pretty great. This however, is a review of the very first game in the series, which is still my favorite and is actually, still to this day, one of the greatest, if not the greatest video game of all-time.

It is a bird’s-eye-view game and 8-bit, as it came out on the original Nintendo way back in 1987 (1986 in Japan). It features Link and his quest to rescue Princess Zelda from the evil Ganon. To do so, he must acquire all the pieces of the mystical Triforce. Each piece is hidden away in a different dungeon and requires the player to have to beat a boss before collecting it.

Back in the summer of 1987 I was eight years-old. That didn’t stop my friend Kenny and I from dedicating our entire summer to conquering this epic game. At the time, this was the most epic interactive experience either of us had ever encountered. In fact, when we would get stumped, one of us would have to beg our parents to allow us to call the Nintendo Hotline at 99 cents per minute because strategy guides and the Internet did not exist at that time. After about three months, we stormed into the evil warlord Ganon’s throne room and cut him down – rescuing the princess and reuniting both Triforces (after having to reconstruct one of them throughout the game).

I have never had as much fun playing a video game as I did the first time I played through this masterpiece. Final Fantasy VII is a very close second though.

Maybe my interpretation of this game relies heavily on the deep feeling of nostalgia that I experience whenever I think about The Legend of Zelda. However, the fact of the matter is, no other game has had the ability to generate a sense of nostalgia as strongly as this one does. I still pick this game up and play through it once a year. It brings me back to that place and it still feels like a great adventure. The only difference now is that I can beat the game in two hours, as opposed to three months.

This game really showed the potential that the video game medium had. At the time, everything was quick and pretty much beatable within a half hour. This introduced gamers to what the future of gaming would bring. It was the first game that I know of that had the ability to save your progress. That alone, to my eight year-old mind, was pretty profound.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: Zelda II: The Adventure of LinkDragon Warrior, Final Fantasy.

Video Game Review: Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest (NES)

Sometimes great things get a really bad rap. Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest gets a horrendously bad rap and frankly, it’s a damn fine game!

Years ago, the Angry Nintendo Nerd, now better known as the Angry Video Game Nerd, trashed this epic classic in his first video. People took his video to heart and adopted his sentiment as their own. Then again, maybe video games are really hard for that guy and his viewers.

You see, the biggest criticism of this game is how hard it is. Honestly, it is difficult but it isn’t unbeatable. It’s also a hell of a lot of fun and a serious challenge, more so than any other Castlevania game I have played. That challenge is why I love it so much.

Another season I love the game is the freedom of it compared to Castlevania I and III. Those games made you follow a map, from level to level with a big baddie to fight at the end. I love those games too but Simon’s Quest allowed you to explore the world you were in. You could bounce around however you wanted, similar to how Zelda II was. Sure, you had to complete certain tasks and unlock new areas to explore but for the time, this was pure freedom.

People also criticize the controls. I never had a problem with them. The game is pretty straightforward and the controls of the highly acclaimed first game, were pretty clunky… let’s be honest.

Full disclosure, I didn’t beat Simon’s Quest way back in the day, as it was a massive game and took a lot of time. You didn’t have infinite opportunities to save your games on the NES like you have nowadays. However, as soon as this was playable on an emulator, I crushed it. It was more time consuming than difficult. But beating it gave me a real sense of accomplishment that I don’t get from most games. The thing is, games today are too easy. Simon’s Quest didn’t have a difficulty setting.

The hate for this game is unwarranted, in my opinion. It has always been one of my favorite classic NES titles to fire up and play. I enjoy the game to this day and recently played through it again, in an effort to talk about it before this review.

Simon’s Quest is pure satisfaction, as far as I’m concerned.

Video Game Review: Godzilla: Monster of Monsters (NES)

*written in 2014.

Back in the day, just about every kid in America had a Nintendo Entertainment System. Truthfully, I feel for those who didn’t. Reason being, at that time in history, the NES was Americana! Sure, it is a video game console imported from Japan but it was just as much a part of American culture as it was Japanese.

Like today, you can’t say Call of Duty isn’t American. Even though it is played on a Japanese console and part of a monstrous industry created in Japan. I guess Godzilla fits that mold to a degree, as well. A Japanese creation hat has transcended an industry and also become a part of American culture.

Well, putting video games and Godzilla together in 1989 gave us Godzilla: Monster of Monsters. It was released on the Nintendo in a time when I was at the height of both my video game playing and Godzilla worship. When the game dropped, I was at the store to buy a copy as soon as I had earned enough money to afford it.

Godzilla: Monster of Monsters certainly isn’t a game without flaws and in many ways, it is very repetitive. However, some of my fondest video game playing memories, from that era, where when I was fully engaged in this game. It was fun and in a time before fighting games were a normal thing, Godzilla introduced me to the style with its awesome one-on-one monster battles.

The monster battles were actually the big highlight of the game. There were literally dozens and dozens of levels, many of them just rehashes of themselves, which added to the repetitiveness of the game. The problem was that all one wanted to do was fight giant monsters and the levels became too abundant and too much of a roadblock to get to each epic kaiju battle. Honestly, that is my biggest complaint about the game.

The only other real complaint is that the mechanics of the monster battles are very primitive and tedious at times. In retrospect, it didn’t bother me back in 1989, as there wasn’t a lot to compare it to. It doesn’t play great today but at the time, it was awesome. The other issue with it, in regards to the battle mechanics, is that the fights tended to be super long, especially the further you went into the game, as the monsters become increasingly more powerful.

Today, despite the issues, I still find the game enjoyable and fire it up from time-to-time. And I should also make note of the graphics, which were pretty impressive for 1989 on an 8-bit console.