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Old 12-03-2015, 03:03 PM
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Hi! I like looking at video games, sometimes more than actually playing them. The great thing is that a game doesn't necessarily need to be particularly good to be visually interesting, and that's my lead-in for the specific case that prompted this exercise.

Castlevania: Lament of Innocence is a 2003 PlayStation 2 box-cleaning simulator by Konami and the KCET team spearheaded by erstwhile Castlevania producer and reinventor, Koji Igarashi. It's the 'best' 3D Castlevania to date, but it is not a good game. What it does offer is some remarkable art direction in spite of its spartan level of interaction with its game world. It's beautiful wallpaper. Join me for a stroll (and awkward jumping) through its myriad intricately decorated rectangles.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

All screenshots captured through upscaled emulation. The only visual oddity I could detect was that main character Leon's shadow did not properly render, ever. A vampire mystery.
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Old 12-03-2015, 03:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Peklo View Post
Castlevania: Lament of Innocence is a 2003 PlayStation 2 box-cleaning simulator
It really is, isn't it? Poor Leon has the world's most inefficient broom, too. It only has one really long bristle!
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Old 12-03-2015, 06:35 PM
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You have done good work. This might be the only photo album for the game with a keen focus on showcasing its environments.
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Old 12-03-2015, 09:52 PM
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My, those paintings and stained-glass windows are lovely. Just looking at the way they're arranged, though, tells me you're correct in calling LoI a 'box-cleaning' simulator. Despite how nice many parts of the scenery look, the environments themselves seem to be either square-shaped or rectangle-shaped, with nothing much to do in any of them besides kill the monsters and move on, over and over. I haven't played the game, admittedly, but that's how it seems to me.
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Old 12-03-2015, 10:10 PM
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Yeah, LoI has a ton of effort put into its environments and it shows. Too bad no one really noticed it at the time.

You can tell it was by the team that made the 2D CVs, and you can tell they were unused to working in a 3D environment. That's about the size of it.
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Old 12-03-2015, 10:48 PM
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You can tell it was by the team that made the 2D CVs, and you can tell they were unused to working in a 3D environment. That's about the size of it.
That's a good way of putting it--perhaps LoI's level design flaws might have been less apparent, even appealing, on a 2d plane.
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Old 08-08-2016, 05:10 AM
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Since the last few posts here succumbed to Dracula's curse, here they are again! Also, thanks again for commenting, Kishi, conchobhar and Kirin.

-------

It's time for another one of these, and what better choice for a project about meticulous coverage in the face of obvious mediocrity than the effective sequel to the game catalogued last: Castlevania: Curse of Darkness. In this 2005 Nano Breaker fan fiction adventure, the 3D Castlevania team of the era find their flawed vision not sharpened, but increasingly dulled. The texturework's muddier, the environments larger and even plainer, colour palettes monotone and unimaginative, the limitations on draw distance a constant struggle in allowing the world to exist. There is something of interest to glean amidst all the downgrades from the game prior, but little about it compares favourably. Gone after this point, Castlevania with this flavour of creative direction would never take a chance on 3D again.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Curse of Chair-hoarding

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Thanks for the comments, I appreciate any feedback. Inspired me to take a brief frontflip journey back to Legion's chamber, so here we go: the door mentioned, and some peculiar hooks inserted into the viscous wall tissue that escaped my attention before. This game has too many oddities and details for something that doesn't allow you to see much of it without great difficulty.

-------

Maybe someday I'll play a good game!
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Old 08-08-2016, 09:19 AM
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Likewise, thanks again for suffering through these games for us. These galleries are definitely the best way to experience Lament and Curse.

To reiterate my comment, my favourite album is the collection of chairs. It's great to see that not only did they put in a wide, anachronistic variety of chairs, but that most of them get a unique sitting position. And I especially like that the player can sit on Dracula's throne during the boss fight. It's such a strange thing to include, so I love that they put so much effort into it. That attention to detail in such a silly way is exactly the thing I love about IGA's games.
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Old 08-08-2016, 09:46 AM
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Indeed, love the chairs. Am I interpreting rightly that every chair you've sat in goes into a collection somewhere that you can visit? Like, as completely non-sequitous collect-a-thons go, that's pretty much the best.
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Old 08-08-2016, 09:52 AM
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I think we can all agree that, beyond all others, the greatest flaw of the Lords of Shadow franchise was the dire lack of armchairs, benches, thrones, and stools you could sit on.
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Old 08-08-2016, 10:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kirin View Post
Indeed, love the chairs. Am I interpreting rightly that every chair you've sat in goes into a collection somewhere that you can visit? Like, as completely non-sequitous collect-a-thons go, that's pretty much the best.
Yes. As Juste had his own cozy corner of Dracula's transdimensional castle to call his own and to furiously decorate with the scores of furniture he picked up, so does Hector have a secret, inexplicable retreat in the middle of an otherwise unassuming and boredom-inducing townscape. Every chair encountered and sat upon manifests there with their own related props, badly-drawn birds flutter about (they can be shot at with the cannon device that counts among the chairs), and a goofy tune plays as its unique BGM.
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Old 01-10-2017, 04:26 AM
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Vagrant Story is a 2000 PlayStation leisurely jogging and chaps-chafing adventure through some of the most gorgeous visual artistry ever displayed in the entire dang medium. We've got characters that possess chunky, stocky physiques well-suited to handcrafted animations and gesturing, extremely high-detail texturework providing each iteration on a shared enemy or room type an individual personality, tremendous use of dramatic framing and lighting, and a very real sense of place granted to the twisting passages, dwellings and townships of Leá Monde whilst still celebrating the cubic abstraction of PlayStation-era 3D. It's my favourite Yasumi Matsuno game in both form and function, and that relationship began nearly seventeen years ago almost entirely because of its visual offerings. It's no less impressive to behold today.

Cinematics
Enemies
Environments

To balance something that effusive, maybe read a rant I made about the game's writing:

let's see if i can run down the list of how every woman in this game is depicted
merlose: designated sidekick to ashley, who's casually treated as a burden by him and others for lacking "combat experience" despite being a vkp official, is then reduced to a kidnapped damsel for the entire game and to provide ashley a motivation beyond vague investigation
tia: ashley's late wife, whose murder is the source of great manpain for him, only she was actually a stranger he murdered during a botched mission, but it's ok because she's saintly and forgives him as an apparition later on and tells him she loves him
samantha: a "commander" in guildenstern's crimson blades, only is never shown to do anything except be perpetually at hand for guildenstern to make out with and ultimately, casually murder for his ambitions
neesa: another crimson blade commander, shares exactly one scene with samantha, and they're shown to be vaguely antagonistic because i guess women right, and at the end her partner buff sephiroth stays behind to safeguard her escape, because a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do
inquisitor heldricht: a vkp higher-up who appears only in dark politic opening, smokes with a cigarette holder, is awesome
kali: owns rosencrantz, dances, is awesome
asura: lives at the bottom of a hellish torture dungeon hole, is the game's toughest enemy, huge and awesome
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  #13  
Old 01-10-2017, 09:17 AM
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Awesome as always.

Looking at all these together, it becomes really clear how the strategic use of detailed textures fading to black is key to the visual mood of the game. I'm not sure how much is clever PSX lighting and how much is baked-in (I expect they did quite a lot of the latter), but it's really effective either way.
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Old 01-10-2017, 09:43 AM
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Old 03-01-2017, 12:51 PM
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This time, I haven't got much of an overarching theme, just some clean-up on an assortment of games I've been playing and casually capturing over the last few months.

Akumajou Dracula for the Sharp X68000 is one of the highest points for the series in terms of, well, mostly everything. It tends to get overlooked because it only received a domestic release for an obscure platform in 1993, and by the time Koji Igarashi managed to bring it to the rest of the world nine years later, Symphony of the Night had already transformed expectations for the series, so that wasn't its moment either. Yet, as a port, the 2001 release of Castlevania Chronicles is to me much more important of an excavation than 2007's Dracula X Chronicles, which provided an alright 3D remake of Rondo of Blood, and the original game in dismal emulation quality. Chronicles remains a stellar work of preservation and optionally, an excellent update on its source material.

Phantasy Star gets more visually impressive every time I play it. Superb general art style, character and enemy design, and of course in-battle animation which static images do not capture. At any rate, bricks forever.

Did anyone actually play Parasite Eve II? I had osmosed a certain low-key impression of it as a maligned sequel, but it's not a bad game at all. The 3D modeling is some of the most detailed Square did on the PlayStation, and the localization stands in stark contrast to the original, being actually well-written, moderately self-aware and giving ample opportunity for jokey asides and for Aya's incredibly dorky personality to shine through (Alexander O. Smith and Rich Amtower both worked on the game, so that probably explains the upswing in writing). Please enjoy the saga of Aya's destroyed car.

Lastly, it's Silent Hill 3. Visually exceeding every possible standard you might have had for a PlayStation 2 game in 2003, and every bit as stunning to witness now. If the Parasite Eve II incarnation of Aya Brea was a surprising example in making environmental text interesting and engaging to discover, then Heather Mason remains the champion of all survival horror protagonists. A powerful teen for a powerful game. Looks like GOD didn't make it!!
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Old 03-01-2017, 11:08 PM
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That Parasite Eve 2 gallery was a walk down a fucking memory lane, excellent choices with lots of stuff I'd never picked up on when I was a young'in playing through it. What resolution scale did you use for your screens?
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  #17  
Old 03-02-2017, 06:55 AM
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Generally I aim to hit whatever exact multiplicative of a game's native resolution gets me closest to a vertical resolution of 1080 pixels, which I experience to be the most widely-used standard and thus best suited for viewing purposes. Most PS1 games run in 320x240, so multiplying that by 4.5 results in the 1440x1080 pixel images you're seeing in those galleries. Of course, that's just one platform, and there are many more resolutions to account for even within that, and sometimes games have different resolutions to run different parts of themselves, such as menu screens.

Beyond that, the only other thing I do to affect the presentation is increase the internal resolution of the emulated system, generally as much as possible. The aim here isn't 100% accuracy to reproduce how a game might've run on an original system, rather than presenting these games in ways that are hopefully entertaining while highlighting their intrinsic beauty without intrusive graphical filters that distort the picture or similar.

Have a Belmont's Revenge. Also a rather underappreciated Castlevania, probably because The Adventure scared everyone off. It remains one of my favourites. Give a listen to the transcendent soundtrack sometime.
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