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Whipping A Dead Mr. Hed: The Castlevania Thread Of Sacred Remains

lincolnic

can stop, will stop
(he/him)
Finished up Circle of the Moon yesterday. I didn't remember much of it from 20 years ago, but I especially didn't remember the massive difficulty spike for the final Dracula fight. Felt like it was miles away from the preceding game, but aside from that I found the whole thing a pretty enjoyable experience. I don't know where the hell you're supposed to find half of the DSS cards, because I'm pretty sure I didn't even see enough enemies that could drop them. And I explored the whole map! (Aside from the battle arena, because I no longer have the patience for that.)
 

R.R. Bigman

Coolest Guy
Two of the cards drop from weird candle monsters that show up in early boss rooms later on.

I’ve gotten every DSS card except for the two you get in the arena. I never tried the arena when I first played the game years ago. Should probably grind some enemies for consumables before trying, I bet.
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
I actually realized an aspect of the game's design that wasn't evident to me before, but now revealed itself thanks to the DSS drop tool M2 implemented in the collection, ensuring you'll always know the potential of such loot upon meeting an enemy. I made it a point to grind out each card at its earliest opportunity, and discovered that without fail they would fill out the deck in a completely linear order as the menu interface arranges them when following the game's intended path of progression. In "natural" play, this doesn't happen, and people's experience will inevitably be a slim deck with plentiful gaps, but given how neatly it all resolved here, there was clearly a designed method in its scant drop rate madness. It's just that, again, the game's lack of documentation never allowed that facet to even be observable to the player.
 

R.R. Bigman

Coolest Guy
I got the last two cards from the arena and beat the game. I don’t know if I got super lucky, getting the unicorn card in my first successful run, and black dog after three or four subsequent runs. Having the “Shinning” armor and every card combination made the last Dracula battle somewhat manageable.

I like Circle of the Moon quite a bit! Nathan is a chore to control and the DSS system could be implemented in many, better ways. Yet for those major issues, I still had fun and immediately started Magician Mode.

I hope Harmony is better than I remember it being.
 
I had a great time with Circle of the Moon, although it was the first time I played it since struggling on the original GBA. I got used to the slowness and needing to dash and all the cards are a lot of fun. Still, no denying the combat is punishing and the DSS stuff as random drops is a bad idea.

Harmony is actually annoying me quite a bit. I enjoy controlling Juste, but navigating the castles are a pain in the ass. Just so many big, unchallenging spaces and not enough warps. There's no hidden stuff in the walls which is kind of a bummer. Also, there's a shop system now, but half the shop rooms only work if some random condition is satisfied and it's not worth the hassle at all. So it's a waste really.

I got lost for a bit later in the game, which I attribute to the fact that the game has multiple types of sealed/locked/magic doors and doesn't really give you much direction on which of those a bracelet might unlock.
 
Finished Harmony, probably at the bottom of my rankings for Metroid-style Castlevanias. All the things the game does right are ultimately negated by how absolutely boring the castle(s) are and what an absolute chore they are to navigate. Just empty box after empty box. Additionally, the game is incredibly linear and withholds even the most basic of items that would make traversing the castle easier until the very, very end. You CAN backtrack to previous areas in this game to get new stuff, but the game will punish you for this by forcing you into the most boring traversal possible over and over. The game clearly wants you to wait until you beat every boss and get every key before you start backtracking for HP/MP/Heart Increases and Dracula's organs.

Juste's combat is actually pretty neat and there are some fun puzzles and bosses in the game, which makes the castle itself all that more disappointing. Maybe if I feel like playing this again in the next decade I'll see if it's any better with Maxim.
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
My biggest issue with Harmony (and I understand why it is this way for narrative effect, but it still suuuucks) is that the castle is indeed pretty huge, and you don’t get fast travel until close to the end of the game.
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
No Castlevania alternate character mode provides as interesting a play experience as whatever main game in question, with the sole exception of Maria in Rondo, and that's questionable whether one considers her a bonus at all, or just a full-fledged second character in the way Eric in Bloodlines is, despite the nominal hidden factor in her case. The games just aren't built for the stripping of mechanics away from them, leaving the core structure hollow when the predetermined sequence is blown entirely open in name of ostensible freedom and a sloppy "action RPG with the RPG removed" afterthought premise is adopted in its stead. It's not literally within the series, but Bloodless in Bloodstained was the first time an actually interesting and considered play structure was applied to a character concept and moveset, presenting something genuinely worthwhile as a result.
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
I definitely agree that Bloodless was implemented the best of all alternate character modes; but I do genuinely like how Julius mode worked in Aria; there’s no experience points so instead leveling up was tied to beating bosses; and you could traverse the castle in any way you want. So you’re encouraged to play through the game the same was as Soma would, but you’re also free to sequence break all you want.

I appreciate the hustle of Julius mode in Dawn, but it had regular ol’ experience points and kind of wound up being Grindy as a result since there wasn’t really any other way to keep pace with the strength of the bosses
 

conchobhar

What's Shenmue?
I replayed Circle of the Moon with the two mods mentioned earlier in the thread: auto dash and card mode. Unsurprisingly, these were both a major boon to the game.

The benefit of auto dash is obvious to anyone who has played the game before, so I probably don't need to say much about it. Still, it really must be said that it makes the game so much nicer to play. No more constant double-tapping as you zig-zag around a staircase; no more losing your momentum as you adjust your position mid-air and consequently fail to dodge an attack or make a jump; no more forgetting to double-tap in the heat of the moment. It feels so much more responsive.

Card mode, which changes DSS cards from random drops into pickups with set locations, is a subtle but significant reworking of the game. Obviously, it eliminates the need to grind enemies for their drops (and the need to look up which ones even drop cards, if you aren't playing the Advance Collection) and incentivizes exploration instead, which are both good. But it also has a significant knock-on effect: enemies that used to drop cards now drop meat instead. That means players will amass a decent number of restorative items, which helps mitigate the difficulty of the game. It adds up to a game that's a lot more immediate, where you never need to stop and grind and can get what you need through thorough-but-regular play. It's one of those mods that are so natural that, when you play it, you think "why wasn't the game like this in the first place?"

That said, Circle of the Moon is still Circle of the Moon; if you're not a fan of it to begin with, these two hacks probably won't change your mind. But, taken together, these hacks turn Circle of the Moon into the best version of itself. It retains its characteristic oddities (in relation to the other metroidvanias), but they all feel more palatable, even intentional, instead of clumsy and ill-conceived. If you aren't playing the game through the Advance Collection, I would recommend using both of these patches.
 
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Sarge

hardcore retro gamin'
Those sound like excellent hacks with which to make another playthrough when I decide to. Thanks for the heads up on them!
 

R.R. Bigman

Coolest Guy
Magician Mode in Circle is giving me a ton of problems. You may possibly assume that having every DSS card from the start would mitigate the greatly reduced HP, Defense and Strength. That assumption would be very wrong! A large amount of enemies seem very resistant to magic, even the kind they should be weak against. The Unicorn card is vital to surviving even the most simple counters, since many of it’s effects heal in a game that otherwise is punishingly strict about restoring health outside of save rooms. The last two cards of each row are unsurprisingly very powerful in general, so give the encyclopedia a look to see all of the different effects if you try Magician Mode.
 
I'm several hours into Circle, and enjoying the experience. It's been years since I played it on the Game Boy Advance so I've forgotten about its flaws... Nathan's mechanical controls in particular. However, the more you play it and the more areas you uncover, the more charming it becomes. Also, I happen to like the DSS system. Not every ability is a winner, but it's a thrill to find the right combination of cards to unlock a new attack or a whip enhancement or an attribute buff. Mercury + Griffin = Wind Whip, and a whole lot of butt kicking.
 
Decided to take a break from the exploratory stuff and go through Dracula X for the first time in decades. My memory was "Eh, not as good as Rondo of course, but it's fine." It turns out that was wrong, this game is pretty bad. It just feels....so cheap for a Castlevania game. The lack of any stage transitions, just fade to black. It feels like a Castlevania game made in Klik N Play.

The bosses are surprisingly easy and can often be defeated with no damage if you have the right sub-weapon. The spear guys are actually the biggest pains in the ass, god help you if there's more than 1 or if you need to ascend stairs while dealing with them. This is a game of tight hallways where you have to acrobatically make your way through axes and spears while bats are coming the whole time. Also, why does everything take so many hits? Even breaking a wall to get a turkey leg takes like 8-10 whips, it's all just so excessive.

As for good things about Dracula X? The art style in the intro and European box art is cool. And Stage 5 has really funky music
 
Beat Circle. This game a personal fave, but def in spite of itself.

The good:
- music
- DSS is awesome
- weird unique sprites(?)

Bad
- flat graphics
- candles at weird hard to hit height
- drop rate is wayyyyy too low
- game hates your face, with vicious status hits, knockback, high HP
- where the shit are healing????

Anyway! Gave up at arena. No DSS? Eat shit!
 

Mogri

Round and round I go
(he)
Staff member
Moderator
For the candle enemies, the stopwatch is the way to go if you don't have magic to handle them.
 

lincolnic

can stop, will stop
(he/him)
Beat Harmony of Dissonance, which...was not a good game. You folks were not kidding about how aimless and redundant this one was, holy cow. I lost count of how many times I'd explore a good chunk of the castle, only to hit a dead end and have no idea where I was supposed to be going instead. Eventually I just started following a walkthrough since the frustration wasn't worth it. There wasn't even really any challenge in it after getting the Cross + Thunder Book spell, which trivialized every single boss encounter.

Also, that ending, woof. "Hey, let's gaslight the one female character for no reason!" "I dunno man, sounds like a bad idea." "I said let's gaslight the one female character, Maxim." Not a good look.

On the bright side, now I get to play Aria, which I've really been looking forward to. Never played it but I know it's got a pretty great reputation. Onwards and (hopefully) upwards!
 
The big pain of Circle and the DSS system is you have no indication what enemies drop the cards. But once you know, the drop rate seems much, MUCH better than the soul drop rate in Aria. The drop rate for some enemy souls, even with luck boosting and soul ring items, is absolutely absurd in some cases. The game even knows it's a problem, giving you multiple rooms that serve no purpose other than dash in, kill enemy type, leave, repeat 100 times. Why not fix that problem by...just giving me the soul? Or making the odds better each time you kill an enemy?

I never felt the drop rate was that bad before, but I think playing Circle-Harmony-Aria in a row so close together really highlighted it this time. If I remember correctly, Dawn is even worse in some cases as the Luck stat is busted. Bloodstained got it to a much better place.
 

R.R. Bigman

Coolest Guy
As I wait for my copy of Metroid Dread to arrive, I’ve been playing through Harmony of Dissonance. This may be one of my least favorite games in the whole series, including the original Gameboy games I only played in the previous Collection for twenty minutes before quitting. The map(s) are the biggest and emptiest they’ve ever been, aside from maybe Curse of Darkness. Too many of the bosses are merely normal enemies that have been given the Yoshi’s Island treatment and pose little challenge. Knowing that Aria is just a few button presses away makes it a struggle to keep going.
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
I'm not going to stand here and allow the characters of Max Slimer and Peeping Big be questioned so grossly like this.

I understand most not gelling with The Adventure (I love it) but what deterred about Belmont's Revenge? It's in that series-best era for me not by any accidental chance.
 
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