• Welcome to Talking Time's third iteration! If you would like to register for an account, or have already registered but have not yet been confirmed, please read the following:

    1. The CAPTCHA key's answer is "Percy"
    2. Once you've completed the registration process please email us from the email you used for registration at percyreghelper@gmail.com and include the username you used for registration

    Once you have completed these steps, Moderation Staff will be able to get your account approved.

  • TT staff acknowledge that there is a backlog of new accounts that await confirmation.

    Unfortunately, we are putting new registrations on hold for a short time.

    We do not expect this delay to extend beyond the first of November 2020, and we ask you for your patience in this matter.

    ~TT Moderation Staff

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

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
Playing through the collection in release order; Vampire's Kiss and Circle done. Five reasons why the former is the series low point that it is.
  • really monotonous level design and direction, both layoutwise and aesthetically. The game has no conception of landmarks or anything of visual interest to characterize its stages with, so everything comes off as the next wallpaper set in a sequence, draped over empty stretches of nothing. You are relieved when stages come to an end not because of a challenge well undertaken, but in being spared the repetition that universally pervades.
  • the surrounding marketing and many fan assessments try to spin the game's level of difficulty as a point of interest and appeal, but let that not confuse matters; it's a game that comes by its difficulty in the worst of ways, through attrition and lack of care in utilizing its toolset. It's in love with a shallow bag of tricks it constantly depends on, whether it be floating platforms contextualized environmentally by nothing at all, or unbreaking parades of the same enemy, over and over; thirteen to fourteen number the spear guards in total, an obscene number for a game of such short length. The worst of it is embodied in the traditional variables in enemy placement for the series, the medusa heads and bats. When used deliberately and with restraint, they can exert pressure in high tension situations better than anything, but here they're artificially invulnerable at rest, made to launch at the player with mechanical precision, in three-second intervals at most, even in places where nothing much is happening but this is what has to be done to maintain the illusion of level design occurring. It's all the misconceptions and frustrations directed at games like this actually realized in one, in truth and fact.
  • it has the worst visual storytelling and environmental coherence in the series, which is especially damning as this is what has set apart the best of the series, either from each other or other video games. You'll climb a stairway or enter a door and find yourself in a totally disparate tileset, with no connection points to be seen; the game plainly forgets or ignores these transitions entirely and more than once places Richter with his back firmly against a wall, having arrived to his current gauntlet from nowhere to be seen. A sense of place and belief in the world existing as something other than just a video game obstacle course is of such paramount importance in making Castlevania what it is, and there's just nothing to latch onto here: it is a charade through and through, possessing none of the detail and verisimilitude-minded focus the series extols at its best.
  • a bizarre choice is made in mechanical balance that to my recollection is unique to this game: you keep all your hearts upon completing a stage, leading to a game-long status quo of hiking through the land with a maxed out counter of 99 at your fingertips in most cases. It's so opposed to the ways the series usually maintains its resource management aspects that I can only read it as a last-ditch attempt at granting the player an edge toward the often callous and careless situations the design puts one through, leaving one with the opportunity to depend on the Item Crashes as a panic button. If so, it's akin to applying a band-aid to a bone fracture.
  • there is a rhetoric that sometimes turns up in that Vampire's Kiss is supposedly decent or good enough if observed by its own individual merits outside of its relation to Rondo of Blood and the unflattering comparisons that dynamic invites. I reject the notion for the above reasons, as the game is fully capable of tripping itself up with no additional assistance, but I think one should absolutely view it with that relationship in mind because the game certainly doesn't let you forget, as it recycles and repurposes not only sprites but setpieces and details from the game in baffling ways that crumble outside of their original context. One of them is the Behemoth chase, where originally its rotting carcass would have its head decapitated from the impact of slamming against a wall; here, chase is given again, but it ends in open space above a pit, where the same animation plays and the beast's head detaches out of existential despair, I suppose. Another is the confrontation with Death, where the standout introduction of the reaper appearing far in the distant sky is repeated... only this time the setting is not the high masts of a ship, but the exterior of a clock tower face right next to the battle platform; the change in perspective is utterly ignored and leaves an impression of a tiny Death posturing at his adversary. This is fundamentally what Vampire's Kiss is, in having access to all of this premier source material and even doing not an altogether bad job in adding to it with personal flourishes, but in arranging it to anything resembling a coherent vision every aspect of it is continually failed.
And because I usually criticize Circle plenty, five things I genuinely enjoy about it.
  • this is the only Castlevania that remixes and refreshes already charted environments with new enemy configurations as the game progresses--twice it happens over the course of it as far as I can discern. Some enemies are only met this way, and they alternate between repopulating the connecting tissue of the castle, the hub areas where one is likeliest to backtrack, and some really out of the way secret hiding spots. It's good flavour for a game that really needs it, and an ingenious handle on the conventions of the burgeoning genre it was part of, sadly underutilized elsewhere in the series since.
  • on the subject of the bestiary, the Kobe branch of Konami who developed this game as well as the Nintendo 64 pair really loved their anthromorphs. It's not exactly an unfamiliar field for the series at large with its pack of werewolves and the like, but it's something of a signature touch for games that, again, really need those splashes of personality. Archers and rifle personnel aren't just another skull in the skeletal hordes but cunning foxes and hyenas taking aim at Nathan, and werebears? You'll get familiar with their claws really intimately. Generally there's just enough of a twist on the staples that differentiate the work from the more established peers, like the ever-present witch, portrayed here in the archaically spooky and wizened crone form instead of the sexually playful incarnations seen in most of the rest of the games.
  • Circle has the most breakable walls out of any game in the series, and their contents aren't really remarkable as they tend to all default to a one-screen hollow where a power-up rests on its pedestal, guarded by a lone creature. What is worth noting is that nearly, if not literally every single one of these cracks in the wall are visually communicated by just such breaks and inconsistencies in the tiling patterns discernible with one's eyes. They are invariably the most minute of differences, of such subtlety that they're difficult to spot even blowing the game out to the exponential scale and brightness it's now played through as compared to its original context. Nevertheless, they're there, and a great record of someone on staff really caring to mark all of them in ways so many other games never care to, leaving secrets of such nature purely for player intuition to uncover.
  • the soundtrack in Circle is one of the most remix-heavy the series would ever see--featuring five or so tracks of original material next to thrice as many arrangements--but it does not feel particularly constrained by that nature. Part of it is the scope and restraint in the sourced material: many different games from series history are drawn from, and the track choices are often diverse and not the greatest hits one can grow weary of; of the Four Heavenly Kings of the series, only "Vampire Killer" makes an appearance and it's saved for an appropriately climactic context. The treatment itself is also frequently captivating on its own, with great use of basslines throughout, and some truly inventive interpretations like the Machine Tower's bouncy rendition of "Clockwork" that's almost unrecognizable when used to more straightforward takes. Sotaro Tojima was confused and conflated with Super Castlevania IV co-composer Taro Kudo/Souji Taro for many years not only because of a lack of awareness and documentation of video game developers of their eras, but because the material here did evoke a similar sense of experimentation with the form at times.
  • there is one specific room in the game's final area, the Observation Tower, which is stunningly memorable if for the contrast it provides to the rest of the game, especially as the penultimate location is spent in dreadfully conceived and portrayed sewer spaces. In this one snippet, one is suddenly placed outdoors, on the castle's parapets, fending off a squadron of Wind Armors--the usual draining repetition in enemy placement, but elevated for their situational context. Both the player and foes are partly obscured by the castle walls at their feet, and there's parallax of the fore and background scrolling independently--neither occurs elsewhere in the game. The castle's giant silhouette looms in the distance, showing different sides of itself for the room's long length. All of it is considerably more dramatic and effective than anything else the game ever visually attempts, and suggests that something more compelling could've resulted in some other circumstances, as the capability of all involved for this brief window is well showcased.
 

Kazin

did i do all of that?
(he/him)
I poked at Dracula X a bit before getting back into SaGa Scarlet Grace (I'd only ever played Rondo before, not the SNES "version" of it), and it is as you say, Peklo: I'm baffled anyone ever said it's a slightly less good version of Rondo. It's legitimately bad! You pretty much laid out all the reasons why, too, so I won't belabor the point. But as someone who has not played it before (and I am not a huge fan of Rondo, either - it's a good game, but it's not my favorite classic-style Castlevania, either), I think SNES Dracula X is abysmal.

I beat Aria of Sorrow last night, too, and it's just a smooth, great experience. To say something negative about it, though, the Balore fight is not a well designed fight. The hit detection on the hands is terrible. Other than that, though... I had a really great time with Aria.
 

conchobhar

What's Shenmue?
I rather like the music in HoD. I think it sounds rather atmospheric.
It's among my favourite soundtracks in the series! My dear hope for this collection is that it leads some to re-assess Harmony (especially its soundtrack), now that it's nineteen years later and the gaming landscape— and what's expected of games— has shifted.
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
I really like the soundtrack in Harmony.

I think a lot of the criticism (especially in the era) came from direct comparison with Circle's more sample-heavy track. Harmony leans more on the native sound chip in order to afford its gigantic castle and larger, brighter, and more detailed sprites. There just wasn't enough memory for both. It was a tradeoff that I think people failed to recognize at the time. And the music itself is complex and full of atmosphere.
 

Torzelbaum

????? LV 13 HP 292/ 292
(he, him, his)
I beat Aria of Sorrow last night, too, and it's just a smooth, great experience. To say something negative about it, though, the Balore fight is not a well designed fight. The hit detection on the hands is terrible.
Are you talking about when they change from platforms to attacks?
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
Most of my glowing commentary on Harmony orients around its sense of aesthetics and tone, and that is both due to personal priorities and game's remarkable capacity to impress in those areas. That said, I don't want to misportray it as a holistic work, because one of my favourite aspects of it has to do with mechanical expression and integration, in the way protagonist Juste Belmont controls and moves.

The strength and weakness of Castlevania, in this exploratory incarnation or the previous status quo, ultimately lies in consistency, in how people keep coming back for more of the same, or grow weary of it for the same reasons. Sure, everyone has their individual preferences within the margins but it's that recognition and aspiring to propagate a formula what drives so much of developer interest and audience participation with something this long-enduring. Because of that iterative homogeneity that's fundamental to the appeal, there's also sometimes the mindset, implicit or directly stated, that all of these games are on one linear road to their endpoint as pieces of game design, where if enough layers of that figurative "polish" are applied over the many games, we'll be left with the concept in its idealized, most flawless form.

You can contextualize many aspects of design and creative work and how they're received with that supposition in mind, but it seems especially relevant to me in the field of player control within this branch of the series. Soma Cruz's rehabilitation of the wandering series tenets to the guiding principles of Symphony with Aria manifested in many ways, but one of the most keenly felt was just the immediate playfeel of him as protagonist. His jump physics, modes of attack, toolset, pace of movement and many liminal nuances echoed Alucard most strongly of any prior precedent--faster and streamlined certainly, but that's the Aria way--and for that kinship re-established the baseline that would be followed from then on, unbreakingly. The effective narrative became that this is what had been worked toward, and once arrived at this baseline, there would be no straying from it again. Why mess with perfection?

Stepping into the boots of Juste Belmont, by way of contrast, may as well be another series entirely. There is no grand unifying evolutionary process at play here but a series of idiosyncratic genetic dead-ends; Juste plays like no one else before or since his time. Such kinetic aberration is supported by longstanding series mythology and how it informs who the character is, as a descendant of Belmont and Belnades. The supernaturally endowed magical warriors in the Alucard mold also had this contextualizing element in play at first to root their playstyles in character, until it became too universal as a series design touchstone to be applied so specifically. Juste retains the rationalizations by heritage of who he is, both for his emphasized magical abilities in the Belnades school, and him being subject to the Belmont law of universal gravitation that has for all time defined the generational spatial struggle of his bloodline.

To really understand Juste's nature as a mobile blight force, it needs to be remembered what platform played host to his adventures. The GBA games in effect were the first time the series had existed in anything approaching a modern conception of a widescreen format, previously consumed through 4:3 display standards. Environments now were wider than they were tall in the play space portrayed, which is one of the factors that sets apart Circle in its focus on vertical space, and why it can be so overwhelming to witness--it's acting in direct opposition to the natural inclinations of its format in what kind of movement it emphasizes. For Harmony, the game map on a macro scale is an approximation of Symphony's layout and the wide horizontal breadth brought forth with it, playing to the medium's strengths in how to bring out its best aspects navigationally.

Juste, as a result, is a very horizontally-aligned character to play as. All his kinetic aptitude is reserved for the axis, and he struggles when divested of it. He has unparalleled, snap reaction horizontal positioning control thanks to the multidirectional dash, a series anomaly never to be repeated. For its presence and innate nature in his toolkit, the game asks one to learn its ins and outs from the start, both for expediency of travel and more importantly, to maneuver against enemies. From the second area on, the location set to the relevant musical theme of "Offense and Defense", a point is made in the enemy design that many of them will rush Juste or otherwise hound him in ways that standard evasive action isn't sufficient to deal with, and so we have dashes to rely on. Backdashes are a genre universal, but thanks to the complementary verb paired with it in Harmony, the game can boast to possess combat and encounter rhythms totally unique to it, encouraging bop-and-weave hit-and-run tactics to contend with the opposition which are often angling for counters of their own in such a manner.

Juste eventually gains two important additions to his moveset, in the slide and double jump and derived dive kick. Both are exceptional within the genre for their unusual applicational potential as offensive measures, as supplementary and primarily navigational maneuvers such as these are often made to inflict lesser, even fractional damage compared to standard attacks. In here, a kick delivered is synonymous to a whip lash struck in inflicted damage, opening up the inclinations of one's playstyle considerably, as now fancy, performative rebounding and kicking off enemies's heads can be just as effective of a tactic instead of a mere personal flourish. Another important aspect of both abilities is their sheer velocity, the quickest and farthest-reaching of any common analogue. It again emphasizes a key point in Juste as a physically-defined character: he belongs and thrives rooted on the ground, and longs to land firmly on his feet as quickly as he possibly can.

Juste, to note, isn't a complete flailing mess when airborne, but he has nuances that his contemporaries lack. By default, his jump arc is lengthy and "floaty", leaving him vulnerable for longer than desired. If merely jumping, he retains minute directional control, but should he attack during a leap, he must commit to his arc to its conclusion; in this way he echoes his eventual progeny Richter. These are the aspects that lead to rhetoric that Juste controls badly or awkwardly, and why argue the point? It's the true curse of the Belmonts, where some praise them as deliberate and controlled, while others condemn them as stiff and clumsy. The important part is that this distinction is made with Juste at all, how in a lineage that came to venerate a smoothly immediate response in all circumstances as the standard for play control, here we have a player character who embodies an intersection of his narrative heritage and player-experiential conception of such in ways that are true to that context and allow him to have strengths and weaknesses that serve to define him as an amalgam of both eras of the series that he straddles.

The sense of having to be careful and mindful of mid-air confrontations never departs the play experience in Harmony, no matter how powerful Juste statistically grows. It'll always be his Achilles's heel, his character flaw, the dump stat of his min/maxing character sheet. In playing Aria of Sorrow directly after Harmony in the collection, I had an alright time in light of the game's perennial and obvious high quality, but it also reinforced a notion that I think I've felt for longer than just a while now: it's very hard for me to relate to media that lacks obvious flaws like Aria; the kind of creative work that seems effortlessly good explicitly because great effort went into making it be that way. That lack of pushback exists in the physics-defined play experience of who Soma Cruz and his successors are, where I know I'm always in control and every gradation has been filed away to a smooth end result. With Juste, I always have to remember who he is and what his comfort zone is; I accede to his rhythms instead of him providing a playground for mine. That is the pervading headspace in which I understand and am compelled by Harmony at large--a game that makes many player-inconvenient decisions aesthetically and mechanically and is uniquely valuable for exactly that adversarial friction and the contrast it provides.
 
Last edited:

conchobhar

What's Shenmue?
I think a lot of the criticism (especially in the era) came from direct comparison with Circle's more sample-heavy track. Harmony leans more on the native sound chip in order to afford its gigantic castle and larger, brighter, and more detailed sprites. There just wasn't enough memory for both. It was a tradeoff that I think people failed to recognize at the time. And the music itself is complex and full of atmosphere.
It was a tradeoff, but I don't think that means it wasn't also a creative decision. Which is to say, it was decided to use the PSG for technical and/or business reasons, but it's not as if composer Soshiro Hokkai was caught unawares by the decision (as Peklo said upthread, it's not as if there's some "true intent" version out there that had to be crushed into the soundchip). Hokkai clearly composed the music with the limitations in mind, as well as with an eye to the game itself— Harmony is plenty weird and disorienting even if you were to play it on mute.

Personally, I think one of Harmony defining aspects is how reverential it is of the NES and GB titles. That's most obvious in the story (Juste is specified as a grandson of Simon Belmont; and he later collects Drac's remains to revive him, just as Simon did) and some of the bestiary (Skull Knight, Cyclops, Pazuzu…); but I think it also comes across in some of the visual design: certain areas have a very repetitious or 'tiled' look to them. So a soundtrack that evokes that same era— not going for the same sounds, but working within the same framework— suits it perfectly.
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
I think my favourite detail about Dracula X that most people don’t notice when complaining about it is that they used the map screen image as a background for the final level; so you have a full screen illustration of Dracula’s Castle in the background of Dracula’s Castle.

Architecturally impossible demon castles were very popular in 17th century Wallachia
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
Alucard's "creature of chaos" label is interesting to me because, yes, it's a neat narrative justification for something that could always be inferred from context, but was laid out textually anyway--another Igarashi-as-writer signature, in how he loves these kinds of minute rationalizations that serve to give form to the seemingly inexplicable. It's also very evocative of a phrase that hasn't been reflected by the games so much, or in thematically salient ways at least, with Harmony again providing some opportunities for such a reading in its structure.

The visually overwhelming room discussed upthread is part of the Room of Illusion, a short sequence of rooms early in the game, where it first breaks into this kind of surrealist sensory cacophony; there's also an active lava flow next door, and volcanoes in the far distance--underground, no less--not much further beyond. This comes off as deliberate disorientation because it's in that section where the first of the game's teleport gates is entered, transporting Juste from Castle A to its counterpart in Castle B--the parallel castles born out of Maxim and his Dracula-possessed alter ego's psyches, respectively. It's a locational distinction the game only reveals halfway through its running, that the one castle mapped so far had in fact been two, and when that separation is underlined one can begin to note the differences between the two. Invariably Castle B is the more ruined, distorted and unsettling location, bathed in the unnatural hues of a reddish midnight sun, some places drained of colour entirely, and other such aberrations that unnerve and set it apart from its more conventional other half.

It's there to build up the narrative split between the Maxims, but turns occasionally fascinating if you interpret Castle B as being born out of Dracula's mind matter and interiority: one encounters the Simon Wraiths, for example, which are a cute and characteristic for the game nod to early series history, referential of both the character and whip-wielding skeletons of the past, but they can also signify the impact Simon might have had on Dracula's psyche, even amongst generations of nemeses to pick from. This one guy who killed him, and came back to ritualistically resurrect him again years later just to murder him once more... it's been fifty years since, with Dracula reduced to a pile of organs and a wraith stuck in someone else's head, and still he's not rid of this piece of personal, private trauma that now manifests in the odd inflection point between illusion and reality as a shambling mockery. Not all of the game's intensive referentionality lines up so neatly--when callbacks to the fifty-years-hence Rondo and such persist--but the vast majority of them in being rooted to the series's real-world past also connect to the personal chronology of its cast, giving additional significance to such allusions.
 

Kazin

did i do all of that?
(he/him)
Are you talking about when they change from platforms to attacks?
And back, yeah. Even on a backlit screen it's tough to judge when they're safe to touch. Also the hitbox seems far too large in general when they are dangerous.
 

Beta Metroid

At peace
(he/him)
  • a bizarre choice is made in mechanical balance that to my recollection is unique to this game: you keep all your hearts upon completing a stage, leading to a game-long status quo of hiking through the land with a maxed out counter of 99 at your fingertips in most cases. It's so opposed to the ways the series usually maintains its resource management aspects that I can only read it as a last-ditch attempt at granting the player an edge toward the often callous and careless situations the design puts one through, leaving one with the opportunity to depend on the Item Crashes as a panic button. If so, it's akin to applying a band-aid to a bone fracture.

Rondo of Blood and Bloodlines did this too, just FYI (Rondo does the "count your hearts down to zero" thing when scoring you at the end of the stage, but at the start of the next one, your total will be back to whatever it was upon grabbing the stage-ending orb). Both Rondo and Drac X also do something kind of interesting with this: If your heart total is above 20, you can have two subs onscreen at once, while Drac X alone lets you have three if your total is above 30 (this is especially relevant to the Dracula fight!).

I like Dracula X's sound effects, particularly for its weapons (so weird having a Castlevania game where the whip sounds like a whip!). And its first two stages and the Atlantis stage are pretty fun, as is the Necromancer boss fight. And that's about all the nice things I have to say about it.

While far from its worst offense, my pet peeve with it is that it slavishly adopts Rondo's control scheme, despite the abundance of buttons on the SNES. Super 4 and Bloodlines had already given subweapons and item crashes dedicated buttons, but we're stuck with Up and Attack on Drac X because Rondo did it that way out of necessity.
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
Alright. It didn't stick to my mind as being a feature present in Rondo because it doesn't read as a detriment in that game's context, I think. It's much less concerned about piss-headed difficulty being the main event so loading up on resources doesn't affect it in the same way as it does for Vampire's Kiss, where that's the only relevant vector of engagement in what the game is interested in doing. I guess it's just another mark in the "Rondo did it, so it should be fine here" column of unexamined design.
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
Both Rondo and Drac X also do something kind of interesting with this: If your heart total is above 20, you can have two subs onscreen at once, while Drac X alone lets you have three if your total is above 30 (this is especially relevant to the Dracula fight!).

I never knew this!!!
 

R.R. Bigman

Coolest Guy
I‘m playing Circle, and quit right before Death. It’s almost as punishing as I remember. No shop to buy healing items makes Circle feel more like a Metroid than later handheld installments. Same goes for hearts being extremely necessary for bosses and the many, many hallways full of guys that the later days of the franchise are known for.

I already have more DSS cards than I ever got when I played the game many years ago. Knowing which enemies to kill to get them is a wonderful addition! Good Job, M2!
 

muteKi

Hashtag give it to gilly
Dracula X is just so sad. Most of the individual spritework is at least pretty good, or is of a style pretty different from the rest of the series that makes it interesting. But for some reason it's overall less than the sum of its parts, and part of that being the result of the way old Rondo sprites and animation routines don't play right with the redone artwork.

It really doesn't feel like a Castlevania game, exactly. The nice-but-inconsistent art along with the level design that's not particularly tight and rarely very creative. The stages are mostly built from a two-level structure that was used infrequently in Rondo, mainly at the start of stage 4, which actually stands out there because it's not used so often. For a SNES game it's weirdly unwilling to do horizontal scrolling in those areas, maybe to cut down on the unique tiles in the world -- while individual screens of the SNES and TG-CD games tend to favor the former's aesthetic, the tiled design of the latter definitely lent itself to more varied structures. The aforementioned stage 4 of Rondo might be one of the least-interesting levels visually, but stands out due to having a great many creative environmental hazards that are nowhere to be found in CVDX. Who doesn't love the flea riders on the iron balls? Oh right, all of us because flea riders are the most frustrating enemy in all of video games. But who the hell, on encountering that, doesn't have it fixed in their memory almost immediately? God, what a clever idea.
 

Sarge

hardcore retro gamin'
Am I the only one that actually thinks Dracula X is... good? No, it ain't Rondo (a game I happen to think is great but a tad overrated), but I tend to enjoy both, warts and all. My least favorite of that generation is actually the X68000 game, of all things.
 

madhair60

Video games
Am I the only one that actually thinks Dracula X is... good? No, it ain't Rondo (a game I happen to think is great but a tad overrated), but I tend to enjoy both, warts and all. My least favorite of that generation is actually the X68000 game, of all things.

Saying this well aware "each to their own" and not to knock your taste, but it's interesting to me just how opposite it is from mine - I think the X68000 game is peak 'Vania.
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
They didn't make Castlevanias that were anything less than series-best between 1991 and 1994; you stretch that window in either direction, and not so much. The diversity in console platforms, development staff and approaches to the shared conceptual base are just something circumstances could never repeat or match again.

A point in Vampire's Kiss's favour, though it's more of a case of a wasted opportunity, is how they got Akihiro Yamada to do promotional and concept art for it. It's pretty frustrating that artwork of that quality is attached to a game that doesn't really have the means to put it to the use and prominence it would deserve. As it is, the box art is better than the game it promotes.
 
Last edited:

Kazin

did i do all of that?
(he/him)
My favorite classic style Castlevania are III and IV, and even then, I prefer pretty much all the Metroidvanias to the classic styled ones, too. For me, the high point of the series is Symphony to Ecclesia.
 

Sarge

hardcore retro gamin'
My favorite classic games are Castlevania and SC4, although I still think Rondo and Bloodlines are like 8 or 8.5/10 for me, and DX coming in around a 7.5. Not sure why I didn't cotton to the X68K version that much, although Chronicles makes the game much, much easier in the arranged mode.

As far as Igavanias go, Symphony is still my go-to, but Dawn and Ecclesia are my favorite after that, and honestly I like all of them.
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
I was mainly talking about development eras, mind. That period I specified is notable not just because the games were consistently remarkable, but in how different they were from each other--a result of multiple different teams having the opportunity to work on the series at once, with not much overlap between them. You shift the view to 2002 to 2008, and literally the only show in town was the Igarashi-lead serial production environment consisting of the same leadership, key staff and overall artistic vision for the series. It doesn't mean none of those games also weren't as good as anything else the series ever produced... it just means they were more limited in that singular context that made them stand out and beloved in the first place.
 

Mogri

Round and round I go
(he)
Staff member
Moderator
Dracula X may or may not be any good as a game, but the bass line at the start of Richter's theme is almost certainly the best five seconds of music in the series.
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
I may have liked Drac X more if there wasn't a Rondo to compare it to. It's interesting to study in the sense of how you can have a game with fundamentally the same assets of a masterpiece like Rondo and end up with something mediocre. I'm sure it was a case of mismanagement, too little time, and too little support. We're talking about a game that came out when everyone else was looking ahead to the polygon era. Rondo came out in the peak era of 16-bit. I'm sure DX's team just didn't have the resources.

But as it stands, it's the only Castlevania game that I truly dislike, just because it represents such a missed opportunity.

I agree about that bass line, though.
 

Beta Metroid

At peace
(he/him)
I'm really hard-pressed to name a favorite 'Vania. Rondo probably gets the nod most days, but 1, 3 (Famicom-style), 4, and Bloodlines are right there in it, and Symphony is this great big love letter to all of those (well, more like a quick, friendly wave to Bloodlines). Aria and Adventure Rebirth are like one tier below for me, and Simon's Quest is in a weird space where I enjoy it just as much as those, but admittedly that's due to being armed with some pre-existing knowledge of its quirks.

EDIT: Oh yeah, the first Curse of the Moon is in contention for my fave as well.
 

conchobhar

What's Shenmue?
Juste, as a result, is a very horizontally-aligned character to play as. All his kinetic aptitude is reserved for the axis, and he struggles when divested of it. He has unparalleled, snap reaction horizontal positioning control thanks to the multidirectional dash, a series anomaly never to be repeated. For its presence and innate nature in his toolkit, the game asks one to learn its ins and outs from the start, both for expediency of travel and more importantly, to maneuver against enemies. From the second area on, the location set to the relevant musical theme of "Offense and Defense", a point is made in the enemy design that many of them will rush Juste or otherwise hound him in ways that standard evasive action isn't sufficient to deal with, and so we have dashes to rely on. Backdashes are a genre universal, but thanks to the complementary verb paired with it in Harmony, the game can boast to possess combat and encounter rhythms totally unique to it, encouraging bop-and-weave hit-and-run tactics to contend with the opposition which are often angling for counters of their own in such a manner.
Having just wrapped my own replay of Harmony of Dissonance, this is something that took me a little by surprise. Of course I knew that Juste had his unique physics and control, but I had forgotten the extent of which it affects the combat. The usual metroidvania combat movement, of attack in mid-air and then pulling back to safety, is just not possible here, since Juste commits to his jump arc (be it forward or straight up); and because of that, things like positioning and spacing actually matter here, in a way they don't in later titles. It's something that needs to be kept in mind with flying and airborne enemies, else you'll find yourself slamming into them all the time. It's a little funny that Harmony has a reputation as "the easy one", because while that's not wrong, I do feel like it still expects a bit more attention from the player than any of IGA's games outside of Ecclesia.
 
Top