Author Archives: Richenbaum Fotchenstein

About Richenbaum Fotchenstein

Richenbaum is a guy who refuses to grow up, yet still finds the time to be a half-assed computer scientist, despite the fact that constantly trying to relive one's youth is an increasingly time-demanding profession.

You like Castlevania, don’t you? Part II

castlevaniagameboyWe return to the wild world of Castlevania with The Castlevania Adventure and its sequel Belmont’s Revenge, both for the Game BoyThe Castlevania Adventure is a fun little game for what it is, but I don’t know how much anyone that didn’t already have a nostalgic itch for it would enjoy it. Being a Game Boy game naturally means that it’s been significantly simplified compared to its predecessors. The levels are extremely basic and linear, and movement is oddly slow, not even including the odd occasional lag. Sub-weapons have been removed entirely and aside from Dracula and some minor generic enemies like bats, you won’t be seeing any familiar foes or locations here. The game feels like it may have been outsourced to some people who were simply told to make a game about a guy who whips monsters. Still, it does somehow manage to have a certain Castlevania charm to it, with some interesting new creatures and some pretty catchy music.

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Look at those high-tech graphics! Eh, I guess you’d have to have been there at the time…

Belmont’s Revenge is much like the first one, simplistic and arcade-y, though with enjoyable enough gameplay and music, despite being a vomit green portable game. This time they’ve added in a level select feature, though it really doesn’t matter one bit what order you do them in, so it’s a rather pointless addition. Neither of them are what I’d call essential titles, but they’re a decent enough short burst of fun for a Castlevania freak like me.


castlevania3Castlevania 3: Dracula’s Curse basically ignored everything from Simon’s Quest and returned to a style more closely resembling that of the original, but with a lot of improvements. The difficulty was slightly toned down to a level that was still pretty tough, but not in a painfully punishing way like those last few levels of the original. The game was also a good deal longer than the original, especially with a new system of branching paths that split off into sections with different levels and bosses, each of varying levels of difficulty. There were eighteen unique stages and bosses all together, making it the biggest and bossiest Castlevania so far.

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I told you to stay in your grave!

Each path also contains one of three new secondary characters that you can change to at any time once you’ve recruited them, though their actual usefulness is questionable. Grant and Alucard’s climbing and flying abilities can be used as shortcuts for a few platforming parts, but none of them are particularly helpful when it comes to combat. The soundtrack is one of the very best of the 8-bit era too.


akumajo_special-boku_dracula-kuncoverWhile not an official Castlevania game, Akumajō Special: Boku Dracula-kun, a.k.a. I’m Kid Dracula, was only released on the Famicom in Japan (though there would later be an English remake/sequel on Game Boy). I thought it would be interesting to try it out, as it seemed to be a child-like parody version of Castlevania, so I tracked down a rom that had been fan-translated into English. The first level seemed to support the theory of it being a Castlevania parody, with it being a blatant clone of classic Castlevania levels, along with cartoonish versions of famous Castlevania enemies and music, but after that the game quickly ditches the theme entirely and suddenly turns out to be a completely unrelated shooting platformer that has you hopping around the globe to a puzzling variety of locations. You will find yourself on a pyramid in the desert, or on a spaceship, or on the rooftops of New York, fighting UFOs, blue Spider-Man clones, and having a quiz battle with the Statue of Liberty because that’s the boss fight of that level for some reason.

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Galamoth (or Garamoth, depending on the translation)

It was certainly a…unique experience, but not a particularly memorable or enjoyable one. I wouldn’t play it again and I wouldn’t call it a Castlevania game at all (thanks a lot, WikiPedia). The only thing of debatable worth that I learned from all of this is that apparently that secret super-tough boss in Symphony of the Night is actually supposed to be the main bad guy of the same name from I’m Kid Dracula, though there doesn’t seem to really be any resemblance other than the name. Oh wellllllllll.


Thus ends another installment of You like Castlevania, don’t you? Tune in next time, when the Belmonts graduate to 16 bits of power!

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Review: Telltale’s The Walking Dead: A New Frontier

81ePIm1wiOLDisclaimer: zero spoilers ahead. If you’ve played and enjoyed the previous two seasons of Telltale’s The Walking Dead, then you’ll be happy to hear that A New Frontier hasn’t altered the successful formula at all. If you haven’t, then you’re also in luck, as this makes a great new jumping on point, with the focus being on a new set of characters and almost no references at all to the previous stories. Clementine from seasons 1 and 2 returns, but doesn’t really talk about the past at all. The downside of this being that this has rendered all your choices from the previous games almost completely irrelevant (though I would still highly recommend playing them both anyway).

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Zahhhhhhhmbies!

If you’re unfamiliar with the modern Telltale formula, these things are really more interactive movies than games, offering very little in the way of direct interaction, but making up for it with impressively high quality writing and pacing. Not everyone likes this lack of control in a game, but if a highly compelling story is enough for you, Telltale games sure have that part down to a science.

As is often the case in The Walking Dead, while the zombies are certainly still rolling around out there and causing trouble, the real threat always ends up being your fellow human beings and their nutty, irrational behavior. You’ll have to prompt new main character Javier “Javi” Garcia through a tangled web of zombies, raiders, post-apocalyptic politics, and awkward familial conflicts, by means of the standard Telltale timed choices and quick time events.

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Press square to win combat.

A New Frontier closely follows the sombre tone of its predecessors, bombarding you with tense choices and action scenes, and punching you right in the feels on a pretty regular basis. Unsurprisingly, this being a zombie apocalypse and all, many things go badly wrong and you’ll be subjected to a lot of highly emotional, and usually incredibly depressing, moments that you would have to be an absolute sociopath to not be affected by.

The only cons here are some performance issues (which are also unfortunately typical for Telltale games). There can be some weird visual glitches, and the game is absolutely going to crash on you, probably multiple times. You would think that with this being their dozenth or so game using this same engine and format, that they’d get around to doing something about these same old technical issues, but I guess not this time. Oh well. Considering how fun these games are and that they’re half (or less) of full price, I suppose I can let that slide again.

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Review: Nightgate

6808304_largerI don’t play very many mobile games (nothing against them, I just have so many other platforms I’ve already got too many games for), but every once in a while an impressive one suddenly leaps out of the shadows and bites me. Nightgate is one such unexpected nibbler. I had never heard of the game, but there it was as the ‘Free App Of The Week’, a feature on my phone that I habitually check, despite the fact that there had never been a single worthwhile looking game offered on it before. I almost passed this one over too, dismissing it as something that looked like some businessman’s PowerPoint presentation gone horribly wrong.

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Sales are down this quarter. Time to shift some paradigms.

At the last moment this cryptic description caught my eye though: ‘In the year 2398, a network of intelligent computers known as Nightgate, is the last remaining life form on Earth.’ Uh oh, is this a cyberpunk game? Well, now I have to try it!

And so I jacked into the Nightgate, where I found myself in the form of a little touch-controlled dot, navigating through a bizarre environment that seemed to be part Tron, part old-timey vector arcade game.

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Screenshots really don’t do it justice. It’s much more vibrant and alive when in motion.

As it turns out, Nightgate is fascinating hybrid of platforming and puzzling, where you must touch and/or connect all the nodes which can be arranged in a complex manner that requires a little thinking, or simply guarded by nefarious looking security programs that will test your dodge reflex.

The soundtrack is also a very fitting and relaxing bit of ambient retrowave that helps sell the idea that you’re floating through what people in the seventies/eighties probably thought cyberspace would look like.

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HACK THE PLANET!

By the end of the 50 bite-sized levels, the game had left such a good impression on me that I immediately went and bought a few more mobile games by the same people (and I’m pretty sure I’ll be picking up that soundtrack too).

So if you’re ever in the market for some relaxing and beautifully designed micro-bursts of cyber-adventuring, log into the NIGHTGATE!

 

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E3 2017 aftershocks: Hands on with the Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite demo

I’ve been aware of Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite for some time now, but have never really given it much consideration. Marvel vs. Capcom 3 was pretty enough, but the almost complete absence of single player content resulted in me losing interest pretty quickly. Even seeing the latest E3 footage, I thought “that looks nice” and then just kind of dismissed it, figuring “it’s just a fighting game, how exciting could it really be?”.

I almost didn’t even bother downloading the free demo after seeing this trailer, as the weird facial animations and campy atmosphere felt a little awkward, and I could see where all these people online are coming from, calling this a weird sloppy fanfiction-feeling affair, but hey, free is free so I downloaded the thing.

Oh how wrong I was. It may indeed have some weird faces, and it is absolutely ridiculous and over-the-top beyond belief, but oh the sheer joy of seeing Bionic Commando, Strider HiryuChris Redfield, original proper Dante, Mega Man, and more, teaming up with Captain America, Captain Marvel, Rocket Raccoon, Thor, Iron Man, and etc, all as if they were long-time best buddies, so they can free Thanos and get up to some shenanigans with the Infinity Stones. Sure, it’s like some kind of mad fanfiction, but in the very best of ways. This reached out and touched my inner child in a way I wasn’t expecting at all. I didn’t even care that I had no idea what the moves were and was just blindly fumbling my way through each battle, because everything was so beautifully rendered and animated, and framed with beautiful looking cutscenes.

Point being, this skyrocketed from “barely on my radar” to “MUST HAVE ASAP!”. I highly recommend trying this demo out for yourself if you have any interest in Marvel and/or Capcom characters and…oh dear…look at this Collector’s Edition.

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Here comes all my money again, Capcom!

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E3 2017: 5 more new and exciting things from the Sony Conference

There were surprisingly few new games revealed at Sony’s conference, with the majority of trailers being new footage of games that were already revealed at last year’s E3, and very little revealed about the few new VR games they displayed, but even so, there were some pretty nice things to see here. Part of me is almost a little glad too, because I don’t know how I’ll even find the time to play all the games that have already been announced as it is! Anyway, here’s another 5 personal highlights of upcoming PlayStation exclusives!


#5 The Inpatient

This trailer doesn’t reveal a whole lot about the game, but with Supermassive involved (developers of Until Dawn and Until Dawn: Rush of Blood VR), this and their other freshly announced VR game Bravo Team are sure to be more exceptionally produced cinematic experiences.


#4 Days Gone

Days Gone was already revealed last E3, but this new footage is pretty damn impressive. The level of detail in this open world full of ridiculously large hordes of the undead is amazing enough that I don’t mind seeing it again.


#3 Detroit: Become Human

Another one we already saw a little bit of last year, but this time with a lot more details of the plot and gameplay. The latest eccentric David Cage game looks to be the most ambitious one yet.


#2 God of War

Yet another one we saw briefly last year. This looks like it’ll have quite a different tone than the previous God of War games, with Kratos Jr. tagging along to act as a sidekick and apparently as a bit of a conscience to the now slightly less homicidally angry Kratos. This doesn’t mean that there will be any less intense action though, as the extra helping of gameplay footage here shows.


#1 Spider-Man

Annnnnd you guessed it. Another one from last year, also showing much more story and gameplay than before. You know, that giant white spider logo still bothers the hell out of me (imagine if the next Batman game had him with a giant white bat on his chest), but I just can’t deny that this game looks extremely well made and fun. The seamless transitions between ground combat, web-swinging, quick time events, and cinematic cutscenes is quite impressive indeed. This could be one hell of a game (as long as they give us some alternate costumes to cover up that ugly redesign)!


Well, E3 hasn’t even started yet and I think my gaming schedule for 2018 has already been entirely filled, which is simultaneously thrilling and depressing. Might as well bring on some more though! E3 finally officially begins tomorrow, so expect your most agreeable screens to continue to be flooded with more hot, sweaty Eaction!

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That Beyond Good & Evil 2 trailer…

So, apparently the director of Beyond Good & Evil 2 was…not entirely truthful when he claimed that the game would not be present at E3 2017, as a cinematic trailer was revealed today:

Wow. That…is certainly some amazing CGI, but is it just me or is this one of the cringiest videos ever? I suppose that looking back on it, there was some weird casual racism going on in the original game with characters like those rasta rhinos, but it seemed so passively goofy and innocuous back then. This on the other hand…this is painful for me to watch. I mean, I don’t have a problem with swearing, my horribly vulgar personal site can attest to that, but this just feels like a really overbearing, hyperactive child trying really hard to sound like an adult by swearing every two seconds.

You may have noticed that I usually gravitate towards games with darker themes, but the original Beyond Good & Evil was one of those rare brightly colored, cartoonish games that was bursting with more wonder and fun than even a miserable misanthrope like me could ignore. I don’t feel one bit of that that while watching this. This feels more like a committee of old men tossed a bunch of crumpled up pieces of paper containing what they thought those nutty kids were into these days and threw them in a hat, then defecated in the hat, then put the hat and its contents into a blender and poured it on my screen.

Maybe I have it all backwards. Maybe it’s just me that’s the out of touch old man, recoiling from the horror of this living incarnation of the generation gap. Maybe this cinematic trailer is a terrible representation of what may turn out to still be a very fun game. I just don’t know, but what I do know is that I found this trailer to be thoroughly unpleasant and if this is what Beyond Good & Evil 2 is going to feel like, I think I will sadly have to pass on it. What do you fine ladies and gents think?

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E3 2017: 5 more new and exciting things from the Bethesda Conference

Oh geez. I didn’t even realize Bethesda was doing their show ahead of the actual start of E3 too! Guess I’ll be staying up late just to show you fine readers another 5 exciting upcoming new titles! (Just kidding, I’m always up this late)


#5: Dishonored 2: Death of the Outsider (Xbox, PlayStation, PC)

I’m a big fan of Arkane Studios and the Dishonored series, so I’m all for some more Dishonored 2, especially with as interesting sounding of a premise as this. I just hope they don’t break it into two halves like they did with the story DLC for the first game.


#4: Fallout 4 VR (PlayStation, PC)

I must confess, I still haven’t played Fallout 4 yet, but maybe that was for the best, because now I’ll be able to play it in VR! Maybe. We’ll have to see what playing a 200+ hour game in VR is like. I’m liable to go blind or something! It’s a very good sign for VR fans though, that big companies are willing to bring big name AAA titles to VR.


#3: Doom VR (PlayStation, PC)

Whaaaaaaaaaaaaat! Well, now I’m definitely going to go blind. This was probably the game I would have most liked to have experienced in VR and now my wish will come true. I just hope my stomach can handle it, as Doom required quite a bit of furious jumping, dodging, and running in order to survive.


#2: Wolfenstein 2 The New Colossus (Xbox, PlayStation, PC)

Well, this looks interesting. Wolfenstein 2 looks like it’ll have no shortage of the crazy, brutal combat we saw in Wolfenstein: The New Order, and a side order of wacky humor that you wouldn’t really expect in a story about Nazis winning the war and taking over America, but somehow it seems to work here. The October 2017 release date is quite a surprise too.


#1: The Evil Within 2 (Xbox, PlayStation, PC)

Woohoo! Finally, the sequel to the the first of the great horror games of the current generation! If the combat is as creepily challenging, and the story as fascinatingly complex, as the first one, then this will be quite the game indeed.


What a great start to this year’s E3. I’d be thrilled with just the games we’ve already seen today, but there’s still many more to come, including what should be a really good Sony conference tomorrow. It’s a hell of a time to be a gamer, I tell you.

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