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Dcubed

N-E Staff
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Everything posted by Dcubed

  1. Your Gaming Diary 2023

    Oy! You can't abandon this thread yet! I've still got a few more 2023 games to add! Get back in here! Ghouls N' Ghosts I took one more trip to The Heart of Gaming before the end of the year, and I was still in a Castlevania sort of mood (having just finished Castlevania Legends and Vampire: Master of Darkness). So I came across the original CPS arcade Ghouls N' Ghosts running on a Naomi candy cabinet and thought... yeah! Gaming's most fetching boxers Ghouls N' Ghosts is the confusingly titled sequel to Ghosts N' Goblins. The Series That Can't Make Up Its Mind is known for its unique blend of run & gun platforming gameplay, its light-hearted take on demonic beauty, and its brutal difficulty. Much like Konami's own Castlevania series, GN'G follows a similar design philosophy with tightly crafted level design that takes advantage of Arthur's set jump arc, careful enemy placement and pacing to deliver a finely tuned platforming experience that is equal parts shooter and platformer. It's a difficult game that offers enormous satisfaction as you overcome its challenge; tough but fair... ... my playthrough however was anything but fair... because I was lumped with a particularily nasty handicap. Chances are that if you've played this game before, you're probably most familiar with either its Megadrive counterpart, or some form of re-release of the original arcade verison on more modern platforms. What you might not know, is that the original arcade CPS version of GN'G was specifically designed to use a 4-way joystick in its original arcade cabinet; where the lever is locked into moving up/down/left/right only. If you were to put the game into a cabinet with an 8-way joystick however? Diagonal directions result in no input being detected by the game, and any such attempts to move diagonally mean that the game just eats your input and Arthur acts as if you've just let go of the lever; standing completely still. Now, most of this game's re-releases account for this by just treating diagonal inputs as either left or right respectively... but this isn't a re-release... this is the actual original arcade board. And of course, the arcade operators decided to be cruel to me by putting the game into a cabinet with an 8-way joystick... Get used to seeing this screen Still. I marched on unabated. I've beaten the original arcade game before, I can do it again! I wasn't going to let this handicap beat me. Stage 1 wasn't too bad, couple of deaths, but I managed to get through it after wrestling with the diagonal inputs issue. Stage 2 ramps up the difficulty pretty quickly, but it too fell after a game over or two (I always forget where the trap doors are). But then comes Stage 3, and here's where the kiddy gloves really come off. It's just an absolute gauntlet of relentless scum & villanry, crushing walls and nightmarish jumps over moving platforms and death pits, but almost an hour later? I finally emerged victorious. Stage 4 is an odd ball in that the first half is reletively breezy compared to Stage 3... but it's the latter half of Stage 4 that lives in infamy, as you fight... OHME! OH MY! This bastard comes right at the end of its own crucible of torment, as you're tasked to slide down an icicle river, followed by a downwards lift of evil. You're almost certainly going to be getting to him in your boxers as it's near impossible to not take at least one hit along the way. A frigging incubus in its purest sense. But still, I eventually won this war of attrition; and it was on to Stage 5. This is essentially a glorified boss rush, and it's naturally tough as nails. But nails are meant to be hammered, and finally the nail was struck! At last! It was done! I could finally res... You mother... Of course. You knew already that this was only the halfway point. But the weird thing about the GN'G games, is that the second loop always ends up being so much faster than the first. It's strange in that you can literally feel the muscle memory in your hands just kicking in as you charge right through the game on the second time around... and so it was. Even after being lumped with the mandatory Goddess Bracelet (which, despite its plot significance, is actually a pretty crummy weapon), I smashed through the game again in record time; and laid waste to Lucifer. True victory was mine! Or is it? Nah, actually it is the end. Great game then, great game now. While Super GN'G is still my favourite of the series, this one is still a great time and an arcade classic for a damn good reason; 8-way stick handicap be damned! Castlevania: Dracula X Keeping with the season of Xmas cheer, we have Castlevania: Dracula X. Richter's... debut game? Sort of? Even amongst the Castlevania series, Dracula X is a strange game. Hell, even before we get into the game itself, we have another example of a game that can't make up its bloody mind about what it wants to be called! We have Castlevania: Dracula X in the states, Akumajō Dracula XX (yes, double eccs!) in Japan and, for some bizzare reason, we got it as Castlevania: Vampire's Kiss here in blighty! How the hell did they manage to coax "Vampire's Kiss" out of that!? Dracula X isn't even in this release! Don't make it even more confusing! Anyway, Vampire's XXX is a kind of, sort of port/remake/reimagining/bastardisation of the original 1993 PC Engine CD game, Castlevania: Rondo of Blood. It purports to be a SNES remake of an awesome import game that we never got in the west, because the Turbografx CD was a dismal failure outside of Japan and Hudson/NEC decided that they didn't want to release their console's best games outside of Japan, because that would be the smart thing to do. So instead, Konami decided that they didn't want to let such a great game go to waste and tasked their best scientists to make the game work on the SNES... Choices were made, and the scientists didn't stop to ask if they should, because there was always one big insurmountable problem... WHY IT NO WORK!?!?!? The SNES CD addon had already been publically cancelled and abandoned well before Rondo of Blood had even released in Japan in October 1993, so this was an odd choice of console. They could've chose the SEGA CD, they could've chose the 3DO, they could've chose the PS1 or the Saturn; all of which sported CD drives. But instead, they chose to attempt to cram a 650MB CD game into a 2MB SNES cartridge (That's 16mbit, or SIXTEEN MEGA POWER, in old money). And to tell the truth, Konami were cheaping out here with the choice of cartridge, because 4MB/32mbit cartridges had started to become pretty common on the SNES by 1995; even lower-mid budget releases were starting to use 3MB/24mbit cartridges as standard as we came to the end of the console's life. This was pretty typical of Konami, as they were fairly notorious for cutting corners where they could (Sunset Riders on the MD being a pitiful 4mbit compared to the 8mbit of the SNES version being a prime example); and the cheapness continued here, because this game not only uses a pretty tinchy cartridge size for a SNES game in 1995, but it doesn't even come with battery backup SRAM, instead relying on old fashioned password saves (what is this? 1986!?). And no special chips either, in fact, this was a LOROM cartridge as well; meaning that the game couldn't even run at the SNES CPU's fastest clock speed. Konami chose the cheapest and nastiest cartridge that they could feasibly get away with. You might not think these technical details matter in this day and age, but back in the 16 bit era? Every single megabit counted. Developers were desperately fighting against the storage limitations of the cartridge format, and the quality of the game was often directly proportional to the amount of cartridge space that their publisher was willing to pay for. Unfortunately, this really shows in the final product... Poor Richter certainly has the odds stacked against him As far as we can tell (Konami were still forcing its developers to use psuedonyms for the most part), nobody who worked on Rondo of Blood was involved in the creation of Dracula X for SNES, instead, the team largely consisted of people who had previously worked on conversions of Konami's arcade games to the 16 bit consoles of the day; but who were all new to the Castlevania series. So while the team may initially seem green, they'd actually already cut their teeth on difficult downports in the past, in fact, some of them would actually go on to join Koji Igarashi's team later on and take up promenent positions on future Castlevania titles (most notably Hiroto Yamaguchi, who became a lead designer on games such as Aria of Sorrow and Portrait of Ruin). There was actually some pretty significant talent involved in Dracula X, and despite the bad hand that they'd been dealt? That talent actually does manage to shine through in many ways. First off. Dracula X is a very good looking game. While it of course, couldn't hope to match the animation frames seen in the original CD title, they managed to carry over many of the original sprites in fine form; and even bested the original Rondo of Blood when it came to special effects and such. The SNES was a more powerful console than the PC Engine after all, and the team behind Dracula X took good advantage of the SNES' graphical capabilities to pull off some really nice raster effects and some very colourful visuals that certainly outperformed the original game from a technical standpoint. She's a looker alright! And when it comes to the music? (A particular standout feature of the CD powered original), they actually did a surprisingly solid job here. While some conversions sound better than others, the soundtrack comes remarkably close to the original Redbook audio at times! That SPC700 certainly punches well above its weight here, and while all Castlevania music is great, I'm just gonna post a couple of highlights that I feel come really close to their source material... But the original Rondo of Blood didn't just use its CD format for fancy music and voice acted cutscenes (it did have that), it most notably used the unlimited power of the CD to introduce multi-tiered level design with extensive branching paths that would essentially lead you through different levels entierly, and sometimes even to secret exits and hidden boss encounters! In many ways, it is the bridge between the classic Action Game style of Castlevania and the Metroidvania style of game that the series would become (I mean... there's a reason why Symphony of the Night was a direct sequel to Rondo of Blood after all); and it is here where the SNES developers would have the biggest challenge. And this wasn't some sort of hidden thing that they could skirt around and pretend wasn't there in the original... Rondo's multi-tiered level design and gameplay setup was well known to the public even in 1995... to the point where it was even a back-of-the-box feature advertised for Dracula X! See! They did say that. So how could the designers possibly convert such a massive game to the humble cartridge format and retain the multi-tiered level design that made the original Rondo of Blood so beloved? Simple. They didn't. Instead, Dracula X completely redesigns the stages from scratch. They keep the same basic level themes and story in place, but they essentially made a completely original game that aimed to retain the flavour of Rondo. And to be fair, they did manage to retain some of the basic ideas seen in Rondo at least. There are two hidden stages that you can access. One is found by accidentally falling down a particular pit in Stage 3 (which forces you onto the path for the bad ending), while the other requires you to hold onto a key to go through a hidden exit in Stage 4. Otherwise though? Most of the cool multi-tiered level design is heavily stripped back in favour of a pretty streamlined and linear path; and there are definitely some very questionable choices with the level design and enemy placement in general. It's just nowhere near as tightly designed as seen in Rondo, or indeed many of the other entries in the series. With plenty of bullshit enemy placement that seems designed to frustrate the player and waste your time as you wait for enemies to just fucking move out of the way so you can jump! Oh? Speaking of jumping... The jump physics are also not as finely tuned as in Rondo, lacking the nuance to really allow for the tight platforming that game offered, and also lacking the tightness to make Dracula X feel fair. Artistically, the game also doesn't look as cohesive or detailed as its CD forebearer either; despite being more technically accomplished, the art ends up often looking drab and washed out. Oh, and the levels end up feeling overly long, as they lack the interesting setpieces and scripted moments that made Rondo so fun. In fact, the enemy variety is really quite poor compared to Rondo, as a huge chunk of that game's cast was just exorcised completely here; meaning that you spend much of the game fighting the same stock Skeletons, Bats and Spear Guards throughout the game's running time. Also, around 3/4 of Rondo's bosses were just removed outright, with all of the remaining ones being heavily redesigned and much less fun to fight here, though there are a few new bosses to make up for it. The game as a whole just feels somewhat sloppy to play as well as look at. It feels like the team really didn't quite understand the careful game design balance that makes the best Castlevanias shine, and though they made the best of a bad situation, I feel that the level design really could've been much better. But really. The sloppy design culminates most obviously in the game's final boss battle against Dracula. This game is infamous for having the most utterly BS, unfair final boss in the entire series; and the reason why becomes obvious the moment you look at it... When you can simply hear a game's level design shouting fuck you at the player One single hit? Yup, you're getting knockbacked into the death pit and you'll have to start all over. Someone at Konami really didn't want players to beat this game in a weekend rental, and it really really shows here. It's just awful. But you know what? I can respect Dracula X for what it is. Despite being a mere shadow of the real Rondo of Blood, it's still a generally enjoyable Castlevania in its own right that manages to impress in a number of ways. One can only wonder how much better it could've been if the developers were given a 32mbit/4MB cartridge to work with, affording them the space they really needed to better capture the multi-tiered level design of Rondo. But still, what they managed here is still impressive given the circumstances, and still worth playing. Just be prepared to deal with some sloppy level design and some BS unfair difficulty in places. Richter's battle is far from over... Castlevania: Rondo of Blood Hey! That's some familiar box art! Yes! It's time to play the REAL Rondo of Blood! And what a fucking game it is! I first played this masterpiece in 2010 when we finally got the first unmodified western release of this game on the Wii Virtual Console and I was just blown the fuck away. The music! The art! The god-like level design with masterfully crafted setpieces, multi-tiered stages, secret exits, secret stages, secret bosses, unlockable characters, pitch perfect pacing, awesome enemy/attack pattern design! This game has it all! To give you an idea of how much more intricate the level design is than seen in Dracula X... here's an overview that renders the game's stage layout in the style of its Metroidvania sequels... Choose your destiny You can really see how Rondo started to lean the series more in the direction as seen from Symphony of the Night onwards. But make no mistake, this game is not a Metroidvania title. This is classic Action Castlevania at its finest. Every single pixel is carefully placed to perfection, filled with tiny little interactions like how the skeletons burst from each individual window in the first stage, to the crumbling castle bridge that falls behind you in Stage 2, to the little frogs that jump around in the background (that can also land on the player) in Stage 4, or even the foreshadowing of enemies that you'll later fight when you look through the castle windows! Every stage is filled with so many tiny little touches that you could be mistaken for thinking that it's a Metal Gear game. The game always feels perfectly fair, with just the right level of challenge; enough to pose difficulty, but never so much as to piss you off. And it's always super satisfying when you do manage to complete each stage. Every stage also has multiple bosses you can fight, and they're all amongst the best in the series. The backflip move also kicks so much arse, allowing you to bypass foes and jump back away from danger in such a stylish fashion that it would make Bayonetta blush. MJ has nothing on Richter! Castlevania Rondo of Blood is the best Action Castlevania in the series. It's the apex of 16bit action platformers in general, and it's an absolute crime that it was never released outside of Japan in its time. It has literally everything you could possibly ask for in a 16bit action platformer. Just a pure masterclass in game design from start to finish. The team behind Rondo of Blood would eventually reform in 1996, and go on to take over the series proper from Symphony of the Night onwards. As such, Rondo is really the big inflection point that would go on to define the entire series onwards; and for damn good reason. It's simply a perfect game. Now, as alluded to before, this game did actually get another remake on the PSP in the confusingly titled Dracula X Chronicles, which also included a modified port of the original PC Engine Rondo of Blood (which itself was re-released in PSP emulated form on PS4 as "Castlevania Requiem"); but the Wii Virtual Console was the first time that we got the original version untouched here in the west. And frustratingly, since the Wii Shop Channel got shut down? Rondo has only ever gotten one other re-release; via the Turbografx 16 Mini. Thankfully, that version is absolutely perfect, so it makes for an excellent way to play this stunner. Go get it right now! You won't regret it! And that's the end of 2023! You can now go back to the 2024 Gaming Diary thread in peace.
  2. Same energy Geoff is such a cunt. Hope he gets told to Please Wrap It Up himself this year.
  3. Favourite Games of 2023

    I like that description of Captain Toad as a modern Black Box NES game. A simple game focused on a couple of base mechanics done really well. Good way of summing that game up
  4. General Retro Discussion

    If that's the case... then joke's on them because there are far better and more convinient ways to pirate PS1 games these days, even when using real hardware But yeah, pretty crazy that Argonaut got away with shipping that on a retail disc! Makes you wonder how many of these soft-mod exploits found on retail games weren't put in on purpose by disgruntled devs...
  5. Always blows my mind to think that the music was composed by a guy who had never made music before (Dan Hess). He only has one other credit to his name (1998's F-1 World Grand Prix for the N64; also developed by Paradigm Simulation). What a waste of talent! He made an absolute banger of a soundtrack here, and basically never composed again afterwards; what a shame! Here's a couple of choice cuts...
  6. General Switch Discussion

    Switch 2 is finally coming out this year! I can feel it! Yup! Definitely this time!
  7. General Retro Discussion

    Oh sweet! Did you get the dock with it as well? Has been my favourite piece of hardware I've gotten this year, just an utterly lovely piece of kit! And yeah, this has been my favourite thread this year. We've just had so much great stuff come out, but the biggest thing for me has to be Tim Stamper's prototype cockteasing. We get that Zelda Spaceworld overdump come out and then here comes Tim, just casually flexing how he has the actual Zelda 1997 Spaceworld cart; alongside Project Dream on N64 and loads of other stuff like a prototype Mario 64. Fantastic
  8. General Retro Discussion

    That reminds me... pour one out for N1 Games. My last local indie brick & mortar games store, which was sadly taken from us in 2023. I'm glad your local joint is still alive & kicking @S.C.G, may it live long and prosper!
  9. Switch eShop Thread

    That's super cool. Great to see the original Xanadu make its way to Switch! What I really want to see though is a Switch port of Super Mario Bros Special. I've always wanted to play it, even though... no, especially because it's total garbo! It's entierly possible! Project EGG consists of games from the PC8801, and that's the computer where SMBS originates from. And Nintendo have licensed out their games before to Hamster for inclusion in the Arcade Archives series... so there IS precedent in place!
  10. General Switch Discussion

    I'm not the biggest fan of Nintendo Life's editorial content, but honestly? I have to agree on this occassion... https://www.nintendolife.com/features/soapbox-switch-is-only-a-classic-or-two-from-being-the-perfect-playstation-history-lesson Switch has really become dangerously close to being the best Playstation console at this point. It does really now have almost all of the major heavy hitting franchise entries of the PS1 and PS2 eras. Devil May Cry 1-3? Check Final Fantasy 7-12? Check Crash Bandicoot 1-3 and Spyro 1-3? Yup Metal Gear Solid 1-3? Yup, that's a survellance camera. You even have almost every major S-E PS1 RPG now. You're only really missing Xenogears, Valkyrie Profile, Vagrant Story, Dragon Quest 7 (available on 3DS) and Threads of Fate. PS2 isn't far behind either, the only real major S-E games missing now are Star Ocean 3, Dragon Quest 8 (available on 3DS), Valkyrie Profile 2 and Kingdom Hearts 1/2/COM (No, the cloud versions don't count). Switch has really become a crash course in Playstation history. It's really shocking that all of these once Playstation titans are now readily available on a Nintendo system. What major Playstation staples are left now? The big holdouts for me are Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (and I suppose Castlevania Chronicles as well), Silent Hill 1-3 and the Ridge Racer/Tekken/Soul Calibur titles (But you know... that would require Harada/Namco to play ball with Nintendo and that's not gonna happen...). We're getting pretty close to the point now where the only major heavy hitting PS1/PS2 exclusives still only available on a Sony console will be their first party titles.
  11. Plagiarism on the Youtube

    No court proceedings at this point, but him and his family's charity have been reported to the IRS in America, so hopefully they do the audit and come down on him like a ton of bricks. His family have also since donated $600,000 of the charity's money to the AFTD foundation after he got caught (which still doesn't account for all of the money raised, there's still a good $200,000+ completely unaccounted for). Either way, his career is done though. Nobody would want to go near him with a 40 foot pole at this point.
  12. Plagiarism on the Youtube

    Yeah, saw this around a week ago or so... it's a brilliant video and it's shocking in how brazen the plagerism really is. Very disappointing to see James Rolfe also allow it to happen on his channel. Cinemassacre really hasn't been the same since he brought on the screenwave guys, and it's a real shame. At some point, his channel became a job and you can really tell which videos he had no passion for. But honestly? This is just the tip of the iceburg with how much shit goes on with Youtube... I didn't really want to make a thread about it on here, but I've been following what's been happening with The Completionist and all of the scandelous revelations going on with how he stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from charity. Has been hugely entertaining and massively shocking; he's utter scum and filth.
  13. Your Gaming Diary 2023

    Thank you. Now you finally understand why I hate Chrono Cross (and Chrono Trigger DS) so much. Fuck that game, and fuck Masato Kato; the hack writer responsible for this trash! I didn't even know about that Chrono Compendium article prior to watching @Glen-i play through Chrono Cross. That article is incredibly cathartic and hilarious, because I remember my kid-self trudging through all of that site when I first played CC back in like 2005-2006 or so? (Not long after I played through CT for the first time in around 2004 ish), and desperately trying to make any sort of sense I could out of its plot. It's so significant because Chrono Compendium were the biggest defenders of Chrono Cross and its story on the internet... so seeing them now completely disavow CC, following the release of the Radical Dreamers edition and that new 2022 Masato Kato interview is the most utterly hilarious thing imaginable to my childhood self! Ahh... catharsis Radical Dreamers is still rad though. And Chrono Trigger is still the best RPG ever made, screw Chrono Cross!
  14. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Online Thread

    That ice Baby Face stage is amazing @RedShell! Once again, you never fail to disappoint!
  15. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Online Thread

    Room is now open!
  16. Aww yeah! The BEST Duel Mode board! The mindgames gonna be sick yo!
  17. To be fair, @S.C.G was the one who truly got done dirty during this game. He really should’ve won
  18. If you’re not using original hardware for this venture (be it via an Everdrive or original carts), I hope you’re at least using an official N64 controller (Switch or OG N64). So many N64 games are built around the eccentricities of that controller’s design that playing with any other controller would be doing a disservice to many of the games in the N64’s library (Sin & Punishment and Jet Force Gemini immediately spring to mind). But yeah, Mario 64 good! So good that it basically had to carry the console by itself for almost 3 months post launch!
  19. PC Gaming Discussion

    Never said it was. I like how brazen it is with its idea theft actually
  20. PC Gaming Discussion

    Gee! Wonder where that game got its inspiration from…
  21. Xbox Series S | X Console Discussion

    Games for modern systems price collapse at retail so quickly that it’s often not even worth looking at second hand prices. That plus the rise of digital also encourages thrifty laggards to pick up games at regular 80% off prices on their respective stores. Most publishers not called Nintendo have successfully devalued their games and have trained people to just wait for heavy discounts. Case in point? Compare Mario + Rabbids (and its sequel) to literally any other Mario game on Switch. The difference in average selling prices is staggering (and indeed, it’s the biggest reason why I did not buy it right when it first came out, and instead chose to wait). Meanwhile, retro games are just continuing to appreciate in value. Probably because for the most part, they’re just better games than the slop that gets put out by the traditional side of the industry these days.
  22. Xbox Series S | X Console Discussion

    Sadly that’s the state of modern gaming. Your physical discs are basically just glorified unlock keys and will eventually become coasters when all the online servers get shut off. At least Nintendo are good about doing reprints of all their games with their respective updates being placed on the carts. They’re pretty much the only publisher that regularly does this though sadly.
  23. Sounds to me like Julius has been playing too much of Virtue’s Last Reward and Zero Time Dilemma
  24. General Retro Discussion

    Well I guess they met the target of “before Xmas” in the end The Pocket auto updater is also apparently adding support for custom palettes and such as well. Nice.
  25. Playstation 5 Console Discussion

    https://comicbook.com/gaming/amp/news/god-of-war-games-ps5-remaster-release-rumor/ Hope this is true. I have no interest in the reboot GOW games, but the original trilogy? Yes please!
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