Some Castlevania Wall Art

It’s been a while since I made the Mega Man Wall art, but I’ve been meaning to make more and I have a few different sets of Nintendo games just begging to be made into art. I had decided to go with Castlevania since before the new Season of the Netflix show came out. Then I busied myself with buying a shadow box, background cloth, and glue. There were a couple failed attempts to assemble this and, of course, some procrastination in between.

For the first attempt, I had a nice shiny piece of gray cloth for the background. However, this cloth was either too thin or Elmer’s glue was the wrong glue for the job, because where the glue touched the fabric it went dark. So, this fabric was scrapped as was the glue. I found some thicker gray fabric and glue sticks for round two. I don’t remember specifically what went wrong here. Pretty sure in Round two I forgot to bring some of the supplies. I don’t own an iron to smooth the cloth before it’s glued down, so I’ve been seeking to work on this with the help of others and particularly use of their iron and ironing board. (Thanks if you’re reading this)

For Round Three I partnered up with a different friend and their iron. This time we bungled the position of the game cartridges. Particularly, the middle game is up a bit from the others. This “mistake” I decided to keep. Simon’s Quest was my favorite of these three games and we still have symmetry.

For those who are unfamiliar, Castlevania is about Dracula. Once every one hundred years his castle, named Castlevania, appears in the Transylvania countryside full of Halloween themed monsters(the Mummy, Frankenstein’s monster, Medusa, the Grim Reaper, etc), ready to unleash evil into the world. However, the Belmont family has made it their work to hunt vampires, and they return time and again to battle Dracula. Simon Belmont is the hero of the first two games, Castlevania and Simon’s Quest. Simon defeats Dracula in Castlevania, but then five years later he discovered that there was a curse left on the country. Simon’s Quest has him gather up relics to resurrect and defeat Dracula once more in such a way to lift the curse. While the Castlevania I and III follow your normal platformer gameplay which you are familiar with if you’ve played most any Mario game, Castlevania II helped pioneer a type of gameplay eventually known as Metroidvania. In this style more of the game is opened by gaining more items that open access to new areas and involves backtracking through other areas sometimes. Then finally, Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse was actually a prequel set 200 years previous. The hero is a great great grandfather of Simon named Trevor Belmont, who is also the first Belmont to defeat Dracula. This game allowed you to switch to one of three companions that traveled with Trevor, Alucard, Sypha, or Grant, each with neat unique abilities like climbing walls or magic. Netflix has released a pretty badass Castlevania series based mostly on this game.

Super Castlevania IV

Super Castlevania box art

I fell into a bit of a Castlevania rabbithole with the release of the Netflix show. Read Wikipedia articles about it. Listened to music from the games. Sometimes listened to Orchestra renditions of the music, or sometimes metal renditions. Then on a day off from work, uncertain with how to spend my day, I saw my Super NES Classic and remembered I’d always liked Super Castlevania IV, but never beat the game. So, it was about time.

This game is a retelling of the original game for the NES featuring Simon Belmont, but for the Super Nintendo.  Basically, Dracula has a magical castle full of all the monsters you might find in a horror movie which appears every 100 years, and every time a member of the Belmont clan rises to the challenge of defeating Dracula and saving the rest of us. The SNES Classic having a save state system definitely helped in me seeing this to the end. The Super Nintendo version had a password system, but it was cumbersome and I’m too lazy for that!

One of my favorite pieces of Castlevania music, “The Theme of Simon,” comes from this game:

Found throwbacks to other favorites in later levels than I’d ever made it to. The song from the original Castlevania, “Vampire Killer”:

And, “Bloody Tears,” from Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest:

 

The song from Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, “Beginning” was found in Level B-2 while climbing some hellishly annoying stairs that fall away while climbing them:

I was also interested to run into Gaibon and Slogra. These two appear together as the first boss in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night(the game that made me love this franchise). It never occurred to me that they might appear previously, but then I ran into them in this game. They appear separately, but back to back near the end of the game. This was a nice surprise for me.

Took a couple sittings and about 8 hours of gameplay to beat the game. In the final fight with Dracula when he’s low on health the music switches to “the Theme of Simon” again, which I thought was a pretty bad-ass touch. The ending of classic platformers usually aren’t anything special, maybe just a slideshow of images from the game while rolling credits. As it is, I don’t actually remember the ending, but I’m glad I finally beat this one.

Storytelling Legend Stan Lee has died

A master storyteller named Stan Lee died this week. If you are somehow unfamiliar, Stan Lee is responsible for making Spider-man, the Fantastic Four, the X-men, and the Avengers comic books series, to name a few. With comic books being popular fare to translate to film, Stan Lee grabs Legendary status by making cameos in most of these movies. Going to these movies I am usually hyped for how the cameo is going to work it’s way in. But, sadly he died Monday November 12, 2018.

I learned of Stan Lee in 1992 because of a Pizza Hut special. It was some sort of kid’s meal special which came with a VHS tape of an episode or two from the upcoming X-men Cartoon series. There was an introduction featuring four of the creative forces behind the X-Men which included Stan Lee. They talked briefly about how the story began. Soon afterward this was a staple of my Saturday morning cartoon routine. Most of the other shows I watched weren’t serial, and I liked the change. I bought stacks of blank VHS tapes and would record the episodes in order. I even programmed the VCR to record it, in case I slept in or had something else going on a given Saturday.

Knowing that it was from a comic book series, I started collecting those too. I mostly had X-men books. I had a couple Ironman and War Machine, as they looked cool, but didn’t manage to do much for me then. I have the Avengers episode where the X-men Rogue was introduced. Had some Spider-man books too. I found though that Comic books were an expensive habit to maintain as a teenager. I mean, I had Magic the Gathering cards and Video Games to buy also. Some months this was a difficult choice to make.

Stan Lee next made an appearance in the 1995 movie Mallrats as himself appealing to Brodie to not let the right girl get away by means of a Spider-man parable. He identifies himself and his work in the movie, but I also recognized him from the X-men tape I had. His growing presence in movies is the beginning of what in my opinion took Stan from being just a Storyteller to a Legend.

The comic book boom of the 90’s did a lot to expand the storylines and the publication rate, but then the bubble popped. Marvel was on the verge of bankruptcy, so they sold the movie rights to some of their bigger franchises, including Spider-man, the X-men, the Hulk, and the Fantastic Four. Stan made cameos. This made him iconic. His signature smiley enthusiastic presence is priceless.

In 2008, I went to see Iron Man. While I knew of the character and the Avengers, I hadn’t read many of the comic books. Tony Stark sounded a lot like Bruce Wayne but more of a playboy and less of a ninja. This sounded fun. Robert Downey Junior had been in some good movies, and had a personal history that could lend itself to the role. So, I went went and had a blast. Movies with the after credits easter egg weren’t common at the time, but happened enough that I’d wait just in case. “I’m here to talk to you about the Avengers Initiative,” blew my mind.

I had no idea what had begun. The idea of a movie networking out in others is something I’ve always been fascinated with. From Alfred Hitchcock making cameos in his films to Kevin Smith having his movies cross reference each other, or even Star Wars starting with Chapter Four, this is a storytelling trope I always want more of. Then Stan Lee brought us the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After Iron Man, I read about what Marvel had planned to do. This might be where I start considering myself a Fanboy. Marvel had given interviews where they expressed that they wanted to do an Avengers movie, but only if they could devote a movie to each of the heroes first. That sentiment evolved along the way with Black Widow and Hawkeye appearing in Iron Man 2 and Thor, rather than getting their own movies. Also, Ant-man and the Wasp were original members of the Avengers in the comic books, but didn’t appear until later. Movies like Thor, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Doctor Strange might not have been obviously linked to people unfamiliar with the books. Finally with Avengers: Infinity Gauntlet all the stories are tied together. Stan Lee appears in all of them, and I read he’s filmed the cameos for the next three which thankfully includes Avengers: Annihilation, the fourth team franchise movie, which as far I know completes the story arc they have been building the last 10 years. I’m not sad that Stan Lee has passed. He died at 95 years old, and with the way the movies were going it was obvious that they’ll continue making movies for much longer. I’m glad he made it as far as he did, and I’m excited to see how the last three cameos go. I’d love to see a cameo where he breaks the fourth wall from beyond the grave because they anticipated it and had a Farewell cameo on ice, in case the inevitable happened.

For preference, I wish that Stan Lee had made it just a little longer, so he could have been there for the release of this next Avengers movie which completes the major story arc of the last ten years of movies. Still, he lived long enough to see his lifes work be embrassed by the masses, not just the comic book reading masses, but the movie going, general public masses, worldwide. Thanks for everything, Stan Lee. Excelsior!

Castlevania on Netflix

Every hundred years the Castle of Dracula appears to terrorize the European countryside, except there is always also a member of the Belmont clan to oppose it. This is the story of Castlevania, and it has been the subject of some really awesome video games over the last 30 years. Then last year, Netflix adapted it into a pretty awesome Anime. Then Season 2 just dropped last month, which was even better. Unlike most other video game adaptations I can think of, this one is extremely bloody and full of swearing. Thank you Netflix for understanding your audience.

Not sure if this is needed since it’s based a 30 year old video game, but there may be some SPOILERS below. You have been warned.

The Netflix show tells the story of Trevor Belmont, the last of a family of vampire hunters. His family’s greatness has been squandered and Trevor is nothing more than a wandering drunk. Around the same time, the church burned a medicine woman at the stake wrongfully for practicing witchcraft unaware that she was also the love of the immortal Count Vlad Tepes Dracula. He was away at the time of the execution and upon his return swears to exterminate human kind by unleashing hordes of monsters. Thus Trevor Belmont’s quest begins. On the path to Dracula’s Castle Trevor joins forces with a gypsy mage, Sypha Belnades, and the half human, half vampire Alucard, son of Dracula. The story is borrowed from 1989’s Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, but also 2005’s Castlevania: Curse of Darkness. From the games, Trevor should have had one more companion, the thief Grant, but he did not make it into this adaptation. A third season is on the way, but I doubt he’ll make an appearance there.

A problem I had with the first season, is that the games brought us a lot of awesome soundtracks and the show made no use of it. Thankfully, Season 2 incorporates Bloody Tears in a fight sequence. This song is from a game set 200 years after this one, but it doesn’t matter, I’ll take it. It came in a scene that had already hyped me up, but then cranked it to 11 by throwing in some nerd nostalgia.

The game developer who brought us Castlevania, Konami, has boarded up their video game production and have been seeking other ways of monetizing their Intellectual Properties. They have some other franchises that I would love see translated to Anime like Suikoden, Contra, or Metal Gear. Season 3 of Castlevania has been green lit at least and there are rumors that Nintendo may do the say with one of its IPs, the Legend of Zelda.

Team Identity Contest

Periodically at work, there are competitions where each team decorates their cubical area by their Team Identity. My team is the Lenz of Truth, which is a Legend of Zelda reference, so we decided to go for a retro-gaming aesthetic. I’ve always wanted to participate in some post-it pixel art and our Team sits by the windows.

Here is a panoramic view of our windows. Below are the images going left to right.

Read the rest of this entry »

Mega Man 2 Speed Run

I sit down and play through Mega Man 2 regularly. It’s less of a commitment than playing Skyrim or Pokemon. So, I decided to do a Speed run. Before I started I would have guessed I could knock out a level in about 2 minutes. With 14 levels I should be able to clear the game in about 30 minutes. I wasn’t too far off.

The 8 Master Robots I can clear in just under 20 minutes, averaging 2.5 minutes per stage. I was pleased to find that my quickest level is Quick Mans stage at 2’07” 🙂 I made it through Dr. Wily’s Castle in about 15 minutes. The total clear time was: 34′ 48″ 17

Classic Comfort

Facebook knows me well, apparently. Only $5 per each cover, so naturally I had to have the set. But, Facebook doesn’t have the clearest of memories, as it keeps suggesting these pillow covers to me. Either way, my living room has comfort with Classic taste now.

nintendo-pillows

Now, it would be nice to find the Super Nintendo equivalent pillow cases for my other couch.

Mega Man made my childhood awesome

 

MegaMan 2 Stage Select

Mega Man 2 is generally regarded as the best

Mega Man was one of the first video game franchises I fell in love with.  In Mega Man, you are fighting against the evil Dr. Wily who has programmed eight Master Robots to do his bidding. Each robot has some sort of elemental power and a level that is themed the same. Mega Man is a Jack of all Trades and gains the power of the Master Robots he’s defeated. Depending on how you have powered up a levels difficulty can change. There is a Paper-Rock-Scissors strategy of sorts in choosing the order of going against the bosses. Bubble Man’s power is super effective against Heat Man, because water beats fire. Similarly, Heat Man’s is good against Wood Man. Metal Man can throw metal saw blades in any direction and all the way across the screen. This is useful against almost everything. If God played Mega Man, he’d use the metal blade. Some of the correlations are silly or obscure. Flash Man’s power stops time briefly which is effective against Quick Man, because not moving when you’re so quick is painful? Weirder ones emerge further into the series. Once you make your way through the Eight bosses, you then gain access to the final levels which is Dr. Wily’s castle. It’s a legit game formula.

In 1988, open world games weren’t a thing. There was no Skyrim. There were no Massively Multiplayer Online games. Final Fantasy wasn’t yet a  thing. Dragon Warrior might have been out, but hadn’t crossed my path yet. The agency in choosing the order I played through these games was amazing. Playing one of these games for the first time, you may have to try several levels before you find that boss you can beat with your regular weapon. Then later you come back powered up and roll right through a level that had been difficult until you beat the right boss. While these games really belong in their 8-bit glory, part of me would like to see a game like this but with the open world, Skyrim sort of treatment.

Mega Man Shadow box

A few years ago, I took the original six Nintendo cartridges I played Mega Man on, and put together this shadow box which hangs in my living room. I have some of the games loaded to the virtual console of my Nintendo 3DS and play them from time to time. And today, I have added some vinyl figurines to my cubicle at work. Keeping childhood alive.

Mega Man Pop Figures

Pokemon Go isn’t Going

The long wait is over. Pokemon Go is here! Knowing that some sort of monetization scheme laid in wait, as this is a free game for the mobile platform, I have been able to avoid getting too hyped for this game. Nonetheless, when July 6th got here and rumors were flying about Pokemon Go’s imminent release, I got excited. Making Pokemon easier to access with less investment in time and money to play will only give me more people to play with, right? Where could Go go wrong?

pokemongo

So, when you begin Pokemon Go, you are given a choice of Starter Pokemon: Bulbasaur, Charmander, or Squirtle. I choose Charmander and the game promptly freezes. I restart the game but cannot reauthenticate to the servers. I’m not getting an username or password error, but instead it seems like the authentications server just doesn’t answer. And, this went on for days. Apparently, I’m not the only one suffering. Lots of people I’ve spoken have had this same problem. The Chief Technical Officer of Amazon also blogged about having this issue too.

When you fail, fail big.

When you fail, fail big.

Eventually, Pokemon Go let me on to play some. Augmented Reality is pretty rad. Immersion is a key factor in a game, at least according to every single research project I did in Grade School regarding Game Design. It’s true though. Usually this is implemented in games like WoW or Animal Crossing where you are immersed by collecting things and completing simple tasks relentlessly. But integrating into reality and just having Poke-Stops and Gyms littered everywhere you go is evidently super effective immersion to have people cracked-out, dialed entirely out of reality, and into their phones. Some dude in New Zealand even quit his job to play 24/7. There are better games to dedicate your life to, if that is something you’re inclined to do.

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My hope with this game was that the investment to get started would be minimized, which it has. It doesn’t require the purchase of a 3DS. Phones aren’t cheap but most people have one that will run this game. Also, the time investment was eliminated. Don’t need to spend 40 hours battling gyms and elite four to get to be at a point where battling is optimized. However, now that we’re past that initial investment, where is the game? The core game elements that Pokemon has been built on for the last 20 years are largely missing. There is no trading, no customization of your pokemon, and no player-vs-player battling. Not sure there is enough gameplay for me here. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind a little grind. (Probably from having played so many Dragon Warrior games.) But the collection grind is all this game really has.

Did anyone else expect more out of Pokemon Go?

Gotta Catch ’em All!! (again)

All together, so far, there are 720 Pokemon. I have caught them all. The 720 includes different evolutionary levels on Pokemon. So, you take a Charmander and level him up. Along the way he will become Charmeleon and then eventually Charizard. Ostensibly, one creature as counted as being 3. Consequently, you could “Catch ’em All” but be left with something like 300 or 400 Pokemon when you were done, assuming you only had one of each evolutionary path. Owing to this fact and considering that once you’ve done the task of catching them all, you don’t want to lose the metaphorical merit badge. So, I went back and made sure I one of every instance of Pokemon. This also has the benefit that when it’s time to make some new Pokemon, I just pull from storage and breed up a new one for the new use I’ve determined. Easy as Pokemon pie.

Pokémon_Gotta_Catch_'Em_All

There is one problem I have found. There are some game mechanics that determine the potency of your Pokemon. Not going to dive into that Rabbit hole here, but you can have two Pikachu on the same level and one will be faster or stronger than the other. The problem is, I didn’t understand any of how that worked when I made my collection. As I started this Pokemon endeavor in HeartGold, Hidden Abilities weren’t yet a thing either. Pokemon with Hidden Abilities can breed Pokemon without them, but Pokemon without them will not breed one with. So, my mission is now to catch ’em all again. This time putting in the extra effort to have them as optimal as possible.

charlesdarwinmeetscockfighting

Better Pokemon Eugenics equals better Pokemon cock fighting.

The first time I collect them while  playing.. curious how long it will take to go back through all this, just collecting.