Archive for November, 2018

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.