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Pixielated's blog

Attacking the backlog!
8:13 PM on 05.22.2014
Because Reasons: Pixie's Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne Tips.
11:08 PM on 05.06.2014
Ten things and stuff about a pixie.
10:26 PM on 05.03.2014
Even in my kitchen there's an F.O.E!
12:04 PM on 04.16.2014
Setting booty traps! Or why The Goonies II is due a remake.
5:24 PM on 04.07.2014
Should Castlevania praise the sun?
9:36 PM on 04.03.2014





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About
I'm 30-something. I play games and sometimes type things. I summon deities and demons, shoot raiders and wish to settle down with another girl for turn-based battles on the beach, chocobo rides and torchlit dinners in ancient Nordic tombs or mysterious castles that appear at night.

When I'm not slaying dragons or saving the galaxy, I'm probably roaming the open world, rolling into a ball to access secret passages and seeing if my Paragon rating is high enough for discounts at the mall.



For other things and stuff about me you can read here, here and here. You will learn of my origins, my trials and tribulations, how I became a superpixie and what games I really, really like!

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Pixielated
8:13 PM on 05.22.2014

So far my gaming year has been this:



Lots of Metroidvania, some NES games and two RPGs. I just finished up The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds last week and I'm now poking at a few unfinished things in there and Bravely Default as I work through the Chaos path and Fiend hunting †in Shin Megami Tensei IV. SMT IV replays are a recurring thing since the demon compendium is so vast, I still have lots of demons/costumes to collect and it has four endings.

I did get the worst ending today just to see it, but I reverted my save and I'm now locked into the Chaos path because I'd rather max the compendium than have the worst and abrubt ending flagged on my file. Still, after this I will have seen all the endings!

After I do all I care to do with those games, its on to other unfinished business, the priority games are pictured here:



Its unsurprisingly Atlus-focused and RPG-heavy. I've procrastinated on some of them for years, even as much as I like SMT and Etrian Odyssey.†

I'll have to mix in some other various titles to shake things up, I've got 100+ games between Nintendo eShop, PSN and Steam, though, so I'm sure I can find something. I have stuff like Bastion, Cave Story, Legend of Grimrock and Crimson Shroud I've also been holding back on. Just got 3D Classics: Kirby's Adventure the other week as a Club Nintendo freebie, too.

The pictured games I'm giving priority simply because its time. Its a pretty dry year for RPGs so I may as well make do with what isn't done. As much as I love SMT, I've just never gotten around to the older main games and spin-offs. I've also been sitting on Strange Journey since I bought it at launch. Sometimes even my favorite franchises are put on hold. I did wait about three or four years after MGS4 and Metroid Prime 3 launched to play them. I didn't get around to SMT III: Nocturne until 2008 and Digital Devil Saga until 2009.

I won't allow myself to play Persona Q until I've finished Etrian Odyssey Untold. I've bought five EO games now and not finished one of them. Given PQ is based heavily upon EO, I'll feel like I'm cheating if I play PQ first. Plus I'm going to play on Classic Mode, because Story Mode feels like its just cheating the intended experience. I'll save the story for a replay.



The Zelda Oracle games i originally bought on Game Boy Color and for whatever reason I never got deep into them. Link's Awakening is one of my favorite Zeldas but maybe these two got lost in the mix - probably because I also was juggling a PS2, GameCube, Xbox, N64 and Dreamcast at the time. Those on top of my Pokemon and Phantasy Star Online obsession back then.

If I get those two done, though, the only Zelda game I'll have never finished is Phantom Hourglass - and really, fuck that game and its resetting hub dungeon. Spirit Tracks was way better - even with all that flute blowing bullshit in it. Zelda as a ghostly sidekick also made it more awesome.

I guess with all that said, its just a matter of deciding which game to do first! I'm open to suggestions, I suppose.








So Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne has arrived on the US PSN store, which means PS3 can finally play one of the finest and unique RPGs ever made! It also gives me an excuse to talk about the game again!

I've written a bit on Nocturne in the past, but I don't really think I've offered much in the way of tips for series beginners. Given this game is a slight departure from other main series entries, players versed on SMT Strange Journey and SMT IV might feel a little lost here as well.

Nocturne is certainly to SMT what Majora's Mask is the The Legend of Zelda. Main series SMT has you start with two male friends, a gal pal and then the apocalypse happens. The world is changed, people have different ideas of how to proceed and clearly those two dudes are going to lock horns as time goes on and the girl is pretty neutral. You, the protagonist and prophesied Messiah will either choose between your friends or the girl and neutrality.†

Either way you cut it, though, you are not in for a feel-good, breezy Persona 4 happy fun time here. You will not kill time with your friends. Nope, in time you will kill your friends. Or at least the ones you don't agree with because, hey, politics and religion and all that good stuff.



So that's how SMT usually rolls, that's the three mystical doodads you collect to get its Master Sword. Nocturne comes in and is all "Screw saving princesses, fighting Ganon and saving Hyrule, I wanna be different!" And so, it tosses out the Law alignment, discards the cyberpunk aspect of the series and fucks over Tokyo in a new apocalyptic way called The Conception. Then it institutes a multiverse and you get to traverse a new hellscape called the Vortex World.†

One moment you were just talking to your homeroom teacher on the roof of the hospital and now the world is dead and demons are bickering over what's left.†

A blonde kid shows up to feed your delirious self a weird worm-bug thing. It makes you a demon. Also, some old man hired Dante, the Son of Sparda, to kill you - and you didn't even do anything to deserve that yet! To top it off some weird rock in the sky is telling you go collect some stuff called Magutsuchi and bring it to him so you can change the world. Well, it tells everyone that, but you're the protagonist and prophesied Demi-Fiend so you really have to do it.†



Later you run into your surviving classmates, your homeroom teacher and the guy that talked her into helping end the world. Yeah, your teacher did that shit. She thought ending the world was a good idea at the time, but now she's got regrets and stuff. Poor Teach.

Turns out everyone wants you dead but her, though.

What to do? Brave the Vortex World, unravel the mystery and collect some Magatsuhi to give that weird space rock after you've decided between your classmate's ideals of taking Darwinism too far or developing a really emo version of Mormon Cosmology. That other guy? He wants a "world of stillness" a world of harmony and order and he'll KILL ANYONE THAT STANDS IN HIS WAY. He's very Crusades/Al'Qaeda about it. Teach just wants the world back the way it was.

These alignments are called Reasons, by the way. You must have a Reason to change the world, it seems. That's what Kagutsuchi the space rock wants - Magatsuhi because of Reasons.†

Of course, then there's this old man and his nurse. He wants a piece of that action, too. He thinks you're his man and wants you to explore his labyrinth to see if you're up for the job he'd have for you. His nurse promises you knowledge and details of how this world came to be if you do so. Also some skeleton jerks known as Fiends have stolen all his candelabrum. He'd like those back. Small favors, right?

Do you go with your classmates? Teach? That guy that wants stillness? The old man? Maybe say to hell with it all? They're all valid options. You're gonna have to pal up with some demons to get there and that's where a pixie (and promised advice) comes in.

The Pixie, The Cathedral of Shadows and the Compendium

Pixie's going to be your first friend, you may want to keep her around, too. Don't dismiss this girl, she may not look like much now but later on she could be one of your best allies. Or really good sacrificial fusion fodder, at least. For now, she's your first comrade in arms - all three inches of her.



When the Cathedral of Shadows opens up its Fusion services, you will be able to create newer, stronger allies with more skills by fusing two older demons together. If you have played more contemporary SMT titles, this process is going to feel rough around the edges because won't let you pick what skills demons inherit like later entries did. You're going to see a lot of canceling out of the fusion process and restarting it until you see a preview of the desired results you want. Then you will confirm and pray there isn't a fusion accident.

If you choose to fuse away Pixie, know she's still there in your brand new, shiny demon. The demon that inherits her "DNA" will rise to the top of the fusion list every time you visit the Cathedral, so make a note of their name and don't dismiss them to make room for demons you invite to join you. Keep that demon. There's a reason for that tied to another tip I'll issue later.



Also, the Cathedral has a demon compendium from which you can record the kinds of demons you've had in your party and what level and skills they had at the time. If you feel like you want them around or need them again for fusion ingredients, you pay the man at the Cathedral to summon you a new one. But again, that pixie was one of a kind, any copies you call on won't replace her or earn the payoff for keeping tabs on her.

Negotiations and leveling up demons

In some games, you recruit new allies by throwing a ball at them or sucking them into a little tube. In Nocturne and most SMT games, you talk to demons. They're a fickle bunch, to be honest, but you have to take help where you can get it.†

Some want to know your opinions on things and others want money and items. They may disagree with your opinions and run away with what you gave them but that's life. You can't even expect one Jack Frost to think like the next Jack Frost you meet. One may say †"You're awesome, ho!" and the next might think you suck, ho.

Sometimes you'll have a demon that just wants to join up because they think you're awesome. Other demons may just be tired of you beating their face in and join because they want to live. Others that wanted stuff may give you other stuff in exchange - or just ask for something and give it back because they just wanted to look at it. They're weird like that at times.

But useful if they're on your side. I don't need to labor the obvious here, they learn skills as they level up - skills that can be passed on to other demons in fusion. They also have various strengths/weaknesses, active and passive skills that you should keep in mind.

Say a demon is weak to force attacks, but another has a learned skill that makes her impervious to force damage. It is possible to create a new demon no longer damaged by wind attacks. This is good because enemies that have their wind attacks nulled, absorbed or reflected back at them will lose combat turns. Fuse your demons wisely and they'll shine in battle.

Some demons may also have passive immunity to fire that's just innate and not a skill. Good info to know when building your party for a fight.

The Demi-Fiend and Magatama

Well, aren't you a special snowflake? Half human, half demon. Eatin' weird worm bugs to learn skills and magic. You're the prophesied Demi-Fiend!

You're almost like the other demons. You have eight slots for skills to fill them and once you forget them, they're gone forever (so don't go tossing skills all willy-nilly, silly}. I guess that makes you like a pokemon in that way, too. Go on, say your own name! That's what pokemon do, right?



Anyway, Magatama are the weird things Demi-Fiend swallows to learn demon skills and gain passive traits like, say, force resistance and stat boosts. There are lots of these Magatama all over the world and you'll collect them as you explore it. You're free to learn the skills the you want and keep the ones you like. I'll leave a link to all of them here (its also handy for knowing some of the things you'll get out of fusion).

The skills you're really going to want to look out for are Focus, Pierce and Frikugel. Focus to boost physical attacks, Pierce to ignore defense and Frikugel because its a special Almighty damage attack that can be buffed like a physical attack. I think you can see where this is going. Its good stuff. Not gonna tell you how to get any of it, but just keep your eyes peeled and keep those once you get them.

Scanning and The Press Turn System

Use Scan to learn the weaknesses of your enemies, be it by your default skill, a demon's skill if you chose to forget it (which is fine, actually) or the Spyglass item you find later on in the game.†

Knowing enemy weaknesses, covering the Demi-Fiend's weaknesses with passive traits granted by Magatama and your demon's weaknesses with good fusions (or just a good eye for demons) is going to help big here. Evasion buffs and debuffs like Sukukaja and Sukunda are also a big help, particularly for bosses,



When you strike an enemy weakness or land a critical hit, you get an extra turn. This means a party of four can gain up to eight turns if you play things really well, but if you have a party of three then it's up to six and so on. Same rules apply to your enemy, so yeah, cover those weaknesses and buff up when you have a nasty boss or Fiend in your way.

If you miss. You lose two turns. That is bad.

If your attack is absorbed or null, you lose all your turns. Also bad.

If your attack is reflected you lose all your turns, eat your own spell/fist and the enemy gets to pummel you. This is why we scan things we don't know about. Except bosses, they're scan-proof because of course they are.

Cover your ass, make them miss you and pound the bell out of them. That's the best way to play most of the time.

Stats don't matter much, skills and buffs matter more.

People that grind out levels for stats in SMT games are, quite frankly, doing it wrong. Its understandable, other RPGs taught them this way but if you're going to grind in Nocturne, grind for skills, not stats.†

Buffs like Sukukaja, Tarukaja and Makakaja boost evasion/accuracy, physical attack and magic attack respectively. Their "-unda" versions debuff enemies in the same manner. This game hands out those skills like free samples in a mall food court and they stack up to four times each - use them.

There are also higher tier versions of the debuffs that debuff everything at once - Evasion, attack, magic attack and defense. That nasty little bundle of joy is called Debilitate, it comes later and your higher level demons can learn it. It stacks four times, too. Very efficient.

This isn't to say stat allocation has zero importance, its just nothing to fret over. I will, however, state that BECAUSE REASONS you should get them all over 30. Reasons you will find out later. You will be glad you did it.

After that, just cram it all into Strength, Magic and Agility any way you wish. Don't worry about Vitality, you have buffs for defense and can learn a passive skill to boost HP (and by max level you'd get there anyway). Luck stats only cover item drops and how often you get critical hits. You're going to get more out of boosting Strength, Agility and Magic here.

All that said, its still better to grind out skills than stats, especially with your demons, whose skill points face diminishing returns as they level up. They get their real boosts from skills and better stat boots from sacrificial fusion.

Fiends and the Labyrinth of Amala

These are the skeleton assholes I was talking about before. Turns out Dante is the only non-skeletal one. Fiends are basically really, really ramped up midbosses and often nastier than the main bosses. They'll test your knowledge of the game and your observation skills to their limit, and then throw in some rules of their own.

Some of these fights are optional, most of them are not and all Fiends must be defeated if you want to fully explore the Labyrinth of Amala. You'll need to defeat these guys and take back the old man's candelabrum if you want to see everything that's down there, unlock every possible skill, fuse all the demons and obtain the True Demon ending. The dungeon is fully optional and you can complete the game to see the five other endings without it, but you'll never see the full potential of the game if you don't.

Matador is one of these Fiends standing in your way and your introductory Fiend fight. He's mandatory and a bastard of legend in the pantheon of game bosses, sending countless gamers running after a few sound defeats. He would love to give you a sound thrashing. However, if you've been learning the ropes of the game you should have no problem facing him. Defend against his force and trust your buffs, then head for the garden of madness!



Daisoujou is optional but he's also arguably one of the handiest demons you could have on your roster for much of the game. You can't fuse him without defeating him first so I would fight him anyway.

There's more, but I don't want to spoil too much here.

Oh, and those things I told you to do because of reasons? The payoff is down there in the labyrinth somewhere. That place is pretty nasty, the bosses are nasty, the dungeons are nasty and even the floor you walk on is pretty nasty and hates you. But there's also good things for sale, useful items and plenty of incentive to explore that hellhole.

Dante or Don'te?



Dante is the only Fiend you eventually get to recruit in a cutscene. The others are fused. He also can't be fused away, only dismissed - and why would you go to the trouble to recruit him if you were just going to send him away?

He's a strong ally with some good skills, but he's far from the most useful person to have on your team, particularly for endgame bosses. Shiva, Metatron, Beelzebub, Daisoujou and others have far more utility. Additionally, if you're still managing that Pixie DNA he's occupying one of the twelve slots in your demon roster.

For a first run through and 100% compendium completion, I'd take him. For future playthroughs, I'd turn him away. †His role in the story ends with you recruiting him or turning him away, he sadly doesn't get any sway in the ending.

Still, he's a better Dante than DmC and DMC2 Dante are and a decent fighter. He can also debuff enemy defense drastically and restore his own MP by taunting them, so there's that.

---

And that sums up everything I wanted to share. I left a lot out here for the sake of preserving some surprises. This was just to get the ball rolling and get people fighting like champs. Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne is a challenging game, no doubt, but not an impossible one.









Well, this took some doing. I shared some of the biggest things about myself early after I joined Destructoid and I have always been rather open about things, so thinking of ten things I haven't shared yet is tricky. I can try, though!

For those that need to get up to speed on those things, click the handy links in my bio on the sidebar.

And here we go!



I draft blogs all the time.

I seriously do that a lot. There are ideas in my head almost all of the time and I have to get them out. The reason you're not seeing them is because they are often incomplete or I run out of steam writing them. My tablet and desktop are littered with these drafts.

It's not they are bad ideas, either, it's just they need some more thought or might get inserted into a more relevant blog later or something I write more spontaneously, like that STFUAJPG blog I did. It never hurts to save a good idea for the right time.

I walk a lot.



I don't like getting really sweaty. Always hated that, plus I have bad knees so I'm not fond of running. So I walk a lot, usually early in the morning or just before sunset so the sun isn't beating me dawn with its rays. I can do ten or fifteen miles in a day like its not a thing, but some days I just do five and that's good enough. I don't believe in running myself ragged all the time just to be healthy.

Other motives for doing this are to clear my head, hit up AT&T WiFi hotspots for 3DS Streetpass tags and to listen to music or podcasts like Podtoid, The Dismal Jesters and Sup Holmes.

Even if it rains, I'll just go walk at the mall to still get the miles in. And browse stores for clothes, gadgets or games.

Not pixie-sized, no pixie cut.

I'm 5'10" and grow my hair out long. Short hair just doesn't suit me. Pixies are my avatars so I remember to have fun and sometimes be mischievous.



But in Real Life-to-SMT terms I'm more Titania and less Pixie.

I sometimes have gamer's block.

Just about every time I finish a game, I have a hard time deciding what to play next. For example, I just finished Bravely Default and now I'm trying to decide on playing Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, Persona 2: Innocent Sin or Etrian Odyssey Untold.

Smaller games are easy to work in as I go, like replaying Ninja Gaiden or Super Mario Bros. 3, but the bigger games are harder to settle on at times. Its almost like I'm having a hangover after a long game.



I think I'm going to go with Zelda for now, as that can be finished more quickly.†

I like leggings.



My gateway RPG was Final Fantasy Legend.



My first RPG was the original Dragon Quest, but my fascination with RPGs didn't take hold until Final Fantasy Legend on Game Boy, which was actually a SaGa game. I was really taken in by the fact I could choose my party and set off on an adventure to explore a tower

In hindsight, that was nothing new as RPGs went back then, but I led a band of female mutants and their monster friend on a quest to ultimately kill their own god. Many RPGs still consist of or culminate in the exploration of a tower. Atlus seems to have a thing for it still and I don't mind that one bit.

Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.

Captain Picard chose my favorite kind of tea for me. I've been stuck on it since college.†



A recent dream guest star

In a recent dream, I was walking up a mountain to my college and found an abandoned Model T car. As I checked the car out, a veiled woman covered head to toe in black and two men in black arrived at the car shortly after.

This being one of my dreams, we were soon set upon by zombies. We started up the abandoned Model T. The veiled lady insisted on driving and we took off pretty fast for such an old, slow car.

The two men in black shot at the zombies from the backseat and I shot at them with a tommy gun from the sunroof. I had Solid Snake's unlimited ammo headband, so we mowed them all down.

When we got to town, we arrived at the hotel and the woman took me to her room there. She took off her veil to reveal herself as Scarlett Johansson and professed her love for me. Then she magically changed her outfit to a red, leather one piece with matching thigh-high boots and asked if I wanted to sleep with her

"Are you a succubus?" I asked.



Then Philosoraptor showed up and said "Clever girl" as Scarlett the Succubus sprouted demon wings, sat on the ground and pouted. She wasn't getting my soul now.†

That whole zombie thing kinda clued me in I was dreaming because they reliably show up to be dispatched by conveniently placed guns.

I can't decide my waifus.

In my head its Samus Aran, Motoko Kusanagi, Mitsuru Kirijo and Nemissa locked in an eternal battle for my love. I love them all equally, though.



The rest of 2014 is mostly about unfinished RPG business for me.

Money's still been tight and new consoles are never good about getting out new RPGs early, so much of the rest this year will be about getting to those games I just never seem to get around to.

I've yet to complete much of the 90's SMT and Persona stuff, I've always procrastinated on Etrian Odyssey and never finished SMT: Strange Journey. Despite my love or appreciation for such games and franchises, sometimes when I bought the game wasn't the right time to play it.

This year feels like the right time

Anyway, I believe that's ten things. Who is up next?








I was making a very late dinner Tuesday night. I spilled a little Worcestershire sauce and this appeared on my counter:



I fucking ran away.



It is not there now, but it may still be roaming my apartment, moving only when I move. I'm taking this as a sign I should finally play and finish Etrian Odyssey Untold soon.









Well, if there was anyone that could make a sequel to or reboot of a movie from my childhood, Richard Donner is one of the few I'd let get away with it. A new Goonies movie is really happening!



God only knows what would happen if Michael Bay or Zack Snyder got their hands on The Goonies. They would probably set out to detonate or destroy a small coastal town to stop a few small-time mobsters. You know, rather than just get them arrested. Donner prefers to just give kids a few sticks of dynamite and let the bad guys comically suffer.

This is a good opportunity to get a new Goonies game out there - or perhaps just re-envision the original games. For all the licensed movie games that ever happened, The Goonies II is still one of the few I really liked. It was a bit Metroidvania before we started tacking on the "vania" part over a decade later. It also had some Shadowgate/Maniac Mansion bits. So it was like a Shadowtroidvaniac Mansion-type thing.†



It was good fun for its time but I've not seen anyone try to create a game in its breed of Metroidvania since, though perhaps Cave Story comes closest.

The movie itself, along with some fantasy or medieval kinds of movies, were actually a big influence on my interest in games like Zelda, Metroid and really any game that let me wander the world as some kid, misfit or motley †cast of characters as you would in action/adventure games and RPGs.

Thing is, I didn't like that Vs. The Goonies (the arcade game) and The Goonies II (NES) only let you play as Mikey, tasked with rescuing all his friends. I think it would have been cool to unlock other playable characters you could freely swap between after you rescue them.

Mikey could be your all-arounder combatant and Data could build and use the niftier gadgets as well as be your demolition man. Mouth could negotiate with the weird people you meet in the first-person puzzle bits or undocumented maids since he's bilingual. I'm sure he can speak mermaid and fishman, too



Chunk would be a diversionary co-op character, Truffle Shuffling to stun enemies. Or he could get kidnapped by Fratellis to traumatize them and make them regret interrogating him in a minigame. Sloth would be your muscleman busting down walls, moving boulders and breaking chains.

Co-op mode could start you with Mikey and Chunk, I guess. From there you could unlock every character so co-op players can switch between them.

I can't think of many useful things for the other three kids as they just kinda stood around in the movie. Maybe Andy could run a wishing well, shop and save points. Brandon could open up random gyms to strengthen the other kids and Stef could be a fetchquest giver since her biggest role in the movie was losing her glasses and having a crush on a troubled child actor.



What I'm getting at here is it could be a really cool game, you could open up the game's world by unlocking new playable characters. Of course, there would also need to be pirate treasure, maybe have some upgrades for each playable character within finding all of One-Eyed Willie's lost booty (possibly named as other humorous euphemisms).

If I had my way, I'd have some mobsters kidnap some Konami executives to persuade them to give WayForward or Yacht Club Games money to make this. Those people are good at getting out fun retro games in a rather timely fashion. Throw in Shovel Knight, Shantae and all those "Mighty" girls as playable guest characters! Or have a Paddy Wagon Switch Force Mode. And Jake "virt" Kaufman and Cyndi Lauper collaborate on the soundtrack!

This is a thing that should totes happen.†

Available on Steam, Nintendo eShop, PSN and Xbox Live in 2015 or 2016? It really should be!








So in the midst of playing Metroidvanias and RPGs so far this year, I took a small detour into the NES "Classic" Castlevania era. This is to say I played the original Castlevania and Ninja Gaiden last month. And yes, Ninja Gaiden pretty much is Castlevania with ninjas, it just replaces Medusa Heads and Axe Knights with jetpack ninjas and heat-seeking hawks with rabies.†



In fact, the Medusa Heads aren't really even pit-focused so much as those damned hawks are. The hawks always, always turn up when Ryu has a small ledge to land on or must make a perilous leap from a wallgrab. The jetpack ninjas and hyperactive Silver Surfer cosplayers with yo-yo axes only had one level, hawks appeared from stage 3 onward.

In both games each step forward is a fight to secure the next safe step forward, really. Vampire Killer and the Dragon Sword - along with your subweapons - are more defensive measures than offensive ones. Castlevania and Ninja Gaiden are platformers at their core and very defensive ones at that.



I guess the key difference between them is that in Castlevania your every action is a commitment of sorts. Everything is fast in Ninja Gaiden, but the classic Castlevanias are more slow and methodical about what they do. You can't tweak your jumps and once you extend the whip you're committed to the strike you're attempting to make, whether its to damage an enemy or bat away a projectile. †This even carries into the later Metroidvanias where weapon swings are concerned, as I could be found cursing myself for choosing Hammers glyphs over Nitesco (that green skeleton laser thing). Any weapon strike or spell would root me to the ground, but an air jump with Nitesco and then landing would let me retreat as I dealt damage more reliably from a distance than other weapons could (crucial if you want to tally up damage quickly on Dracula's face).

And more recently in playing Julius Belmont's mode in Aria of Sorrow, I was again cursing myself for getting a little too snap-happy with the whip as I went up against Death. That whip swing roots you just like it would Simon and a few frames of animation can make all the difference in the world between evading and receiving damage in Castlevania. If you're not watching the attack patterns of your enemies closely, you can prepare to be pummeled, tossed into a pit or destroyed by a boss.

Another small difference is Castlevania liked to throw in occasional booby traps, Ninja Gaiden didn't really bother with them. They were rare in CV games but there just enough to be of note.

All of this got me to thinking - classic Castlevania is a lot like Dark Souls.



Dark Souls is a very methodical game. Its not much for platforming but there is something to be said for watching your step and defending each step forward you've earned. I often found myself stocking up on arrows and pyromancy as early as I could just to make sure I could wear down or take out enemies before I had to move in with my sword. If I didn't watch my step or my enemy's movements getting pummeled or knocked into a pit was often the reward. What it lacked in Medusa Heads and Hawks it made up for in Skeleton Archers and Blight Town mosquitoes.†

I'd actually say Dark Souls amps things up on traps, though. Arrow traps, the odd rolling iron ball, the poison bogs and more. All great fun before you throw in phantom invasions and the magma-vomiting spider witches.

With the Lords of Shadow series and the 2D era of Castlevania likely behind us - the 2D legacy now resting with Igarashi's new studio and indies - that perhaps Dark Souls is something Konami should consider drawing inspiration from for the next Castlevania game. The Dark Souls series definitely has more classic Castlevania in it than the Lords of Shadow games did.†

I'm not saying straight-up copy Dark Souls, either. I don't think CV needs online co-up or player invasions, but there is something to be said for adopting its combat sensibilities and atmosphere, even some of its very light Metroidvania elements.



I'd even argue to throw a little of Order of Ecclesia in there, as it very much realized what Simon's Quest wanted to be and was also the most difficult of the later 2D Castlevania entries. It also bore a strong sense of risk and reward worthy of the Souls series. It was a game that took the player through the countryside and the nightmarish creatures set upon it before taking you to Dracula's doorstep to deal with the vampire himself.†

And if CV is to start anew, rebooted, perhaps we could just bring it all back to Simon Belmont for a bit. While I generally dislike the Lords of Shadow series, I did like how they handled Simon. Maybe I just liked the revised look inspired by Castlevania Chronicles and the Scottish accent, but he had a big oafish charm about him that could be fun to explore again - preferably without Mercury Steam and their "dark, gritty, emotional" storytelling involved.†

It will be interesting to see what, if anything, Konami does with Castlevania in the future. I probably won't like it because it will be none of what I've listed above. They're probably looking to make Contra a Gears of War clone with an emotionally-gripping tale of human loss at he hands of some evil alien empire.†

I'm hoping Castlevania's best days are still ahead of it but for me much of what I liked about the series ended in 2008 and hasn't been back in "classic" or "Metroidvania" flavors since. Though I'm more partial to the entries in the vein of Metroid I'd rather not see either type die off as both have a great deal of merit to them.†Gamers clearly want things so grossly incandescent as Dark Souls and Castlevania once had that spark before. Time will tell if Konami gets wise to it.