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So I did finish FMA Brotherhood, and yes, it was awesome. I think [ profile] kumpania lending me .hack//SIGN reminded me how wonderful anime was after I hadn't watched much for some time. But the way this past week went, yes, it's wonderful, but I need to either get some self-control or be careful about going there...

(BTW, before anyone jumps in, I currently have no plans to watch the first series' FMA Nazi movie, so don't worry about that.)

While I'm posting, I'll link a couple choice bits out of the online comics I've been poking around.

First is MYth by Zelda Wang. It's a shoujo-inflected Greek Mythology adaptation; I read the first two arcs and liked it a lot.

Then one from the scanlation site: Adventure Boys by Mitsuru Adachi. Poking around the site, I was interested in the more adult genres (seinen and josei vs. shounen and shoujo), and I like more understated kind of stories that still have an element of fantastic wonder, and this fits that description well. It's a series of self-contained stories with shared themes of adult men having some kind of encounter with their own youth.

And finally, actual art, and maybe a consolation prize for the folks I've been standing up this past week on the Castlevania front (see first paragraph), another ATC with a cat, but this time the cat is not alone. This is Maria from Rondo of Blood (I started with her original Rondo costume and tweaked it to be a little more period).

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Good thing #1: I beat Death this evening. I consumed all my potions (got caught in the chains and didn't manage to get out in time once; owch), but I made it.

Bad thing: I did it on the second try---not because he killed me, but because the Spirit of Light spell locked up the game for the second time. Internet research shows that a lot of people have had trouble with various subweapons and spells doing that on a none-too-consistent basis, so I'm just going to conclude that my copy throws a fit about this one and swear off using it. Pity, too, it's a pretty neat spell...

Good thing #2: I have discovered a pre-Gold Ring fountain of money. I tend to be the poky little puppy playing these and take frequent item-drop-farming excursions, but I'd been putting off the Eye for Decay from the Peeping Eye because it was so rare. But I thought, well, I'll just find a good spot and mark it on my map, once I found it I figured I might as well try it, and it turns out that with Charlotte's best Luck equipment and Luck Boost spell---I don't even have a Thief Ring yet---the drop isn't as rare as all that, and there's a spot where farming them is ridiculously easy*. Oh, and you can sell an Eye for Decay for 12,500G. Time-consuming, a bit, but deliciously effective. Should I fight this urge to get myself a Master Ring? Should I fight this urge to get myself everything Vincent sells?? (After fixing his *SPOILER* didn't even get me a VIP card, there is a certain enjoyment to taking him for all this cash...)

*(Down from the third warp in City of Haze, going in and out the left exit that leads to the room with the rail-cart puzzle; enter the room with the Peeping Eye and have Jonathan chuck an axe with R, or just jump and stab; lather rinse repeat.)
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Another week, another overdue post...

I've become a bit more aggressive about seizing the living room for DDR, so I've been working on that. I decided to go through and post a score on every Beginner-mode song (even if it was an E); Saber Wing and SAGA seriously kicked my ass, but because I have the global setting on easy (dance meter drains as slowly as possible) I managed not to fail them, and so far I think I have an A or B on everything else. A lot of the challenge songs live at the bottom of the list, so that's sure to change soon; I may use Training Mode to work on some of them. I should also try Street Master Mode when I get through the list, and maybe see what I can do with MAX2...

I've also gotten back into it and am plugging along in Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin (currently in the always-annoying machine tower section; moving platforms, spikes, medusa heads, blargh). As predicted, for fanfic purposes I've gotten attached to its story now, but with some tweaks; some of it just seems unnecessarily complicated, and I had my own ideas to make it mesh with, so I'm ending up with a take on it where most-to-all of the same things happened, but not for the given reasons. Anyway, I'm loving it like a Metrovania, although I was miffed to find that it's kind of buggy, apparently rushed to market, and I had one of my spells lock it up. Grr... C'mon, make us a "Greatest Hits" version and fix it up! (Except maybe the Quest Reward glitch, I can live with that one. ^_~ I haven't tried it yet, but apparently there's an instance coming up where it's so very tempting...)

I actually got out of the house yesterday. In Jessie's town there's a church whose people tend to be very nice and relatively freethinking. Formal services still don't seem to float my boat but more informal get-togethers with people from there tend to be nice (I especially like the Pastor), and they had a "writing as a Spiritual Practice" thing so I decided to go. Pastor Ellen had been reading "Writing Down the Bones," and we just did prompts with ten-minute free-writings, no religious overtones at all, actually. It was a lot of fun. The first couple I did in a totally conversational kind of tone, but after complaining about my writer's block wherein recently it seems like I can write diaristically or in summary, but not an actual fictional scene, the last prompt ("Drop this"; from "drop this ticket . . ." written on a coil of tickets from a fundraiser that was sitting on the table) then inspired me to a little piece of flash fiction, below the cut.

Today I wasn't with people being given prompts, but something sprung up in my head which for me was rather emotionally loaded ("I want you to read this book"---I am always conflicted, always want to but am always very self-conscious about sharing music/movies/books/etc that I like with people, like I'm imposing on them) and I jumped off from it in a similar way, but as a more direct free-verse poem.

For those who want to read the results.... )
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I have got to get myself off of watching video game playthroughs online; I'm just wasting too much time on it. The only one left that I can claim some reason to do it is Castlevania: Curse of Darkness, so I finally did start watching it.

I guess what I've heard said about it is bearing out, as far as one can tell by watching. The combat system does look like fun, but it's like they made the environments huge thinking that it would impart an epic feel, but it actually imparts a lot of time running down passages with nothing much happening.

Of course myself, I'm interested in the story, and so far I'm not warming up to it so much. Let's see, they started out by making the ending of CV3 retroactively suck (turns out "Dracula's Curse" refers to something that started, not ended, with Trevor & Co's quest), and so far Hector isn't a terribly likable hero. He shows up ranting about the dead girlfriend the player knows nothing about and REVENGE!, and his conversation with Isaac goes something like:
H: My old powers are horrible and evil and I will never ever use them!
I: You can't wreak bloody vengeance on me without them.
H: Oh. Well, okay I will then.
I: Did I mention I'm playing you like a violin with this whole revenge thing?
H: Fine, whatever, I'll take the bait.
This is how the game first starts, and it needs one or more prologue manga to render the respective motivations meaningful.

Speaking of the said manga, I've only read the first half of the Kou Sasakura one available from TokyoPop, and I'll just say one of the problems I had with it was also Hector's unlikability (when a nun and a young boy are menaced by a werewolf, he sits around on his ass for awhile before finally foisting responsibility for his actions onto the twelve-year-old. Our hero, ladies and gentlemen).

There's also the much shorter preorder manga by Ayami Kojima (translated at Vampire Killer), which does the job short and sweet and pretty effectively (though perhaps not so coherently), but not enough to make it all good, if anything could... (This game in general is also perhaps the worst moment of Castlevania putting the history of witch hunting through a sausage-grinder, but that ought to be par for the course, really...)

Each of those manga got me onto more general thoughts about comics and manga. The first one because, well... It's just kind of mediocre crud, from what I saw. Part of my "cranky old Japanophile" designation is that I do like J-Pop and manga and such, but I will readily acknowledge that if manga is less liable to Sturgeon's Law ("90% of everything is crud") than American comics, it's not by a wide margin. On the manga shelves in bookstores, it's hard to find anything that looks good. Where I think the difference comes in is that with manga, the good 10% is a part of the mainstream where in American comics, the good 10% is apart from the mainstream. This almost makes it more of a pain from my end to find the good manga, because it's mixed in with all the rest as opposed to being uniquely "indie", but in terms of economics for the creators I'm sure it's more than worth it.

As for what the Kojima one got me thinking, well, I'm embarrassed to admit that when I read that Vampire Killer translation, I was reading the pages backward, being so used to reading manga right-to-left, and it took several pages before I realised I was doing it wrong. So it isn't as incoherent as it first seemed, but not so coherent that the mistake was immediately clear. In this case it's understandable, given the amount of story that was necessarily being done in a short space, but, well, awhile back talking about medium and disbelief, I remarked that comics can get away with a lot between panels, but a fairly common problem I have when reading comics is them trying to get away with too much, such that it starts to feel like just a jumble of images and text. For awhile I was a sucker for Koge-Donbo's cutesy style (I think I'm over it now), but those books seemed pretty prone to the problem. And it's not like I can't comprehend a story out of it, it just gets a subjective sort of whirlwind feeling that I don't like. I wonder what the difference really is that I'm feeling there...
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So, having finished the Castlevania timeline via playthroughs, today I'm going to wrap it up with a little omake.

First, a footnote. I haven't posted any links to Castlevania: Judgment, and I'm not going to. To put it bluntly, I am not touching that shit. From everything I can tell, at once the most generous and most damning thing you could say about it is that it was a fan-service game that the fanbase hated. For me personally, it would be like taking the pain that I expect Curse of Darkness to cause me, boiling it down into a solid mass, and constructing a game entirely of that. Plus I fucking hate Death Note. Completionist impulse be damned, I see no good reason to do that to myself. (Ironically in my fanfic universe there is a thoroughly rewritten version of Judgment's basic idea that I am actually going with, but that does not change the foregoing...)

Okay, now let's cheer up with the promised special extra! I was afraid I wouldn't be able to find this, but I did: Akumajo Special: Boku Dracula-kun! (roughly translated: "Castlevania Special: I'm Kid Dracula!"). The first was never brought to the US, but here it is in a Let's Play by DeceasedCrab, apparently using a translated rom. Notice that the first stage music is a bouncy remix of "Beginning" (the first stage theme from Dracula's Curse), and watch for the "boss" game show hosted by the Statue of Liberty (in cutesy chibi form of course).

The sequel for GameBoy did reach American shores under the title Kid Dracula, and it comes to us in a Let's Play by TheHelldragon.

Kid Dracula also appeared in some of the Parodius games. I couldn't find full playthroughs, but here is Parodius: Forever With Me in a perfect boss run as Kid Dracula by Shadowserg. I have to say, though, I'm beginning to understand why they never ported Parodius to the States as this stuff is both intensely Japanese and really flippin' weird... ^_^;;

(If I told you that Kid Dracula was in some way canon to my Castlevania universe, you'd think I was totally out to lunch, wouldn't you? Well, it's a long story... Maybe some other time.)

And with that silly little cherry on top, my linkblogging project is complete. Anyone else who was reading might have found it totally boring, but that's why I pulled back to the DW account, so that if I enjoy it I can just go with it and not worry about it, and I'm giving it its own tag for easy reference in the future, which could be handy for me. But seriously, if you're reading this, I hope you did enjoy it.

Now I'll have to come up with something else to post about... ::chin scratch::

ADDENDUM: Oh, one more Librivox public-domain audiobook for you: Carmilla.

MUCH LATER ADDENDUM: I don't expect anyone to keep track, but just so you know, I have occasionally gone back through these playthrough link posts to clean up the inevitable link rot. I actually haven't been keeping up with Castlevania so much lately, and at this time I am not going to add the games that have been released since I posted these (e.g. Harmony of Despair, Lords of Shadow).
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I wrote this up to save for tomorrow, but, after midnight, it's technically tomorrow now, so...

One last century of the Castlevania timeline, the Twenty-First Century, where we are right now! Even more too close to home, oooh...

With Dracula having, as noted yesterday, died for real in 1999, we pick up again in 2035 with Aria of Sorrow, wherein we meet Soma Cruz and other friends both new and old. Another Metrovania, this is probably my second favorite game (Symphony first by a length, then Aria with Ecclesia close behind, and Harmony lagging in the rear gawking at furniture---I actually didn't mind that bit in Harmony as much as some seem to, but I can still joke...). The playthrough is another by TheRagnarokSeeker and happens to be Hard mode. However, it only includes the best ending, so here are the others: Good but premature (from Resulli), Bad but stylish (ZSlyzer), and Almost-Best (krazywalrus). (ETA: Actually the playthrough does have all the endings except almost-best, but I don't feel like deleting the links...)

Not feeling any need to spoil the big plot twist with my own comments (even though anyone reading this probably knows it already), I can see where it might come across as cheesy and probably did to some people, but somehow I fell in love with it...

Soma got perhaps the least downtime of any Castlevania hero, and the very next year landed him in the sequel, Dawn of Sorrow. I'm in the same boat with this one as Portrait, planning to play it soon and so not wanting to spoil myself, so, short and to the point: here's the cinematic intro from time2come22, and TheRagnarokSeeker sees us through to the end on the playlist front, with all the endings this time: First Half, Second Half --- and for added options/insurance RodriguezJr also has a playthrough with all the endings, plus a playthrough of Julius Mode (it even includes all three dialogues for the final boss). Having gotten so attached to Aria, I'm actually a touch nervous about playing this one (don't screw it up! ::fingers crossed::), but I'll have to get over that eventually... Like after I play Portrait but before I play Circle, is my current plan.

ADDENDUM: I have attempted to play through Dawn since writing and was thwarted by the infamous Magic Seal System (I have bad boss anxiety; my hands shake), so I just watched the playthrough. As it turns out, I would give Dawn my personal award for Silliest Writing in a 2D Adventure Castlevania, but I can work with it...

And that, as of this writing, brings us to the end! Dawn is the last game in the timeline. Tomorrow (or technically later today) I'll wrap this up with an extra little something...

Mentioning that I fell for the plot development of the Sorrow games no matter how cheesy it is, it got me thinking generally about fictional media and their effects on suspension of disbelief. The absurdity thresholds are different. I've usually expressed fiction in prose, and part of it surely is my own inclinations, but I do think that prose is by nature a very down-to-earth kind of medium and just won't let you get away with a lot of things. For example, an animated or comic character can have purple hair or perform wild physical feats and a viewer easily accepts what they see (this is true but less true in live-action cinema because the Uncanny Valley effect can come into play), but if you just write in a prose story that a character has purple hair or that they jumped up onto a thatched rooftop and chased a baddie across it at high speed, the absurdity of the idea is immediately apparent and suspension of disbelief is much more threatened---I think this is one reason why fanfic can sound weird to people, if it faithfully describes things from those other media. In comics, you can get away with a helluva lot between panels where prose wants a consistent flow and holds you more accountable for every moment, every link in the proverbial chain. And then in today's case of video games... As they become more naturalistic in detail, this has gotten less than in the days of Donkey Kong, probably, but the sheer absurdity that they can get away with is stunning even now. (Hell, I just watched EvilTim Let's Play Shinobi and Nightshade. See also my post not long ago about how the second half of Symphony of the Night makes no sense at all, or watch the non-sequitur that is Maria in Rondo of Blood; but in those cases it didn't hurt the game or even helped make it wonderful.) On the one hand, video games have the "seeing is believing" benefit that cinema does, but I think they have the additional advantage of placing the audience inside the character in a deeper way; it's harder not to sympathize with the character and buy into their situation when the character spends most of their time as essentially an avatar of you.

It's part of each medium having its own unique strengths. I remember hearing a bunch of stuff awhile back about how prose should be like cinema, and it always annoyed me, because that kind of advice just seemed like throwing away what prose does uniquely well. And it's part of what makes cross-medium adaptations challenging and/or dicey so often. Probably also a reason I'm so annoyed by the very idea that one medium would ever render another obsolete...

After talking about it, I also finally started a game of Portrait of Ruin and got to the first save point in the first painting; little early to say too much... I'm not sure I like the writing on this one quite as much (economy, folks; important in video game writing...), but no big deal. So far Jonathan seems better for normal enemies (his regular attack is stronger and his defense is better), but if anything big and scary shows up, get Charlotte to fry it. ^_~
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The Castlevania Timeline via Playthroughs now brings us to the Twentieth Century... The one in which I spent the first twenty years of my life. Ooh, it's too close to home, it's getting creepy... ^.~

Turns out vampires just love World Wars, so we begin in 1917, during World War I, with Bloodlines and its two heroes. John Morris (aka Whip Dude) is a relative of Quincey Morris from Stoker's novel, and it turns out the Morrises are related to the Belmonts, or babysitting Vampire Killer for the Belmonts, or something; now, supposedly John is Quincey's son, but since John was born in 1895 and Quincey died in 1890 (see yesterday re: "the epilogue, dammit!"), I've had to finesse the whole thing quite a bit... Also chasing Dracula is John's friend Eric Lecarde from Spain (aka Spear Dude), who wields the Alucard Spear (the Genesis spelled it wrong, and yes, there is a connection, but AFAIK it is at present unexplained); the instruction manual says Eric's motivation is a dead girlfriend, but the game itself doesn't think this worth mentioning. ::eyeroll:: Bloodlines is also I believe the only appearance of Dracula's "niece," Elizabeth Bartley, as his second-banana villain.

Cutting to the chase, kingarthurpendragon posts the intro, and syxx573 brings more absurdly-proficient playthroughs, complete with endings, as John and as Eric (whose hair changes color for the cutscenes and who I choose to believe is wearing suntan-colored pants).

However, things didn't turn out so well for those two, as we learned in 1944 with Portrait of Ruin, starring Jonathan Morris and Charlotte Aulin. Now, I actually haven't played this one and plan to soon (Christmas present from my sister and all), so I'm handling it gingerly trying not to spoil myself. Here's the intro via VideoGameOpenings (interesting username ^_~), and here once again is RodriguezJr with the playthrough---it includes both main endings at least; I'm told there's something else you can do that changes the ending a little bit, but I'm not going to fuss over it...

ADDENDUM: After playing Portrait myself, the story endeared itself to me as I rather thought it would. There are things about it I don't care so much for and that conflict with my own ideas, but overall I see a lot of potential, and am ending up with a take on it where almost all of the same things happened, just not for the given reasons.

And that's it for games this time! I told you we were into the home stretch now.

Before the century is over, however... Dracula dies. Really actually dies. Off-camera. In 1999 he was finally utterly defeated by the first actual Belmont since 1792 (where Richter went and where Julius came from are, AFAIK, not currently explained). They haven't made a game about it, we've only heard about it because even that didn't end the story! Indeed Dracula's death is only backstory for what is to come, as tomorrow we forge ahead into the future!
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Castlevania playthrough link time! I am on the downslope of it now, and especially after this entry it should get pretty easy...

Today it's the Eighteen-Hundreds, era of hard Metrovanias, mass timeline confusion, and questionable canonicity. Although Richter was last seen in 1797, we return to find the Belmonts having mysteriously vanished long since, and uncorroborated sightings of their whip turning up willy-nilly... Depending on what games you believe.

Our first stop is an unspecified point early in the century with Order of Ecclesia, the most recent and one of the most challenging of the Metrovanias, and a favorite of mine. I couldn't help getting attached to Shanoa. First you have to see the intro cinema (posted by RedQueeney), because it is just so freakin' awesome; also a beautiful showcase of Shanoa's theme music, "An Empty Tome." As for playthroughs, the ones I had originally posted all broke, and now I'm finding this one by Cychreus; the video is pinched to include both screens, but it's the best that came readily to hand. I also don't know if it includes both endings, so just in case, here they are, from Blackwyn.

Next we come to 1830 and Circle of the Moon, starring Nathan Graves, the other of the most challenging Metrovanias. For the playthrough, TheRagnarokSeeker comes to my rescue. This was the second Metrovania made, and as I remember, at the time I snapped it up because I'd loved Symphony so much, but... Well, if you want and expect another Symphony of the Night, that's really not what Circle is at all (plus there were the visibility issues of the early GBA models). I was pretty disappointed and never played it much. It's in my queue at present, and I'm sure it's a good game now that I know what to expect of it (and have plenty of other "another one like Symphony" games so I don't feel stuck with it, you know), but I'm not prioritizing it against Dawn of Sorrow or Portrait of Ruin. That this would be in my story-canon is also highly unlikely, but in some ways that matters and in others it really doesn't.

Finishing out the century's games are two that I will effectively treat as one: Castlevania 64 and Legacy of Darkness. CV64 was set in 1852 and included the two heroes Reinhardt Schneider and Carrie Fernandez (a belatedly-accurate transliteration of "Belnades"). Legacy was essentially a "director's cut" of the first game and included Carrie and Reinhardt, but also Cornell's prequel story set in 1844, and Henry Oldrey on his own mission in the first game's timeframe. For Carrie and Reinhardt, the changes between versions aren't significant enough for me to bother about which I can find, but I do want to cover all four characters, since they have at least slightly different stories. First, here is a CV64 Reinhardt Schneider run by UnitedVirusX, then a Legacy of Darkness Carrie Run by Torentsu (the order of the videos is jacked up so you'll just have to click through them). As for Cornell and Henry, DarkMandrill is working on a complete run of Legacy and has both their stories finished (plus, at present, a partial Reinhardt run, if you want to see the other version of him)---eta: all four characters now complete.

These games are also the moment when EvilTim really shines, having full hilarious-as-ever Let's Plays for three of the four characters---and he shows all the endings for the characters he plays, so it is to him I turn for that. Here he is LPing C64 as Carrie (serendipitously covering both versions of her), and Legacy as Cornell and Henry. He doesn't cover Reinhardt (although you will hear what he thinks of Reinhardt), which means we haven't yet seen Reinhardt's bad ending; the best I can do there (click through to the second part) is a guy who shamelessly rips off EvilTim's jokes and isn't as good at it, but the video quality, despite some glitchiness toward the end, is the best I can find, and Reinhardt's bad ending is all about a certain not-so-compression-friendly visual detail, so......

These games are probably what inspired this whole linkblogging project; I decided to do this after actually watching all the stuff I just linked to, wasting way too much time I'm sure, but especially the EvilTim stuff was great fun, and it resolved the question I had by putting this safely out of my own Castlevania canon. The writing is even lamer and the plot even more absurd than usual; Carrie and Reinhardt especially suffer for their two "different" stories having verbatim-identical scripts for most events, and as for Dracula's apparent plan, well... Cut for spoilers. ) In general, the rules seem different in this story than the ones I've already internalized, and while fun in its way, this isn't worth tying myself in knots to incorporate into what I'm doing.

BTW, this is also where the post title came from. Between his underlings' gear and the "Room of Inventions," Dracula has, in 1844, motorbikes with mounted machine-guns, chainsaws, a zeppelin, a telephone, a radio, what appears to be a flippin' difference engine, and atomic fire-breath. So he invented everything. Except that this isn't canon, so he didn't. (I'm used to a certain amount of anachronism in a Castlevania game, of course, but they took it a little too far.)

So, those are all the games that take place in the 1800s, but there is one more piece to the puzzle that I'd like to just throw in here as a bonus... However loosely, Dracula by Bram Stoker---yes, the novel---is canon to the Castlevania universe, a fact which will become important in our next entry. As far as I can tell they didn't do a very good job of incorporating it (It takes place in 1890 not '97! Read the epilogue, dammit! ::cough:: Sorry, pet peeve...), but there it is, and I bring it to you as a free public-domain audiobook from the good folks at Librivox! I used to be one of those good folks myself, and in fact, that silly girl trying to sound variously like a British tourist and a Hollywood vampire in Chapter 2? ::nod:: (ETA 14 July: Librivox now has another version of Dracula, this one done as a dramatic reading, since it is an epistolary novel.) Of course if you prefer plain text, it's Project Gutenberg to the rescue, or the nearest competent bookstore. There's even a furry webcomic version, partial but good, and uncommonly faithful. For God's sake, don't watch the movie. ::shudder::

Into the home stretch!
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Our walk through Castlevania playthroughs now brings us to the Seventeen-Hundreds, a time when androgynously beautiful men with long, white hair roamed wild and free, despite being stuck in a Demon Castle---two of them, forming a sort of inverse oreo around a crunchier, more pigmented classic.

Also solidifying for myself a policy or two I was already following here (because if I let the obsessive completionist impulse take over, this thing will drive me crazy): for games with multiple endings, I will try to link all the endings, but for the cases of a bonus playable character mode, I won't bother with it unless I just want to; eg, I posted all three endings to Simon's Quest, but not a run through Lament of Innocence as Joachim (let alone Pumpkin). Also, in a linear game with alternate routes, I won't worry too much about showing every single stage, because that would also drive me crazy; I think there may be a stage or two of Dracula's Curse that we already didn't see, and it becomes a big issue today with Rondo of Blood and its remakes. So, on with the show!

When we last saw Dracula's hand, it still needed fifty years and the unintentional help of a Belmont family friend to dig the rest of him out for Harmony of Dissonance (1748), starring Simon's grandson Juste Belmont. By story chronology, this is the first "Metrovania" style game, and being that those are what I really like, I actually don't need the playthrough so much, because I do have the inclination and skill to do it for myself. But for completion's sake, or when I want to see bits again without having to replay the whole story, still posting them. This one by TheRagnarokSeeker is Hard Mode for a little added spice, although actually I picked it because it was the one I could find that didn't rush the dialogue scenes. And it has three endings (courtesy RetroDude83): Bad, Middling, and Good.

Actually having played this one, I have more to comment on it; while I still like it, it's probably the weakest Metrovania I've played (that is, vs. Symphony, Aria, and Ecclesia). The plot is all right but nothing that special---you have a mind-controlled friend and a girl to save (the girl almost seems like a third wheel by the end). The localization is half-assed, with 18th-century Wallachians spouting Japanese audio and a script that vacillates laughably between the overwrought and the vernacular. The dual-castle concept (with actions in one effecting the other) could have been better than that; as it was it felt confusing to me, and I think I finally figured out why this didn't work for Harmony where it did work for, say, Zelda: Link to the Past. Namely, there's no overarching cue as to what castle you're in at any given time---you bounce around between them before finding out what the deal is, so one isn't even uniformly harder or unfamiliar compared with the other---and which map screen has the flashing dot cannot make up for that. In Link to the Past, or indeed in Symphony of the Night, you would be hard put to forget which of the game's two worlds you're in; in Harmony, not so much. It's still a fun game though. Except maybe that brakka-frazzin' ball race maze in Castle A... ::grumble, growl::

Now, for the crunchy center, Dracula X: Rondo of Blood (1792). It introduced us to Richter Belmont and Maria Renard, and featured branching paths, cinematic cutscenes (although I have to say the '90s anime style hasn't aged well and, as appealing as they were at the time, they now look kind of ugly), and the first appearance of item crashes. Unfortunately, American fans didn't get this game for years, and I can't seem to find a playthrough with any kind of translation, not even the original game as included in Dracula X Chronicles (I once watched one with voiceover commentary that translated it, but I can't find it again). Failing that, I found this longplay by ScHlAuChi with everything: all the stages, cutscenes, endings, even, at the start, the Akumajyo Dracula Peke minigame. (I was told that "peke" is Japanese for the X shape; I looked it up and, well, it does mean "an X"... in the sense of your teacher drawing one on your paper. Thus, a perfectly adequate translation of "Akumajyo Dracula Peke" would be "Castlevania FAIL." Which is only fitting since the "game" actually was an elaborate failure message, what you got if you tried to play the original Rondo of Blood on a system without the upgrades needed to support it. And they put the thing on Dracula X Chronicles somewhere. ^__^ )

ADDENDA: I actually got a chance to watch that longplay and it doesn't include Maria's maiden rescue cutscenes, so here's a playthrough by TheDSGamer that does (in their own well-marked videos). Also, the review at Castlevania Dungeon includes an important missing piece: a translated script. (Suddenly I think Maria is only supposedly related to the Belmonts because they were too dang cheap to give Dracula different lines in each ending. Keep this in mind when I gripe about CV64 doing that stuff...)

As a bonus, my favorite Let's Player EvilTim has a partial run of Rondo, including little "lessons" on the "science" behind it, so here that is: Part One, Two, Three, and Four.

Rondo takes us back into remake territory, twice in fact! The first was its rather ignominious Super NES adaptation, Dracula X, in which Maria was not playable and the art seemed determined to mock my assertion that the original Rondo might ever look ugly. ArtificialRaven posts the objectively wrong intro (not Medieval times by a long shot), and for the playthrough we turn to this perfect run by Rugal and marvel at the dirty tricks he can do with the Key. Cychreus brings the three endings, Worst, Still Bad, and Good (I think it's only the final image that changes). But in the end, people who wanted Rondo were disappointed, and people who wanted an act fit to follow Super Castlevania IV were disappointed too, leaving many doubly-disappointed.

The first set in that Venn diagram finally got their wish when... Well, when emulators became common and robust, I expect, but they were officially granted their wish with the release of Dracula X Chronicles. It included the original Rondo and Symphony as unlockables, but the main event was a remake of Rondo, with new Ayami Kojima art and 2.5-D graphics, which make quite a lovely package (even if you shouldn't look too hard at Annette's neck). This playthrough by Rodriguezjr uses Richter but has all the stages and all the cutscenes, including Maria's versions. (The English voices make my ears bleed, but that's what the mute button is for...)

But we have one more game to finish out the century, and it's something very special to me. This is the game that made me a proper Castlevania fan, and still today my favorite, Symphony of the Night (1797). For having been asleep, Alucard sure has come a long way since Dracula's Curse! The story, while it has its flaws, is still gripping: the "mind-controlled friend" conceit hadn't yet been overplayed, and putting Richter in that role gave it some real pathos. And, this was the first Metrovania game, the one that wouldn't be equalled until the DS came along. For our playthrough, here's one by ZeromusX by DarkEvil87, including all four endings*. There was a Sega Saturn version in Japan that added some new content, but I really don't think that's worth bothering with. More interesting is the updated translation in the Dracula X Chronicles version. The original English script was pretty lame on close inspection, and the voice acting often laughably bad. The new voice acting is, for me, still not good but now not funny, but the update to the script itself is sometimes a real improvement. All I can seem to find is just a taste, from Xztophe. (I'm currently playing the Saturn version, and one of the enjoyable things about it is what I can pick up of the original Japanese dialogue, which might still be the best... ^_~)

ADDENDUM: I did turn up a Saturn-version playthrough by kubevubin, so I thought I'd just post that. It has commentary (not what I'd call a "Let's Play" though), and I don't think he shows all the endings, but wth.

And if I were to post a "my reactions" section for Symphony, I'd just end up gushing like a fangirl, so that's probably good for today. I might take a day off tomorrow since Jessie's visiting, but should be back Sunday at the latest with the last really game-heavy century.

*Prior to link-rot I had to post the "next-to-best" ending separately and realized that "next-to-best" is of course relative. Going through this describing games' various endings ("Bad, Middling, Good," "Good, Bad, Indifferent," "Good but premature, Bad but stylish, Best"), well, Symphony's four endings pretty much boil down to "Implicitly possibly good, Bad, Worse, Suicidal." I love him, but when they gave that game an angsty hero, they didn't kid around...

ADDENDUM: There was a radio drama that was a direct sequel to Symphony of the Night, "Nocturne of Recollection," which is now on YouTube with English subtitles, from DanceofGold. I haven't actually watched it and have generally not heard good things about it, but it's interesting to have.
foxinthestars: cute drawing of a fox (Default)
(That's a joke, not a typo; all but one of Simon's games are usually regarded as retellings of the same quest.)

Time for the daily installment of Castlevania playthrough links! We now come to the Sixteen-Hundreds and the exploits of a Simon Belmont you may have heard of. He was the first, long the only, and still the archetypal Castlevania hero---we saw the trouble Chris had getting out of his shadow, and I once saw mistake Nathan Graves for him. With such a distinguished career, today's post will be covering a lot more games than previous ones.

First, a footnote. The mobile phone game Castlevania: Order of Shadows is also set in the 1600s, but the only playthrough I could find has no sound, and frankly I don't think the game worth bothering with. So we move on.

And where else to begin but Castlevania (1691), the original classic. For this one I turn again to Speed Demos Archive to marvel at their dirty tricks (you don't get to see the fishmen, sorry). I don't know if anyone understands the oddball credits sequence; I think it's a joke of some kind, but it kind of falls flat. It's a great game, but you maybe get the idea they weren't taking it all nearly as seriously at the very beginning as we crazy people do now. ^_~

As mentioned, Simon's first battle with Dracula has been remade many times, starting with Vampire Killer, a version for the MSX Home Computer in Japan and Europe, played for our enjoyment by VampierMSX. The sprites look very similar to the NES Castlevania, but the backgrounds are at times more elaborate, and the gameplay style is different, with exploration, key-collecting, even weird little characters sitting around who accept hearts as currency in exchange for something or other. I haven't watched much of it yet, I admit, but it looks like some kind of cross between Castlevania, Castlevania 2: Simon's Quest, and an old PC game. Which isn't so strange when you think about it.

Simon's mission was reimagined for the arcade with Haunted Castle, here played by scissormon. This game seems to have a bad reputation. The sound effects and graphics have that almost-too-detailed-for-their-own-good feel, giving Simon perhaps the goofiest walking animation he's ever suffered through (the music is still good, tho). They also put him in a tux in the intro and superfluously turned it into a damsel rescue---I'm told the woman's name is Serena---but we don't need romantic entanglements to banish this one from canon: Simon abandons his whip as the game progresses and ends up killing Dracula with a sword. Further series developments rendered that whole idea pretty untenable...

His next stop was the Super NES, and indeed Super Castlevania IV is one of the games that made that system so awesome, still considered by some (including Angry Video Game Nerd) to be the best Castlevania game yet made. Simon learned some new and useful tricks, plus of course the game looks great and the music is amazing, from "Theme of Simon" to "Room of Close Associates" (still Death's theme in my mind). Ahh, fond memories. For the playthrough, here's one by ArtificialRaven. There's also its entry at Speed Demos Archive, but you don't get the intro and full ending that way.

Finally, there was a remake for the Sharp X68000 in Japan, later ported to the Playstation and brought to the States as Castlevania Chronicles, which included both a straight port and a newly-arranged version in which, er, Ayami Kojima dressed Simon up as a porn star. Seriously, look at this (again via The Castlevania Dungeon's review). It hardly seems to measure up to the previous game on our list, and Simon got another goofy-looking walk animation or two (to say nothing of the boomerang sound effect), but here it is. This video of the "original mode" opening, courtesy yazarc, might be dark, but it's all I could find; for the original version playthrough itself, here's saucykobold. As for the updated redhead mode, Rodriguezjr has the whole thing, including its CGI version of the intro scene.

But, all of the above represent just one quest, and it was only the beginning of Simon's troubles! For his efforts, he had a curse placed on him, which could only be broken by gathering up Dracula's body parts, bringing him back to life, and killing him again in Castlevania II: Simon's Quest (1698). For the toll this curse was supposed to be taking, it's a much easier game than, really, any of those listed above (it's the only one in today's group that I have myself played a significant portion of, and in fact I've solved it). Building on Vampire Killer and joining Mario and Zelda in the NES-era "weird experimental sequel" fad, it was a forerunner of the "Metrovania" style that would later be my blissful weakness. However, it also made no flipping sense and was a huge exercise in Guide Dang It; I needed an FAQ to find my way into a shop for godsake. Hated by some, loved by others, it's a classic in its own quirky way, and I come down on the "rather fond of it anyway" side (plus I think goemon047's video is funnier). So, playthroughs! This one by HalDanGhor shows all the items (I couldn't find one that showed all the clues, but they're really just useless nonsense Dracula planted to delay Simon so he'd die), or you could go the Speed Demos Archive route. Either way, here are all the endings to pick from when you're done: Good, Bad, and Oddly Indifferent (technically worst).

Strangely, according to the current timeline, the obvious sequel-fishing of the Good ending was not followed up on in any timely manner; Dracula wouldn't actually be back for about fifty years... But we'll get into that one tomorrow.


Feb. 10th, 2010 03:42 pm
foxinthestars: cute drawing of a fox (Default)
It's confirmed. The "Green Tea" is actually Sake.

ETA: And, least surprisingly of all, the "Grape Juice" you can get in the confessional is actually Wine.
foxinthestars: cute drawing of a fox (Default)
The bed was successfully delivered! It's definitely different (and taller than I expected) but I don't think I'll have much trouble getting used to it... ^_~

As for "adult content," I was musing on the absurdity of how people freak out about certain things. One example is from Castlevania, and I was telling Jessie about it the other day: I've been playing (via emulator) the Saturn version of SotN, and I know just enough Japanese to be dangerous. Among all the crazy food and beverage healing items the enemies can drop was (in the American version) "Barley Tea." Oh, how distinctively Japanese, I thought. Only in the actual Japanese, that item isn't Barley Tea at all; it's Beer (You can kind of tell if you look at the stuff; I'm also thinking the "Green Tea" looks a heckuva lot like sake, but time will tell). Clearly, beer was something an American audience could not handle. From what my Suikoden fan friends told me at the time, "tea" was a popular euphemism in the PSX era. This has actually gotten better since the '90s, though; I guess enough gamers grew up that the old "video games are for kids" idea fell apart. Like in Okami, all the sake is uncensored. (Which is good; if they had made you subdue Orochi with "tea," I would have lost it, I swear.)

(There's actually a funny little story about this; in my first University semester of Japanese, we had a lesson on how to say "This is X." "Is it Y?" "Yes/No." One of the examples was "This is barley tea." I was supposed to ask my partner if it was something, and they answer yes or no; the assumed question was "Osake desu ka?" (is it alcohol?), but no one had told us whether barley tea was alcoholic, so I decided to ask a question where the answer was totally clear and said "Yasai desu ka?" (is it a vegetable?) Sensei was like "wtf?" and explained to us that barley tea is not alcohol, but perhaps my uncertainty was understandable...)

I was also re-reading the first two Finder volumes the other day, and was musing on, if I were to lend them out, how to warn/explain that, while the story is not about genitals, you will see some? It's like there's this virgin/whore dichotomy of art; the idea that something would show you a penis without being smut seems somehow edgy or overly-sophisticated. Which is weird; genitals are part of human life and sometimes they figure into things, with or without sex as such (which also just figures into life in all kinds of ways). Some indie comics are really good about this (Finder, as mentioned, also Blankets, although that probably does mean the library shouldn't have shelved it as "YA"); it's just strange and sad that only little cultural niches would get past that kind of thing.

And finally, today's installment of Castlevania playthrough links brings us to the Fifteen-Hundreds and the adventures of Christopher Belmont, who was hapless enough to have IDW make a comic book about him, but let's not talk about that, shall we...? -_-;;

Christopher's exploits began with The Castlevania Adventure (or is it Castlevania: The Adventure? Either way, 1576). As mentioned yesterday, it wasn't even clear that this game was about Christopher when it came out, and now I have proof that even Konami didn't know: in Kurt Kalata's review at The Castlevania Dungeon, he brings us this choice morsel of gaming ephemera. If anybody at Konami knew that wasn't Simon, they didn't tell the folks in Marketing. But we with our priveleged hindsight know that it was Christopher! We also know that this game is widely considered a bitch. I bring it to you in two flavors:

First, it's time to revisit Let's Player FreezingInfernos for his run through the game. This is what I watched myself, but I don't want to leave it at that because, well, after stage one... He cheated. Some rom-hacking wizard has apparently created a patch to translate the power-ups into standard Castlevania language, make Chris move at a reasonable speed, and let him keep his whip upgrades when he gets hit, rendering the game significantly easier/more playable. (When Chris's trailing leg is furthest from the camera it still looks like a spaghetti noodle, however.)

So for the straight version, how about... Full Color? (This one's not a playlist, but the other installments are linked in the video description.) Sadly we in the States didn't get the "Konami GameBoy Collection" releases, but that's what this is, in a perfect run by ArekTheAbsolute, who might just be psycho.

But why settle for mere Turner-esque colorization when you can have a complete, lush, shiny, still-brand-new-smelling remake?? That's right, just the last few months have brought us Castlevania: The Adventure Rebirth. And there's a full playthrough of it on YouTube already, courtesy Rodriguezjr. Ahh, modernity...

Christopher's first quest brought him fifteen years of peace, but then, the plot thickened (as in there's a plot now) and congealed into Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge (1591), wherein Chris is generally believed to have improved with age, walking a little faster, not bleeding whip upgrades like a sieve, and able to use some special weapons.*

The intro text scroll will fill you in on the now-existent plot, and allow me to make a couple of asides regarding Christopher's son. Firstly, his name should read "Soleil"---in fact the Konami GameBoy Collection (released in Europe) does render it that way. "Soleiyu" is some good old-fashioned transliteration fail, but when you hear how that's pronounced in French, you can understand how it happened. All of a sudden, it makes sense, and there's even a multilingual pun in that Chris named his son French for "sun." We don't see that much of Soleil, but he's significant in a couple of other ways, speaking here in terms of game-release order. He was the series' first canon "damsel in distress," preceded only by Simon's non-canon bride in Haunted Castle (more on it tomorrow). Soleil was also the first proper case of a mind-controlled/loyalty-challenged friend or loved one, a complication that would later become something of a series trademark.

But, playthroughs! One last time we revisit FreezingInfernos, who is much happier this time than last, and engages in some amusing hijinx before it's done. Also, all but the first video is again on the Konami GB collection, so it's in color, and you will see the ending call him "Soleil." So, for the straight version, we'll go classic black-and-white, with this run by UnitedVirusX (again, not available in a playlist that I can find; you'll just have to follow the trail through the "related videos" links); this way you can see the American version of the text---the ending at least is a bit different, and not only for spelling it "Soleiyu."

Generally, Christopher isn't one I've put a whole lot of thought into, I admit, so on the "my reactions" front I'm a bit indifferent. In my fanfic universe, I have actually considered axing Adventure and saying that only Revenge happened (Chris thought he dodged the family-destiny bullet, but no!), but I'm not sure I'd really be doing that for any particular reason, so why mess with it...?

* The weird thing is, the IDW comic ("The Belmont Legacy") has a scene of him getting the special weapons---for Adventure, in which game he does not use them. It might have been more interesting to use the scene to explain why he didn't have them that time, and any geeks who caught onto the reference/accuracy might enjoy it (or maybe it's just me that would do or enjoy that sort of thing), but who am I kidding, nothing could have saved that drek...
foxinthestars: cute drawing of a fox (Default)
The new bed is supposed to be arriving today, finally, which led to some drama about what to do with the old futon in this overstuffed slide-puzzle of a house; only when moving it into the living room proved utterly untenable was that plan abandoned, and I still couldn't talk them into just having the furniture people haul it away... There's a chance they might not make it today due to weather, in which case I'll have to figure out where to sleep until they do, but it'll be fine.

Anyway, continuing the walk through the Castlevania timeline via online playthroughs, I've decided to take it century by century, and so today we have the Fourteen-Hundreds---before Transylvania discovered witch trials, but no need to go into that...

This brings us first to one of the old-school classics, Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse (1476). This was probably the moment when the series first began expanding from the episodic and infinitely-rehashed adventures of Simon (the only non-Simon game released before it was The Castlevania Adventure, and it didn't become entirely clear that its hero was not Simon until Belmont's Revenge came out later) into the elaborate mythos we know today, and was also the first to branch out into different kinds of playable characters. Many of its concepts have been shuffled around a lot since, but at any rate it introduced us to Trevor Belmont, Alucard (who would be much more important and awesome later), Sypha Belnades (founder of a heroic lineage to rival the Belmonts themselves), and some pirate guy. I kid Grant... ^_^; It also had incredibly awesome music for an NES game, just want to mention.

First, I feel like I should include the cinematic intro; written by a third-grader as it may appear, it's still classic. As for the rest, I turn this time to Tom Votava's runs at Speed Demos Archive (ETA: Since writing, Tom Votava's times have been beaten by Josh Ballard). The downsides are that the dialogue scenes do get rushed (they're all there but worrying the pause button might help in reading them fully) and he doesn't use Sypha much at all. On the other hand, all four endings are included in full unhurried glory, and he exploits Alucard and Grant in ways that can be fun to watch; the first time Grant climbed up through the status area to take a short cut I was like "He can't do that! Can he??" For this kind of old-school game, the sacrifices for speed don't detract from the experience the way they do with a newer, story-heavy type of game.

As for reactions, well, what can I say about this? It's one of those things I take for granted, a matter of course, but especially an old-school game like this, I take its depiction of events as a rough sketch and feel free to finesse things and improvise around it.

But speaking of newer, story-heavy games, there is one more entry from this era, far more recent but a direct story-sequel to CV3, Curse of Darkness (1479). I'm flying blind here because I haven't watched it. I have this playthrough by Rodriguezjr filed away to watch, but I'm currently resting up before I do so because, er... I expect this to hurt. A lot. (Not that I expect it's a bad game, but the story is pretty much certain to cause me some dissonance issues and I'm not the best at dealing with that kind of thing.) On the upside, when I manage it, then this will probably become even more hilarious than it is now. And any reactions should wait until then.

ADDENDA: Curse of Darkness had a preorder manga by Ayami Kojima, which helps it make more sense as the game throws you en medias res. Vampire Killer has a translated version (which reads Western-style, left-to-right; I got all confused... ^_^;). There's also another prologue manga of two volumes by Kou Sasakura, available in translated form from TokyoPop. I have it but I've only read the first half.

ADDENDA 2: Okay, I have now watched the playthrough; it hurt about as much as I expected, and I concluded that the thing is essentially bad fanfiction. By and large, not canon in my CV universe; it is possible that Hector and Isaac exist in some capacity, but the events of the game certainly don't happen.
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First, the housekeeping: crossposting everything to LJ basically just made me feel like I was on LJ still, and the same old writer's block came right back; witness the paucity of posting since I did that. I've actually been writing things in a physical journal (not a bad habit generally) because I didn't feel like putting them up on LJ, and I mean, some of my LJ friends might like them fine, but I just don't want to get into it; somehow the atmosphere over there felt kind of toxic or stifling, through the fault of no one in particular. So, I will now try to get back to what seemed to be working when I moved over here, and from here on out I will not be crossposting by default, but only if I actively choose to.

Okay, the other part! Awhile back, it was a very dangerous realization for me that I can watch video game playthroughs on YouTube and such, but, still in the throes of my Castlevania obsession, I've been using this for research so I can at least see all of games that I lack access, skill, or inclination to fully play through myself. I also have a bad habit of discarding the links once I do so, and then later wanting them, so I'm going to post in my blog links to playthroughs of everything I can find, in storyline-chronological order.

Usually, I have favored playthroughs over "Let's Plays" with commentary, preferring to watch the game and draw my own conclusions. This is not so in all cases, as you'll see today. Let's Plays should be assumed to contain off-color language and such, but I will only post ones that I find entertaining (unless there's a case where it's the only playthrough of the game I can find).

So, today, the first installment: Origin Myths! (Both of them.)

Because it purports to be longer ago (1094... or maybe not), we begin with Lament of Innocence.

I did re-find the playthrough I watched, this one by TheRagnarokSeeker. Between the ones I found, it's significantly shorter; to eliminate backtracking, it doesn't do the five stages in the standard recommended order (to the extent that there is one), but the story scenes they yield are not sequence-dependent, so it doesn't matter much. The inkiness and the English voice acting (I prefer the Japanese myself) are sadly unavoidable; practically all videos of the PS2 Castlevanias are just about this murky, it seems... (ETA: Link broke; here's another one by Cychreus, a shorter one by Rodriguezjr, or just the cutscenes from Chapel of Resonance.)

Honorable Mention: My favorite Let's Player I've encountered, EvilTim (known on YouTube more recently as CruelestChris), started a run through Lament but only got three videos in. (I posted the first part of it before and have since found the rest of his stuff; we'll revisit him when we get to the N64 games.) Still, here they are: One, Two, and Three.

As for my own reactions, I have some mixed feelings about it all starting in a welter of magibabble like this, but decided it was material I could work with. There's some deep human tragedy underneath all the silliness...

But of course, Lament is not the only Castlevania origin story! For the "Igarashi is a stupid jerk" crowd, or for the academic curiosity of others (such as myself), I also present Castlevania Legends (c.1450)!

I did find a plain playthrough of this, but it had multiple problems (so-so sound, bad sync, rushed cutscenes, missing epilogue, plus with this one some explanation helps, of the magic and Burning Mode and such), so I'll just give you what I watched myself: this Let's Play by FreezingInfernos, who amused me with his comments on how game-breaking some of the magic is and his sympathy with this game being struck from the canon. (That Sonia/Alucard thing? It's not implied, it's stated with a wink and a sledgehammer. They just fawn all over each other; my head a splode.) He did all three gameboy Castlevanias, actually, so I'll plug him again when we come to Christopher.

My reactions, well, you already know which side of this I'm on. I watched it for academic curiosity, and the plot hurts my head (but not as much as it hurts Alucard-in-my-head's head). Not that I didn't enjoy doing so, of course, and I've mentioned before that I did keep the fact that there was a Sonia, but the rest is tossed. In general I do tend to be more drawn to the "IGA-verse" stuff, if you will, but I don't have any particular respect for the guy. Maybe it's the way of an activist fan-author like me to be a nasty ingrate. ^__~;
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I have fallen back into insufficient posting and insufficient Castlevania blathering, so here goes...

It occurred to me that, much as I love Symphony of the Night, the second half makes no sense. So, you don't want Dracula to be revived by Shaft, right? And he can't be just yet because his body parts are scattered through the inverted castle. So what do you-as-Alucard do? Collect all those bits together in one place! That much actually works, because if you didn't, then Shaft might do it instead and that would be bad. But once you've got them, all, then what do you do? You take them all to where Shaft is! How was that supposed to work? Wouldn't it be a lot smarter to, like, burn them, or toss them off the cliff into the body of water that's down there, or leave the castle, drop those off with Richter and Maria, and then if the castle was still there go back and deal with Shaft with those out of the picture?

I just can't figure out how it makes any sense. Except of course on the level of that being the task a video game presents you with and it's a fun game and stuff, which shouldn't be sold short after all, but I've saddled myself with trying to make more conventional sense of this crazy series, so... ^_^;;
foxinthestars: cute drawing of a fox (Default)
I knew what I wanted to write about but kept not getting around to it, but it's been a few days so I wanted to do it before I go to bed.

Speaking of, I'm getting a new bed. We just needed a mattress set, and it's a nice one. I'm looking forward to it; the futon is wearing pretty thin...

Tomorrow we're going to visit Jessie, and I'll get my braces adjusted (cue up another week of eating gingerly against the soreness), and a haircut, which I'm seriously needing. I think I'm going to cut it back like 6-8"; I'd still have a respectable ponytail even then.

But anyway, blabbering topics from the title!

I did start FF1 over again; figured I'd better do it before I got in too far, and invested an afternoon in more-than-catching up. As I said, I changed out the black mage for a black belt, and it's working very nicely. BM's attacks burned up so fast I tended to be sparing with them, but it meant he was a load the vast majority of the time; now the party is load-free, and it just feels more pleasant. I also have to grind out gold for only two mages instead of three, and the magic prices in that game are utterly insane, so this matters. The embarrassing part... I'm at the Marsh Cave and I still haven't fully decided whether my black belt is a boy or a girl. I named her/him Haru, which could probably go either way (especially in a fantasy world). I think I want a girl, but I'll just have to make a special effort to picture her that way. (White mage has always read as a girl, although none of the sprites are all that gender-specific when you come right to it.)

Randomly FF-related, this is cool.

So the black belt has the nunchucks, and as for the other... It's the Castlevania fanfic again. I'm still just making stuff up and kind of summarizing it in this big text file while I try to figure out what to do about it, but I was thinking about what I have there and... God forgive me, I did it! I stuffed a woman in a refrigerator!!! ^0^;; And I still like the story idea...

It's not like Castlevania didn't hand me enough of them already, either, for me to need to make one up myself. That is one kind of problem I had getting sucked back into this after my stint in comics feminism, is I'm back in a series full of distressed damsels, evil succubi, fridge-women, and just plain woman-free games. I could probably wring a Bechdel test pass out of a few of them (does it count if Mina and Yoko are implied to have talked to each other at some prior point in time...?), but a small minority.

In some cases I kind of feel like it's dragging me down with it, like the mentioned woman in the refrigerator (Alucard's; that "mustn't get close; cursed blood" thing? He didn't make that up by himself.), the trouble with a reincarnation romance being that (since in this case it seems thus directional) the guy becomes literally the reason the girl exists, etc... In other cases though, I daresay I'm finding ways to resist. When I invent a whole new scenario to add, I tend toward heroines. While the women in refrigerators I was handed are still women who died as part of a male character's story, I've tried in various ways to give them some agency, that they made their own choices that brought them to that pass or didn't actually play along with the guy's story so easily (sadly I have not yet really managed this with the one I myself added; the idea really hinges on her being a total innocent victim). And the reincarnation romance thing, I also imagine that as a choice, and it's not like the women are broken up and incomplete in the absence of the respective men. (Since I mentioned in a previous entry having done this with Alucard and Maria, er, him without her is orders of magnitude more pathetic than her without him; when he went back to his eternal sleep, she did always want another chance, but she also got over the loss and got on with her life.)

But being in the grip of one of my story-obsessions, it's really hard for me to say if I'm doing okay; it's so tempting to rationalize, and I don't think the whole "women in refrigerators" meme was ever meant as a "never ever do this or you fail at writing and decency forever" kind of thing, but would I think so much of this if it was someone else doing it...?

Unrelated, but amid all my other crises of confidence, I'm unsure of my ability to pull off a suitable Castlevania mood; I mean, I've always had problems drawing monsters in a way that they aren't, um... cute. Probably manageable, tho...

But in general, it's like I'm stuck in this uncomfortable space of a) being totally obsessed with something while b) not knowing if it's worthwhile to even do. Once when I was young, that doubt would hardly have occurred to me (or it was presented to me consciously but I had the strength not to internalize it)---although I don't know how often I did get beyond summaries and snippets or actually show people anything (I was scared to death of people seeing my fanfic when I was a kid; Jessie can probably tell you how neurotic I was), so maybe it's not really so different... Having come to assume an internet full of assholes as the potential audience doesn't help, but it's full of nice, fun, understanding people, too, as I should well know. Of course, maybe this is all just excuses for being lazy, too, then I could really beat myself up...

Just mucking around with the story, though, finding ways that little game-trivia details or things I didn't think would fit can work in nicely... It's just so much fun.
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Back in the day, the ex and I had a whole list of unintentionally humorous big name screams, and when we saw a character do that sometimes we would go through them all.

1. KHAAAAAAAAAAAN! (you should know that one)
2. COOOOOO! (obscure anime of the same name)
3. IKARAAAAAAAAAA! (first season Babylon 5 episode)
and perhaps for good measure:
4. SQUANTOOOOOOOOOH! ...a warrior's tale... (self-consciously funny MST3K version)

Well, I've got one to add to the list now. I guess my desire to fold Lament into the fanfic universe hit critical mass, my ability to play it was falling short of requirements to just see the story already, so I watched a YouTube playthrough of it with all the cutscenes, wth. I'll just say someone screamed someone else's name in that ham-and-cheese kind of way.

I think there's also a rule somewhere that all Succubi must have annoying and laughable voice acting. I expect the whole thing plays better in Japanese with subtitles.

The plot did strike me as kind of dumb in places. It's fun to go through it replacing every mention of "the Ebony Stone" with "the MacGuffin" and "the Crimson Stone" with "the Super-Deluxe MacGuffin." In general it was like it had trouble threading the needle between clich├ęd and contrived, but there's definitely stuff here I can work with. Maybe some finessing and retooling, but nothing too drastic...

Of course this one was made during my long hiatus from CV from about 2001-2008 (from Circle of the Moon to Order of Ecclesia in game-release terms). They did a lot with the series in that time and it was a lot to absorb and try to work in. I'm still not done sussing it all out; Portrait of Ruin is completely up in the air whether I'll use it. Curse of Darkness I still think is going to get trashed (or at least mostly trashed), but you never quite know...

Of course some of them, my knee-jerk is to ignore them, then I play them and get attached to them and decide to work them in and it generally comes out to my liking. (When I get around to playing Portrait of Ruin I think the odds are in its favor in this kind of way...) My first instinct was actually not to use Lament at all, but then I thought of how it could work quite nicely together with how I had finessed the Sonia thing, and started liking the idea and here I am now...

BTW, by "finessed" the Sonia thing I mean I took a wrecking ball to that game and left nothing standing but the fact that there was a Sonia Belmont who fought Dracula before Trevor did. (Alucard, btw, not involved; he wouldn't be born for another century or so in my timeline.) The idea was that, as legend had it, the Belmont vampire hunting legacy began with her, previously a poor peasant-type-person, when an angel appeared to her and told her to destroy the evil creatures of the night, and when she protested that she had no money for a sword or anything, the angel told her that the whip she used to drive animals would be her sacred weapon, and so off she went.

I still liked that, and then I thought, I could use Lament and still keep it. So... What do you suppose that "angel" looked like? (And how horrified do you suppose he was to find the kids, er, using his whip for a whip? We might get a reprise of that cheesy name scream...)

When challenged by a woman cow-herder, Dracula thought it was pretty damn funny that Leon's promised vengeance showed up looking like that. Funny until she kicked his ass, anyway.

(Just telling little bits of the story on my blog might not be interesting to anyone but me, but I remember, when I started this blog, I had tried to resolve not to care about such things; I'd rather blather about things no one else cares about than not blather at all, if it comes to that...)
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I remembered, Sis and I were kind of surprised over New Years to find that old MC Hammer song on DDR X. I commented that I preferred the Weird Al version, so here that is. So dated and yet so timeless...

Snow on the roads and coldness will probably keep us in for awhile. With even less access to my PS2 than usual, I was a naughty girl and tried installing an emulator. Predictably, it didn't go too well. Lament seemed feasible until I went into the first dungeon and anything much started happening; then, molasses. Watching Leon get belted with a bone in slow-mo was actually quite amusing, but not all that playable. I think I should swap out my PS2 and the crappy DVD player we have here at home; then they can still watch DVDs over there (Dad's a preacher and "over there" is the parsonage), and we'll have both a PS2 and a better DVD player here. There are still limitations to that, but I tend to stay up later than everyone else and I stay at home while they're at church, so I'd have more opportunity to play it than I do now...
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I do like to do little bits and pieces of the research, but let's be honest, in any terms distantly approaching historical accuracy, Castlevania is a hopeless case. I fired up this video via Google, L'ed MAO within 20 seconds, and haven't even tried at the rest yet...

Crusades won't begin for a year. That is indeed important.

(Also on the accuracy front, I was actually looking for a Lament vid because while my copy of it is right here, my PS2 is 20 miles away, so the internet is the easiest way to check the sound of Leon's whip. It's amusing to me that while so many Castlevania heroes use basically a bullwhip, seldom if ever do we hear said whip crack. Most of the time it acts nothing like a real whip whatsoever, mind, and makes a nifty-in-its-own-right, perhaps even better than realistic sound, but I'm amused that in this respect it would act more boring than realism would recommend. ... Found a more mundane Lament vid now; Leon doesn't seem to actually crack the whip either, it just makes swooshing sounds unless it hits something.)

There's also the fact that, as has been pointed out, pretty much every female character in the CV3/1470s timeframe has faced the threat of being burned as a witch, one being killed that way even somewhat earlier. I just got done taking a "History of Witch Hunts" course*. Witch-burning didn't actually hit the bigtime as we think of it until about 1550, and came later in Eastern locales like Transylvania and Wallachia than to the French and Germans who pretty much thought it up. (Persisted a little later by similar token---which is why the supposedly-backward east takes so much of the rap for stuff that more western Europeans actually invented and did more of.) 1470s or earlier, you would not have had witch trials in what is now Romania. None.

Witch beliefs and reactions thereto are another matter of course; in my fanfic universe I finessed this with Lisa being burned by a vigilante mob rather than the Inquisition. Like I said, doing bits and pieces of the research makes me feel better...

Trying to make it all square, tho, will just drive you nuts---I knew that even before that Lament vid. There are no Ottomans, there are no Habsburgs, everybody's nominally Catholic, it's a videogame story, just relax... Hell if you go back to the original Castlevania the whole thing seems to have started as a lark; "Let's have some guy fight every movie monster, and base the title and credits roll on lame wordplay."

Basically my rule of thumb is that historical research is to be a creative not a destructive element. It's working pretty well so far. Like the above adjustment with Lisa I rather like. I had thought that Maria got Alucard a necklace, but it was research into period jewelry that suggested it might be a tiny painting of her in watercolor on ivory, which is like way cooler than what I would have just made up. (Okay, so portrait miniatures at that time were probably not as common in now-Romania than say England but still, people and stuff get around...)

*Must remember to talk later about the whole classes and history business...

ETA: I actually did watch the rest of the vid; pretty entertaining but I never did quite lose it again like that first 20 seconds revelation... The other highlight is at 17:45 where he covers the Sonia issue, and, er... I pretty much concur with his assessment. I finessed that too, but I think the original creators don't have the options I do, and it's easier for them to just give a game an "in or out" than to say "Yes but it was way different, see what really happened is..." Whereas me with my fanfic, I can just rewrite anything I want to, hah!
foxinthestars: cute drawing of a fox (Default)
(Hey, I practically started this journal just so I could prattle about Castlevania, I'm gonna do it.)

I have mixed feelings about the Ayami Kojima art. I mean, it's totally awesome looking, and when you compare what the series art looked like before SotN, it's just no contest at all. However, the more I look at it, I have the same problem with it I eventually had with Yoshitaka Amano, that it starts to look like most of the characters are just costume changes of the same androgynously pretty person. Also there are at times some structure issues beneath the dazzlingly-pretty surface. Like, take this picture of Joachim from Lament of Innocence; in a vampiric angsty-gothic-horror kind of way, it looks really cool, I won't argue with that---but we might be able to debate how his right leg attaches to his body. If you look at the other leg, too, it's possible that he just carries that much weight in his thighs. ... ::blinkblink:: And wtf is going on with his left upper arm? This pic of Yoko has always bugged me, too; it's like her head is too small and her breasts are strangely large and low on her body; which doesn't seem to be a unique problem on clothed women (oh, and more strangely attenuated upper arms in that last one...). Not that there's much of a point to this; cool-looking does not equal God, I guess. It usually translates into pixels pretty well, too; like the in-game version of that Yoko pic, whether it's the cropping or what, it looks good.

I didn't necessarily mind the anime style they used for awhile... Although I am sore that they took away Soma's pimp coat. He looks better in fur. -.-;

While I'm on mixed feelings re: official CV stuff, the things they're currently hyping: Lords of Shadow I'm pretty indifferent about. A major issue for me is always whether I can incorporate a game into my fanfic universe, and LoS doesn't look like anything I would use, but that's irrelevant to whether it's a good game; there's only one way to know that, and it's not that time yet.

I'm more flustered about the CV3-based animated movie they're talking about. Partly because my fanfic universe does crucially revolve around CV3 so dissonance is a much bigger issue. Also they got Warren Ellis to work on it, and I was like "oh. shit." All right it could have been worse, it could have been Frank Miller, but I frankly can't think of any big name in American Comics whose stamp on a movie would tempt me to watch it, or who I would trust with a universe I adored. Maybe J. Michael Straczynski (I haven't kept close watch on him since Bab5, I admit, but someone with the sensibility behind Bab5 working on Castlevania might come up with something that would be my cup of tea. Being that my tack on it tends more toward the shoujo/J-pop humanistic side than the badass gothic horror side, and that's probably why no one would actually do it like that...).

Of course, big-name American Comics and I have long had a contentious relationship. Mind there is damn good indie stuff; I tend to like that better. If they got Lea Hernandez to make a Castlevania movie, I'd be all over that like you wouldn't believe. That should tell you a lot about me.

(BTW, I did tell my sister that I'd moved, so if you're reading this, hi, Jessie!)


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