Thursday, November 6, 2014

Quester vs Zombies Ate My Neighbors

(Zombies Ate My Neighbors, September 1994, LucasArts)

Halloween used to be my favorite holiday, then it got too mainstream. Now my favorite holiday is July 7th’s obscure nWo B-Team Appreciation Day. Sorry... hipster moment there...anyhoodles, WELCOME BACK! It's been awhile, I know. The world is a funny, glorious, fucked up place and I was much more content with burying my brain into some pixel art there for a bit. My now award winning art was a distraction from many trials and tribulations of fire that need to be overcome. Call it real life questing, if you will. What can I say? When the bug bites, it bites fuckin' hard. On top of that, my ever curious great grandchildren approached me whilst whittling on my rocking chair and eating horehound the other morning and innocently inquired:

"Paw-Paw Ques-Tuh, we heard you were some sort of pseudo-legendary reviewer of old grey carts and we never got to see you do your thing! So, if you could show us what you used to do, there is a tiny chance we will trot you out in front of our class like a science project on Family Job Day!". 

With that type of task of raw pride laid out in front of me, there can be no other option but to dust off the pencil box, roll up the sleeves of my off-white long john thermals and grab my corncob pipe, and do the motherfucking thing right! Right? Right. The Quester is back, baby...

Wait for it...let me earn it...

In the spirit of the dead, as a campy glorification of gore imbibes all of our souls come October, it seemed apropos to look into a game that is tailor made for the holiday.  A title that is both Halloween themed as well as one yours truly isn't very versed in, with a name that alone is epic in every possible way: Zombie Ate My Neighbors. (Also referred to for the sake of any futurecarpal tunnel I may incur as ZAMN)

A game that makes you feel stoned even when you're not!

ZAMN was bestowed unto us by LucasArts in 1993 while they were in the midst of the company blessing us unworthy gamers with some of the more memorable adventure titles of the time, some of note being Monkey Island, Grim Fandango, and Maniac Mansion. Both are critically acclaimed and magnificent titles that no respectable game library should be without. 

If this screen twists your face into a smile, your 90's were awesome.

Zombies Ate My Neighbors was released for both the SNES and Genesis around the same time Secret of Mana dropped, totally explaining how it flew by my radar. Around this point in the teenage Quester's timestream, there existed only oxygen, water, food, and Secret of Mana. No regrets, there. Curiously, this little ditty sometimes gets referred to as a Konami game when all Konami really did was produce the carts and slap the pretty sticker on. So, did I make a boo-boo in not giving this cult favorite run and gun a go? Read on o' curious one! 

It takes no time at all for the wacky to kick in.

Oh, come on, you know you missed my extended and overwinded history sections! 

Tough shit, you're getting it anyway. >:(

Zombies Ate My Neighbors was primarily conceptualized by the talented and twisted Mike Ebert. Ebert was also the mind behind the NES Star Wars titles and Simpsons Wrestling, before founding Big Ape Studios. Citing Smash TV and Robotron: 2084 as his favorite arcade games of all-time, Mr. Ebert set out to pay homage to these beloved hand crampers as well as a tip of the hat to all his favorite horror movie cliches. Along with a fellow SCUMM engine expert, Kalani Streicher, and future children's music star Joe McDermott, a unique team was formed. They all set out to make something both brand new and comfortably familiar. I won't outright say they succeeded but somewhere in the distance my ears clearly detect a soccer announcer belting out GOALLLLLLLLLLLL at the top of his lungs.

In case my insurance dropped me while I was gone, make sure he doesn't pass out on us.

The plot is about as straight forward as it can get, as in, the Commodore VIC-20 had a few games with deeper lore. That being said, its primary vision is that of a campy horror game, so how much backstory could us players possibly need? If the majority of B-movies never contain much of a sensible plot, I can see why they didn't go all Xenogears here. 

Like Tecmo Bowl from your nightmares.

In a nutshell, a madman who was cursed with the porno-riffic name of Dr. Tongue did his madman type experiments (as madmen are almost certain to do) and unleashed his mutated creations all over, well, creation. Two plutonic teenage pals by the name of Zeke and Julie round up as much weird shit as they can to save their hapless neighbors from the horrors inhabiting every level. Why these two are fighting for the survival of the hood while the other surrounding humans are barbequing, displaying their pom pom skills, and vacationing on a trampoline, who knows? They obviously share more passion for their homestead turf than I do because if the zombie shit ever truly hits the fan, my immediate neighbors are so beyond the realm of fucked that it isn't even funny. All of this leads to the ultimate showdown between the two teens and one Dr. Tongue. Umm...

Then again...creepy enough!

The graphics are a high point for me as the game can be as colorful and vibrant as a Randy Savage ring outfit, or as dark and foreboding as anything named 'Vania. The sprites are all at once wonderfully large, demented, memorable, and fit like a glove. One of my personal favorite features is the presentation of the levels, complete with D-movie style titles such as Chainsaw Hedgemaze Mayhem and Pyramid of Fear. Great care was taken to make each level have a unique atmosphere, and as a result ZAMN never suffers a case of the same old sharkshit when entering a new challenge. Pyramids, football fields, supermarkets, medieval castles, and graveyards are just a few of the offerings here and those are just in the first fifth of this rowdy run n' gunnin' romp. Add in a sprinkle and a dash of some awesome co-op and this becomes an explosion of color and sound that not many games on the SNES matched. Seriously and without my normal exaggeration, the fun factor of ZAMN runs as high as the scale allows. The weapon variety for the era is head-shakingly ahead of others of its time, as if the game was made yesterday in the vein of a SNES title. Let's delve deeper into that shall we?

I'd watch this in a New York minute.

Who says 16-bit games can't have a veritable shitpile of weapons? Imagine Krusty The Clown and The Punisher meeting on a summer vacation in Brazil, falling deeply into egomaniacal love and having a readymade-for-therapy baby… Who also gets off on killing shit. That's your fucking armory, my zombie hunting friends. I legitly lost count of how many things I could fire off or use in this gem of a game. No crapola, ZAMN is just a step below a Super Nintendo Ratchet & Clank with how deep the weapon system can get. More often than not, an RPG-like knowledge pulls your fat out of the fire as the natural progession of making it through the baddies of an RPG are as follows:

First things first, as it pertains to earlier...

1. Ahoy! A new, unseen enemy! Hack wildly at that ass with my default weapon!

2. That worked about as well as trying to stab someone to death with Jello. Now to cycle through all my enemy slaying stuff and find which offensive thingamajig works best for said monster, having my ass handed to me all the while. 

3.  Found one that works! Die forever monster demon creature! DIE!!!

4. Well...shit, I barely made it out of that one before I found the right weapon. Certainly, the next hit will kill me as dead as killed people get. Now I know better and shall use the EXP in my noggin's hard drive next time, whomp ass, and move on with life.

Rinse, wash, repeat. 

Example: Dart a little silverware at the werewolves and they go down faster than Kanye West's IQ anytime he speaks. I appreciate that level of detail in an older acton game tremendously.

THANK YOU! THANK YOU! Eat the waiter, tip the veal!

Onto Mr. McDermott's soundtrack. In my opinion, the audio in ZAMN is right up there with the frantic action and mind bending levels. The sound effects are relentlessly loud and in your face.  One of my normal issues with shooters is the lack of decent sounding explosions or the soundtrack drowning it out. No, my friends, when something goes KABOOM here in ZAMN Land, it treats your ears to the auditory satisfaction of shit of mass chaos around you. Kooky concept I know, but a lot of games in the era had trouble getting it right. In closing, this soundtrack is some of the most high end, delicious cream of the SNES crop without a doubt. The artist obviously had an inner affinity for the ambience of Universal horror films then translated that into a labor of love that became this OST. 

Speaking of, if you haven't dug into these yet, I cannot recommend these Legacy sets highly enough. 

Now, before we start naming our soon to be born children "Zamn Lucas”,  It isn't all overflowing with awesome. Understand that Zombies Ate My Neighbors has issues that should be addressed, but rest assured that they aren’t game breaking! The main issue is the weapons switch. Switching weapons can be well within the difficulty range of eating a pound of block cheese and trying to shit the next day. Often will you curse the screen simply because you had the know how, the will, and the way, but the damned weapon switch left you open to every attack under the sun, bringing your furious visage face to face with the game over screen. Aiming can also be tricky as some enemies require you to be precisely lined up with the middle of the target. This can be absolute hell in later levels when these brain-starved monstrosities swarm you from every corner of the screen. 

Or when you meet this insufferable pain in the ass.

Another minor gripe is the neighbor system. Play starts with ten neighbors that you are destined to protect per level. If one is killed by the monsters, then when you begin the the next level, you have nine to protect and so on. This makes the game unbeatable later on if you haven't regained bonus neighbors, attainable by turning in a spectacular performance. If the player finds him or herself down to one neighbor on a new level, grab a soda and hit that reset button as you'd have an easier time getting 2014 gamers to all get along. Practice truly makes perfect to get around these little hiccups, though, and after a few sessions, they become necessary evils required to endure these 16-bits of badassery.

Not spoiling anything, but that ending was some surreal shit.

9/10 Zombies Ate My Neighbors, without a doubt, kicks ass and has a line around the corner waiting to have it's ass kicked. A sequel named Ghoul Patrol was released in 1994 but wasn't nealy as warmly received. A movie is always rumored to be in the works so who knows if we have ever truly seen the last of this memorable franchise?

Even with this budget, it'd have to be better than that damned Chun Li movie. (pic:jacfalcon)

To read a captivating interview with ZAMN Creator Mike Ebert over at Gamasutra

Saturday, November 30, 2013


BY REQUEST!!! Something I threw on Facebook awhile back people seemed to like so HERE GOES!!!

NESquester's ZERO-BULLSHIT Walkthrough of King's Quest I for the max 158 points. If it isn't here, try toying around with shit or go to another better written walkthrough.

Left 1. OPEN DOOR. Up 1. Left 1. BOW. TALK KING. Right 1. Down 1. Left 1. PUSH ROCK from north. LOOK HOLE. GET DAGGER. Up 1. LOOK TREE. CLIMB TREE. Walk up branch. LOOK NEST. TAKE EGG. Walk down branch. Right 1. Take carrot. Up 1. TALK ELF. Up 1. GET BOWL. LOOK BOWL. Up 1. GET PEBBLES. Down 1. Left 1. GET WALNUT. OPEN WALNUT. Down 3. Left 3. LOOK IN STUMP. TAKE POUCH. LOOK INSIDE POUCH. Right 1. Down 1. Enter. TALK MAN. GIVE BOWL. FILL. TAKE FIDDLE. PLAY FIDDLE. Exit. Down 2. EAT HOUSE. OPEN DOOR. Enter. TAKE NOTE. READ NOTE. PUSH WITCH. OPEN CUPBOARD. TAKE CHEESE. Exit. Left 3. Down 1. TAKE CLOVER. Down 1(Fairy). Right 3. CUT ROPE. LOWER ROPE. CLIMB ROPE. Down 1. FILL BUCKET. DIVE. Left 1. THROW WATER. TAKE MIRROR. LOOK MIRROR. Right 1. Up 1. CLIMB ROPE. Left 1. Up 1. JUMP(or 0). Left 1. TAKE MUSHROOM. Right 1. Down hole. Down 1. Left 1. TALK RAT. GIVE CHEESE. OPEN DOOR. PLAY FIDDLE. Down 1. TAKE SCEPTRE. TAKE SHIELD. Left 1. EAT MUSHROOM. Exit. Left 2. Down 3. OPEN GATE. Enter. CLOSE GATE. Left 1. SHOW CARROT. Right 1. OPEN GATE. Left 2. Up 2. Wait. Up 1. TALK GNOME. IFNKOVHGROGHPRM. GET BEANS. Right 2. PLANT BEANS. CLIMB STALK. Up 3. Right 2. Down 1. Right 2. LOOK HOLE. GET SLING. Up 1. Left 1. Wait. GET CHEST. Right 1. Enter. Down 3. Exit. Up 4. Right 1. OPEN DOOR. Up 1. Left 1. BOW. *fini*

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What Does Being A Gamer Mean To Me?

What does being a gamer mean to me? 

Like any other passion in life, it is a bizarre amalgamation of the best of times and the worst of times. Sounds quite trivial when involving something meant to be fun such as video games right? Earlier this year, I went through the longest drought of my life without once positioning my thumbs onto buttons in that oh so reflexive way due to some serious psychological shit temporarily consuming me but eventually internally reevaluated how important those lovable moving bytes of information were to me and reconnected with them in a way you would a longtime family pet returning home after being lost for a time. 

It hearkens back to the old mafia joke. "Everytime you try to get out, they pull you back in." I have accepted that for better or for worse, they will be a part of my life forever in some form or fashion. Video games and I are practically married. As fucked up and past the point of corny as it sounds, Mario, Sonic, Claptrap, Cloud, & Pitfall Harry have been there for me as a form of entertainment long before and long after the Angelas, Robyns and Melissas of the world. That aspect can be joyous nostalgia or melancholy memoriam where gaming is concerned as I can remember the first time playing Yar's Revenge with my best friend who tragically passed away in 2006 back in '84 just as vividly as I can remember Borderlands 2 being played in the final day of a failed relationship that will haunt me eternally. 

Gaming is what you make of it, just like anything in life. Choose to revel in the positive and try your hardest to never dwell on the negative. From the avid to the casual, a gamer will always find their own path in their quest for fulfillment through our wacky little medium. I like to travel throughout as many genres as I can chew on but can certainly understand why some prefer one type over the other. 

Gaming can also be about opinion. There will be the elitists in every gaggle of geese who think their favorite should be the only game that exists, but pick a hobby, any hobby, and those people exist therein as well. I have my own opinions when it comes to things and I share mine in the form of reviews and social media but pride myself on how I will welcome different opinions and reading others reviews is still a refreshing and eye-opening experience for me. 

Being a gamer can mean making new acquaintances via something as small as wearing a like-minded shirt inside of a mall while grabbing a bite somehow resulting in an hour long conversation and a new life-long pal to raise pixelated hell with. Being a gamer means having a fantastic time no matter the game being in a cart or disc, how many bits it has, or any of that jazz as I have had as much fun hunting for the elusive Pink Tail in Final Fantasy IV as I had getting 1000/1000 on Alan Wake. Why else would a 14 year old me play 250 rounds of Mortal Kombat with my buddies just to play a game of Pong? Simple. I loved Pong and hadn't played it in years. The most advanced fighter on home consoles at the time and we were collectively frothing to play with some beeps, bloops, and blips. 

What does being a gamer mean to me? Tons of things.

Great memories. Sad memories. Life. Love. Loss. Laughter. Friendship. Enjoyment. Passion. Anger. Depression. Rebirth. Children. Mental exercises. Mental exhaustion. Writing. Talking. All of these but most importantly...

It means having a great time everytime you pick up a controller. Whether it is an escape, a time filler, a way to get through the wait at the DMV or Dr.'s office, a public World Record attempt, or just to get some good old fashioned kicks, EVERYTIME, make sure to have a wonderful time while doing it.

That is what being a gamer means to me.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


The Bounty

(Taken from the indiegogo page: LINK BELOW)


      Let me tell you a little about myself, and this project. I'm Dave Vogt; I run Gaming World Wide; a gaming group and website that focuses on charity, information, and entertainment. Beyond that, I hold several gaming world records, and have dabbled in independent game design for years. So, I'm bringing it all together. This title, The Bounty, is a unique, retro styled, high score based RPG. A roguelike with a classic arcade edge. It's meant to challenge the player, and inspire them to push their limits further. You start your game, and delve into the dungeon; everything you do rewards you with points. But there are no shops, no inns, no safehouses. Once you die, you die. You're awarded your score, and return to the title screen. Next time you might do better. Of course, you might end up in different levels this time.  Above all that? The game is being released for free. Featuring custom sprite work by Mike "NESQuester" Wright, we have the highest expectations of this game to bring you back to the old days, in a new way.
     Care to try it now? I've assembled a pre-alpha demo. This is proof of concept only; just enough to get the object of the game across, using all stock middleware RTP assets. You can find and download this demo here.

What We Need & What You Get

So, how much are we looking for? The lower end is $2500. This will cover a bare minimum of development costs such as hardware, software, and staff. Going up to a more desirable $4000 and beyond will get us custom chiptune music, more artwork, and more specialized hardware. Basically, a more awesome final product, and a framework to deliver new level packs and sequels in the future. 
  The perks really involve you in the development. Your contributions will have you designing levels in the dungeons, helping create items, and even becoming a playable character! I'll personally work with you to ensure maximum balancing and playability, so it's a fun and easy way to make a real creative contribution; a personal touch beyond a standard financial funding-for a perk. If you prefer promotional items, those are options as well, of course.
    We're aiming for a release date of December 1st, 2013. This could be delayed; whether there is a huge influx of fan created content, technical issues, or if additional debugging/QA testing is required. December 1st is the goal however, and video diaries will be recorded frequently, keeping you up to date on the progress.
     What if we don't reach our goal? A basic version of the game will be built. The art/music assets will be weaker, QA/bug testing will be limited; but there will be a well playing, quality game to be found!

The Impact

As AAA games get bigger and bigger, players are turning to independent games for those classic experiences the big studios don't bother with anymore. The Bounty is the real deal, with every detail painstakingly built and fine tuned by a world class competitor. To be able to present this experience to the world, free of charge... is beyond explanation. 

Other Ways You Can Help

If you can't contribute financially, there's still plenty you can do to help make this a reality! Beyond indiegogo's sharing tools, you can hype up this project, pass it around to the people you know. Anything you can do is most appreciated.

The Bounty - Indiegogo Page

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

SIDE-QUEST - Vampire Killer

(Vampire Killer, October 1986, Konami)

Metroidvania is a well-known portmanteau celebrating the awesomeness of the non-linear side-scroller popularized throughout the years. Your friendly neighborhood NESquester was pondering exactly how this term came to be coined as Castlevania was a very point A to point B type of experience. More extensive research into the legendary series led me directly into the waiting arms of a title only touched by Japanese and European hands and gave me the exact answer I was seeking. Exclusive to the wildy beloved MSX2 computer platforms, today we are going to sink our teeth into (pun very intended) a footnote in gaming that should be shitloads more popular than it is, Vampire Killer.

Fans would fill Ozarks jugs with all the skeet they could muster if this ever got announced

In a first for me, there is no need to go into my normal spiel concerning the storyline and development team as it is 100% the same crew that worked on the version released one month prior for the NES. Thankfully, they are given full credit here and not the ridiculous shit that they were saddled with during the end of Castlevania in a failed attempt at humor or whatever that was about. Imagine busting your everloving hump for a year of your life only to be tossed the back-asswards moniker of Vram Stoker. I imagine that must be close to how the poor kids in WWE must feel when given their new ring names. See below review for all the goodies!

So far, so kind of the same ol', same ol'.

Not knowing what exactly to expect, the title screen resembles that of the Japanese version of Castlevania. Our hero, Simon Belmont takes the famous walk to the gates of Dracula's castle just as before and the familiar music widens my smile as always. The first screen is territory that has been traversed on countless occasions so it appears that the second game of the Castlevanianseries is just a port named after Simon's whip right?

What in the name of FUCK just happened?


Eenie, meenie, miney, moe it is!

Keys? Treasure chests? Whip upgrades rarely available? Multiple stair cases? What the fuck happened to my Castlevania? Turns out that Vampire Killer is kind of like if you were married to a twin and they tried to pull a switcheroo on you for shits and giggles. The outer shell looks like the person you've come to know and grow older with but the inner workings like personality could never match up no matter the amount of effort went into the hoax. Don't get it twisted however, this is akin to both twins resembling Kat Dennings. Jackpot, my lucky retro gaming friends.

You're welcome.

In order to progress through each level, the skeleton key must be found, identified by its white color as the others to open chests are yellow. Remember being younger before this fangled internet machine gained steam and Nintendo Power debuting having to do things like toss the candle at every single bush in Legend of Zelda for any and all ways to bring everything you had at Ganondorf? Get ready to break some walls until your fingers are numb because that is where the keys are located now in place of food. Once again, we are given six levels of atmospheric good times in gothic Transylvania with three sections per level to conquer. Even if you are the current and reigning champion of the original Konami offering, you will be forced to think outside the box with Vampire Killer. 

George Lucas is the devil! Fucking KNEW it!!!

Another major difference are the new form of puzzles that lie within. Simply procuring the skeleton key isn't a guarantee that Mr. Belmont will advance to the next insanity test he has. Mr. Nagata clearly had a blast with his level designing as sometimes just getting to a wall you think MIGHT have the required key will induce migraines. One stage in particular forces you to fall into a pit (some shit you'd never dream of trying in the original) and plummet a few screens to land safely in front of the wall containing said item. What can make it even more maddening is that the levels are on an infinite loop so more often than not, the player will be struck with that "Deja Vu? Huh? Oh, fuck me running!" feeling. You know exactly what frustratng emotions I speak of. 

Medusa Heads and moving platforms? Stage designer must've been extra bitter on this day methinks!

Strategy also comes into play as there are a few more weapons Simon has gained mastery of. The pisser however, is if you throw, say, the Axe and don't catch it upon it's return, it is removed from your inventory until you obtain it again. I was less than thrilled about that but then Vampire Killer REALLY sticks it in and breaks it off when there are no extra lives and no continues. Luckily, there are a few bones thrown at you as you can tote around more than one item at a time, which comes in handy. Many new ways to improve Simon's position exists here, such as wings to make him jump higher and boots that add speed. I reckon someone took the month inbetween games to remind Simon that he wears a belt for a reason. Sub-weapons can still only be held one at a time but it isn't that big of a bother as only the Stopwatch and Holy Water are present assisting in using some of the same tricks us old dogs know. Medusa Heads + Stopwatch = NESquester not wanting to immediately atomize the first cute thing he sees. Precursor's to Simon's Quest begin to show up as well such as hearts now used for currency and the scattered merchants closely resemble the old woman sprites from Castlevania II. Buying from them is one of the more bizarre aspects to the game as you stroll up to where they sit and simply beat the piss out of them until they turn red and deal. Well, alrighty then.

"Gonna gimme some goodies or does Simon Belmont have to whip a bitch?"

Castlevania always sported one of the greatest rogue galleries in gaming and nothing has been altered here until the end. Giants bats, Medusa, Mummies, Frankenstein's Monster, and the Grim Reaper all make their valiant returns here to insure that you are needing a new keyboard before long and move about in around the formations we are accustomed to. Dracula himself added an extra stage to his castle just to be a true heel and his first form hasn't changed other than the fight taking place in front of an ominous looking portrait or the Prince of Darkness. Then again, maybe it has nothing to do with him because the figure you're fighting looks more like a zombie with a cape while the painting is rather close to Count Chocula with Great Tiger's gem embdedded between his eyes. Take out the first form and the background comes alive and starts shooting bats at you at an insane rate of fire presumably as revenge for the death of the beloved Wampa Bat in the NES version.

"I vant to eat your cereal!"

The gameplay and presentation aren't that much different though there is definately one MAJOR bitch I have to get out. Vampire Killer requires the player to press up to jump, which can be absolute hell if you're trying to jump near a staircase and Nagata put stairs EVERYWHERE. Many was the time I red raged because when attemptng to jump over an obstacle only to begin my slow climb up or downstairs surely making Dracula cackle his undead ass off if he was watching. That graphics are better by just a bit as the trees look more like trees and the laboratory level simply steals the show. Kinuyo Yamashita's classic soundtrack is unchanged and as haunting as ever insuring great times to be had by all. The challenge is the most difficult aspect to compare as some trials and tribulations take less effort than before and some more. I will state for the record that Count Chocula is a hell of alot easier than Wampa Bat.

The graphics in the lab truly shine.

9/10 NOW I finally understand where the Metroidvania term came from. A sense of exploration not seen since the original Metroid but with the shiny coat of Castlevania over it makes this an instant classic in my books. The one point is due to the up button/staircase misfire but with time and patience, it can be overcome and overlooked as this was head and tails better than most of what was around in 1986. Vampire Killer definately laid the groundwork for countless future titles and should be regarded as right up there with Castlevania. If only THIS was labeled Castlevania II but, yeah, I still need to review that bastard child don't I...

Thursday, July 4, 2013

NESquest - Castlevania

(Castlevania, Konami, May 1987)

Leading up to May of 1987, the Nintendo Entertainment System had experienced a rash of games that were either grey squares of fecal matter (Trojan, Volleyball, Ikari Warriors) or average at best offerings (Gauntlet, Bomberman, Mighty Bomb Jack). Poor Mr. NES needed a title that could help establish its own identity as more than a piece of sturdy hardware that could port a decent arcade game. Konami understood this as well as wished to cement themselves eternally in the good graces of The Big N. The end product was an 8-bit platforming masterpiece that easily stands the test of time and spits in the face of dozens of other games that only wish they could pull off this level of gothic gaming beauty that Konami accomplished. Have a seat under the NESquester learning tree and stay awhile kids, this is Castlevania.

During the Second Quest, the bane of my existence throughout Gradius, the Moai Head, shows his face as an easter egg! Check out the Gradius review for the Konami backstory.

The story behind Castlevania is a much, much darker motherfucker than I had ever envisioned. Nintendo of America, in their neverending quest to censor anything they thought could cause children around the world to piss the bed en masse, removed pretty much the entire story and gave us Americans a vanilla "get to Dracula  using your magic whip and save the day" spiel in the manual. Even with their well-known penchant for censorship, crosses and skeletons are scattered all over the place as well as epic shit like The Count's head flying towards deep space when his first form is defeated. 

NoA's censors must've taken a weed nap during the laboratory stage.

So it goes that the year 1691 marked the one hundred year anniversary of the defeat of Dracula at the hands of one Christopher Belmont. The local township of Transylvania rests easy at night knowing that our fabled fanged badass is no more. However, every one hundred years there is a brief window in time where the power of Christ is weakened within the lands causing men's hearts to begin to turn towards the ways of the Sith. Wow, that would've gone over like a fart in church back in '87. Anyhoodles, the perfect storm came to a head during the annual Easter celebration when a group of the these blackened souls slipped off and broke into the local monastery with their sights set on resurrecting Vlad The Rad by way of black mass. A bolt of lightning shot down from the sky to signal the return of the Prince of Darkness and before the bewildered Transylvanians knew what was happening, Dracula's castle appeared out of thin air and the smell of thousands of people shitting themselves simultaneously in fear permeated the land.

"Who ordered the whoop-ass fajitas?"

In urgent need of a hero to eradicate this stench from the land, Christopher's ancestor, a strapping young lad named Simon Belmont was given the very whip that tanned Dracy's fanny a century past, the aptly named Vampire Killer. Vampire Killer also happens to be the title of another game in the series for the MSX2 that will be covered with Simon's Quest in the very near future. Realizing that his destiny awaited him, Simon threw on his best leather armor and boots and was apparently too manly for pants and off to fuck up some satanic blood suckers he went!

"And you PROMISE if I do this, I can play Simon Belmont in that up coming Captain N show? SWEAR TO ME!"

I would never forgive myself if I didn't mention the team who slaved to bring us this measuring stick of early NES platformers. Firstly, Akihito Nagata had the task of level designer and what a sadistic fuck this guy must've been! These are some of the most vicious levels gaming has ever seen. Mr. Nagata also went on to produce Metal Gear Solid for Konami as well as VR Missions. Currently, he has delved into television with a critically lauded anime overseas titled "Best Student Concil".

If Mr.Nagata accepts my Facebook friend request, my one question to him would be where the hell these stairs were supposed to lead to.

Secondly, Kinuyo Yamashita in her debut as a video game composer should be credited endlessly as a pioneering female in the industry. To this day, the music she created for Castlevania is remixed and there aren't many more 8-bit scores that are as beloved in the Nintendo's library. Sadly, she was credited as James Banana, a riff of James Bernard, the composer behind the classic 1958 Christopher Lee version of Dracula. Upon completion of her magnum opus, Ms.Yamashita left Konami to work independently creating the music for such games as Power Blade I and II, Parodius, and Megaman X3. If you are brand new to Castlevania (after having just left your underground bunker located in Amish country), then you owe it to yourself to listen to this OST. A timeless classic in every aspect. No bullshit, it's that good.

Crack that whip! Give the past a slip!

Now for the chili on the dog, the actual game itself. Six stages of gothic and horror themed mayhem are the showcase of this landmark pixelated dream. The designs put forth by Mr. Nagata are brilliant in that the stages are wildly different and contain some of the most atmospheric backdrops the NES had seen or ever would see again until the third installment. From the opening scene of Simon entering the castle to the decrepit look of the walls and curtains to the claustrophobic caverns underground, the variation of color schemes from vibrant yet creepy to dark and dismal are awe-inspiring to behold. For its time, the graphics present in Castlevania were nothing short of amazing. The controls are tighter than a gnat's asshole as Simon does exactly what you will him to do. A jumps, B whips, and pressing up with B shoots whatever sub-weapon you are holding. Crack the Vampire Killer at every candle in Simon's way to collect hearts which dictate how many times your secondary offensive weapon can be used. Beauty in simplicity folks. Strategy comes into play with the sub-weapon as unlike the mandatory dagger grab in Ghosts N' Goblins, the dagger here sucks more shit than a colonic after a drunken Taco Cabana escapade. 

Even Death takes a back seat to the Dark Prince. THAT is hardcore.

At the end of each stage are the most memorable set of bosses the planet Earth had ever seen. I recall the playground conversations of ten year old innocence crystal clear proclaiming that any game with Frankenstein and Dracula in it to be the best ever made. An homage to the Universal/Hammer movies of the 50's, the only famous monsters from that era I can see missing are The Wolfman and King Kong. Ironically, Kong was already starring in his own Konami title that was released exclusively in Japan. Even more ironically, they both ended up in the same crossover game Konami Wai Wai World along with Mikey from The Goonies and Moai! Wai Wai was a beyond bizarre fan service that I will definately dive into one day. 

No exaggeration down below. One thousand of THESE.

Onto the legendary status of the game, the challenge. Is Castlevania really as hard as people claim it is? Allow me to put it in as simple a way as possible. You could lock me in an large warehouse that is fully stocked with one thousand Jennifer Connelly clones, all stark naked and vigorously making out with each other and this game is STILL harder than I would EVER be. This cart may as well have been enclosed inside the cover of the fucking Necronomicon. One section of stage five in particular stands out with a combination of Axe Knights and Medusa Heads that would've even made Gandhi lose his shit. If the Grim Reaper doesn't make you become the second coming of Sam Kinison, Dracula himself is going to make you create strings of curse words that sound like a Twista rap. The Count waits passively at the top of his tower, presumably drinking coffee and calmly checking his Twitter while sending his minions after Simon. After his first form is defeated and his noggin shoots towards the stars like Babe Ruth knocked it off, he becomes a mix of the Wampa from Star Wars with an albino bat on PCP and if you're not chucking the boomerang with the triple shot, put the controller down and fix a drink, you're fucked.

"NOW he makes it to the top? Cockblocking pantsless sack of shit!!!"

10/10 An 8-bit orgasm of massive proportions. I honestly busted my ass to find a flaw in this game and all I have is the unforgiving difficulty, which was par for the course in ye olde days. "NES Hard" isn't a myth as Castlevania was one of those titles that turned boys into men and girls into women. Graphics that pushed the limits of the hardware, music that haunts to this very day, and a challenge that is among the greatest out there have earned it the rare full monty. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go hand the Captain N Simon Belmont a towel...

One minute he is Dracula and the next...