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Super Castlevania IV: 30th anniversary

Super Castlevania IV should just be called "Super Castlevania" because it's not a sequel but a retread of the original Castlevania . Although not a remake since the levels are all-new, the gameplay, main character, story, weapons, and enemies are the same, as Simon Belmont fights his way to Count Dracula's castle to slay the vampire. Basically, Konami took every idea from the 8-bit original and made a new 16-bit game from it. And it worked great! If you liked Castlevania, you'll love Super Castlevania. It's like the same game you remember, only better in every way (not unlike what Nintendo did with Super Metroid and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past ). The biggest improvement is the 16-bit graphics and sound. The soundtrack is a delight, and every level looks unique with nice parallax backgrounds. Playing this two months after I played Castlevania, I realized what a leap forward the SNES was. Super Castlevania looks better, sounds better, controls bette

Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts: 30th anniversary

Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts is an SNES-exclusive sequel to Ghouls 'n Ghosts, itself a sequel to Ghosts 'n Goblins . Like its predecessors, its claim to fame (or infamy) is being ridiculously hard. Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts follows the formula of Ghosts 'n Goblins to a tee. You control a knight named Arthur who must rescue Princess Guinevere by battling endless hordes of monsters and demons: Zombies, Ghosts, Weredogs, Bats, Red Arremers, and even Mimics (the D&D monster that disguises itself as a treasure chest). He picks up various weapons along the way but can only hold one at a time. Some of them (especially the torch) are worse than the throwing spears he begins with. Three new weapons are the crossbow, scythe, and tri-blade. The crossbow is good because it shoots two arrows at once, at about 45 and 30 degree angles upward. I avoid the scythe because Arthur can throw only one at a time and the ability to arc it downward by holding ↓ does not compensate for this. The

Final Fantasy IV: 30th anniversary

Thirty years ago today, Final Fantasy II arrived on the Super Nintendo. What we didn't know at the time was that we were getting a slimmed-down version of the Japanese Final Fantasy IV. It's a tragedy that II and III got skipped here, but the reason was valid at the time. Final Fantasy didn't make it to the U.S. until 1990, three years after its Japanese release. A complete prototype translation of II was made for the NES, but Square Soft decided a Super Nintendo sequel in 1991 made more financial sense. Every major NES hit was getting a Super sequel at that time. Had II been released here, it probably would've been slammed for looking dated and being hard-as-nails. No one in America was disappointed when we instead got Final Fantasy IV (disguised as II) on Super Nintendo in 1991! One of the game's strengths is the wide cast of rotating characters. Instead of rolling up a custom party at the beginning à la Dungeons & Dragons, you get to experience all the classe

Super Tennis: 30th anniversary

Thirty years ago this month Nintendo released Super Tennis. The word "super" indicates nothing more than that it's a Super NES game, the replacement for the original Tennis on the NES. It blows that dinosaur out of the water. Super Tennis has three main draws: realistic tennis simulation, a Circuit mode, and gameplay options. The game achieves a surprisingly intricate level of tennis simulation by mapping each of the four main buttons to a different type of stroke, depending whether you're near or far from the net. When your player is near the base line (the back boundary of the court), A is slice (slow with low bounce), B is flat (normal), X is top spin (fast with high bounce), and Y is lob (slow with high bounce). When you're near the net, A is light volley, B is strong volley, and X and Y are still top spin and lob, respectively. However, if you hit the ball with A or B before it bounces, you instead do a drop shot, which is a light hit that gets the ball just

Final Fight: 30th anniversary

Thirty years ago Final Fight came out on the Super Nintendo. The game itself is older, being a port of a 1989 arcade hit. Although originally developed by Capcom as a sequel to Street Fighter, the name was changed since it's a "beat-'em-up," whereas Street Fighter was a fighting game (player v. player). I've never played the arcade version, but I played one of the sequels on the SNES. It couldn't have been the original, which is one-player only. This is by far the game's biggest flaw. Beat-'em-ups aren't very fun by yourself; the whole point is to team up with a friend to take down all the enemies or die trying. Lack of a two-player option on console games was a common problem back then: Double Dragon  was also one-player on NES. Final Fight's biggest draw, I suppose, is you can choose from two characters, a huge lumberjack-type named Haggar, or a slimmer guy named Cody. Each has a slightly different move set. The arcade game had a third charac

Kid Icarus: A heavenly delight

I consider the "golden age" of NES games to have been inaugurated at the end of 1986 with top-notch third-party titles like Gradius and Castlevania . But it didn't fully emerge until Nintendo put out a trio of its own stellar games in the summer of 1987: Kid Icarus, Metroid , and The Legend of Zelda . If Kid Icarus doesn't seem great, it's only because it lives in its sisters' shadows. Except for Super Mario Bros. , none of the NES's earliest games were especially great or intricate. Duck Hunt was probably the second best, and it's extremely basic. But that changed with Kid Icarus. Like Super Mario Bros. before it, here was a platformer with multiple worlds. Although it had less than half as many stages as that game (thirteen compared to 32), they were longer and introduced a novel element: vertical scrolling. The game lacked the ability to scroll vertically and horizontally at once, so moving off-screen on vertical levels causes you to appear on the

Castlevania: Frightfully fun

The Castlevania series is a mainstay of classic Nintendo games. Strangely, despite there being four, I never saw or played any of them! So I came into the first Castlevania game fresh, and I attest that it lives up to its reputation. Watch a video version of this review Castlevania draws you in as soon as you turn it on. The title screen looks like a film reel, and when you start it plays a little cinematic of the hero, Simon Belmondo, entering Dracula's castle. The music and visuals are dark and realistic, in contrast to the light, cartoony look of Super Mario. Simon has a magic whip (à la Indiana Jones), which he uses to defeat all manner of spooky monsters. Vampire Bats, Zombies, Fish Men, Skeletons, Hunchbacks, Ghosts: this game has every horror stereotype you can imagine. Every three stages Simon faces a classic horror-movie boss: Frankenstein's Monster and Igor, the Mummy, the Grim Reaper, and finally Count Dracula himself. I feel sorry for myself having missed this back

Super Mario 64: 25th anniversary

Today is the 25th anniversary of the North American debut of the Nintendo 64 and its headline game, Super Mario 64! Although the N64 didn't sell nearly as well as its predecessor consoles, Super Mario 64 lived up to its own legacy, bringing Mario boldly into the third dimension. Watch a video version of this review I didn't own an N64 as a child, so I only played multiplayer N64 games socially. As a result, I only played this Mario classic a couple times. That's why I was thrilled when it was re-released last year as part of Super Mario 3D All-Stars . I finally got to try it for myself, and I was not disappointed. It was tricky to get used to, though. Moving Mario in three dimensions is a lot harder than in two, especially when you have limited control of the camera! Mario doesn't always move in the precise direction you want, which can be problematic when he's on a tight ledge. And the control limitation has only gotten more frustrating with time, since modern game