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Old 11-30-2022, 02:01 PM   #261 (permalink)
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Default Vampire Survivors

Vampire Survivors
I haven't had this much fun with a roguelike since Dead Cells, and there's been a bunch of good ones since then.

Vampire Survivors is an auto battler mixed with a roguelike done in such a way that upon first glance, it wouldn't look as though the game has much to offer. But as most of these games go, you discover the depth this game actually has as you spend more time on it. And while people may be turned off by the retro style graphics, I would highly recommend not to let that effect whether you pick this game up or not. I've not only purchased this game on Steam originally when it was around $1, it also got released on Game Pass, and naturally I picked that up as well. I had to put off progressing on my PC version of Vampire Survivors due to my laptop sort of crapping out on me, so my main source of gaming is my Xbox. And only recently this game hit Game Pass as I mentioned before so there was a bit of a gap with my progression of the game.

As a result of there being a gap in between the first time I played this and the 2nd time, a lot has changed with the game, adding in features that are simply quality of life changes, but we're much needed from its original state. Not to say the original state was bad by any means, there was just definitely more space to grow. I mean, in fairness the game started in early access on Steam so to even see it on Game Pass is excellent on its own merits.

Vampire Survivors as I said before is an auto battler mixed with a roguelike. So, much like Despot's Game, you don't have much control over how you attack enemies, however the depth truly reveals itself once you discover the various items you can use and unlock as well as items that work with other items to progress through each run. In other words, the game comes jam packed with synergies that you get to discover over time. Being one of the most fun parts of a roguelike. And such that, I won't really go into any detail that would reveal any synergies or items because most of the fun is figuring it our on your own. The nice thing is, it's not super obvious at the start what you're supposed to do, and hell, even after many hours of playtime, it still isn't incredibly obvious. You go 30 minutes through each run, collecting experience and unlocking items along the way. It just does so by also taking out the need for having to aim your weapon and having to worry about where you're shooting etc etc. Not that that's a bad thing to have to aim with your mouse or joystick, but it's nice when the game doesn't need it and builds itself around that.

As far as the retro style goes, I actually find that it adds to the games charm, because as much as it looks like there isn't a whole lot going on, I want to reiterate that there really is a lot of depth. And while I've probably put in about 20 hours of playtime on my Xbox alone, no run has been the same, and I continue to unlock items and achievements and eventually will unlock everything. And the whole 30 minutes thing is also not the worst thing in the world when so many other roguelikes have runs that could go for an hour or two. Nice to have a roguelike that is there for when you just want to spend a little time making some progress. It just helps tremendously that the game is also very very good.

The reason I also briefly stated that this is my favorite roguelike since Dead Cells, despite having many good experiences with roguelikes in general between these two releases, is simply down to the fact that I find myself wanting to jump back in over and over and over again. Whether it's due to the fact that I know I really only need to set aside a half hour of my time, or it's the fact that I know I still have quite a bit to unlock despite playing for a long time, whatever it is, it's gotten me under the same spell that Dead Cells had until that game evolved so much to where it can feel like a bit of a slog to go through. I still love Dead Cells dearly but it's definitely evolved a lot since it's initial release. Typical runs can take a little bit over an hour now, and I generally lose focus if a run isn't going the best way. It can be a toss up but that's what ultimately makes roguelikes so much fun to play.

The whole auto battler genre has been seeing a lot of attention lately, and I honestly think Vampire Survivors has done it the best, however I know that there are others that do it just as well. I mean, it seems like we have a new one releasing every other week. But, if my memory serves me right, this is also what happened when roguelikes got really big. Same with battle royale, and now it seems to be the case with auto battlers. I'm all for it though as long as they follow the same trend that Vampire Survivors has now undoubtedly set.

As the runs typically go pretty quick, I don't really know how many runs I have done altogether in my time playing the game, but I want to mention again that none of the runs have felt the same. that could again just simply be due to that I don't have a lot unlocked right now, or I just haven't seen a lot of the synergies, but I have seen how many items are available to unlock, so it may be quite some time before I feel like any two runs feel the same. I do have quite a few favorite synergies already, but again, I will refrain from spoiling anything. Much like Binding of Isaac, there are some runs where you will feel completely overpowered and invincible, and other times you'll feel like you're weaker than dirt. Never seems to take away from the experience as a whole though. I tend to always have a good time, despite the game feeling somewhat difficult at times.

I've only really mentioned the items and the synergies, but I'd also like to talk about the fact that even though I've unlocked about 15 different characters, whom all come with their own unique starting items and abilities, knowing what I know of the game, I know I have not even scratched the surface as far as character unlocks go. I don't actually know how many characters there are to unlock, but I know that each come with their own requirements in order to unlock them. And again, I try not to look up how to do so as I love the randomness of what you unlock after each run.

This game comes with my highest recommendation as I know it will get a lot of flack for how it looks on the outside. But if you're like me and you prefer experiences over graphics, Vampire Survivors is a must play. Hell, any auto battler is worth playing. They're all fun and come with their own unique quirks to provide their own unique experiences. I've not played many of them, hell Vampire Survivors may only be one of two that I have played, so I've got a lot of homework to do. If Vampire Survivors is a good look at the genre as a whole, well, I'm excited to continue checking out this genre as it evolves over time.
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Old 12-04-2022, 03:55 PM   #262 (permalink)
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Default Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance

Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance

Thank you once again to the Castlevania Advance Collection for proving it's worth once again. I recently talked about and played through Castlevania: Circle of the Moon, and even today, I still have close to nothing bad to say about it. It definitely feels odd having played through it again recently because as I'm much older, I feel like I appreciated and enjoyed the game mechanically a lot more than I did previously. Everything from how the character moves around to what kind of combat you'll find yourself in. I still hold it near and dear to my heart as one of my favorite games of all time as well as one of my favorite Castlevania games of all time.

Now, the advance collection also has Aria of Sorrow and Harmony of Dissonance which are two Castlevania games I always sort of regretted not playing back in the day. And playing through them now is proving that point to be even stronger. As far as mechanics go, they all sort of behave the same way, while also bringing in their own differences to set them apart from each other. All good for their own reasons while also maintaining a common theme. However, I've noticed that I am enjoying Harmony of Dissonance a lot more than both Circle of the Moon and Aria of Sorrow combined. While I have not put as much time into Aria of Sorrow as I have with Circle of the Moon and now Harmony of Dissonance, I can definitely say that I am personally getting a lot more enjoyment out of Harmony, and here's why:

Right from the get go, from how the character feels when he walks around, there's something smooth or right about it that makes him feel natural to control. Nathan from Circle of the Moon feels like he has a little bit of weight to him, and Aria of Sorrow while having a bit more of a realistic feel to it, graphically, I find that controlling Soma is a bit more difficult than controlling Belmont. Not only that, out of all three protagonists, I think I like Belmont's design more, for many reasons, though if you have played Harmony of Dissonance, you probably understand what I'm getting at. He sort of sticks out while also feeling like he's right at home in this metroidvania that you get to traverse. Even when it comes to the combat, though I have much more experience with this aspect in Circle of the Moon than I do with Aria of Sorrow, I actually quite like fighting enemies in Harmony of Dissonance, because the attacks actually feel like they have some oomf to them that makes you feel stronger, as opposed to the combat being a sort of hinderance. And unfortunately, as Circle of the Moon has the card system to give yourself different ways to attack, there really isn't a lot of variety as far as making combat feel more interesting, and certainly takes a toll on you over time. Though that can be said for pretty much any platformer.

I've come across a few boss fights already in Harmony of Dissonance, and while some of them have their own unique ways of fighting, I haven't really found myself in too much danger when fighting them since the game gives you some creative ways to go about combat. Like right now, I have a ice spell equipped that transforms whatever action item I'm holding into an ice spell attack that relates to that held item. It's a really neat way to incentivize using different items, whereas previously in Circle of the Moon, if you were holding an axe, you threw an axe. The card system again allowed this to be a little more interesting and creative, but so far Harmony of Dissonance has surpassed that with it's own version of it. So yeah, boss fights are relatively easy compared to other games. I do remember struggling a little bit on some bosses when I played through Circle of the Moon, and again, that can surely be due to the fact that the combat is just a bit more interesting and creative in Harmony of Dissonance

What's even crazier to think about is if you had given me a copy of Harmony of Dissonance today and said that this game came out somewhat recently, I wouldn't have much issue believing you. This pretty much goes for Aria of Sorrow and Circle of the Moon. These games are easily a staple in the metroidvania / platforming genre and I'm sure they will remain to be so for many years to come. Surely that's why the advance collection has been a huge hit but I digress. I'm honestly having so much fun playing through this collecting and experiencing some of the Castlevania games that I never got to play growing up. And man, I'm sure I would have loved playing Harmony back in the day. Because I am having a damn good time playing it now. Graphically, I would honestly say Harmony looks the best out of the three solely due to the cool effects your character gives off when you literally do anything. It's just got a cool vibe and the whole games just feels whole. I've always loved the graphics of these games, and they still hold up, even on a big screen, especially having been released on a handheld so many years ago.

I'm at about the 50% mark in Harmony of Dissonance, so I still have quite a bit to go, but as far as I feel about the game now, I'm having a really good time with it. Once I finish it, which I'm sure I'll do relatively soon, it may take the place of my favorite Castlevania game of all time, just ahead of Circle of The Moon. And that really shouldn't be much of a surprise given that Harmony of Dissonance is basically a follow up though a much more improved Castlevania experience altogether.
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Old 12-04-2022, 06:45 PM   #263 (permalink)
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Default Castlevania Advance Collection

My Thoughts On...Castlevania Advance Collection
so far

As is probably obvious by now with both my Circle of the Moon and Harmony Dissonance posts, I like Castlevania games. And when I saw they were rereleasing the Game Boy Advance games, I was stoked. And I got the collection as soon as I could. And boy, so far it has not disappointed, though there have been a few noticeable flaws. Nothing that takes away from the experience as a whole though. I'd also like to point out that while I have done separate posts for Circle of the Moon and Harmony of Dissonance, I am posting this prior to going deep in Aria of Sorrow. Once I go through that game more, there will be a separate post for it as well. All opinions on games are of my current status of where I am with those games, and right now I have enough experience with only Circle of the Moon and Harmony of Dissonance to give proper posts. Opinions may change over time.

Going back to the Castlevania Advance Collection, as I mentioned before, there are but a few flaws that could take people out of the experience, however it doesn't really bother me that much. The one big one is that the mapping of the controls is not always familiar at first, but you get used to it. I know you can change them to what you like, but I don't really want to do that for each game. So I figured I would try to learn it and get used to it, and I'm starting to get it down. Fortunately you don't have to go into your menu all too often in these games, though there are times where you will do so many times. Depends on how you play the games I suppose. Graphically speaking, I am enjoying the look of the games, but I imagine that has to do with more of my nostalgia for the games as well as being far more forgiving of older graphics especially when the games are mechanically strong, which so far with my experience with Circle of the Moon and Harmony of Dissonance, I'd say these games are tremendously mechanically strong. However, the graphics are definitely older, so some may not like that. But it really just depends on what kinds of games you like. If you don't like metroidvania games on the Game Boy Advance fun in general, then this isn't for you. But if you had a great time playing these games and want to relive them? Hell yes this is for you. Not to mention that I honestly think that these games hold up even today. I'm playing through the collection right now and I can easily see these games being released today. Again though, it's all personal taste at the end of the day. Unfortunately though, because it is such an older game or collection of older games, screen tearing is a thing. It's far more noticeable when you want to play in full screen however they have options to set the screen ratio to smaller. And I'm sure it's hardly noticeable if at all in those options. But again, for me, it hasn't hindered my enjoyment of the games so far, so I don't see it as much of a problem as some others would. But it's definitely noticeable if you're paying attention.

On the flip side, while the controls can take some getting used to, it also feels very natural to play these games on consoles, especially when playing it on a bigger screen. Sometimes games don't translate all too well when switching between small and bigger consoles, however these particular ones translated very well. I'm having an absolute blast playing these on my Xbox on my big screen. And it doesn't feel like some lame port, or that they sort of forcibly threw it together. It feels natural to play them on console, and the controls work to its advantage, instead of its disadvantage. Again though, I could easily see these games being released today and doing as well if not better than they did upon original release. Just an example of what makes these games great in the first place.

I also feel like while simultaneously being able to see these games released today, it's sort of an odd feeling actually playing them on console. It's a collection I absolutely did not think I needed however as a fan of Castlevania and metroidvanias in general, it's definitely a nice addition to my collection. And it's just a great collection in general. If you're a fan of Castlevania games at all, I'd highly recommend it.

Last edited by Key; 12-07-2022 at 01:54 PM.
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Old 12-04-2022, 06:49 PM   #264 (permalink)
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I'd also like to mention that Circle of the Moon has some of my favorite musical tracks in all the Castlevania games combined. Including but not limited to this one:

Castlevania: Circle of the Moon - Awake
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Old 12-07-2022, 01:53 PM   #265 (permalink)
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Default Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow

Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow

When I talked about both Circle of the Moon and Harmony of Dissonance, my experience with Aria of Sorrow was relatively low. To the point that I didn't have enough experience to even really talk about it. As I'm going through the Castlevania Advance Collection, I'm juggling between both Harmony of Dissonance and Aria of Sorrow since I have enough experience with Circle of the Moon, it being the first Castlevania game I ever played as well as being the one I have gone through many many times. As much as I like Circle of the Moon, I'm finding that I'm enjoying both Harmony and Aria a lot more. It's a shame that I didn't pick these games up back when I originally played Circle of the Moon, but later is better than never.

So what do I think so far? Well, Aria of Sorrow certainly looks incredible from the backdrops of levels all the way to the character sprites and everything else in between. I've heard that Aria of Sorrow is the best looking game boy advance game, or at least it's up there as being one of the best looking, and I'm inclined to agree. Keep in mind I have seen some gameplay of Aria of Sorrow before going through it myself, however I feel like personal experience trumps all when it comes to gaming. As Aria of Sorrow is also seen as the quintessential Castlevania game, I feel like as a fan of the series, it's a must play. And I'm certainly glad I have given it my time as I'm enjoying it quite a bit.

It comes jam packed with new ideas and mechanics that separates this from the previous entries while also being a staple in metroidvanias in general. Castlevania to me has always been like an adventure, and that certainly doesn't fade with Aria of Sorrow, if anything it just defines it even further and refines it to a point that the game as a whole just feels fun to play.

Previously, I had mentioned that based on what I knew of Aria at the time, I stated that I felt that Harmony of Dissonance looked a little better and while I still really like the way the character sprite looks in Harmony of Dissonance, I honestly would say that Aria of Sorrow looks much much better as a whole, and Harmony of Dissonance certainly shows its age. I've seen platformers released in recent years that almost look or look very very similar to how Aria of Sorrow looks, and mix that with a great feeling of controls and some fun mechanics to learn and have fun with, really puts Aria of Sorrow ahead of the other two for me.

As far as the soundtrack goes, I think between Circle of the Moon, Harmony of Dissonance, and Aria of Sorrow, Circle of the Moon would go first, with Aria of Sorrow coming second, then Harmony of Dissonance coming third. When playing all the games again like this, you can really tell the difference when the music in a game like this doesn't feel like it should. Both Circle of the Moon and Aria of Sorrow have a sort of essence with their music whereas Harmony of Dissonance doesn't feel as interesting and well thought out. Definitely the weaker of the 3 when it comes to the music.

Overall, I'm absolutely thrilled to continue playing Aria of Sorrow just as well as I'm excited to play Harmony of Dissonance and finally put these two games along with Circle of the Moon in my games that I have played, and thoroughly enjoyed. I'm definitely having a blast. I can also understand why people hold Aria of Sorrow in such high regard when talking about the Game Boy Advance era of Castlevania, because it truly is the experience you want when getting into Castlevania. And once again, if you haven't picked up the Castlevania Advance Collection, I highly recommend it.
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Old 12-07-2022, 02:55 PM   #266 (permalink)
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I don't remember if you said you'd already played Symphony of the Night but either it might be time to check it out or go back to it cause it also still holds up. I'm also hoping against hope that they rerelease the DS games on console cause my 3DS's shoulder buttons are dying and Order of Ecclesia is god tier. Also you should check out the Bloodstained series cause they're basically Castlevania games in all but name made by the director of every Metroidvania Castlevania title and they ****ing slap
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Old 12-07-2022, 02:59 PM   #267 (permalink)
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I have not played Symphony but it's on my list. I have checked out Bloodstained and absolutely loved it. Will have to definitely get back into that. I know it's gotten some updates since I played it last so it may be time to revisit.
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Old 12-07-2022, 03:05 PM   #268 (permalink)
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Updates? I played it around release so I might have to go back and see what's up. There's 2 8-bit games in the series I never played I should finally check out too.
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There is only one bright spot and that is the growing habit of disgruntled men of dynamiting factories and power-stations; I hope that, encouraged now as ‘patriotism’, may remain a habit! But it won’t do any good, if it is not universal.
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Old 12-07-2022, 03:34 PM   #269 (permalink)
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Either they added updates or maybe I'm thinking that they changed the way the game title shows up. I don't remember "Ritual of the Night" ever being part of the title but my knowledge on that is fuzzy. That's what I was speaking of when it came to update. As far as game updates, I'm not totally sure. But, still worth it to go back and play though.

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Igarashi had stated that given the amount of time he has spent in developing the Bloodstained intellectual property, he sees the game as "a starting ground" for future Bloodstained games.[58] A sequel was confirmed to be in early development in June 2021, with more development resources to be moved to the project after the completion of the additional content planned for Ritual of the Night.
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Old 12-07-2022, 05:43 PM   #270 (permalink)
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Nah it was always Ritual of the Night.
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