Sunday, September 18, 2011

On a Konami Kick

I am officially on a Konami kick. It started with Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance, followed by Gradius II, followed now by Gradius III. I'm even considering an attempted playthrough of the original Gradius for the GameCola YouTube channel. (I say "attempted," because I'm not sure I've ever beaten the game honestly, without Game Genie or emulator savestates.) How did I get so hooked?

I've already written about getting into the Castlevania game, and about getting into Gradius II, and it's a logical progression to Gradius III: I just barely beat II (after discovering there was an option screen to set the game to Easy Mode with 7 lives and infinite continues), had a great time playing it, and was left just a smidge unsatisfied by the ending, which implied I wouldn't see a real ending unless I beat the game on a harder difficulty mode. I wanted more, but I recognized I'd never be skilled enough to get the full replayability out of Gradius II that the game I saw whether the Wii Virtual Console offered Gradius III instead.

It did. And I just happened to have a few dollars to spare on Imaginary Virtual Currency. I also noted that Castlevania: Rondo of Blood was available. Good to know, in case this Konami kick continues after Gradius III, because I'm already getting a hankering to dig into my collection and play through Castlevania III and Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, having completed about as much of Harmony of Dissonance as I care to spend the time on right now.

I've beaten the game, collected almost about 98% of the items (and still can't determine which ones I'm missing, even with a walkthrough), gone through Boss Rush mode on Easy and Normal difficulties, and tried playing as the two top-secret unlockable characters. I know there's a final final boss I'm missing out on, and a secret Hard difficulty for the main game, but I'm finally beginning to question how much of my life that Completed status on my Backloggery is worth when I've already Beaten a game and experienced the majority of what it has to offer. Amazingly, I feel pretty satisfied...but I wouldn't mind taking a shot at Completing another Castlevania game that contains less to complete.

In addition to anything I've already mentioned, I believe there are three major factors driving my continued enthusiasm for Konami games right now:

(1) I'm excited to continue experiencing more of these long-running fandoms I've had such little exposure to over the years;

(2) the games are genuinely fun, and rarely get bogged down by the kinds of gamewide problems and shortcomings that have spoiled my enjoyment of too many games over the past few years (see: Mighty Bomb Jack, Police Quest II, Link Rides a Choo-Choo Train, etc.); and

(3) they're short. Castlevania took me, what, two, three weeks of regular playing? Gradius II took me about a week. Maybe I've just had too many RPGs in my gaming diet, but it is refreshing to pick up a game and not feel like I need to commit the next 6-12 months of my life to finishing it.

We'll see how long this kick lasts; Gradius III is not fully living up to my expectations so far, despite the welcome ability to completely customize my weaponry (which is why I've been interested in playing this game since I first read about it in Nintendo Power oh so long ago--similar to how Nintendo Power got me interested in Mega Man once upon a time, incidentally). The music isn't as catchy as that of its predecessors; several of the challenges are more tedious or frustrating than clever or fun; and unlike Gradius II, which brought back a few ideas from the original Gradius and its spinoff, Salamander (or Life Force, if you prefer the NES version), most of the revisited ideas in Gradius III feel more like rehashes than tributes.

No comments: