Tag Archives: Castlevania

YouTube Spotlight: Egoraptor and Sequelitis

I originally discovered Arin Hanson, AKA Egoraptor, because I was (and still am) a fan of Jon Jafari, AKA JonTron.  I was a day one subscriber of their channel GameGrumps, and it was my first introduction to Arin and his work.  For those unfamiliar with him, Arin is something of a jack-of-all-trades.  He’s mostly known for his hilarious animations, and more recently, his channel’s uploaded music videos from his comedy band Starbomb.  But another major part of his legacy is his mini web series Sequelitis.

Arin Hanson
Arin Hanson, AKA Egoraptor! (Image: Wikipedia)

Sequelitis was possibly Hanson’s biggest passion project.  It’s a series of videos examining changes in game design that happen when certain video games are followed up by sequels.  Granted, these videos are somewhat more comedic than informative.  However, they broke ground by being some of the first videos on YouTube to make game design fun and accessible.

When I first watched through Sequelitis, it’s not an exaggeration to say it changed my life.  Honestly, it permanently changed the way I look at video games.  Before Sequelitis, I thought about games purely in terms of whether or not they were enjoyable.  After watching it, I started thinking about why games were fun or why they were frustrating, and most importantly, I thought about how they could consistently improve.

The first of the three major installments of Sequelitis compares the first Castlevania with its direct sequel Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest.  This video talks about how a sequel can actually make a formula for a game worse by becoming too deep and too ambitious.  Even if it has good intentions, sometimes a game that sacrifices simplicity for complexity just becomes sloppy.

This is probably the most famous episode of Sequelitis, and my personal favorite.  The focus of this one is Mega Man and Mega Man X, a prime example of a company taking a great series and expanding it beautifully into something all its own.  This video showed me the importance of how games teach their players.  The Mega Man games taught players naturally, and you don’t see this in a lot of modern games.

The third and most recent Sequelitis is on The Legend of Zelda, and the series’ transition from 2D games into 3D.  This is a fascinating video because Arin heavily criticizes The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, which is considered a poster child of the series and one of the best games of all time.  Still, he does it in an exceedingly fair way.  He’s drawn a lot of criticism for this video, and I think that’s kind of a shame.  I personally find his points very valid, and the comedy in this video is very much on point.

There are no new episodes of Sequelitis in the works, so it may be that Arin has permanently moved away from it.  This is understandable, especially because his other content has become much more popular.  But the way Sequelitis tackled video game design is unlike anything on YouTube before or since, and I hope it makes a return eventually.  In the meantime, so many other creators have made similar content, using Sequelitis as inspiration.  I myself am part of that crowd, and I owe Sequelitis for the part I play in this community.

I highly recommend watching Sequelitis if you’re interested in game design and somehow haven’t heard of it yet.  Even if you aren’t, it’s still a great time if you’re a fan of video games.  Beyond that, I’d say go support Arin in all his other projects.  I think he’s a generally great guy who creates fun and unique content.  I watch Game Grumps every day, and I re-watch his content all the time, so if you’re looking for my word, he’s worth a look.

RIDIN’ ON CARS!!! (sorry, just had to do it)

Top 10 NES Games

This week has been exciting for retro Nintendo fans with the release of the NES Classic Edition, a bite-size bundle of 30 iconic games from the company’s history.   It’s a great portable NES library, and even comes with recreations of classic NES controllers.  Apart from the fact that the cords on the classic controllers are a little too short, the NES Classic is a great value at 60 dollars, and I recommend you guys go out and pick it up if you can.

Anyway, the NES Classic got me thinking about some of my favorite NES games.   So to celebrate, I wanted to list my favorite games on the system.  This list is going to be based partly on my personal tastes and partly on which games have had the biggest impact.  All of them, though, will be available on the NES Classic Edition.

In addition to my own comments, I’m also gonna throw in videos on each game by one of the best retro game review channels out there, CGRUndertow.  Massive thank you to Derek Buck for his amazing reviews.

10 – Balloon Fight

Oh yeah.  You heard me.  Balloon Fight.  If you recognize this one, chances are you really know your way around the NES library.  The whole game is similar to the arcade game Joust — it’s an arena-style game where you fly around with two balloons and defeat other enemies by popping their balloons from above.  It also has a side-scrolling gauntlet mini-game called Balloon Trip that’s extremely fun and extremely hard.  Although it’s pretty obscure, this game is definitely a Nintendo classic, and one of the most inventive NES games out there.

9 – Donkey Kong

Just about everybody and their mother has heard of Donkey Kong, and for good reason.  This game was a breakthrough in the career of legendary game developer Shigeru Miyamoto, and one of the most iconic arcade games of all time.  It created not one, but two mascots that would go on to impact the industry for decades to come.  Although it hasn’t aged too well in my opinion, it’s still a good game and a good challenge.

8 – Kid Icarus

Another one from the depths of the Nintendo library, the story behind Kid Icarus is amazing.  It was developed initially by novice game designer Toru Osawa, who slaved over its development for several summer months before the team from Metroid came on board to help the game meet its December deadline.  The rest of its development was long and arduous, but it resulted in one of the best yet littleknown platformers of early Nintendo history.  It’s difficult and complex, but also has a unique style that was revamped to great success in the 2000s and even led to a sequel, Kid Icarus: Uprising, in 2012.  If you get a chance to play this game, it’s well worth giving attention to.

7 – Ninja Gaiden

If you ask the average video game expert about hard NES games, Ninja Gaiden will be the first game that comes up.  It’s a merciless, fast-paced, complicated platformer that was the bane of every kid in the 80s.  It requires twitch reflexes, sense memory, and a whole lot of patience, but it backs up its grueling difficulty with character.  It saw the first attempt at cutscenes in the history of gaming, and a surprisingly compelling story.  It’s not a game for the faint of heart, but Ninja Gaiden is nevertheless a great game that’s worth trying out.

6 – Punch-Out!!

Punch-Out!! is a quirky little game, but it’s a great early example of games with personality.  The plot is simple: you’re a short-but-tough American boxer named Little Mac who has to fight a series of opponents from all around the world.  Every character in the game is a blatant stereotype of one culture or another, but it parodies every culture equally in a way that simply makes it a laugh.  This game is also a good underdog story, maybe the first ever in a video game.  It takes a lot of quick reactions and patient repetition to defeat each opponent, and it’s no easy task.  But the game encourages you to keep coming back after defeat and earn victory time and time again.  For that alone, I think this game is one of the greats.

5 – Kirby’s Adventure

Something about Kirby is irresistible, and I think the long list of games in the series is a testament to that.  Kirby’s Adventure was where the legend of everybody’s favorite little pink blob started.  Not only is it adorable, it’s a game that’s both easy and difficult at the same time.  There are some levels where you can just float over all the obstacles, but then again there are others where you have to dodge enemies carefully and avoid hazards to make it through.  This subtly hard gameplay is masked by catchy theme tunes, fun level names like “Butter Building” and “Yogurt Yard,” and an overall fun aesthetic.  If you’re looking for good first NES game, this is the one for you.

4 – Castlevania

If Ninja Gaiden is the pinnacle of NES difficulty, Castlevania is a close second.  In the same way that Ninja Gaiden is an example of extreme raw difficulty, Castlevania is an example of extreme refined difficulty.  Every enemy placement is deliberate, and every control was meant to create clear rules for the player.  Each boss has a strategy that takes trial and error to discover.  It’s one of the most rewarding experiences in all of gaming, and its theme of European monster mythology created a dynasty that carried on for years.  Sadly, the series hasn’t seen a release for a few years, but it generated a ton of great games throughout the 80s and 90s that every gamer should try.

3 – Super Mario Bros. 3

Super Mario is one of the most iconic franchises of all time, and its initial trilogy of NES games is legendary.  I had to put one on the list, and I thought hard about which one I should pick as the best one.  The first broke new ground for the industry, and the second was charming and fun.  Ultimately I decided on the third one, Super Mario Bros. 3.  It was an incredible sequel that improved on its predecessors in nearly every way.  It had an overworld, alternate paths, interesting themes, new items, and even some vertical level design.  Every part of this game oozes personality, and it’s one of the best games in a series of full great games.

2 – The Legend of Zelda

The Legend of Zelda was perhaps the earliest game in history to make exploration in games fun and accessible.  You start this game with no clear goal and a lot of options.  You just grab a sword and start fighting, exploring, and having an adventure.  Soon enough you begin to find direction and take on dungeons, exploring to find secrets and items.  The journey of this game is always as fresh as playing it for the first time.  Each discovery feels new and natural.  As simplistic as it is, this game is actually quite tough, and needs to be mastered in order to be beaten.  This game is wonderful, pure fun, and it gave rise to a series of games that remains my personal favorite to this day.

1 – Mega Man 2

It was a hard decision, but I couldn’t bring myself to put anything above Mega Man 2.  This game is an amazing work of balanced gameplay, experimentation, and skill.  For the whole game, you play as the titular protagonist Mega Man as he journeys to defeat the evil Dr. Wily and his army of “Robot Masters” who are the bosses of each of the eight levels.  Each boss has a themed stage and a weakness to a specific weapon that can only be obtained by beating some other specific boss.

To make it through the game usually requires figuring out the right order in which to beat the bosses.  Beyond that, you have to finish another series of levels to reach Dr. Wily.  Every victory in this game is well-earned, and every level will put you through your paces until you learn to beat each one.  It’s a great challenge, but not an unbeatable one.  I’ve managed to beat this game more than once in a single day, and I’ve never gotten tired of it.  It’s fun, colorful, and has a kick-ass soundtrack to boot.  If you try no other game on this list, give this one a chance if you haven’t already.  You won’t be disappointed!