So, You Like to Play Castlevania?

On retro gaming and save scumming.

I had never played a Castlevania game before, so naturally I wanted to start at the beginning.

I’m not like this with most series. Unless there’s a continuing story, a la Metal Gear Solid that I need to play all of the games to fully understand (“understand”), I usually don’t have trouble jumping later into a franchise’s life to get to some of the more interesting entries. Certainly the entries with the most quality of life improvements.

Thus it was with great surprise even to myself that I had this strange urge to start playing Castlevania from the very beginning. I can’t really articulate why. The series has grown to almost thirty games and counting. Surely one of the later entries, or at a minimum Symphony of the Night, would have done me just fine.

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The 2020 Gameological Not Just Game of the Year Awards

Following up on the tradition we started last year, the Unofficial Gameological Discord group has put together another year end list! Looking back on the blog, I only published one post this year, so even though I played a whole lot of games this year, I’ll let that say all I have to say about what kinda year 2020 was.

Games were a consistent escape from the endless reign of terror, and it felt great to finally check off a few backlog games, and explore something new ones. So, in no particular order (except the last one), featuring games both released this year and twenty years ago, here are my 2020 Gameological Not Just Game of the Year Awards:

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The Plate Has Collapsed

How Final Fantasy VII Helped Me Grieve

This post contains some light spoilers for Final Fantasy VII Remake from Chapter 12 on.

It was the end of May when I started this post, and the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City. The streets were quiet, save for the passing of sirens at all hours of the day. I hadn’t seen my family for months. I missed my sister’s birthday, and she missed her college graduation. Refrigerated trucks were parked outside nearby hospitals. Friends had lost parents and loved ones. All the while, the president mocked us and made it clear he wasn’t going to do a damn thing about it.

Then the George Floyd protests started. The horror of one moment was compounded by another, and it suddenly felt like the last thing the world needed to hear was my thoughts on a video game. I shelved the post.

Six months on, as results for the 2020 election are being tabulated, the pandemic tallies hit new highs, and the next few months, let alone decade, feels more uncertain than ever, I find myself thinking back on Final Fantasy VII Remake often. It was a bright spot during that dark time, taking me by utter surprise and washing me in both nostalgia and a sense of burning understanding and radicalization. This is a game that doesn’t just understand its characters and politics – it understands how people in power enrich themselves at the expense of others, deflect blame onto marginalized people, and take advantage of crises to enrich themselves.

Yes, I’m talking about the plate collapse sequence.

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The 2019 Gameological Not Just Game of the Year Awards

Ah, 2019. You kind of sucked. I mean I guess you started okay, but around the halfway point you took a turn for the worse and I’m glad to see you go.

But you know what’s always been good to me? Games. I played a lot of games this year. Read into my escapism however you want, but 2019 let me try my first Fire Emblem game, dip further into indie darlings, and deliver packages as a glorified UPS delivery man.

The following is a list of some of the more memorable, or unmemorable, moments from 2019 in gaming.

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Rock of an Age

“You know, I think Tool’s cover of No Quarter is actually better than the original.”

I almost fell over. My friend and I hailed from opposite ends of the rock spectrum. He wouldn’t consider anything written after 1979 as music. I thought anything that wasn’t alt-2000’s rock was boring. An admission of guilt on his part, that a band from the 90s would usurp the holy grail that is the progenitor of all rock music – Led Zepplin? It was a staggering, blasphemous remark.

The evolution wasn’t out of the blue. It was just another cataclysmic shift in the way he and I began to see music beginning in the winter of 2005.

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Back to School

My family had a ritual when I was growing up. If we were watching TV and a back to school commercial came on any time before August 15th or so, my sister, my mother, or me would rush to change the channel while my father cackled like a madman at the inevitability of our fate. Summer would end, sooner than we could have thought or hoped, and we’d all be forced to ride the bus to school while my father waved from the sidewalk before hopping in his car, gleeful with the knowledge we were suffering alongside him in our own way.

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Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines – RAICES Charity Stream

I’ll be streaming Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines with my pal Zack today at 4:00 PM EDT (1:00 PM PDT)! We’re raising money for RAICES, the Refugee and Information Center for Education and Legal Services.

They’re a 501(c)(3) nonprofit agency that “promotes justice by providing free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families, and refugees.”

Look, it’s 2019 and it’s impossible to avoid the news. You know the deal. RAICES does good work with their donations and you like watching 2004-era vampire games, don’tcha? This is a win for everyone.

Messing with Vampires

There’s a lot of mythology surrounding vampires – avoiding direct sunlight without a wide-brimmed hat, fear of getting a stake through the heart, a compulsion to listen exclusively to Lacuna Coil and attend raves in abandoned Gothic churches, and so on.

Your donations can influence the lore and rules we must abide by!

To do so, check out the expanding rules list here, then make a donation at raicestexas.org and forward your receipt to gamequestmailbox@gmail.com! Let us know what rule you’d like to see (or submit a new one of your own).

Tell your friends and pump the nu-metal!

I’m Playing Final Fantasy XIV – Part Two

“Old Audidididididididi oooooooo happy birthday, sir!”

The old refrain slid its way into my dusty Facebook messenger app. It had been years since I went by my old screename “Audio,” a name that’s almost as inspired as my lily white sword boy Dagda.

You see, back in the day, when I was older and wiser and knew that striding into a group of strangers and asking to be a part of their organization is not the way to make friends, I found a clan in a Half Life 1 mod-turned-full-game called Day of Defeat. The WWII shooter was bundled when I registered an old copy of Half Life to Steam, and since I was bored and at the time only received new games on my birthday or Christmas (a six month drought in any direction), I decided to check it out. It clicked with me pretty much right away.

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I’m Playing Final Fantasy XIV – Preamble

“I want in.”

I was twelve years old and experiencing online gaming for the first time. Someone had given me Halo: Combat Evolved for the PC, and since I didn’t have an Xbox, I had no one to play online with. Thirsting for the comradeship and totally epic stories shared around sticky cafeteria lunch tables, I wanted my own community to get to know. Digital friends. A guild. A clan.

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