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I Got Good News and Bad News

The good news may be summed up by the following photograph:

I did it! I finished something!

I did it! I finished something!

I upheld my Halloween tradition by playing a Castlevania game to completion, but the bad news is that it wasn’t Super Castlevania IV: it was Aria of Sorrow. Since I bought the game and showed it to you fine folks I’ve been playing it whenever I get some free minutes, and it just so happens that I reached the endgame stretch the night before October 31st. I booted the game up yesterday and gave the harbingers of chaos and evil what-for; I’d fulfilled my promise, to myself and to whomever is reading this bloggy mish-mash of my thoughts, to finish a Castlevania game before the end of October. Praise the Sun!

Dark Souls reference aside, I do feel a little guilty for neglecting to complete my single-sitting play-through of Super Castlevania IV; long story short, last year I almost beat the game in one sitting before I had to set off for work. I figured I’d pull out all the stops this year and really dedicate myself to the task, but man, sometimes life throws a lot of tasks at you at once. Here’s the list: my brother needed help filming a six-second video for a contest, my girlfriend and I wanted to watch Nosferatu for the first time, and finally we had a Halloween shindig to attend, replete with complicated corset and white makeup for ghoulish appearances, and, well, Super Castlevania IV just takes longer to finish than I remember. Remember what I said about me having a tough time keeping time? Yeah, those few tasks on my list yesterday made it hard to focus on Super Castlevania IV. I started the game, though! Honest, I did!

See? Lookit that awesome gravestone!

See? Lookit that awesome gravestone!

Oh my, now a bat's flying out of it! That's not ominous.

Oh my, now a bat’s flying out of it! That’s not ominous.

For the coup de grace, some creepy mist. Like I said, totally not ominous.

For the coup de grace, some creepy mist. Like I said, totally not ominous.

Take your whips in hand and have at the night, hunters of darkness!

Take your whips in hand and have at the night, hunters of darkness!

If only my flair for the dramatic translated into game-defeating energy, I may have finished Super Castlevania IV yesterday, but alas, time and tasks compounded to draw me away from Dracula’s foreboding castle. Still, I won’t be too hard on myself, since I vanquished the horrible night in Aria of Sorrow and sent the forces of darkness back to their dank hidey-holes. It was a good day, and a good night, all things told.

And yet, I’m ready to put the creepy goodness of October behind me and take in the chill November air with open arms. You know, open, sweater-sleeved arms, maybe with a jacket to boot, because it does get mighty cold down in my neck of the woods. Er, my neck of the neighborhood. The woods are closer to the mountains. Anyway, as I was saying, I’m ready for November. That single-night shift from the haunting Halloween shadows to the creeping November nights is almost a magical thing, where wind changes from macabre whispers to inviting murmurs and every cold front smiles and says “Come on out, you’ve got a nice sweater on.” I love it. The holidays are fast approaching but they’re not the only reason to love the somber steps toward winter; every warm cup of coffee, every minute spent alone with a book, every slow jazz song and every smooth sonata seem perfect in the frigid grip of changing seasons. Yeah, it’s getting colder and I’m getting older, but I still have my books, my blankets, my notebooks, my games – I have a lot of things to enjoy and in the still November nights, I have a lot of time to enjoy my things. Here’s to hobbies, folks, and the greatest times to pursue them.

So come walking on your slow icy feet, winter, and bring some snowflakes along, please. Nothing’s better than bundling up and relaxing with a good book as snow falls to cover the industrial wounds and asphalt iniquities of man.

P.S. The week preceding this entry was a little crazy, by the way; I read for class, as usual, found out my brother and I need to attend an exhausting morning class every session now or we fail, wrote a nine page paper, performed one more presentation for a different class, talked to an adviser and changed my major (while adding another one so I can double-major), registered my car the day before the registration expired, and just damn, man, it felt like a whole lot of crap. Important crap, but crap nonetheless. I hardly had time for the few friends I have, but as I wrote earlier, it’s time to say goodbye to October, and that means waving “So long” to most of the busy work. Things should be simpler now, until the end of the semester brings finals, more essays, and stress before that sweet release into free time and freedom.

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Damn, I Did it Again

Uh oh, is that another Castlevania game on your Wii U?

Uh oh, is that another Castlevania game on your Wii U?

Why yes. Yes it is. I’ve got this problem when it comes to Castlevania, and another problem with enjoying modern convenience, and when you throw those problems together in the middle of October while Nintendo decides to embrace the creepy Halloween spirit you get this concoction that sucks money out of my bank account.

I knew it was coming. That title that’s highlighted by my Wii U’s cursor is Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, and it’s the beautiful GBA Castlevania game that tuned my heartbeat to the rising and falling of Dracula, and the cracking and smacking of a Belmont’s whip. That’s not supposed to be dirty, I promise. I anticipated the release of Aria of Sorrow on the Wii U Virtual Console, because the prior two weeks saw the releases of Circle of the Moon and Harmony of Dissonance on the Virtual Console, respectively – they’re the two handheld Castlevania games that preceded the masterpiece that is Aria of Sorrow. Seeing this fantastic October trend and knowing of the GBA Castlevania triumvirate, I figured Nintendo and Konami would use the third week of the month to grace loyal gamers with the third, final, and best GBA Castlevania game (ok, that’s definitely just my opinion but a lot of Castlevania fans agree – Aria of Sorrow is generally considered the best handheld Castlevania game).

Anywho, why do I sound a little disappointed in this development? Well, shit – it’s because I’ve entered one of my phases of video gaming A.D.D. I’ve got, oh, something like five or six games on my brain. I’ve been listing them throughout my posting to this blog, and with the addition of Aria of Sorrow and one more game to my list, things are getting out of hand.

Wait? Did I just mention another game I’ve added to my list?

Oh yeah. You've gotta know what this means. And if you don't, I'll lay it on ya.

Oh yeah. You’ve gotta know what this means. And if you don’t, I’ll lay it on ya. Also, look: it’s me! Way to take a ridiculous picture, genius.

Yeah, that’s the title screen from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. You know, that big awesome open-world game that helped bring “nerd culture” to the mass market? I don’t know if I’d been ignoring the trend or if my rampant love of Skyrim just forced me to face it, but the things I love that used to be “weird” or “uncool” suddenly became “normal” a few years back. It’s funky, but the trend continues and I shouldn’t feel bad about it – I can wear a Mario shirt or my Zelda hoodie and expect comments from strangers. It’s a little exhilarating. Once again, though, I’ve got to look at this example of a great game with a little trepidation. Here’s why:

Wow, cool nod to Norse poetry and OH MY WORD, YOU'VE PLAYED THIS GAME A LOT!

Wow, cool nod to Norse poetry and OH MY WORD, YOU’VE PLAYED THIS GAME A LOT!

Yep. Four-hundred-and-eighty-ish hours in the wild and ravishing lands of Skyrim. And that’s just one character – all told I’ve spent something like 600 hours playing the game. I got it at midnight when it launched on November 11th, 2011, and didn’t really slow down my wanderings for about a year or so. Even after I finally did take my foot off the Elder Scrolls accelerator, I’d keep coming back to it periodically – ya know, when DLC added more cool places to explore and more badass armor to craft. I’d jump in for hours on end and only stop to go to the bathroom or eat a little something. Don’t wanna pass out while I trek across ice floes in search of Horkers and ancient ruins!

As you can see, I get a little caught up in my games sometimes. October is my month to geek out on the creep-out stuff and I’ve been a Castlevania fan since I was thirteen or so – I think that’s when Aria of Sorrow was first released. Still, in the land I call home, October is also a month of deepening chills and frigid nights, when a sweater may need to couple with a jacket to keep the cold air at bay. Hence, my almost ritualistic return to Skyrim – it’s cold in real life, it’s cold in the game, it just feels right, all right? Sorry, I didn’t mean to go all Tarantino on you folks – I just have to be a little wary of my habits. When I first played Skyrim, I was unemployed and in my last semester at my local community college. My class schedule was almost bare it was so light, and I found myself sinking deeper and deeper into that land on the northeastern edge of Tamriel. Now, well, I’m unemployed but just now getting into the swing of university life; I’ve figured out how and when I can get away with laziness, and when I can be lazy I boot up a game. Why, the whole time I’ve been writing this I’ve had Aria of Sorrow ready to go, just waiting for me to click on the “Publish” button.

Thus, damn, I did it again – I added another time-sink to my life, one more distraction from a real goal or purpose. Ah hell, I’m getting cynical; getting an education is a purpose in and of itself. I’ve got ideas for stories floating around my head, I’ve got another few nights to finish that seven-page essay, and money ain’t so tight it’s strangling me. I think I can afford to play a game or two in my free time.

So here I go – back to Dracula’s castle for some soul-stealin’ and blood-spillin’. Happy gaming, folks!

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Update us, man!

Yeah, I haven’t devoted much time to any Castlevania games over the past few days, and I’m sorry about that since I said I’d do my best to complete Rondo of Blood before the end of the month. I have to admit, it’s just a damn tough game, and I’m throwing my spare minutes at so many different games it’s ridiculous: I’ve been building up my bell reserves in Animal Crossing, leveling up my team of adventurers in Etrian Odyssey IV, fighting matches here and there in Super Smash Bros. for 3DS, and, y’know, learning over at the university.

That brings me to my next point: I’ve got a ton of homework to do over the course of the next week. I’ve got to read essays and articles for one of my English classes, read the last part of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight for another English class, prepare a presentation, and write a big ol’ paper (okay, I guess seven pages isn’t so bad compared to some assignments, but this is my first university level research paper; gimme a break). I’m afraid, good readers, that I may not have time to finish Rondo of Blood.

Which brings me to this little picture:

Hey, look! TWO Castlevania games on the Wii U Virtual Console? What are you thinking, man?

Hey, look! TWO Castlevania games on the Wii U Virtual Console? What are you thinking, man?

I’ve got a backup plan in case Rondo of Blood can’t be completed (Rondo of Blood is on my Wii Virtual Console, remember): I’ll play Super Castlevania IV instead. See, Dracula X is cool and all, but within its own family it’s kind of a black sheep. It’s the kid who couldn’t hold down a job or get good grades. As a game, I’d say Dracula X is good, but as a Castlevania game it’s lacking. It doesn’t control very well and the difficulty curve is all kinds of insane. I’ve only reached the second level and I’m already lumbering across a crumbling bridge as mermen jump up to impede my progress and send me plummeting to a watery grave; that’s usually a second-to-last or last-level Castlevania rage-inducer. In short, I’m not having Dracula X, at least not now. So I jumped back to Rondo of Blood.

However, as I pointed out earlier, Rondo of Blood is also challenging; it’s more polished than Dracula X and it feels very smooth in comparison, but it’s still frustrating and I just don’t think I’ll have the time or the dedication to finish it by the time the ghosts ‘n’ goblins pack it in for next Halloween (sweet name drop, eh?). Hence, my purchase of Super Castlevania IV: see, I’ve finished Super Castlevania IV twice in my life, on the old family Wii. Last Halloween I almost played through it in a single sitting before I went to work; I came back and beat it when my shift was over, but this year, I’ll have nothing in the way of me and my whip. I swear, I’ll beat Super Castlevania IV in one sitting. I’ve got to do it. I’ve got to beat some sort of Castlevania game before October is over.

So, there you have ’em: my half-assed excuses for failing to complete Dracula X or Rondo of Blood, and my glorious decision to play Super Castlevania IV on Halloween instead. See how crafty and neurotic I am? I must beat a Castlevania game, but I must also do my homework, therefore I pick the Castlevania game I can beat in a day and delay my conquest. I’m taking out two crows with one ax, if you will.

I’ll update you as I trudge along, whipping skeletons and giant bats with weary arms and wondering when I’ll see the orange glow of a tavern’s lantern again – I dunno, I assume the Belmonts stop at the local places for food and drink every now and then. Oh, I’ll also be getting way too stoked about upcoming games and wishing I had way more money as I read this little number:

Will they get mad at me for inserting them into one of my blog posts? But I love you, Game Informer!

Will they get mad at me for inserting them into one of my blog posts? But I love you, Game Informer!

All right, into the night I go. Happy gaming/reading/whatever you like to do, folks.

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Twenty Leaves at Once

Sometimes during the transition from summer to fall, trees go a little crazy for shedding their clothes, and twenty leaves will fall at once. I go through phases like that too, where I’ve got too many things happening simultaneously and I’m trying to keep track of them all. Now is one of those times.

This is an image I’ve seen all too often on my tv lately:

This is the beginning of Stage 7. It haunts me.

This is the beginning of Stage 7. It haunts me.

See, I’ve been stuck on this level for, well, years really – it was the last level I reached before losing touch with Rondo of Blood, and now that I’ve played all the optional stages I can reach I’m back to this hellish place, attempting to cross a crumbling bridge as huge bats swoop at me and hinder my progress; it’s a tricky traversal. I get the feeling it’ll be the last cumbersome roadblock preventing me from finishing Rondo of Blood.

Then there’s my 3DS love. I’ve gotta preface my 3DS habits by saying I’ve spent a great number of hours gripping handheld gaming devices since I first owned a GameBoy Color back in 1998, and that preference for a portable gaming device has remained within me. Even as I turn on my Wii U in preparation for a protracted attempt at crossing the bridge from Hell in Rondo of Blood and log into this website to update this little blog, I’ve got my 3DS on sleep mode while it charges, ready to be opened at a moment’s notice so I can Super Smash some shit up. My Animal Crossing habit is still strong too, so I try to play it every day; for the past two weeks or so, that’s been a daily thing for me. That means daily 3DS sessions, the odd attempt to finish a Castlevania game in honor of Halloween, and trying my hand at being a blogger, all while trying to stay on top of my schoolwork. Oh yeah, that reminds me …

I’m sorta ignoring an essay I should be writing at this moment. The document is open and I’ve put my name and all the other required stuff on it, but I haven’t begun to set my thoughts on paper. I know where I want to go with the essay but I’m a pretty good procrastinator – can’t you see? Rondo of Blood, Super Smash Bros, and even blogging: they’re my fun distractions from the real stuff. Still, even distractions must end so real life can swoop at us like bats from the dusky sky; I’ll end this post so I can play Rondo of Blood until I get frustrated and finally devote myself to my homework. Enjoy your distractions, folks.

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Midway Through the Murk

As I sit at my computer wondering how exactly I’ll update this blog, an image is frozen on my tv, paused by me so I could write down my thoughts. I’ll throw that image at you now.

That's Rondo of Blood on my formerly large tv. By modern standards, I think it's probably small. Damn.

That’s Rondo of Blood on my formerly large tv. By modern standards, I think it’s probably small. Damn.

Remember how I said I’ve played Rondo of Blood? Well, that was only a half-truth: see, when a gamer says “I’ve played that game,” that typically means the game was finished. You know, beaten, completed, conquered, vanquished – done in some way. I said I’ve played Rondo of Blood, but the tough truth of the matter is that I never played through Rondo of Blood to the end. This may be chalked up to two reasons: one, Rondo of Blood is fairly difficult, as far as Castlevania games go. I have this thing about Castlevania games where I suck at them (in a non-vampiric way, mind you) for a while and by the end I’m pretty competent. A lot of gamers will say this about older games: the difficulty curves were pretty crazy. Anyway, along with that difficulty comes the real reason I never finished Rondo of Blood: my girlfriend’s Wii is missing a few cables.

I mentioned before that I have a Wii U. Well, the beauty of going from a Wii to a Wii U is the possibility to transfer one’s Wii Virtual Console games to the Wii U’s Wii Channel (yeah, the Wii U has a whole channel that transforms it into a Wii on the side. It’s like, two consoles merged in one. Or maybe, like, ten consoles. I’m not sure how many consoles are covered by the Virtual Console service). My half-jokes aside (a lotta half-this and half-that tonight, sorry), I really like the idea of using just one machine to play a buncha different games, so I was all ready to move my Wii data to the Wii U. Then the case of the missing cables cropped up. Dreams? Shattered.

Along with the difficulty I have in mastering Castlevania games, I also have this unfortunate way of taking a long time to solve simple problems. I live at home and there’s a family Wii that I played long before my girlfriend let me borrow her Wii indefinitely; the family Wii is sitting out in the living room with its cables all fine and dandy. I’d been wondering where I could have stashed my girlfriend’s Wii’s cables for a week or two when I had an epiphany: use the other Wii’s cables, you dolt. A few swapped out cables later and I was in business.

The process of transferring the various games and save data took about half an hour, and once it was over I felt an abundance of joy. Now I don’t just have awesome Wii U games and Wii U Virtual Console stuff to enjoy, I also have access to all the games I bought years ago on the Wii. I can finally try to finish Rondo of Blood and prove my worth as a Castlevania player; as far as the grand list of Castlevania games goes, I can only think of three in my possession that I haven’t finished: Rondo of Blood, the newly acquired Dracula X, and Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse. That game is probably the hardest one in the series. Memories of it haunt me, which is awesome for October but really shitty for my self-esteem as a gamer.

Anyway, Rondo of Blood is calling me. Maybe Dracula is using some sort of dark power to beckon me toward him. We shall clash in the night as lightning splits the sky, and the moon will look on with a dour expression as I send the Prince of Darkness back to the dirt from whence he came. It’s October, it’s windy, and the night is dark and full of terrors. Whoops, that’s from A Song of Ice and Fire … happy gaming, folks!

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To Study and Die in Pixels

In that rambling introduction I mentioned that I have a problem with focusing on my games sometimes, and this weekend became a strange study in the ways I make a commitment and then break it. I’m in a class that requires me to keep a journal wherein I respond to the readings I do throughout the semester; ideally I would have logged my thoughts as I read each article and essay, but I kept forgetting about the journal and telling myself I’d get to it eventually. Well, eventually finally met me on Sunday – the first ten journal entries will be checked in class on Wednesday and I had zero ready to go. I would’ve had the damn things written by then, but here’s the thing: on Saturday evening, I got the Animal Crossing project fever.

Wait a minute, wasn’t I supposed to be playing Castlevania: Dracula X in the spirit of Halloween? Well, yeah, I know I said I’d do that but here’s the thing: I was house-sitting with my girlfriend all week and I didn’t bring my Wii U with me. Being the lover of handheld games that I am, I brought my 3DS with me and committed myself to my daily fossil-collection routine in Animal Crossing before throwing down in Super Smash Bros. All this gaming happens, of course, after I do my homework; I try my best to be a good student, eh? Unless it has to do with those damn journal entries. So anyway, back to all that.

I would’ve buckled down and destroyed my fingers jotting ten responses, but on Saturday night I decided to finally rearrange all the haphazard flowers in my town. Yeah, my thumb turned green overnight. I spent three hours moving flowers around until they were all neat and arranged in lines, and learned a few things: first, my flowers only take up about half my town when they’re compressed, and second, having a project on which to focus really extends my play sessions. I didn’t even play Smash Bros tonight because I was so into Animal Crossing. Hallelujah, praise be to Leif, lord of gardening!

So in a week I’ve gone from really digging Smash Bros and wanting to whip some skeletons good in Dracula X to strolling through verdant meadows in my now-super-neat Animal Crossing town. I feel I’ve let myself down a little, but hey, sometimes even the best laid plans are made to be altered. At some point I’m gonna banish some skeletons to the nether realm, I promise; hell, I’ll boot up Dracula X right now. That’ll make for a fine end to a chilly night in October. Keep on reading and gaming, folks.

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One Guy Plays Games: An Introduction

Hello, ladies and gents, and welcome to my own little slice of the giant digital cake. I hope you find my tales and anecdotes amusing – I’m ready to share bits and pieces of my life and I’ll try to make them relevant to, well, whoever reads this blog.

First off: I’m a full time college student with a steady girlfriend, two cats, and zero jobs. I’ve got a lot of quirks, habits rather, that take up a lot of my time. I devote myself to keeping a journal which I update on a daily basis (some of those thoughts will be recorded here, I’m sure) and performing various exercises to maintain my shoddy level of fitness (I act like I’m fit but I only do push-ups and pull-ups, nothing else). These sound like simple tasks, but I assure you, summoning the willpower to execute them every day is difficult. I think I may have an attention problem, but with the internet being so entertaining nowadays, who doesn’t? Anyway, my point is this: despite my lack of concrete things to do aside from homework and singing to my cats, I find it difficult to play all the video games I enjoy.

And there’s one thing you must know if you plan on staying here: I love video games.

Sure, I’m an avid reader for pleasure when I’m not in classes, but games have been constantly fighting books for the top spot on my shelf of hobbies. I don’t think either one will topple the other, but I tend to lean toward games – they’re comprised of so many different components, beautiful artwork and amusing writing and compelling music and sometimes even voice acting! I love games. I can’t get enough of them, and sometimes I think I’m addicted to them.

That jarring possibility aside, let’s get down to the meat and gristle of this bloody mess, shall we? It’s October. That means Halloween is coming up, and as you’ll learn through reading this blog, I’m a lover of horror stories and strange tales. I started a Halloween tradition a few years ago in which I play one horror-themed game throughout the days leading to Halloween, and as a longtime fan of Castlevania I usually grab a whip and start pummeling skeletons. Well, as luck would have it, Nintendo is also going with the horror trend this year, since they’ve released a few spooky games on their Wii U virtual console, and Castlevania: Dracula X is one of those games. I’ve played Rondo of Blood and I’ve read that Dracula X is very similar but when I see a Castlevania game I haven’t played, I’ve got to whip it good.

Okay, I’ve begun to ramble. Long story short, I like games and Halloween is creeping closer so I’m gonna play Castlevania: Dracula X. Y’know, when I’m not reading for class or writing a paper or getting my pellet-munching face mashed in while I play Super Smash Bros. for 3DS. Pac-Man for the win! So here I go, whip in hand, ready to stare into the face of Death himself and stand tall.

But enough talk – have at you!

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