Tag Archives: Konami

I Don’t Get Metal Gear

Take it, Snake

I bought Metal Gear Solid 3 when it was released in the US after the unanimously good reviews and because it was the first hot import after I got my PS2 chipped but gave up a short way into it. It’s not that I thought it was a bad game…it’s just that the camera system was still in 1998, and while that worked in the angular environments of MGS and MGS2 it felt positively archaic in the organic Russian jungle.

Not only that, but as if the rampant surrealism wasn’t weird enough, the game crammed it into copious cut-scenes that I just couldn’t deal with, cinematic though they were. Some call it postmodern; I can’t remember what I called it because I fell asleep.

The first MGS was just a bit quirky which I could handle and I ended up thoroughly enjoying it, but I don’t have to explain the controversy around the direction that MGS2 went with its story (angsty Teen Beat coverboy finds time to discuss King Kong with ex-girlfriend while on top secret infiltration mission) which led to a premature end to my time with that one.

Cut scenes are skippable though, so since MGS3: Subsistence adds a 3D camera I bought a used import copy a couple of days ago (£15 = bargain!) to see whether that puts it closer to my stealth action darling, Splinter Cell. It’s an improvement, but the gameplay still just seems so outdated. I really can’t tell…is it Metal Gear? Or is it me?

Castlevania Double Pack

Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance

My updates to this site have been a little slow recently and although the invariable lack of game news at this time of year is partially to blame, a little bit of responsibility has to be held by Konami. They, after all, released the Castlevania Double Pack for the GBA here last week.

Ever since Circle of the Moon, a GBA launch game that really drew attention to how dark that damn screen was, Nintendo handhelds have been the systems to own for the classic 2D Castlevanias, and a great shelter from the misguided 3D ones. The Double Pack contains the second and third versions – Harmony of Dissonance and Aria of Sorrow – which are not only the best two but also, due to limited print runs, used to go for £40 each on eBay. Not anymore, when you can now get both on one cart for £25.

Harmony of Dissonance was a real graphical showpiece for the GBA when it came out and it still looks decent now, with some impressive and nifty sprite effects. It’s a really good “classic” Castlevania and reasonably lengthy (took me 11 hours or so to finish with the first ending, but there are two more which I plan to get which should take another couple), but the main criticism I can have for it is that it’s very easy. I didn’t really come close to dying in the whole thing because potions are plentiful, you get fully healed at any of the many save points, and if you use spells the bosses are a simple matter of whipping and waiting until they die.

Aria of Sorrow is the prequel to Dawn of Sorrow on the DS, which was a game that I really liked. While it’s still a 2D Castlevania at heart it kept many of the changes from games like Symphony of the Night by not having a Belmont at the helm (here it’s a vaguely androgynous high school student named Soma Cruz) and doing away with the whip as the only weapon. While adventuring with a variety of swords, knives, and lances, you get to use some mysterious powers that Cruz possesses and will probably have been spoiled for anyone who played Dawn of Sorrow first.

Aria of Sorrow is the better of the two games, not only for having slightly more variety but also for being more of a challenge (I’ve actually died twice). The one side where it does fall down is that I don’t think it looks as good as Harmony – it seems to look a bit more cartoony and Soma’s mincing run animation is a little annoying. Nonetheless I’m a few hours in and have been very much enjoying it.

The GBA has had a sudden influx of budget double packs with some good ones from Sega (the Sonic Advances and Chu Chu Rocket are worth a look), but this one takes the cake. Games that could have cost you £80 only months ago in a pack costing only £25 are an absolute bargain, and the fact that they’re two of the best on the GBA don’t hurt matters. If you have a GBA or DS and don’t own the original releases, buy this pack.

Best of 2005 #8: Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow

Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow

When the 2D Castlevanias achieve near unanimous rave reviews it’s a wonder that they keep pursuing that losing battle of trying to make a decent 3D iteration of the series, and this keeps up the trend by being probably the best new entry to the series since Symphony of the Night on the PS1.

Konami deserve credit for just picking up from their good work on the excellent GBA Castlevanias (they even carry on with the new protagonist, Soma Cruz, introduced in Aria of Sorrow) and, on the whole, resisting the urge to shoehorn in functionality based on the unique functionality of the DS. There are some touch screen functions that work like the breakable blocks and some that don’t like the annoying seal-drawing to deliver the final blow to bosses, but most of the additions use the extra power to make some cool cosmetic touches and, naturally, some bigger and more impressive enemies.

Castlevania games are reliable for being lengthy and addictive action adventures, and this is one of the best in a long time. It therefore happily sits in my best of the year.