Day 8: Castlevania


While I like to see myself as a well respected fount of information on the gaming medium, often I find this gives people the mistaken impression that I should also be great at all of them. I have to imagine this is something rather common. Being known as the “gamer” (a term I find restrictive but still overuse) of a social circle can lead people to believe that you must be like Luke Edwards’ character in The Wizard.

(Note: I’m shocked it took me a full eight days to make a Wizard reference.)

Like most of my ilk, I specialize in certain genres over others. Though I likely have a better chance learning how to speak Mandarin than I do at being good at a MOBA, I tend to excel in fighting games, 2D platformers, and Xtreme Beach Volleyball.

Sadly, that last one doesn’t come up as often as I’d like.

But it’s easy to figure out why I tend to do well with those older action games. I started playing in that bygone era when repetition was a necessity.  When you could only play one new game every month or so, regardless of that game’s quality, you played the hell out of it. Looking at my backlog now, even with this project helping me along, it’s something I kinda miss; being able to commit entire levels to muscle memory, to the point that the interactive components of the game almost become trivial.

I revisit the original Castlevania several times a year, even though I’m essentially on auto-pilot when I play it now. Sometimes it’s simply a case of giving into my ADD while doing other things, but there’s still an undeniable curiosity I have to how it, and by proxy, other games of its era, were designed. It’s the same reason I find speedruns of NES games so fascinating; the fact that we can train ourselves around the patterns of things that are usually programmed to be somewhat random. From the outside looking in, it’s a rare satisfaction that I’m able to get, knowing exactly how being hit in a certain way can actually allow for clever skips, or anticipating where Dracula is going to reappear because I’ve fought him so many times. It’s that feeling of true expertise that I so often seek from other hobbies, like the previously mentioned guitar playing, or, to get all meta on you, writing.

But there’s also the existential backlash of acknowledging that being really good at Castlevania is ultimately a pretty useless skill, right up there with my mastery of claw machines. That’s a can of worms probably best left unopened.

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