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RTTP: Simon's Quest - A Vastly Underrated Dark Fantasy Action RPG

#Phonepunk#

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I'm playing Simon's Quest in 2020, and it's wonderful. It is Halloween: The Video Game. Fuck the haters, that AVGN video has spread so much misinformation about this game, it is simply fucking rad.

first off, how unique is it? By combining both the open world RPG style exploration and purchasable upgrades of the SOTN-era games with the old school level design and gameplay, it is both a Metroidvania and a Classicvania at once.

i find myself going into cities, talking to unhelpful NPCs (Souls, anyone?), killing enemies for currency that i can spend on new weapons, leveling up as i fight monsters around the dark fantasy 8-bit European medieval countryside. exploring swamps, caves, towns, mansions, etc. in a fully interconnected open world (again, Souls anyone?).

then there is the day/night system, a realtime clock that is ALWAYS COUNTING DOWN. at night, the world changes, shops close, people leave the streets, monsters take over. the night is more dangerous, but more rewarding, so it provides a quick cue to farm for souls, er, money.

the realtime clock combines with the open world to almost simulate the kind of open world experiences we have now. these things weren't really used often in action games back in the day. the was super ahead of it's time.

you don't heal from wall chicken, you heal from visiting a church. the power of God is used to fight Dracula, and the notoriously religion-averse Nintendo for once allows for the Christian symbolism to aide in your holy crusade. towns and NPCs may look similar due to the early tech, but they all have a unique flavor to them, culimnating in a final town full of people who see you as an outright villain. you can buy permanent whip upgrades from various towns rather than collecting them at random in candles that you whip. in fact YOU DONT WHIP CANDLES IN THIS CASTLEVANIA AT ALL.

it's a strong, subversive follow up to the first NES game. i really leans on the RPG and storytelling elements and i love that so much. it's a totally different experience than going through the standard linear levels of the first game.

one time i died while exploring a mansion. i respawned in the exact same place! games back in the day usually dump you at the start, so this was another much appreciated forward-thinking bit of game design they implemented. they were really firing on all cylinders for this one. SO IMMERSIVE.

then when you do what you came to do, and you win the mansion, the game is like, "lol you get to fight your way back outside now!" again, a very Souls-like, immersive touch. i like it.

then there is the soundtrack. the GOD TIER soundtrack. listen to these classic horror rock tracks.

Dwellings of Doom


Message of Darkness


The Silence of Daylight


and the mondaytofriday GOAT of Castlevania songs Bloody Tears


i'm not saying it's the best ever and i don't want this to turn into a fight over that. i just want to recognize how cool this game is, how stylish, how fun to play, how far ahead of it's time.
 
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Punished Miku

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I always loved it, and it was one of my favorite NES games ever. It's a product of the times, and should be viewed in context.

People had Nintendo Power, talked about secrets with their friends at school like they were hidden legends, and even called paid tips hotlines. The fact that the game had secrets at all was a novelty and a new thing at the time. The gameplay, graphics, and music are all amazing. If people can't handle the obtuse secrets, just play with a guide and enjoy the ride.

This is the game that made Castlevania a legend initially. The first and third were popular, and influential. But there was nothing like Simon's Quest, and that amazing cover art. It was among the coolest looking game packages I had.

 
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kunonabi

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I love the game but it really did need some tweaks especially in the boss department as they're all way too easy. It's one of those games I love for what it wants to be and not so much what it is. That said, a lot of the vitriol is unwarranted but not much to be done about it at this point. I'd love to see a remake but they would probably just turn it another shitty Castletroid.
 
Nov 22, 2019
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I love classic Vania titles so much. As far as sequels go. Simon's Quest is a game caught in an awkward place. It was too ahead of it's time to be fully appreciated but it also wasn't far enough along to really hold up. It's odd. You can see so much of modern gaming in Simon's Quest but it's trapped in being a bit too cryptic for it's own good.

I recommend giving it an honest go and then falling back on a guide if you need it. It certainly doesn't deserve the negativity that AVGN and his wave of imitators created around it over ten years ago. I don't think it's a masterpiece. Certainly it's a weaker game overall than 1/3/4 and Bloodlines but I appreciate it and think of it fondly. Not a game that I have an urge to revisit like the others but that's okay.
 
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AJUMP23

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Simons Quest is one of my favorite childhood gaming memories. I remember my brother buying it and we were stuck. Then when we were bowling in our weekly coke and hotdog league talking about the game, being stuck and not knowing what to do, a kid we were bowling against told us we needed to get an orb and kneel down by the wall. WE said cool. He said he sent that hint into Nintendo or something along those lines. But we went home later that day, tried it and were blown away when it worked and we could progress on. We both enjoyed the game, everyone around us loved it, and had no idea people thought it was bad until about 20 years later. I still enjoy it.
 
Feb 23, 2018
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The music is fucking amazing.

It's also very underrated. Perfect example of why AVGN trash ruined videogame discourse for like a decade. There is so, so much level headed analysis that can be made of the game, and its absolutely a game worth experiencing. But instead everyone thinks it's trash because of one guy and his clickbait gimmick.
 
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Traianvs

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Amazing thread, amazing post #Phonepunk#.
I love retrogaming, I was a C64 and an Amiga player those years so I'm playing all these nintendo and sega games only now. I'll check on Simon's quest for sure, I've already completed Castlevania 1, 3, bloodlines and Super
 
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I'm surprised to hear anyone had a negative opinion of this game! It was a huge deal when it came out, so much so that I distinctly remember playing it at a classmate's birthday party in 1989 and all the hype around it. And that's speaking as a Sega kid who never owned an NES!
 

Cactuarman

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I love the game but it really did need some tweaks especially in the boss department as they're all way too easy. It's one of those games I love for what it wants to be and not so much what it is. That said, a lot of the vitriol is unwarranted but not much to be done about it at this point. I'd love to see a remake but they would probably just turn it another shitty Castletroid.

This is a perfect summation of how I feel as well. I just replayed this game maybe a month ago. It does so much, so well, but does have IMO some glaring flaws. Easy bosses (Carmilla/Camilla almost seems like they forgot to program the rest of her attacks), very obtuse puzzles, and weak mansion design are the ones that stuck out to me on my most recent playthrough.

I love this game though. I've always wanted sort of a "remix" release or something. They wouldn't even need to do much.
 
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NeoIkaruGAF

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My first Castlevania ever. Practically impossible to finish for an Italian kid with no knowledge of English. I remember somehow getting my paws on a meaty American NES games guide that had full-color illustrated walkthroughs for a lot of games and finding out about Debora’s Cliff secret. It was the clue I needed to get to the final part of the game, and from there I somehow stumbled upon that final graveyard and Dracula’s castle.

The game’s translation surely misinterpreted something, but less than people commonly believe if I remember well what I’ve read online these last years. I think that a HUGE problem with the Western version is that the manual told you jack shit compared to the awesome Japanese manual. That one even had a fucking map of the game’s world that gave players a lot of clues about where to go and how the various locations are interconnected. CV2 truly is a precursor to Dark Souls in that.

AVGN’s “review” damaged the game’s reputation irreparably in the early 2000s - same thing that happened to NES TMNT, also a solid game that I could finish before middle school. Castlevania 2 is absolutely a classic. Gameplay is a bit stiff but that’s par for the course for all the Castlevania games before IV, and the level design lends itself far better to that kind of character control than CV1 or 3. The leveling up and the time mechanic were awesome for a 1987 game, and the atmosphere is fantastic.

One of the so many NES “number 2s” that tried something radically different from their respective originals, and added so much new stuff to their IPs. And yep, dat soundtrack. Unfortunately, to my knowledge Dwelling of Doom never received the official remake love that CV’s classic have gotten through the years. I’ve heard so many remixes of Vampire Killer and Beginning and Bloody Tears, but DoD deserves more.
 

Raven117

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While it will never happen, I think an open world remake of the game would be FUCKING EPIC.

Think Souls/bourne mixed with Witcher 3.
 
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Darkmakaimura

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I actually brought this game up last night while talking about Bloodstained.

 

butane bob

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It's my fave of the NES Castlevania games. I can't believe people actually take that AVGN guy seriously when his whole schtick is just an act.
 
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CamHostage

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So, I'm an outlier here... I totally understand with the legacy of Simon's Quest (its influence is undeniable, and the contributions to Castlevania canon and the music are astounding) but I played it recently and found it hard to enjoy.

Level design is way more miss than hit (and the balance and pacing is miserably out of whack, especially with there being like 3 bosses I think in the whole game?) Levels are full of frustrating things like triangle block gaps (so you bump your head and have to start over) and hidden floorgaps, which are just annoying rather than challenging. The RPG stat tracking is clumsy and has some arbitrary rules (like how you can grind in a castle with no time penalty while the overworld punishes you on the clock for exploration or grinding.) Some of the weapons are great but they're not doled out in the best order (and there was something about the consumables that bugged me, can't recall but cool weapons never seemed worth the Hearts needed to use them... also, you needed to spam the Holy Water all the time to find secrets or not fall through gaps, so you just never switched unless you had to.) The towns are so limited and underpopulated that they're not much fun to visit (an unfortunate setback of the one-line-of-text dialog limitation) and aren't written with enough personality to distinguish one from another. And then, of course, there's the translation issues and other quirks of the original design (plus there's not even an intro scene? C1 had a great intro and it was barely trying to tell a story!) that make it more obtuse than need be.




Overall, Castlevania II feels like an unfinished product that has the makings of greatness (and is recognized, above its flaws, for all the great things it added to the franchise and to gaming, and just the valuable headcanon that it inspired in kids at the time to fill over the gaps in the game itself) but not everything is in there to deliver its vision.

It's the most apt game ever for a "remaster", something that takes everything it does well and expands it with more complete level design, more balanced pacing/stat-building, removal of conversation limitations, a cutscene or two to enhance the storytelling, and just a smoothing of polish that the game has always wanted. Sadly, I can't imagine anybody from back when this was made is around to even consult on a 'new' Simon's Quest (not to mention that Konami doesn't seem to want to make videogames anymore...), and I don't know who could be trusted to reimagine this (there are MODs out there that do all kinds of enhancements to Simon's Quest, for better or worse; IMO, some are very well conceived and worth playing with.) It's a shame that there wasn't like a SNES "Castlevania All-Stars" the way Nintendo did SMB that could have made the "definitive" Castlevania II at a time when the right people were around to do it (would have been cool also if they had done Simon's Quest instead of or after the PSP Dracula X Chronicles, with 2.5D + original to play side-by-side,) but as it is, this is the game that exists. Love it or suffer it.
 
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#Phonepunk#

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the towns aren't supposed to be "fun to visit". sparsely populated towns with untrustworthy NPCs sprinkled in among the helpful ones because there is a plague going on an monsters about and stuff.

that is fine is it is not what you are looking for in a game, but i would not call that "incomplete". imo they intended to do it that way, to make these towns like the sketchy European towns, which are wary of you.

Holy Water being needed to find secrets... how is that a bad thing? to me that is cool and a fun thing to do. it is very RPG style. you have infinite holy water as well. they made it so you can throw it anywhere. of course, nobody in their right mind would just throw it at every spot in the game, but use it in places where there could be a secret and maybe you will discover something. the illusory walls look like real walls because that is how it is supposed to be.

level design, i really love it. Castlevania NES level design before this was mostly rooms divided in two, with platforms connected by stairs, gothic backgrounds. this is like that but chopped into sections. it almost feels proto SOTN or GBA era Vanias, with lots of interconnected smaller branching semi-linear areas.

they couldn't match the expert enemy placement of the first game and yes III blows this out of the water simply by having better background art, but i still find this very charming and unique. it is fun to roam the European countryside, go down into caves, explore haunted mansions, take a ferry across the river, etc. the limited 8-bit pixel art is so beautiful to me. the neon pink swamps and blue purple skeletons are a really cool choice.
 
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Darkmakaimura

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OP have you played Ritual of the Night? It has a lot of obscure clues where you have to figure out what to do. I was pretty impressed they did that.
 
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#Phonepunk#

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yeah that would be cool. take it outside of the castle, visit different areas. Bloodstained ruled for sure.

on that note, Order of Ecclesia was maybe the closest Castlevania came to matching Simon's Quest design. lots of outdoor traversal split into smaller areas, going into different buildings.
 
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Airola

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I love Simon's Quest, it was my first Castlevania rented from a video store. This, Battle of Olympus and Milon's Secret Castle were my jams!

Battle of Olympus is really an underappreciated gem!

It's really really hard and pretty cryptic too. Very mysterious game. It's definitely in my top10 NES games list. Maybe top5. Maybe even top3!
 

NeoIkaruGAF

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yeah that would be cool. take it outside of the castle, visit different areas. Bloodstained ruled for sure.
Bloodstained (the Igavania game, not the faux-retro game) sucks. It lazily and tiredly retreads all the cliches from every Igavania ever, it’s poorly balanced (weapons do shit damage, but find a couple of magic powers and you can destroy everything using just those), it has baffling gameplay decisions (underwater movement), shitty subquests, and mostly bad art direction.

Simon’s Quest garish color palette is miles more artistically effective than Bloodstained, and that’s saying a lot.
 
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Sp3eD

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I love this game. There is a rom hack out there that adds instant day and night cycle and an map button so you can kind of keep track here you are in the world. It’s awesome
 

TeezzyD

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I never played much of Castlevania 2. Which is weird because I have so many fond memories of 1 and 3 as a kid.

Dracula's Curse was my jam
 
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petran79

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watched his original simons quest video back in like 2008 or whenever it was, but i somehow missed his second take on it. thx for sharing.

they released an even better patch after that

  • NTSC version (there is also a PAL option)
  • MMC1 chipset (there are also MMC3, MMC4, MMC5, UNROM and VRC6 options)
  • Added dialog in select locations - Small changes that will improve the game experience without changing the nature of the game.
  • Reintroduced some features that the English releases removed from the Japanese version — Includes the extended ending text, as well as Konami-style Start text on the power-on screen.
  • Map function — An in-game map is included. It helps understand the layout of the game world, and to know the name of whichever place the player currently is in. It compensates for the lack of actual game manual, which in the Japanese releases included a map. Press the select button to view the map in the game.
  • SRAM save function — Game can be saved at any time into internal battery-backed memory and loaded later.
  • Advanced password encryption — Passwords that are encrypted with extended functionality, can be decoded by the original (unhacked) versions of the game. The function expands the repertoire of passwords.
  • Language - English.


 
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draw4wild

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This was one of the games that I hated as an 8 year old without the internet but loved as an 18 year old with the internet.

But if I had to choose, I liked Faxandu better
 
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