The MSX version of Castlevania is weird

Seraphis Cain

bad gameplay lol
Apr 8, 2009
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#1
Check out a playthrough here.

This seems like such an odd entry into the CV series. At first glance it looks like the NES version. But there's strange new mechanics like keys, locked doors, treasure chests, backtracking, equippable accessories like a shield, a time-stopping sub-weapon, and the final battle against Dracula is completely different (he attacks you by flashing his skeleton junk at you, for one).

Seriously, what the hell is this game even?
 
May 27, 2014
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#4
I love it. I have a Konami Game Master cart for my MSX which gives me unlimited lives, otherwise I'm fairly certain the game would be impossible, haha. It's always funny when people call Castlevania 2 a huge departure for the series, because it was really more like a combination of the two versions of Castlevania 1.

Check out MSX Contra. It has a health bar and no horizontal scrolling.
And no spreader and 10 extra levels and a shotgun weapon. Oh, and no continues.

NES hard has absolutely nothing on MSX hard.
 
May 24, 2009
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NJ
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#5
It's like some sort of weird combination between CV1 and CV2, and if I am remembering right it's much more difficult than the NES games due to having no continues. I spent like two to three nights making progress in the MSX version until I finally beat it. There are some cool things in the game, and the final boss is kinda interesting. Though I doubt I will really return to this version much, it was fun to play one of the lesser known entries in a classic series.
 
Dec 17, 2007
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#6
I love it. I have a Konami Game Master cart for my MSX which gives me unlimited lives, otherwise I'm fairly certain the game would be impossible, haha. It's always funny when people call Castlevania 2 a huge departure for the series, because it was really more like a combination of the two versions of Castlevania 1.
it really bothers me when people call Castlevania II a Zelda 2 clone when, in reality, they both probably came along as a matter of coincidence. it's obvious they've never played CV1.
 
May 27, 2014
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#8
So is this going to be the MSX topic? My MSX collection:



It's a hit-bit HB-F1II from sony, that's an MSX2 not an MSX2+. I have a floppy drive and cart extender to retain most of the MSX2+ functionality.



Playing Akumajo Dracula :)

A few of my games:








These were pics from when I actually bought the stuff, I have a whole bunch more that I haven't thrown online, like Space Manbow, SD Snatcher, Metal Gear 2, and the rest of the Gradius games. I'll snap a pic tonight when I get home from work.

One of my favorite systems.

it really bothers me when people call Castlevania II a Zelda 2 clone when, in reality, they both probably came along as a matter of coincidence. it's obvious they've never played CV1.
That's nuts, because CV2 is nothing like Zelda II IMO. Maze of Galious 2 would probably be closer to a zelda clone, although that was more like Zelda 1 played as a side scroller (and was essentially Konami's answer to Zelda 1... at least until King Kong 2 came about). Might be because very few people know about MoG2, although thanks to La Mulana more people probably know about it today.
 
Dec 17, 2007
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#9
man i sold my MSX a long time ago when i was strapped for cash.

had: Akumajou Dracula, Contra, Gradius 2, Salamander, Metal Gear, Metal Gear 2, SD Snatcher...
 
Aug 30, 2013
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Portugal
#11
Check out a playthrough here.

This seems like such an odd entry into the CV series. At first glance it looks like the NES version. But there's strange new mechanics like keys, locked doors, treasure chests, backtracking, equippable accessories like a shield, a time-stopping sub-weapon, and the final battle against Dracula is completely different (he attacks you by flashing his skeleton junk at you, for one).

Seriously, what the hell is this game even?
All of those mechanics were later implemented in Symphony of the Night...
 
May 27, 2014
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#13
man i sold my MSX a long time ago when i was strapped for cash.

had: Akumajou Dracula, Contra, Gradius 2, Salamander, Metal Gear, Metal Gear 2, SD Snatcher...
I've got a flash cart with a retranslation of MG1 and MG2 for my MSX, along with an SD Snatcher translation cart. It needs a cart extender on my model MSX2 to play, though, because I still need the floppy drive to save and a cart slot for the sound cartridge, meaning I need 3 cart slots to play it properly.

What sort of joypads did you have? I use some Sharp X1 joypads that are MSX compatible, they look and feel great. I've also modded a few SMS joypads to work with the MSX, and I have an Amiga gravis gamepad with up mapped to a button that I use for Maze of Galious.
 
May 27, 2014
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#19
Fans of SD Snatcher should really check out the retranslation. It costs money, but it's very worth it. Non-Japanese speakers missed out on so much with OASIS's translation.
This is the copy I have. The guys behind this translation build translation carts as well. Very professional, come in a box with label art and everything:



If you have an MSX2+, they offer a version that'll work with any Konami SCC cart (so like you can pop in, say, Gradius II and it'll play the music through that) but I only have an MSX2, so I needed to use the official SCC+ cart for audio.
 
May 27, 2014
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#21
Konami SCC+ sound cartridge (Snatcher or SD Snatcher) are nowhere to be found.
MSX stuff is overly priced these days.
They can be found with the games themselves :p

It's really annoying that the SCC+ carts are incompatible, too. You can't use a Snatcher SCC+ cart with SD snatcher, and vice versa. It's a very tiny difference between the two, too - just a few offsets flipped. The Translation cart makes the SCC+ Snatcher cart compatible with SD Snatcher, though.
 
May 27, 2014
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#25
Not familiar with MSX, was scrolling not possible with the hardware, or was it simply a design choice with this version of castlevania and contra?
The MSX1 couldn't do scrolling, it displayed a character playfield of 64x26 full-width 8x8 characters (so a full resolution of 512x212). This was meant to be a computer, so imagine everything essentially being ASCII art, with the character tables being overwritten. This was for background display, as the MSX could also display a number of 2-color sprites on top of the 16 color background. The background didn't do per-pixel scrolling, so you had to shift the images 8 pixels at a time, per character.

The MSX2 had vertical hardware scrolling (again, it's meant to be a computer, so imagine a screen full of text scrolling up and down) but no horizontal pixel scrolling. There were tricks to get around this, however. You could shift the horizontal characters over as much as 8-pixels, but the edges of the screen would not show the next tile until a full 8 pixels had shifted (as there was no "next" character to shift from). A few games like Space Manbow got around this problem by devoting a column of black sprites to the edge of the screen to hide the judder of these characters being shifted.

The MSX2+ had full pixel scrolling in both directions. However, a vast majority of MSX games either used page flipping (ala Zelda on the NES) or character-width scrolling (the gradius games being notorious for them). Myself, I can adjust pretty quickly.

This type of scrolling was typical of computer games back in the day, the ZX Spectrum is notorious for this. This would be why adaptive tile refresh invented by John Carmack for Commander Keen was such a big deal, btw, because he could achieve smooth scrolling without dedicated hardware.

This is also why Space Manbow was so impressive:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcZJ64PgtgA

It's also why the MSX ports of Super Mario Bros are so hard to play:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_CtJSwfepA
 

Horseticuffs

Full werewolf off the buckle
Jan 28, 2011
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#26
As an American I've HEARD of the MSX but these ports just sound fucking crazy-town. How does Contra work with no horizontal scrolling?! And no spreader is pure blasphemy.
 
Dec 11, 2008
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#27
rofl at that Dracula fight at the end. I kinda liked how he was all bloody and skeletal, but that gaudy-ass painting in the background was too silly. And then the painting starts shooting bats to make it look even dumber.
 
May 27, 2014
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#28
As an American I've HEARD of the MSX but these ports just sound fucking crazy-town. How does Contra work with no horizontal scrolling?! And no spreader is pure blasphemy.
Page flipping, it's just a static screen. When you reach the edge of the screen, it flips to the new page. Think Zelda 1. It's not really that annoying.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Maej5IvbqA

they were pretty good at avoiding cheap deaths by not placing enemies near the edges of the screen.
 
May 27, 2014
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#30
Castlevania is a series I KNOW I'd love if I could get into it but I keep trying and failing...
Try Dracula X: Rondo of Blood on the PC engine. It's my favorite entry in the series.

Graphics are also nicer.
It's almost a certainty that the graphics were made for the MSX in mind. The two games use the same sprites mainly. Konami's best teams at the time worked on the MSX.
 
May 27, 2014
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#33
i'd imagine if Castlevania wasn't a huge western success on NES, the sequels would have been for MSX
Right. I find Konami's output on the MSX way better than their output on the NES until around the time Castlevania 3 hit. Their MSX stuff is honestly spectacular, some of the best 8-bit stuff around. The music... ohmygosh
 

dark10x

Digital Foundry pixel pusher
Jun 9, 2004
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#34
MSX is a strange machine. Its hardware was pretty weak, really, which prevented proper scrolling in most games. For me, the lack of scrolling was kind of a big deal. Games just aren't as responsive or smooth as what you could find elsewhere.

x68000 was far more interesting as a machine.

There are some really fascinating games on MSX, though.
 
May 27, 2014
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#36
MSX is a strange machine. Its hardware was pretty weak, really, which prevented proper scrolling in most games. For me, the lack of scrolling was kind of a big deal. Games just aren't as responsive or smooth as what you could find elsewhere.

x68000 was far more interesting as a machine.

There are some really fascinating games on MSX, though.
The MSX hardware wasn't weak, it was pretty much on par for 1983. Extremely comparable to the C64, Colecovision, Atari 8-bit, etc. The NES is, in a lot of ways, much weaker hardware, it just got around the scrolling issue with MMCs.

It's not really fair to compare it to the Sharp x68000, released in 1987.
 
May 27, 2014
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#38
Lately (after year 2000) MSX demo/homebrew scene demostrated that MSX can indeed do orizontal scroll well (sort of).
Try to look at C64 Uridium port to MSX.
This uses a process very similar to Carmack's Adaptive Tile Refresh to pull it off :)

The solid colors on most of the background made it a perfect game to demonstrate it with
 
Jan 1, 2011
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#39
Never seen this before.
It's so familiar yet so different, it's interesting to see how stages retain the same sense of progression and to a degree design structure yet with different layouts and more open areas, I find it most noticeable in stage 4 with its more distinct progression of water logged caverns into open area with bird riding fleamen and lastly cramped bone dragon corridors.

But boy did the pre Death corridor get nerfed, not even a Medusa Head in sight, at least Dracula finally put something in those frames.
Speaking of which that final boss was wierd, bat vomiting Dracula wall, looked like an incredibly awkward fight as well, I thought the original final form was annoying enough with putting you into seemingly inescapable attacks.
 

dark10x

Digital Foundry pixel pusher
Jun 9, 2004
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#42
The MSX hardware wasn't weak, it was pretty much on par for 1983. Extremely comparable to the C64, Colecovision, Atari 8-bit, etc. The NES is, in a lot of ways, much weaker hardware, it just got around the scrolling issue with MMCs.

It's not really fair to compare it to the Sharp x68000, released in 1987.
I suppose that's right, but really, the scrolling issue was a huge deal. The C64 was able to handle smooth scrolling in hardware but the MSX didn't seem to be able to pull it off.
 
May 27, 2014
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#43
I suppose that's right, but really, the scrolling issue was a huge deal. The C64 was able to handle smooth scrolling in hardware but the MSX didn't seem to be able to pull it off.
The C64 had the same limitations, actually, it's just that clever programmers figured out a way around it. Read this if you'd like to know how smooth scrolling was achieved on the C64:

http://cadaver.homeftp.net/rants/scroll.htm

the NES really couldn't scroll in multiple directions either. It was also a trick. The MSX also has tricks to do smooth scrolling, look at the Space Manbow video I posted before.

EDIT: A big reason the C64 was able to get around the scrolling issue so quickly was because of it's very vibrant homebrew and cracker scene. It's a thousand monkeys at typewriters situation. Most of the C64's best graphical developments came from demoscene.
 
Nov 27, 2009
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#46
The C64 had the same limitations, actually, it's just that clever programmers figured out a way around it. Read this if you'd like to know how smooth scrolling was achieved on the C64:

http://cadaver.homeftp.net/rants/scroll.htm

the NES really couldn't scroll in multiple directions either. It was also a trick. The MSX also has tricks to do smooth scrolling, look at the Space Manbow video I posted before.



Whaaaaa?
 
May 27, 2014
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#48
So check it out - the NES really only has enough of a frame buffer for 2 screens which can be arranged in two configurations - either two screens tall, or two screens wide. It could only really scroll in one direction because of this.

What games like Mario 3 did was arrange the frame buffer to be two screens high, so it could scroll vertically. Then, they'd take the right-most column of tiles and, using a memory mapper, would scroll individual pixels left and right to make the screen scroll horizontally. Once it reached the edge of the column, the entire screen would shift back to the original position and continue to scroll.

Just like with Space Manbow on the MSX, this leaves ugly artifacts on one side of the screen as it scrolls. Nintendo reasoned that overscan would hide this effect, which is why when you play Mario 3 with an emulator, you get those ugly distortions on one side of the screen. It's also why the vertical scrolling levels like the ones in World 7 wrap around horizontally, and why no other levels are more than two screens tall.

The NES was truthfully built for single screen games, as were most computers and consoles of the time.
 

Stinkles

Clothed, sober, cooperative
Sep 5, 2004
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#49
A lot of MSX games got weirder, in part because of keyboards and better hardware.


I loved MSX.

I had the Yamaha one with midi and a Sony HitBit. And the Toshiba one. And a Sord M5 which wasn't MSX, but was close.


SO GOOD.
 
May 27, 2014
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#50
A lot of MSX games got weirder, in part because of keyboards and better hardware.


I loved MSX.

I had the Yamaha one with midi and a Sony HitBit. And the Toshiba one. And a Sord M5 which wasn't MSX, but was close.


SO GOOD.
I have a Panasonic FM-PAC for my MSX. I actually have a few games that use it, too, like Aleste and R-Type.

R-Type is a terrific port, and what's cool is it's a dual-game cartridge. Inside the cart is an MSX port, AND an MSX2 port. If you play it on an MSX, it'll use different sprites and music. Best of all, the MSX port isn't dumped, only the MSX2 port, so you can't play it unless you have real hardware.