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Title: 2010 Halloween Spooktacular (Part III)
Posted: October 31, 2010 (05:28 AM)

Day 1: Vampire Killer (MSX2)
Released only a month after the original Famicom Disk game and sharing the same Japanese title of Akumajou Dracula, this MSX2 cartridge features nearly identical (but noticeably sharper) graphics, monsters, and music as its iconic console sibling. At a cursory glance it might even resemble a simple port, but this impression couldn't be more incorrect – Vampire Killer immediately stands out as a dramatic departure from the rest of the franchise even as its influence can be felt in Simon's Quest, Dracula X, and Symphony of the Night.

Day 2: SplatterHouse 2 (Genesis)
The controls are stiffer than one of its endless supply of corpses, and the average level is a short, uninspired advance from left to right punching identical hordes of muck-encrusted undead while occasionally hopping over a hole in the floor. But since our hero can only withstand a few hits before collapsing in a lumpy heap, it's all but required that you perfectly memorize all the enemy patterns through painstaking repetition until reaching the boss with full health. There's only one reason this cartridge wasn't totally lost to the shadows of mediocrity – it has enough gore to fill a swimming pool.

Day 3: Haunted Casino (Saturn)
A typical match with one of the seven available dealers is divided into three separate rounds wherein she starts out in corsets and colorful gowns before being reduced to filmy, silken underthings that leave nothing to the imagination until they too are cast aside to reveal naught but cold, creamy flesh for the final battle. These garments are handed over to the very approving imp in exchange for heaving stacks of chips nearly as abundant as those newly revealed pleasure globes until at last your bankrupt beauty goes down with a hilariously inept video of the poor lass being sucked into a black hole, presumably in search of some pants.

Day 4: Sins of the Fathers (PC)
Whether in the role of silver-tongued conman or paranormal investigator, Gabriel Knight is definitely someone you'll want to know; his career might have begun just as the entire adventure genre was taking those first, faltering steps on its slow descent into irrelevance, but Sins of the Fathers masterfully demonstrates why Sierra On-Line once drove the computer industry.

Day 5: Shin Megami Tensei (Super NES)
For Kazuya, a perfectly ordinary Japanese youth, it had been a perfectly ordinary beginning to a perfectly ordinary day: having roused himself from slightly sticky dreams of men that are hung (from crucifixes) and sapphire-haired devil ladies proclaiming their eternal love, our hero spends his morning downloading the hottest apps off the local BBS (look it up) before heading out on an adventuresome quest for fresh milk. Then his mom gets eviscerated by a demon from the rather similarly torn bowels of the underworld, he accidentally transmogrifies the faithful family hound into Cerberus, and the world ends. It's at around that point that the day really starts to go downhill.

Day 6: Vampire: Bloodlines (PC)
It's seemingly impossible to so much as turn over a rock in Bloodlines without encountering more pasty-faced neck biters that you can shake a sharpened stake at, but there's otherwise very little about this game that sucks. These aren't the sorts of vampires who constantly whine about their lost humanity or take annoying teenage princesses to the prom, either; we're talking about hard-drinking and even harder-dying undead anarchists packing UZIs who'd just as soon rip your head off and use it to shoot hoops in the dirty, haunted streets of downtown Los Angeles, except that kind of thing always gets the elders' velvety cloaks in a bunch. Keeping up appearances in front of the cattle and all that; they have nuclear missiles instead of holy water and boomerangs these days.

Day 7: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PlayStation)
Whether as a loving tribute to the series' glorious past or a striking declaration of its subsequent revival, Symphony of the Night will make any 2D enthusiast shed bloody tears of joy. Thematically a sequel to the equally legendary Rondo of Blood, this nocturne in the moonlight takes its predecessor's newfound emphasis on nonlinearity to an entirely new level – a seemingly preordained marriage to Super Metroid, now laden with haunting gothic atmosphere and a ridiculous amount of character growth for protagonist Alucard, the outwardly delicate but incredibly potent dhampir prince first introduced in Akumajou Densetsu.
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Title: 2009 Halloween SPOOKTACULAR (Part II)
Posted: October 31, 2009 (05:21 AM)

Day 1: SplatterHouse 3 (Genesis)
From the day it first oozed forth into unsuspecting arcades, the SplatterHouse franchise has been synonymous with outrageous violence, undying horrors from beyond the grave . . . and equally musty gameplay. Yet where its predecessors may have been stiff, simplistic side-scrollers, this third installment chucks out the old formula like so many decapitated heads in favor of brutal beat 'em up action featuring a few novel twists.

Day 2: The Colonel's Bequest (PC)
Greed. Sex. Murder. Yes, The Colonel's Bequest has all the good things in life. It's even set in the heart of the Roaring Twenties, but unfortunately for the lovely Laura Bow there won't be any time for bootleg hooch or the devil's jazz. Our spunky flame haired sleuth instead finds herself surrounded by an ever dwindling cast of shifty suspects on Colonel Henri Dijon's crumbling bayou plantation, because nothing livens up a creepy old house quite like death.

Day 3: Castlevania II: Simon's Quest (NES)
There's the worn signage and crumbling brick of villages that tower over intricate catwalks of staircases, a setting so vividly recreated when it was put to the torch in Dracula X. There are the nocturnal treks through thick forestry in pursuit of bouncing werewolves and suspicious ferrymen who'll take you "someplace good," or the skeletons forlornly hanging in chains beneath the bowels of haunted mansions. And of course, a classic compilation of music that was even enhanced over the original disk release: the now legendary chords of "Bloody Tears" that accompany your travels, the less celebrated but similarly excellent "Silence of Daylight" in town, and that spine-tingling tune upon finally stepping into the ruined halls of Castlevania itself.

Day 4: Tecmo's Deception (PlayStation)
This is the story of Henry the merchant, a loveless miser who nonetheless ventures to the darkest depths of distant Zemekia in search of the fabled Castle of the Damned and handsome profits. After all, even the sadistic blackguard reputed to dwell there must surely appreciate those little niceties like silken bat wings, eyes of newt, and the carefully bottled tears of heartbroken virgins. Unfortunately this portly peddler's greed comes to an ignoble end when he finds himself impaled upon poisoned steel spikes that suddenly shriek forth from a nearby wall.

Day 5: Demon's Crest (Super NES)
The abyssal awesomeness of Demon's Crest should have made it a darkly glittering jewel in Capcom's crown rather than a jester's cap of bells. Not only can you expect a stylish showcase of the macabre, but an unconventional formula that's best described as "Mega Man from Hell."

Day 6: Resident Evil: Director's Cut (PlayStation)
The game that put Shinji Mikami on the map may owe an obvious debt to the creepy Cthulhu-conjuring madness of Alone in the Dark, but there's a reason that his own franchise went on to become an unstoppable money-making juggernaut while its predecessor slipped away into obscurity. Infogrames had already defined the concept of cobbling together inventory puzzles from the graphic adventure genre alongside combat with deformed monstrosities that refused to rest in peace, but now you had to carefully conserve a limited resource of weapons and healing items, nor could you carry more than a few objects at any given time. Was it better to clear out a room that you'd need to access frequently, or risk dashing in and out around them? Take another herb with you just in case or save room for newly discovered keys? Each subsequent sequel greatly expanded upon the formula introduced here, even reinventing it from the ground up with considerable success after the series began to stagnate – and that original formula was rock solid to begin with.

Day 7: Bloody Bride: Imadoki no Vampire (PlayStation)
As you'd expect from any Atlus release, the concept is nothing short of unique: thrust into the billowing cape of Phaid, teenaged vampire prince of the netherworld, you've been temporarily exiled to the mysterious human realm known as "Japan" in search of a virgin bride, not for tawdry thrills but in order to sup upon her sweet, innocent blood.
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Title: 2006 Halloween SPOOKTACULAR
Posted: November 01, 2006 (12:12 AM)

Brides of Dracula (Amiga)
Whether he's being portrayed by Christopher Lee or George Hamilton, one simple fact remains the same: Count Dracula is history's greatest pimp. Sadly, most games are so fixated on silly things like drinking blood or getting whipped by men in leather that they overlook our hero's slick sophistication, excellent dancing skills, and long, hard . . . fangs. Fortunately Brides of Dracula corrects this grievous error by not only letting you play as crotchety Dr. Van Helsing, but also the Bodacious Bloodsucker himself as he prowls Transylvania looking to pick up chicks.

Night Trap (Sega CD)
This game was once singled out as representing everything wrong with the entire industry. That's hard to do!

Night Trap (PC)
The last and best release of Night Trap, unfortunately the PC version is also the most scarce; most people aren't even aware that it exists! But while you'd really have to be a fan of the original's campy humor and ridiculous acting to bother tracking it down, those who do so are going to be treated to a significant upgrade of this timeless Sega CD "classic."

Waxworks (PC)
Waxworks is a 1st person, real-time dungeon crawl that's sure to provides hours of wholesome entertainment for the whole family - that is, if you're the Addams Family. Much lighter on the RPG side of things than stat-heavy fare like Eye of the Beholder, instead it focuses firmly on exploration, puzzle-solving, and buckets of grisly, explicit GORE.
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Title: Fan Fiction (Yes, Fan Fiction)
Posted: October 23, 2005 (03:04 AM)

Ghosts 'n Goblins (NES)
Arthur: By my faith, this evening chill doth nip at my beard, reduce my muscular bare chest to a frightful pallor, and make mine underthings sway in the darkened breeze!

Prin Prin: Aye, but mayhaps yonder hearts dost illuminate the gloom and set aglow the fires of my bosom . . .

Arthur: (knowingly) O spiteful boxers! It now appears that they too deign to chafe!

Final Fantasy VIII (PlayStation)
Prepare yourselves, my friends.

Yes, prepare yourselves for a poignant epic unlike any you’ve ever experienced before, a timeless saga that shamelessly gobbles up four black discs for its beautiful messages of life and love. That’s right, I’m not ashamed to admit that the moving story of FINAL FANTASY VIII often causes me to sit down and ponder the meaning of human existence. That’s when I turn to my woman and, being the glorious paragon of masculinity that I am, casually announce, “Let’s make love.” Naturally she replies “okay,” because she is easy. Of course, we can’t all be as dapper and debonair as yours truly, but if you consider yourself a sensitive (yet strong!) man of the 21st century then you’d better start grabbing the Kleenex now. Why, you dare ask? Because in the spirit of such enduring “tear”-jerkers as Chain and SplatterHouse comes this touching journey – the journey of a woman with the emotional range of an eight year old who nobly attempts to snatch a sexually confused ladyboy out from his flamboyantly gay lifestyle and bring him back to the straight side!

Dance Aerobics (NES)
We all need to keep ourselves fit, because you just never know when you’re suddenly going to find yourself surrounded by evil ninjas. Unsurprisingly, this has never been more true than back in the eighties. When they weren’t preoccupied with kidnapping the president, oriental assassins could be found on practically every street corner – brazenly slashing apart lanterns in broad daylight, tearing up the hot asphalt with their furious breakdancing, or enjoying a relaxing nine holes of golf right in the middle of commuting traffic – rather than skulking about in the shadows as they do today. Thus the most honorable suits at Nintendo had to come up with some way to keep their flabby, lazy, and chronically uncoordinated user base from becoming shuriken-bait, or else risk losing all their profits. But how, these svelte salesman pondered over their seaweed salads, might they accomplish this with an audience known to violently shrink away from team sports and fresh air? And then it hit them with all the force of whirling nunchaku – the perfect solution to this quandary: Dance Aerobics.

Hellraiser (NES)
Today it’s lost to obscurity, but HELLRAISER was perhaps the most ambitious project for the Nintendo Entertainment System ever conceived! The brainchild of longtime unlicensed developer Color Dreams, it was designed to employ a super special SECRET STEALTH cartridge so laden with extra chips that it would effectively pump the NES’ might up to the level of a 16-bit system. Then they cancelled it and started releasing games for Jesus instead. But this innovative concept nevertheless makes for a game that – assuming you can overlook the fact that it would have cost a small fortune and was therefore killed off before reaching even the prototype stage – is sure to please.
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