Video Works by Jeremy Parish

Yep, it's Halloween, and that means it's time for my annual Castlevania retrospective. This time, we jump forward a decade from Super Castlevania IV...

For many long-time fans, the big selling point for Game Boy Advance at launch wasn't a kooky Mario port or a throwback F-Zero sequel—it was Konami's first proper attempt at a Symphony of the Night follow-up in the form of Castlevania: Circle of the Moon. Circle absolutely blew away anything that had ever been created to that point for a handheld system, with stunning music and great-looking graphics.

Unfortunately, Circle wasn't without its shortcomings—some resulting from questionable game design choices, and others resulting from issues with the GBA hardware itself. This tiny metroidvania juggernaut wasn't quite the grand slam it could and should have been, but don't let its flaws distract from the fact that this was an unparalleled feat in portability back in 2001.

A new series begins here to round out the entirety of the Game Boy family's history. At the very least, we'll explore the early days of Game Boy Advance and how Nintendo and their partners brought more than a decade of handheld gaming experience to bear on a system that was (generally) powerful enough to allow them to realize their grander ambitions. As we can see from this very first release for GBA, it was a transitional process....

Another Konami shooter arrives, and this one encompasses a little bit of every other shooter to have appeared on the system to date. It's also tied to a long-running series, despite having been renamed in the U.S. So why does no one ever talk about this game? Is it because it was unbearably cute? Or is it because it was overshadowed by its own sibling release a year later?

We take a side excursion into a nebulous place in NES history: Tengen's licensed trio of games from 1987. Or is it 1988? It's hard to say, because there's no firm record of when these games originally shipped. It's always tough to pin down exact American release dates for NES games, since Nintendo of America only officially cites release months... but what happens when Nintendo refuses to acknowledge the existence of a game altogether for political reasons? That's the conundrum that surrounds the first three games released by Atari spinoff Tengen under license by Nintendo—before they went rogue.

(That's "The 3-D Battles of WorldRunner" if you're nasty.) Four—count 'em, four!—companies make their NES debut here before going on to become third-party pillars of the platform. 3-D WorldRunner comes to us courtesy of Squaresoft (they of Final Fantasy fame) and Acclaim (they of, uhhh, Bart Vs. The Space Mutants infamy). Sky Kid is a Namco/SunSoft joint. None of these companies should need any sort of intro for anyone who has a decent familiarity with the NES, and this is where they both get their start on the U.S. side of the console. Nothing inspiring here, but these are the seeds for greater things.

Japanese arcade giant Irem makes its NES debut—or at least its debut as a publisher under its own steam. Spelunker and Sqoon make for interesting companion pieces to Lode Runner and Bungeling Bay, one being an Irem PC port published by Brøderbund and the other being a game published by Irem itself. Anyway, both are hilariously difficult.