My friend Kyle once told me that when he was in 7th grade his best friend was Link. Link from Hyrule. Link from the Legend of Zelda. He’d race home from school, fire up his N64 and lose himself in the Ocarina of Time for hours upon hours. While this might sound like the lament of a lost nerd and imply some kind of sad, lonely childhood, the truth is that Kyle was a perfectly content, fairly well adjusted kid who dived in to an incredibly immersive, thoroughly imaginative fantasy world flawlessly created by some the greatest video game designers ever; a world far richer and more involving than anything happening off the screen of his bedroom television set.
Okay, now that I’ve thought about it, I guess there is something a little bit sad in choosing to live in the land of Link, but I can’t say that I’ve never had a similar experience. The summer before I entered 7th grade I played and, ultimately won, Phantasy Star II, a task that took months to complete — but I can’t say I regret it. Honestly, there wasn’t all that much going on outside of my bedroom any more intriguing than acquiring the key cards to all four dams.
Growing up on an NES and then a Genesis, images from those games conjure up emotions in me that I’d never have assumed such a low pixel count could generate. For me, the Video Game Atlas is a phenomenal resource, its archives are seemingly limitless and while not every level of every game is there, the odds are pretty high that you’ll find at least one screenshot that will transport you back to the halcyon days when quality afternoons were spent absorbed in two-player Double Dragon.
As I was browsing through this week, one particular game demanded my attention. Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest. I don’t know if you’ve ever played this side scrolling pseudo RPG full of towns plagued by an epidemic of uncovered wells and populated by cryptic weirdoes, but it’s always held a special place in my heart. It was the first video game that provoked a sense of dread; decades before the stomp of a too-close Devilsaur in Un’Goro, the forests of Transylvania, which changed colors psychedelically after the sun set, inspired the kind of tense, fear-based reactive gaming I’ve always liked best.
While these images, taken from maps assiduously compiled by Rick N. Bruns and Wileee, convey the experience of the game pretty thoroughly, The Advantage covered one of my favorite pieces on their album Elf Titled, listening will doubtlessly enhance your viewing experience.
Click to listen to Castlevania II: Woods performed by The Advantage.
Click here to see the rest of Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest