Recently I completed my NES Castlevania trilogy by finally acquiring a copy of Simon’s Quest. Simon’s Quest was one of the first NES games I purchased all by myself, so it holds a very special place in my video gaming memories. Although I bought it used from a flea market, that doesn’t change the prior fact. I can’t remember exactly when I purchased the game, but it was long before you could type a game’s name into a search engine and find a myriad of walkthroughs. Simon’s Quest was also the first Castlevania game I had ever played, so without the manual I was completely lost as to what I was supposed to be doing. In an attempt to make the most of my purchase I made up my own game. I didn’t know where any of the whip upgrades were or what the hearts did, but I knew I could kill things, before eventually dying, so I made a game out of counting my kills and seeing which new screen I could reach with each new attempt. Ah, the innocence of ignorance.
Simon’s Quest is my favorite Castlevania game of all time, but the fact is as I’ve experienced more of the series I’ve enjoyed them. Except The Adventure, I was not a fan of that one! I’ve not played them all, but I have played all of the NES games, the SNES games and the Genesis one. Aria of Sorrow and Circle of the Moon on the GBA are really good as well. And that’s where I think the legacy of Simon’s Quest resides. While Castlevania and Castlevania 3 are side-scrolling games with tons of little things to find, the objective is fairly linear. Simon’s Quest let the player choose where to go, what to do and how to do it, all while having a skosh of RPG elements. While leveling up was possible, it really did very little in the game as a whole, although it did help the player a little bit.
I love the first, third and the subsequent Castlevania games that follow the tried and true gameplay of the first game, but the GBA games that I’ve played feel like they’re Simon’s Quest’s offspring. It feels like they give that game a rooted lineage within the series, instead of making it feel like the outcast. As I said I’ve not played them all, and I’m sure I’m missing out by not having played Symphony of the Night. I feel that if Simon’s Quest hadn’t dared to try something different, we most likely wouldn’t have seen some of the best games in the series. Speaking of something different, are the N64 Castlevania games any good?
The original Xbox has a great lineup of racing games. The easily memorable titles include Forza, The Needs for Speed series, the Project Gotham series, the Burnout series, the Rallisport series, the list could go on and one. Of course that lineup includes some not so great racing games as well. However, there was one game that seemed to stand out from the crowd and piqued my interest when I started reading about it online. This game claimed you could build and race your own cars, which was one of the main reasons I loved the original Sega GT for the Dreamcast. That game is called Apex, or some may know it as Racing Evoluzione.
Back in the early to mid-2000s I would quite often run to the nearest Shame Stop or Disc Replay to try and find a complete in case copy of a game I had just read about online. Disc Replay was usually where I found it in the best shape at the best price. Apex was one of those games, and after reading online reviews I had great hopes for what this game could possibly be. The back of the case boasts about this game, saying such things as: “Before you can race it, you’ve got to invent it.” and “Design, build and race original prototype cars against the world’s most prestigious automobiles..”. All these things had my imagination working overtime as I drove home. When I popped this game into my Xbox and got started I was disappointed, but there was still a lot of fun to be had.
You see, I thought I was going to be able to design cars from the ground up, but instead I was presented with a few abysmally bland predesigned options. This isn’t unlike Sega GT, so I wasn’t too disappointed, but I had imagined the game affording me far more creative control than it actually did. From there I got to adjust a few other aspects of the car and allow my team to build them. Which in and of itself is yet another situation. I would assume that while I was out putting my own invention through its paces against the world’s most prestigious automobiles that my cars would continue being made. Sadly the truth is the car’s production is directly tied to the player’s finishing position of each race, in some weird mathematical way.
It’s nice to see all of the licensed cars you’ll be competing against, but still I would have preferred more ability to customize my own cars to my liking. The competition can be comprised of cars from Aston Martin, Chevy, Dodge, Lotus, Mercedes-Benz and more, with a total of 80 cars in the game. The better you do, the more cars you sell, but your manufacturing facility grows too. With a better facility you’ll produce bigger and better cars. This also allows you to manufacture multiple cars at the same time. So you can see this game has a bit of a business sim aspect to it, which is kind of nice.
Although I was disappointed by this game, I did have a great deal of fun with it. It’s not a Forza or Project Gotham in terms of controls and handling, but it’s not terrible. Now that Apex is over twenty-years old I doubt the studio that made it is even still open, but if a serious developer could buy the rights to this game and bring it up to today’s standards with a sequel that gives the player more options on how to build their own racing cars it could be great. This is a game that I feel needed just a little bit more time to add more depth to the game play and it would have easily been a game more people remember to this day.