RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.

Posted on Jun 21st 2018 at 08:00:00 AM by (bombatomba)
Posted under Konami, Contra, Castlevania, Super C, Simons Quest


Once upon a time, I was walking through an OfficeMax to get printer paper or some such, when I spotted the PC games cart.  Do you remember those?  This was sometime in 2004, so pretty much every store imaginable had some sort of budget or reduced price PC cart, and given the breadth and width of PC gaming at that point in time, the contents of the PC games cart were always a surprise, and this time was no different.  From the middle I pulled out an orange "small box" PC game with the title, Konami Collector's Series - Castlevania & Contra (KCS-C&C) printed all over.  Per usual, I had no idea what I was holding in my hands, though I was pretty sure it was a collection of pre-1990 PC ports of some of the most beloved classic console games, and that had me very excited.

I imagine you can see where this is going.  Wait, wait, don't look it up yet; you will spoil the fun and possibly deprive yourself a good chuckle at my expense.  The rest of you - well, you know what's coming.




After starting this article I realize it is about halfway to being one of my Budget Wall Chronicles stories.  It contains most of the main ingredients:

1. Confusion
2. A familiar price point, that being $20 USD
3. The lack of knowledge of what I was purchasing,
4. A strong need to open the game box and see what lies within


The only thing that keeps it from being a Budget Wall Chronicles episode is the distinct lack of humiliation (which is an important component), and possibly that it happened years after the one and true Budget Wall (at my local childhood Toys "R" Us) had been gone for years by 2004 due to multiple remodels.

When I got back home I opened the box and was instantly disappointed.  It looked like the game was nothing more than an emulation platform for the original NES ports!  Now don't get me wrong, there is nothing terrible about any of the main NES Castlevania and Contra titles, but in reality I reeeally hoped it contained either the substandard (and hilariously bad) PC ports of the games, or perhaps even the arcade games themselves.  Of course there are massive flaws in these two hopes of mine, that you no doubt already see, but let us carry on before I lose the thread of this article.


Normally running 640x480 on a high res screen looks terrible.  This looks great.

Konami Collector's Series - Castlevania and Contra for the PC, is a Windows 9x/XP emulation pack, containing the NES versions/originals of Castlevania I - III, as well as Contra and Super C.  It is rather bare-bones, and contains the disc in jewel case and a color "Quick Reference Guide," no history or scans of boxes or documentation within the software itself.  There is a pdf manual that erroneously says you don't need the disc to the run the game, as well as a demo of Dance Dance Revolution, which can only be installed from the disc (it doesn't show up in any in-game menu for some reason).  Describing it now, it really doesn't sound like much, but surprisingly, I managed to have a lot of fun with this little disc.  How, you ask?  Because they are some of the best games released on the NES!  Duh.

First of all, the emulation of the titles is excellent.  This isn't too much of a revelation for a modern gamer, but one has to remember that KCS-C&C was released in 2002, and back then emulation was not as good as it is now.  For the roots of NES emulation up to that point we had fairly good NES emulators for usage, with many to most games working, albeit with graphical corruption.  Enter KCS-C&C, which in 2002 was able to play Castlevania III perfectly, with no messed up intro, invisible platforms and enemies, or freezing.  While software emulation has (largely) progressed past that point, hardware has not, and to this day there are many NES clones that are still incapable of this seemingly minor feat.

Despite what I wrote earlier about the "bare-bones" nature of this release, there are a couple of interesting points.  First, the graphics are smoothed a bit, so that even on a larger screen it doesn't have that softness that one sees when using original hardware on modern LCDs.  Granted, it isn't nearly as sharp as with an upscaler (software or hardware), but it still looks nice.  Personally, I don't dig too much pixel smoothing, but the devs at Konami managed to strike a nice medium between that classic pixelated look and graphical smoothing.  This is definitely subjective though, so your mileage will vary.  There is also a bit of correction done to the script in Castlevania II.  Nothing groundbreaking (such as in the Castlevania II: Simon's Quest Redacted hack), but still interesting.  Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your humor level) some of the corrections are still in "Engrish."  And the townspeople still lie to you.


The sub-menu looks out of place.  Too bad setting resolution isn't there.

Controller support also surprised me a bit.  I have mentioned in the past that I use an 8bitdo SN30 Pro for my gaming, and I was pretty happy to see that it after connecting to my little gaming computer (via Bluetooth) it worked right out of the box.  This could be because this controller supports both DirectInput (a legacy API for the pre-Xbox 360 days) and XInput (which is Xbox 360 and after), but I don't know.  Given the release date, I imagine most if not all DirectInput controllers should work fine, though something silly, like swapping the d-pad for analog controls (which isn't cool), may be present. With that in mind, I recommend something without an analog stick.  In the past I've used a Logitech Dual Action gamepad, an old Gravis Gamepad Pro (USB version), and one of those Retrolink USB NES controllers, all with success (though I had to remap controls in the game's  sub-menu).  As for the keyboard, controls for two players from any of the game menus (meaning once you are in the game) can be set by pressing "F1" on the keyboard.  There is no visible way to change non-keyboard controller settings that I can see, though, so keep that in mind.

Now for the issues.  There are really only two, in my opinion, but either could completely ruin the experience.  First, this thing hates both Intel Onboard graphics cards as well as "switching" graphics cards (regardless of what GPU it is set to) with a passion, so that it will either play very slow or not at all. Something to think about.  Second, you cannot set the resolution at all, and you cannot take it off full-screen.  Thus, it is permanently set to 640x480, which I must admit looks pretty good.  Still, this kind of thing won't bother most people, but the hardcore PC folk will be driven bonkers by this, as you futilely hit keyboard combinations change.  Not even the mighty DXWnd can stand against this powerhouse of a program.  All pictures have been taken with my phone.  Oh, and I really dislike that the manual lies and I have to use the disc to run the game.  I've tried every method of ripping and mounting and nothing works; Konami at work keeping us honest, I guess.

To say that I was initially disappointed would be an understatement, but after letting it marinate on my shelf for a few years (nine years, actually), I can say the game really grew on me.  I really dig the color scheme used in the art design on the box and Quick Reference card, I really like that the games look great, even on large LCD screens, and I really like that two people can play via one keyboard (even if I don't utilize it).  For some reason brings me back to playing the duel mode in Star Control at my friends house when I was a teen (trying to keep it quiet, because I wasn't allowed to touch the computer).

Running this baby is easy on pretty much every PC I tried, keeping in mind the massive hate KCS-C&C has for Intel HD graphics.  The ebay price is about two to three times the original price of $20 USD currently, though I think it will go down a bit.  They have sold between $25 and $40 USD, but even at a higher price point it still is a pretty good deal, considering the combined prices for these games on NES would be…  rather high (whatever your currency).

So, would I recommend a purchase?  Hard to say.  If you already have the NES originals there really is no point, despite the better overall look and some of the changes to Castlevania II.  For those of us console-loving PC owners out there who happen to have rather large gaps in our NES library (or experience), this is a high recommendation.

Thanks for reading!


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Comments
 
Very interesting! I would have expected the same thing as well. I had that kind of experience when I bought a Sega Arcade collection for PC, and it ended up being really crappy ports of classic Sega arcade games. the PC versions of Shinobi, Outrun, and Alien Syndrome were all laughably bad, and the port of Thunder Blade was nigh unplayable. However, I have been surprised by this kind of thing in the past as well. The PC versions of Mega Man X and Super Street Fighter II were quite competent, and if you had a good compatible controller, played pretty well. But yeah, PC ports from this time and before were always a crapshoot.
 
@MetalFRO: Wow.  I had no idea these puppies existed, and while it would have been a terrible discovery (followed by a practiced moment of mourning over my lost money), I would have at least laughed at how bad they were.  I had a chance to look over these games and I find the game sound is...  painful.  What has music makes you with there was only thoughtful silence.

I haven't played Super Street Fighter, but I do own Mega Man X and it is quite good (if not wonderful).  Thanks for commenting!

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