The best Castlevania game in the world is Symphony of the Night for PSX. It was game of the year when it came out and is one of the best games on the Playstation hands down, and most likely the best 2D game in existance.
My friends and i played this game all the way through several times. We explored both sides of the castle, tried to get the most map uncovered and made attempts to get all the items. Little did we know that in Japan a cheaply made port was released called Nocturne in the Moonlight.
Demon Dracula X: Nocturne in the Moonlight to be exact. Its pretty much the same game, except two new areas are unlocked revealing 100 more rooms, new items, two new bosses, and two new playable characters.
When i first moved into my own apartment on my own, i kept going to this place in the flea market called Mario Brothers. This game bodega had a collection of about 10 thousand games on all systems. In a glass case he kept the oddities from the NES era, his two unopened copies of Chrono Trigger and Secret of Mana, and one copy of Nocturne in the Moonlight, unboxed. I asked several times about, and finally looked it up online. I knew i had to have this game. I went back the following friday and discussed it with him and he let me know he was planning on selling it online. I asked if it worked, and in response he popped it in for me, into his Japanese region Saturn console.
Words can't describe. It was the same game, well kind of. Everything was in Japanese for starters except the main menu and some other little things. The screen was pixelated and stretched. All the sprites were blocky and seemed very fuzzy. I chose Maria as my starting character out of childish excitment, and then i was seriously let down by the ground-down toned back graphics. I was under the impression that the Saturn was a more powerful machine with legendary 2D graphics and a much improved resolution. Gone were all the little sparkles and polishes and dithering effects and everything i had come to love from the PSX varient. He played me excitment and talked up the game continually throughout my 10 minutes of playing.
I told the owner of Mario Brothers that i would pass on the game, as i did not have $200. I did have the money, but i was so disapointed that i really could not bring myself to buy it. The graphics were just not that great. I wanted a next generation game, not something that could have been made in the heyday of SNES.
Since then i have played Symphony of the Night all the way through at least 3 more times, uncovering things i've found online and so on. The copy of the game i own, i play on PSXE which is a Playstation emulator that just plain works awesome. Any game, any controller, just plug in and go. They also have a PS2 emulator that works like a charm. With the advent of emulation and better computers, i decided the other day to download and play through Nocturne in the Moonlight... If i could get it to work.
The rom was easy enough to find, as was readily available on The Pirate Bay. There were no seeders so a 400mb download took about 10 hours. No biggie. Next was downloading the appropriate emulator. Everybody has a different take on this and im here to set the record straight. They all are a bitch to get working, and when they do, just barely with skippy, choppy, halting performance. Each one has a unique problem.. IE. missing sound, no video, does not start and so on. Most of everything i have read points fingers to Satourne being the best in show in performance and other traits, also i think its the only one still be supported by developers.
Satourne sucks. It would not run Nocturne in the Moonlight because the file was not one it recognized... That and aparently i did not have the right bios files. (you need the original Saturn bios files to boot games, and they are hard to find as well) Once i got that straightened out i spent another hour reading how-to's and tutorials to get this piece of junk to work.
SSF is another emulator that was so buggy i dont see how it was released in the first place.
Saturnin would not run anything but sound for the several roms i tried. All together, i could get Satourne to boot the game with slow video, and crash before the main screen. With tweaks, i could get it to the character select, but the music slowed the emulation down to a half. (i have a quad-core PC, so this should not be a problem) SSF was crazy buggy and had repeat crashes with several games that said worked on their site.
PS: BIOS files are available here. Use the Japanese one for NitM, V.1.0.
You would think that since PSX emulators were so common, even being sold as early as 2000 with Bleem!, that you would be able to find a good if not better Saturn one. This is not so. Several things on the Saturn are hard to emulate, the graphics and sounds chips used were a little ahead of its time, which made it hard, as well as a short lifespan of the system itself. Small interest, complicated hardware, lack of US games of four-star quality... you get the point.
I found Yabause which was the most simple of the 4 that i had tried, and the last. Within 5 minutes i had game running full speed, perfect emulation of video and sound with full screen support at any resolution i wanted. I had found my emulator. Three things that got me which im sure will stump some of the newbies of emulation: 1) make sure auto framskip is enabled. This will throttle the game down if your computer is too fast, and also speed it up if your computer is too slow by skipping every other frame. 2) Try and get your resolution on the game as close to the native resolution to your desktop, this will eliminate frame tearing and lag. 3) Don't use OpenGL if you can help it. If you have a fast computer you wont need it. With most Saturn games, emulation has not been tested on most, and OpenGL is not optimized for certain things, which causes artifacts on the screen. (garbage sprites) Use the number pad to turn off layers if need be during menus if you have to have OpenGL on.
Iam no stranger to playing emulated games, especially with the keyboard in a pinch. I'm a gamer, been doing this for years.. but the Saturn keys are something different entirely. Playing on the keyboard was not for me on this system. I needed to get a controller, and i had tons out in the closet. I grabbed several, not leaving anything up to chance. No amount of gamepad software is compatable with Yabause. The only thing it wanted to recognize was the keyboard, with no support for the diagonal d-pad, so spells were hard to get off. I'm pretty good with the keyboard having played emulators for some time, but the buttons were different that the PSX controller, so were different than i had experienced before. I suspected my oldest game pad may work, but the software it used was only copatible with windows 98, which is not good in this case. I considered dual booting Win98, i really did, but i was pressed for time.
Earlier in the week i had read about a hack to get a PS3 controller to work as a game pad with some difficulty. Since that controller really hasent changed since the first incarnation of the Playstation, i decided to give that a shot being familiar with the button layout, and not really understanding the Saturn controller configuation at all. The best way to describe a Saturn controller is look at the Sega Genesis controller, and add more buttons, take away the select button. I like the PSX controller, to me, its the one controller to rule them all. Initially i knew the PS3 controller would not work with Yabause, becuase.. well.. nothing did. This program was not game-pad friendly at all. Why go with the hardest of all controllers? Well, i had to choose one, and i have only seen a couple of how-to's with PS3 game pads, so maybe someone will find this helpful.
Download Motioninjoy. Its a driver set for the PS3 controller. Before you install anything, if your using vista or windows 7 (like me) reboot your computer and hit F8 several times, select the ignore driving signing option. Now reboot again. Windows does not like these drivers, and considers them high risk. Now follow in the instuctions, then when installed properly a notepad window will pop up with Japanese characters on it. I missed this before, so i know to look for it now. When you see the notepad window, reboot again. Okay now if you look down at your PS3 SIXAXIS controller, it will be blinking in sequence from left to right insted of its 'what the fuck' flashing it was doing it before. Congrats, you did it. Now to get the big fuck you from Yabause.
Download Joytokey. It is a keyboard-joypad emulator. You leave it open and it translates gamepad presses into keyboard strokes. If you do not know how the controller is mapped by the numbers, you will need to, so go to devices in your control panel and right click on the gamepad, and goto settings. Press each button, and when the number lights up, write it down. Now go back into Joytokey and map them on the keyboard however you want. You will not need to use the analog sticks so dont worry about mapping those. Oh, and the select button will not work on the Saturn no matter what so skip that as well. To see your map progress in Nocturne in the Moonlight, you have to hit start, then press the R1 key, which i think is the Z key? on the Saturn controller.
Yabause has an input selector under settings. Set it for keyboard and enter in all the mapped keys from before. Don't forget you have to leave Joytokey open. You should be good to go. Test your keys switch the buttons you need to make it feel like SoTN. In the options menu, when you press start you can map the keys in the game as well, which can be pretty good too if you cant seem to switch weapon A and Weapon B.
NitM has an extra hand for holding potions, food and such on the main menu. On the main controller for Saturn there is A.B.C then X.Y.Z on the front. The developers having seen an extra button deceided to make it a third hand to hold shit, assuming people have three hands, you know, to hold stuff. I set this key for R3 on the PS3 game pad, and it works pretty good. I don't know why they did not have this feature on the PSX version, but im assuming once again that they ran out of buttons. God knows they could not assign one key to wolf/mist/bat and cycle through them, or the 'hold up' while pressing.. blank. This shit makes the game easier. Potions make you invincible for a second in both games which is one of the more useful things to have, especially on demand.
I hope this helped. I'll try and post more games and how best to play them as time allows.