Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Castlevania II and Metroid - Best Ending Advice

Castlevania II and Metroid were two of the few NES/Famicom games that use the time the player takes to beat the game to determine the ending.  The better the time, the better the ending.  Getting the best ending in both games is something of a challenge, but in this blog post I would like to share some tips and general guides so you can save time as you try to get the best endings for these games.

Castlevania II: Simon's Quest/Dracula II : Noroi no Fūin

As the second game in the Castlevania series for the NES/Famicom, CV2 sticks out for a couple of reasons.  First, its gameplay is non-linear, unlike its predecessor.  Second, there are RPG elements like acquiring hearts to buy items and level up by killing enemies.  Third, there is a total absence of difficult bosses and the lethal areas other entries in the series were known for.  Fourth, death in this game is merely an inconvenience and at times it may be advisable to lose all your lives.  As a result, CV2 is not quite the heralded classic as its bookend games, but it was popular in its time and has a strong legacy as the precursor to the Metroidvania-style of gameplay later firmly established in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.

If you approach CV2's challenge as acquiring the best ending, things become much more challenging.  In order to obtain the best ending, you must beat the game in seven days or less.  You start the game at 12:00 (noon) on day 1.  CV2 uses 24-hour time notation.  Mornings begin at 06:00 and evenings begin at 18:00, each time period lasting for twelve hours.  When you restart a game, you start at 12:00 on the day were you last left off, regardless of the actual time left in the day when you ended your game.  

Each second of real time equals four minutes of in-game time.  Each day will take six minutes.  The in-game clock does not run when you are inside a town building, have brought up the menu screen or inside a mansion or castle.  During the morning, monsters take fewer hits to kill and typically yield small hearts and sometimes half hearts.  During the evening, monsters usually take double the hits to kill and yield half hearts and sometimes full hearts.  Also during the evening, zombies are present on the town streets, the town buildings cannot be entered and the townspeople are not present.  

When you start the game, you have three lives.  You can lose a life by losing all your health or by drowning in water.  Once you lose all three of your lives, you will go to a game over screen.  Here you will have the option to Continue or to Save Game/Reveal Password.  If you continue then, you will return to the area in which you died but without all your hearts or accumulated experience.  Existing levels earned will be kept.  If you decided to continue using a saved game or password save, in addition to the above you will start back at the first town, Jova.  You will always keep the items you have found, including the consumables : laurels, garlic and the stake.  

In order to shave time off your game, you should avoid the obvious.  Do not talk to townspeople outside unless you have to.  Fall off ledges instead of using stairs when the area below is known to be safe.  Avoid fighting monsters when you don't need to and don't chase after them.  Use maps to find the most direct routes to where you want to go.  Pause the game by bringing up the submenu.  Avoid backtracking when possible.  Unlike Metroid, it is easy to avoid a lot of backtracking in this game.

In the Famicom Disk System version, once you beat the game you can continue where you left off with all the items you had acquired.  So it is easy to get all items in the second game.  However, you pay for it with frequent loads (every town and mansion) and disk flipping toward the end of the of the game.

Here is the basic efficient path through the game :

Town of Jova
White Crystal
Holy Water
Thorn Whip

Berkeley Mansion
Dracula's Rib

Town of Veros
Chain Whip

Dabi's Path
Sacred Flame (optional)

Town of Aljiba
Blue Crystal

Rover Mansion
Dracula's Heart

Braham Mansion
Golden Knife
Dracula's Eyeball

Town of Aldora
Red Crystal

Town of Oldon
Morning Star

Uta Lower Road
Flame Whip (only if you purchased a Morning Star)

Bodley Mansion
Dracula's Nail

Laruba Mansion
Magic Cross
Dracula's Ring

Town of Doina

Town of Yomi

Castlevania

In the above list, all whip upgrades are quite optional.  However, enemies take more hits with the regular leather whip than with the stronger whips, and eventually the game gets quite tedious.  However, if you forgo the whip upgrades, you will not have to accumulate hearts beyond those required to purchase the holy water.

When you begin the game, immediately buy the White Crystal.  Unfortunately, it will almost certainly be night time on Day 1 before you can earn 50 hearts to buy the Holy Water.  While it may be tempting to fight the Mermen on the South Bridge, stay in Jova Woods until nightfall.  You do not want to risk precious lives by getting hit and falling into the water.  Then go to the Town of Jova and fight zombies on the top floor for hearts.  If you stay just above the platform where the White Crystal merchant walks, you can get zombies to come at you from left and right by moving a little to the left, then a little to the right.  Zombies can be killed in two hits and often leave half hearts.  Between Jova Woods and the Town of Jova, you should be able to earn 150 hearts for the Holy Water and Thorn Whip.

If you are pushing closer to 200 hearts, then bypass the Thorn Whip and head to Veros to buy the Chain Whip.  You should have earned enough hearts on the way there.  Alternatively, if you are a little more shy of 200 and want to save up for the Chain Whip, head to Berkeley Mansion.  Either way, if you go for the Chain Whip, there will be a little backtracking.

Every time you enter a Mansion, the in-game time stops completely.  You can stay in the Mansion and earn hearts as long as you wish.  However, you will not continue to earn experience after a certain point if you stay in one area.

On the way to the Town of Aljiba and Rover Mansion, you can easily get the Sacred Flame from Dabi's Path without having to waste much time.

When you get to Rover Mansion, you may have a difficult choice, depending on how many times you died.  If you have a lot of hearts, you may want to brave the long journey to the Town of Oldol for the Morning Star.  If you do not, then die and save the game and get a password.  When your game is restored, you will be at the Town of Jova again, much closer to the Ferryman.  If you save and restore, then farm hearts in Braham Mansion in order to get the Morning Star.

When you arrive at Bodley Mansion, if you have the Morning Star you should get the Flame Whip before tackling the Mansion.  Although this involves a small amount of backtracking, it is worth it.

Items I recommend avoiding are the Knife, which costs 50 hearts in the Town of Veros, the Silver Knife, which is given if you drop garlic (costs 50 hearts) in Carmilla Cemetery, the Diamond in the Jam Wasteland (requires going to a dead end past Braham Mansion), and the Silk Bag in the Storigoi Graveyard (requires going to a dead end past the Town of Aldora and using garlic).

One spot that can give players a bit of concern are the marshes.  You have to cross Belasco Marsh to get from the Town of Jova to the Ferryman.  Youl also have to cross Joma Marsh to get to Laruba Mansion.  If your level is not around 2, then you should invest in some laurels for these crossings.  You can find laurels to purchase for 50 hearts (quantity 2) in every town except Jova, Veros and Yomi.  A guy in Laurba Mansion will also give you laurels for free.  If hearts are not meaningful, just wade through quickly.

Towns with churches are Jova, Veros, Aldora and Doina.  Churches and leveling up are the only ways to restore your life, but the churches in Jova and Aldora are on the top floor, making them time consuming to get to.

Defeat Death and Carmilla with a whip and Dracula with the Golden Knife.  If you are quick, you can kill Dracula with the knife before he has a chance to attack.  Alternately, the Sacred Flame will stun Dracula.

Metroid

Metroid needs no introduction.  It is one of the first known platformers to encourage exploration.  It is also one of the first non-linear NES games.  Its item acquiring, corridor and shaft structure and isolating experience has made it legendary.

In order to get the best ending in Metroid, you must beat the game in under one hour.  In order to get Armorless Samus, you must beat the game in under three hours.  Otherwise after you get an ending you will restart as Armored Samus.  After the ending you can play a new game with all the powerups you have accumulated except for Energy Tanks and Missile Containers.  If you cannot get under an hour on your first game, you should be able to on your second.

Metroid saves the number of energy tanks you have, your current number of missiles, you maximum number of missiles, and which powerups and beam weapons you have acquired.  It also saves the destruction of each missile door and each Zeebite destroyed in Mother Brain's chamber.  It will save when the mini-bosses Kraid and Ridley are defeated.  Finally, it saves the amount of time you have spent in the game.  Shaving time off that last value is what this guide is all about.

Unfortunately, the one thing Metroid does not save is the current amount of health you have.  It also starts you off with only 30 life, even if you have six energy tanks.  You can die easily early in the game if you are not cautious and do not grab energy balls, but getting your energy up this way is time consuming.  However, once you acquire a few items it gets much easier to survive.

Time passes in Metroid whenever you can control your character.  This does not include when you pause the game, collect a special item, energy tank or missile container, go through a door or up or down an elevator.

Basic Path

Brinstar
Maru Mari
Missile Container (near Norfair elevator)
Long Beam
Energy Tank (near Bomb)
Bomb
Ice Beam
Varia
Missile Tank (near Varia)
Energy Tank (near Varia)

Norfair
Missile Container (right door at the end of the shaft with the elevator to Brinstar)
Missile Container (right door at the end of the shaft with the elevator to Brinstar)
Missile Container (near Ice Beam)
Missile Container (near Ice Beam)
Missile Container (near Ice Beam)
Missile Container (near Ice Beam)
Missile Container (near Ice Beam)
High Jump
Screw Attack

Mini-Boss Hideout II
Missile Container (above door in corridor to the right of the shaft with the elevator to Norfair)
Energy Container (watch out for the trap)
Missile Tank (a hard jump, optional)
Ridley
Energy Tank (the 10-missile door beyond Ridley's room)

Mini-Boss Hideout I
Energy Tank (2nd door on the left of the shaft with the elevator leading to Brinstar)
Missile Container (1st door on the left of the shaft with the elevator leading to Brinstar)
Missile Container (1st door on the right of the shaft with the elevator leading to Brinstar)
Missile Container (near Fake Kraid)
Kraid
Energy Tank (in Kraid's room)
Missile Container (door on the left of the shaft that leads up from Kraid's room)

Tourian
Mother Brain

In this basic guide, you will have the maximum of six Energy Tanks.  You should have a maximum missile capacity of 220-225 Missiles (game max is 255).  You won't obtain the Wave Beam or the missiles in the green bubble area of Norfair and the tank at the very bottom of Hideout II.  They are just too time consuming to acquire.  You should have more than enough missiles for Mother Brain and her Zeebites, and the Metroids in Tourian respawn to give you more.

The most difficult part of this path is getting the Varia.  When you get to the green corridors, you have to freeze the Waver in the small corridor just under the door to the Varia.  You must shoot the blocks to get the Waver to fly up the screen and clear all the blocks.  You freeze the Waver when he is at the fifth block.  With the cartridge version, the Waver's patterns are less random, making this easier.  In fact, if you approach the corridor from the left door, you should be able to make the Waver go up the blocks when he comes back to the right for the first time.  When the blocks reform and he unfreezes, he should fly to the open area above.  Then you have to make sure it stays up there and alive so you can freeze it to use as a platform to get to the Varia door.  Both of these tasks can take a decent amount of time, depending on luck and skill.

When you defeat Ridley and get the Energy Tank, you should go to the continue/password or continue/save screen by pressing Up and A on the second controller when the game is paused.  This will take you back to the starting point in Brinstar if you are playing the FDS version.  If you are playing the cartridge version, you will need to do it to get you to the Hideout II elevator, go up the elevator, do it again, go up the Norfair elevator to Brinstar, then do it a third time.  You will then be back at the Brinstar starting point.  From there you can go to Hideout I and get the Energy Tank on the second door to the right in the shaft where the elevator is located.  From there, beat Kraid and then go to Tourian.

In Tourian Metroids give you 30 missiles instead of the 2 that other enemies give, so you can replenish your stock.  If you are a bit low on life, their energy balls give 30 life instead of the 5 or 20 that other enemies give.  Metroids always give a life ball or a missile.

In the original version of Metroid for the Famicom Disk System, the endings are a bit different.  You get the best ending if you beat the game in two hours or less (instead of one).  There is no Armorless Samus in the game and you do not start a new game with any previously acquired powerups.  All you get is a stack of moneybags next to your character on the character select screen showing you the quality of the ending you previously achieved.  Because there are five endings, you get five moneybags for the best ending, four for the next best, and so on.  

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