Thursday, February 25, 2010

Reinvention: Simon's Quest

The most recent game design challenge over at asked participants to re-imagine a game that was ahead of its time, preferably one that didn't get the recognition it deserved when originally released. After failing to earn even an honorable mention in the previous challenge, I'm happy to report that my entry was selected for second place.

I have a lot of extra material to go along with this entry, so I will be including that content immediately after. Since there's a lot of it, I've gone ahead and made a table of contents for easier reading;

Castlevania II: Simon's Quest...
Long before the gaming world had heard of Koji Igarashi and his endless supply of “Metroid-vania” games, the Castlevania series had already tried a non-linear RPG/adventure in Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest. Many features, such as the open world and day/night cycle were ambitious for the time and as a result the game came out less than perfect… much to the ire of modern gamers.

The Quest… Revamped
5 years after defeating Lord Dracula, Simon Belmont must again wander the countryside of Transylvania, gathering the relics of his nemesis to lift the curse that has befallen him. Re-imagined as a “survival / horror platformer,” Simon’s Quest takes the relevant features of the original and expands upon them.

The perspective has been shifted to place the hero on the extremes of the screen rather than the center. Enemies and traps appearing behind you are out of sight, adding to the tension.

Speaking of traps, several new devious devices will keep players on their toes, taking every step as if it were their last. A number of puzzles have also been added to make each area more interesting and to support the adventure aspect of the game.

The sub-weapons now have their own independent ammo, and can now be used as both weapons and as tools (the flame can illuminate dark areas, for example). Non-weapon items must also be closely monitored; Simon can only carry a limited number of garlic, laurels, and healing items. Players will be able to find special items that boost their sub-weapon ammo and inventory space (like the silk bag from the original).

Transylvania at Large…

The original game world has been expanded and given a makeover; each town, mansion, forest and swamp has its own distinctive look. New regions, routes, mansions and secret passages also increase the scale of Transylvania. A liberal use of 3-D elements creates a twisting, turning landscape.

To make navigation easier, players can quickly travel using the rivers with the help of the Ferryman.

What a horrible night to have a curse…
The passage between day and night was one of the hallmarks of the original game, and this element has been expanded upon in this new vision. During the night, enemies grow stronger and the townsfolk become ghouls (as in the original), but now visibility is much more limited, creating a claustrophobic darkness. The candles and braziers that produce items also provide light; destroying them can quickly turn a room pitch black. Luckily, light-producing items have been added, but even these cannot completely banish the shadows.

Day and night is only part of the struggle, however. The Curse of Dracula now affects gameplay, having an on-screen gauge that represents the peril of Simon’s soul. As the gauge increases, nights grow longer, health regenerates slower, healing items become less effective, and Simon grows weaker. Some townsfolk will even banish Simon from their villages. Players can visit holy sites or use holy water to lower their curse gauge, and recover sacred texts to increase the gauge’s size, increasing the time it takes to fill.

The following is additional material that did not appear with the original submission, but was generated during the creative process and expanded upon later. It is included to because I have a habit of over-doing nerdy things like this.. Can't be helped.

Survival Horror Themes:
The original game was more of an Action / RPG than a platformer, with a lot of adventure elements thrown in. Some of those elements would now be classified as belonging to the 'survival horror' genre. In my re-imagination of the game, I expanded upon these concepts further...

Most side-scrollers place the character at the center of the screen, allowing the player to see behind them at all times. To create tension, the perspective was intentionally shifted so that Simon appears at the very edge of the screen, unable to see behind him unless he turns around. The camera would pan smoothly, but quickly, keeping whatever is immediately behind the player hidden from view nearly all of the time.

The original game had day and night cycles, but the only differences it made were the strength of enemies and the lack of townsfolk at night. In my reinvention, darkness is a tangible enemy any time the sun sets or Simon steps inside or underground. Enemies lie in wait and jumps become perilous in the inky blackness.

Additionally, the candles, torches and braziers that provide hearts and money also provide light; destroying these items will grant you ammo and cash, but at the cost of light that was otherwise keeping the area well lit. Thus, players will need to carefully consider destroying these objects. I'm shocked that nobody at Konami realized that in a horror-themed game, you are destroying the only thing that is supposed to keep evil at bay.

Luckily, several new elements have been added to counterbalance the claustrophobic darkness. The Sacred Flame sub-weapon now generates light (and is a useful tool for judging gaps), a Lantern relic has been added, and even a suit of luminous armor appears.

Puzzles and Traps:
The original game didn't feature anything that I personally would consider puzzles, and only a few rudimentary traps. In my take on Simon's Quest, the wilderness areas would be focused on exploration and combat, while the mansions and dungeons would have players treading cautiously as they solve puzzles, while occasionally fighting enemies. That's not to say these areas are free of enemies, just that they're meant to be slower-paced and more dangerous to travel in.

Puzzles would run the gamut from simple "Find the Key" puzzles to the more complicated logic-based puzzles, similar to those found in the Zelda titles. Nothing too complicated or obscure, probably 1 to 3 themed puzzles per mansion, with a couple of optional puzzles for treasure.

Traps would be everything from trap doors to monster closets. There's already a wide variety of environmental hazards in the Castlevania series, and there's plenty more to draw on.

Limited Inventory / Ammo:
The original game limited players to just 4 each of Garlic and Laurels, and only a single Oak Stake. Knowing when to use limited items (and the fear that you may need them and be out) is a classic survival horror element, and Simon's Quest pulled it off perfectly in 1987.

My New Vision of the game expands upon this; sub-weapons no longer use a single type of ammunition (hearts, in the original), but instead have their own independent supplies. If you use all of your Holy Water up, you either go without or stop and get more.

A new healing system (see below) also forces players to play conservatively and make hard choices regarding their situation. Garlic and Laurels are still limited in supply, however, Oak Stakes have been made less cumbersome (but are also no longer mandatory).

Expanded World:
The original world of Simon's Quest was fairly large (you can see all of it here), and full of interesting locations. There are, however, several repetitive areas, and some places feel too close together. In my re-imagining of the game, the Transylvania countryside would be increased substantially in size, with several new areas to explore.

A real Castlevania:
The original game ended quite briefly; after gathering the 5 relics of Dracula and the Magic Cross, players crossed a bridge, walked into the ruins of the castle, climbed some stairs and waltzed into Dracula's Crypt. In my version, Castlevania appears as it should; a massive fortress filled with the undead.

The size of Castlevania would account for roughly 30-40% of the new game's content, in a game that's already quite large. More bosses, new weapons to track down, traps to avoid and enemies to slay would make Castlevania the ominous locale it's supposed to be.

Once Players have obtained the Heart of Vlad relic, the old Ferryman will transport them not just to Brahm's Mansion (as in the original), but will also take them to any dock they have visited previously. Several new rivers have been added, with docks, to allow players to quickly navigate the game world. There are even a few waterways within Dracula's castle that permit access back to town for supplies.

Additional Bosses:
Simon's Quest featured only three bosses; Death, Camilla's Mask, and Dracula. Of those, only two are actually required to beat the game. I feel this is a major shortcoming, and have taken steps to improve it.

In my re-envisioning, each Mansion has a proper boss who guards the remains of Dracula, all designed to be just as difficult as the rest of the early series' foes. These new bosses also possess the Heart Stones which upgrade all four sub-weapons to gold quality; In order to obtain them, players must use an Oak Stake to deliver the final blow (each boss's health gauge changes color to indicate their weakened state).

Players can also expect to find at least 5 bosses (not counting Dracula) in Castlevania itself.

3-D Elements:
Some areas would use "2.5-D" gameplay, utilizing 3-D effects while retaining 2-D gameplay. For example, the approach to Dracula's Castle would have players climbing up a twisting mountainside, and several areas would take place on narrow cliff sides. A few of the new boss battles might even feature 3-D elements in their fight.

Several new NPCs have been added to the game, to give Simon new side-quests to complete in addition to his own titular quest. All four sub-weapon inventory upgrades require helping another character out, and once Simon has entered Dracula's Castle he can begin rescuing the citizens of Yomi, who move back to their town and provide assistance (not to mention improving the ending).

In addition to the immediate storyline (Simon must resurrect Dracula and defeat him to lift the curse), there is a subplot involving the Vatican and its reaction to the events of the Castlevania universe.

Having learned of the literal manifestations of both good and evil occurring in Transylvania, Pope Sixtus IV ordered his agents to monitor (but not support or publicly acknowledge) the Belmont Family.

Over two-hundred years later, Pope Innocent XII receives word that Simon Belmont is seeking to resurrect Dracula, unaware of the curse that plagues him. Fearing the Belmont lineage as a rival divine power, the papal authority believes Simon is seeking to restore Dracula for his own selfish glory. Agents of the church steal the Vampire Killer whip (which explains why Simon does not have it), and have several knights roaming the Transylvania countryside, trying to stop Simon at any cost.

In terms of gameplay, there are several scripted events involving these Vatican Knights, who usually appear while Simon is in a town. There are a few camps of them scattered throughout the lands as well. In general, they are not meant to be enemies but exist to progress the story and give Simon (who was previously alone on his quest) someone to speak to and interact with.

Day and Night Cycles:
The annoying messages that signaled the change from day to night have been removed, and the shifting of time is now much more gradual. The sun rises slowly and sets as the moon does the same.

An improved clock is added to the UI to allow players to monitor the passage of time, and clearly indicates when players are under the effects of day or night.

There are more scripted events that occur at specific times, so players will need to speak to NPCs for hints. Speaking of NPCs, these side characters have much more scripted routines; some NPCs only show up at certain times, while others travel from town to town (for example, the Chain Armor salesman shows up in each town, but at certain times). The passage of time is meant to be felt and observed in as many details as possible.

Curse Meter:
Another element added to the game is the "Curse Meter", a gauge in the player UI that represents the state of Dracula's Curse and how deeply it affects Simon. This gauge is continually filling regardless of activity and causes various changes to the game as it fills up.

The Meter is divided into 5 sections, and as the curse reaches each threshold, new effects begin to occur;

20% Full:
The clock slows down after sunset, making the horrible night that much more horrible.

40% Full:
Simon's eyesight diminishes; the natural aura of light that surrounds him shrinks, making it harder to see enemies until they are nearly on top of you.

60 % Full:
Townsfolk become fearful of Simon and refuse to aid him.

80% Full:
Simon grows weaker; his weapon's strength is weakened by an entire level (i.e. the Chain Whip is only as strong as the Leather Whip). Sub-weapons are unaffected.

100% Full:
Healing items are half as effective (i.e. 50 units of potion will only restore 25 units of health).

To reduce the effects of the curse, players can use Holy Water (from the inventory menu) or visit a church (before the curse reaches 60%, of course) or holy shrine. There are also five Holy Tomes scattered throughout the world that increase the size of the curse meter, which in turn increases the amount of time it takes for the curse to affect Simon.

Healing System:
In addition to finding Meat hidden throughout the game (something absent in the original Simon's Quest), a new feature added to the game is a method for healing Simon when injured. Players begin the game with a new item, the Potion Bottle. This powerful item can restore Simon's health... if players can fill it with healing tonic.

To fill the bottle, players must gather Healing Herbs from plants growing naturally across the landscape, or dropped by some enemies. Healing Herbs can be used directly (from the inventory menu) to restore 10 units of health to Simon, but once he's eaten one of the bitter herbs he must wait a while before he can consume another one. Simon is also limited to carrying only 5 herbs at once.

However, by visiting an apothecary in several of the towns, players can convert healing herbs into Healing Tonic, filling their potion bottle. One herb produces enough tonic to heal 10 units of health, and the Potion bottle can carry up to 100 units total. On their adventures, players must keep a sharp eye open for two Upgrade items (see below) that can increase their Herb carrying capacity and the size of their potion bottle.

In order to use their Healing Potion, players simply press the "Heal" button, which consumes tonic and restores health as long as it is held down. Players cannot heal if they are at full health already.

Several of the concepts above result in major changes to the weapons and items that Simon uses during his quest. I have included all of the relevant information below...

Simon's Quest originally had 4 sub-weapons: the Dagger, Diamond, Holy Water, and Sacred Flame. The Dagger could be upgraded twice (from regular to silver to gold) by finding various NPCs within the game world, but none of the other sub-weapons had upgrade options.

My updated version not only provides upgrade methods for all four weapons, but provides each with a secondary effect that makes them useful during exploration or puzzle solving. Each sub-weapon also has its own independent ammunition, rather than all four using hearts. As a result, however, it is possible to run out of a sub-weapon you desperately need, something picked up from the survival horror genre. By finding special upgrade items, players can increase their carrying capacity (see Upgrade Items below).

Travels over a straight distance equal to half the screen.

Silver Dagger:
Travels a straight distance, completely across the screen.

Gold Dagger:
Travels a straight distance, completely across the screen. Pierces multiple enemies.

The dagger has no secondary function, but is always available to the player with a single button press (Up + Attack) and needn't be equipped. It is purely an offensive weapon to target out-of-range enemies. In order to obtain more ammunition, Simon needs to gather Hearts (a nod to the original).

A gemstone of holy light is thrown and will reflect off any surfaces it hits.

Silver Diamond:
Seeks out enemies and traps. Shatters upon impact.

Gold Diamond:
Seeks out enemies and traps. Breaks into 3 smaller fragments on impact.

The diamond proves to be a valuable item because the upgraded versions will automatically seek out and disable traps, even those that are invisible. The gold version shatters and continues to seek out enemies and traps, making it the most effective tool for clearing out rooms. In order to replenish his supply of Diamonds, Simon needs to purchase them in towns, or hope enemies drop them.

Holy Water:
Throw a vial, damaging enemies or revealing illusions and traps.

Silver Holy Water:
Damages enemies and reveals illusions & traps. Spills over a wider area than the regular version.

Gold Holy Water:
Damages & slows enemies, reveals illusions & traps. Spills over a much wider area.

The Holy Water can be used to discover illusionary floors (as in the original), with the upgraded versions spilling out over a wider surface, revealing the illusions even if the flask doesn't score a direct hit. Invisible traps can also be revealed by Holy Water, though it is up to the player to avoid them. Illusionary surfaces and traps shimmer with a blue light once affected by Holy Water. Simon can also consume holy water (via the inventory menu) to reduce the severity of the Curse.

Simon's supply of Holy Water can be replenished at any church, as well as a few sacred springs found within the game world.

Sacred Flame:
Erupts from the floor, damaging enemies and providing light.

Silver Flame:
A large, long-lasting flame that damages enemies and provides valuable light.

Gold Flame:
A huge, longer-lasting flame that damages enemies & provides light.

The Sacred Flame can illuminate dark passages temporarily, providing valuable light in dangerous situations. Each upgrade produces a larger, taller flame geyser that produces more light for longer periods. This is a valuable sub-weapon to have when you need light but can't switch to the Lantern relic (See below). If Simon runs out of Sacred Flame, he can visit various "Flame Shrines" throughout the landscape to refill his supply, or simply cease using the item for a while; unlike the other sub-weapons, the Sacred Flame will slowly resupply itself over time.

Special Items:
Simon's Quest originally featured two limited-use items, the Garlic and Laurel, and a single-use item, the Oak Stake. Players could purchase all three from salesmen (the Stake exclusively in each Mansion), and needed to utilize them to reach certain locations or beat certain sections within the game.

The reinvention of Simon's Quest changes these items slightly; they are still limited use, but are much more useful and worth carrying around. In the original players could get by purchasing only a few cloves of Garlic, but my re-imagining of the game gives plenty of reasons to always carry a supply.

The last item covered here, the Journals, take the place of the hidden hint books from the original game. Finding Journals will provides clues as well as giving flavor and history to the game. Several of the journals are written by Simon's ancestors, and should not be missed. Players can read any journals they have obtained by entering the Lore menu and selecting Journals.

The Garlic was originally used, strangely enough, to reveal mysterious "Golden Strangers" who would give you the Silver Knife and Silk Bag if you dropped the garlic in each Graveyard. It could also be used (rather poorly) as a weapon; enemies who touched it were damaged.

In the New Vision, Garlic is used to upgrade all of the sub-weapons to silver quality. Simply dropping a piece in the correct area (marked by graves) will drive a Minion out of hiding, who will upgrade one of your sub-weapons in exchange for sparing his life. Garlic can only be dropped via the inventory menu, and only 4 cloves can be carried at once.

Garlic also causes damage to all nearby enemies, acting like a poison that continually injures them. It is best used to whittle down bosses or to get them to expose their weak spots.

In the original game, Laurels were used to grant Simon temporary invincibility, a useful option when faced with dangerous enemies or impassible terrain.

In the New Vision, Laurels have the same function but with a minor twist; instead of making you invincible for a set duration, they allow you to ignore a set amount of damage. Using a Laurel turns 50 units of your health gauge blue; when injured by an enemy, trap or terrain, your health remains the same, but the blue section decreases appropriately. Laurels can only be used via the inventory menu, and only 4 can be carried at once.

Oak Stake:
Oak stakes were originally a single-use item used to break the crystals and obtain Dracula's relics from each mansion. They could also be used as a weapon, though why anyone would waste them is beyond me.

In the updated version, Oak Stakes are used to upgrade your sub-weapons from silver to gold. When defeated, each boss unseals the relic they were guarding, but when an oak stake is used to deliver the final blow, they drop the relic AND a Heart Stone (see below), which is then used to upgrade the sub-weapon of your choice.

Oak Stakes can only be used via the inventory menu, but thankfully up to 4 can be carried at once now. When the player uses this item, their next attack throws the stake instead of whipping. If they miss, they will have to enter the inventory menu and use another stake.

Journal: (New Item)
The long history of the Belmont family has not gone unrecorded. Simon's forefathers, knowing the fate of their descendants, left their personal notes and diaries throughout Transylvania as clues. By tracking down Journals, players can gain valuable information and hints, as well as read the memoirs of their favorite Castlevania characters.

Upgrade Items:
With the exception of the Silk Bag, all of the upgrade items are new additions to the game. Each is found in different ways, from completing sidequests to scouring the countryside. All upgrade some part of the inventory or game mechanics, making them valuable treasures worth seeking out.

Bandoleer: (New Item)
The Bandoleer is a special belt that holds additional daggers, allowing Simon to carry double his usual supply. An old solider hiding out in the mountains of Transylvania will trade you his if you assist him.

Chalice: (New Item)
A powerful holy device, the Chalice doubles the amount of Holy Water Simon can carry. A pious individual requires you make a pilgrimage to all of Transylvania's churches before he is willing to part with this item.

Jewel Box: (New Item)
The Jewel box allows Simon to carry twice as many Diamonds as before. It is rumored that an Ottoman prince, facing his demise, buried this item somewhere in the countryside to prevent his enemies from obtaining his riches. His spirit is said to dwell in one of the lands' many graveyards.

Sacred Lamp: (New Item)
This prized item allows Simon to use the Sacred Flame twice as often without running out. The Lamp is said to have fallen into the hands of a jealous lesser demon who covets Dracula's powers. Helping this devil in exchange for the lamp may have unforeseen consequences...

Heart Stone (x4): (New Item)
Within each mansion dwells a powerful boss who guards Dracula's relics. Though they can be slain, they cannot be utterly banished without plunging an Oak Stake into their heart. Upon doing so, Simon will be rewarded with a Heart Stone, which can be used to upgrade a single sub-weapon.

Note that Camilla's Mask does not drop a Heart Stone because it drops the Blood Pendant required to enter Castlevania.

Holy Tome (x5): (New Item)
Detailing various sacred rituals, these books have been confiscated and hidden by the Church in an effort to prevent their occult knowledge from being exposed. Should Simon uncover them, he can use them to increase his resistance to the Curse. Each tome lengthens the curse gauge, which in turn increases the amount of time it takes for the effects of the curse to affect Simon.

Silk Bag:
A finely-crafted bag made from imported silk, this item allows Simon to carry 4 additional Garlic cloves, Laurels, and Stakes, bringing the total number of each to 8. This item can be found hidden within the game world.

Satchel: (New Item)
This specially-designed bag was made for doctors and alchemists to transport valuable medicines. Once Simon has tracked down this item, he'll be able to carry an additional 5 herbs, allowing 10 to be carried at once.

Amphora (x5): (New Item)
Each Amphora that Simon finds increases the size of his Potion Bottle by an additional 10 units of health. There are 5 Amphoras hidden in each mansion, and collecting all of them will increase the Potion Bottle's capacity to 150 units.

Seraphim Feather (x5): (New Item)
Within Castlevania dwell 5 powerful bosses, and each holds a feather stolen from the plumage of the divine. If Simon can gather all 5 feathers, his whip will be upgraded to the powerful Holy Whip, the strongest weapon in the game.

The original Simon's Quest featured a wide variety of whips for Simon to purchase and upgrade; I've done very little to tinker with what was already a nicely-paced design (though the Thorn Whip doesn't get much use). I have added a new weapon for the sole purpose of having a new toy to play with, and to provide something for players to hunt for inside the new full-sized Castle Dracula.

Leather Whip:
Short / Weak
Simon begins the game with the Leather Whip, and one of his first priorities should be upgrading it as soon as possible. It has the shortest range and the lowest damage, so players should be on the lookout for a mysterious salesman in Jova.

Thorn Whip:
Short / Strong
Purchased in the town of Jova, the Thorn Whip is a significant upgrade over the starting weapon. Though still short, the Thorn Whip is much stronger, capable of defeating enemies much more quickly.

Chain Whip:
Long / Strong
A significant upgrade over the previous weapons, the Chain Whip reaches significantly further. While still causing the same damage as the Thorn Whip, the added reach allows Simon to injure enemies sooner. Seek out a cloaked man in the town of Veros to purchase this item.

Morning Star:
Long / Stronger
The strongest non-magical whip, the Morning Star takes the reach of the Chain Whip and adds a spiked knob at the end, increasing the amount of damage it causes. The Morning Star can be found for sale in the town of Oldon.

Flame Whip:
Long / Strongest
Somewhere in Transylvania, another victim of Dracula's Curse is imprisoned, waiting for a Belmont to find him and lift his curse. If players bring a Morning Star to this man, he will upgrade it to the Flame Whip and finally be free of his fate. This whip is capable of causing significant damage to enemies, so players should seek it out as soon as possible.

Holy Whip: (New Item)
Longest / Strongest
The only new weapon added to the New Vision, the Holy whip has all the damage potential of the Flame Whip while increasing the range substantially. Pulsing with light, the Holy Whip can only be obtained by recovering 5 Seraphim Feathers from powerful enemies who dwell within Dracula's Castle.

A completely new feature, Simon can now obtain armor which increases his resistance to damage. Like weapons, players will initially purchase armor upgrades with money, but the more powerful armor requires a greater effort. Note that armor upgrades do not overwrite each other; players can swap between any armor they own at any time.

Cloth Tunic: (New Item)
Weak Protection
Simon begins the game dressed in this rather unimpressive garb. It offers almost no protection, so players will want to seek out more durable armor immediately.

Nobleman's Clothes: (New Item)
Weak Protection + Discount
Once Simon has obtained this hidden armor, he'll be able to impress any townsfolk and salesmen he meets while wearing it. Disguised as a wealthy noble, Simon will receive a discount on any items purchased.

Leather Armor: (New Item)
Strong Protection
A treated animal hide, worked into a suit of armor. Simon can find this item for sale early in the game, and not a moment too soon. Even though it is a substantial upgrade over clothes, there is much better armor to be found.

Chain Armor: (New Item)
Stronger Protection
Made from a series of interlinked metal rings, chain armor provides more protection, especially against the beasts that emerge from the shadowy forests of Transylvania. This item can be purchased from a traveling salesman who wanders the lands daily.

Scale Armor: (New Item)
Strongest Protection
This extremely valuable armor is comprised of several small plates of armor, laid over each other and riveted into place. The end result is a suit of armor that allows for maximum flexibility while offering a great deal of protection. Sold by a poor salesman in Yomi who is imprisoned within Dracula's Castle.

Holy Armor: (New Item)
Strongest Protection + Illumination
Anointed with blessed powers, the Holy Armor provides the same protection as Scale armor, but also radiates with a heavenly light that illuminates the wearer's surroundings. This armor can be found somewhere within Dracula's Castle.

Spike-breaker Armor: (New Item)
Strongest Protection + Spike Breaking
Hidden deep within Castlevania, this armor can destroy any spikes the wearer touches, allowing for safe passage through otherwise deadly areas. Players will need to find the Spike-Breaker armor in order to uncover all of Transylvania's secrets.

Relics are special items that provide significant benefits to the player. Many relics are needed to proceed within the game, so special care must be taken to find them. Even those that are optional should still be sought out, as they offer valuable effects that improve the player's chances of success.

Only a single Relic can be equipped at a time, but players can use the Left Trigger to quickly scroll through them. A relic is always active when equipped, though certain relics have special conditions in which they will or will not function (see individual entries below).

Lantern: (New Item)
Found early in the game, the Lantern provides greater illumination to Simon's surroundings. It will not reveal stealthy enemies or traps, however.

Crucifix: (New Item)
The crucifix is the bane of all undead, and when active this Relic causes all enemies to suffer greater injury when Simon attacks them. Some enemies will also change their behavior when the Crucifix is active; some will flee, some will remain frozen in terror, others will become enraged. Experiment with each enemy to see how they will react.

Dracula's Cloak: (New Item)
One of Dracula's Relics that was overlooked by his minions, this powerful cloak grants the wearer immunity to all forms of poisons and toxins, including those that now fester within Transylvania's marshlands. Note that equipping the cloak after being poisoned will not cleanse the effect.

White Crystal:
Sold in the town of Jova, this relic allows the bearer to see invisible stairs, platforms, and enemies. Traps are not revealed. It is required to progress past the first Mansion, so players had best purchase it before they even set out on their quest.

Blue Crystal:
A merchant in Aljiba offers this relic in exchange for a White Crystal. Once obtained, the Blue Crystal offers the same benefits as the White Crystal, but is also attuned to the powers of evil. Kneeling in specific locations will disrupt evil illusions, activate hidden mechanisms, and open sealed passages.

Red Crystal:
If Simon brings his Blue Crystal to a trader in Aldora, he'll walk away with the Red Crystal, an even more powerful relic. Offering the same benefits as the White and Blue Crystals, the Red Crystal is attuned to the powers of Dracula himself. Kneeling in specific locations will cause chaotic portals to open, allowing Simon to bypass impenetrable barriers or quickly travel between portals. (Yes, I removed the whirlwind thing, it was more than a little silly).

Blood Pendant: (New Item)
Deep within Laruba Mansion lurks Camilla's Mask, an evil manifestation that guards Dracula's Ring. Once defeated, players will not only obtain the Ring, but also the Blood Pendant. Contained within is a sample of Dracula's immortal blood, the only thing that can open the way to Castlevania. (This replaces the Magic Cross, which was confusing with the addition of the Crucifix).

Rib of Vlad:
The first of Dracula's remains that player will come across is the Rib, hidden in Berkeley Mansion. When equipped, the rib provides protection against projectile attacks like fireballs. Simon carries this item in front of him like a shield any time he is stationary or jumping, but when walking or attacking the effects of the rib will not function. (This is identical to its function in the original game).

Heart of Vlad:
With this Relic, found within Rover Mansion, Simon is able to barter passage with the old Ferryman. Not only will he take you to the island where Brahm's Mansion awaits, but he will also offer to take you to any dock you've visited before. This allows for quick passage between locations, using the rivers. (In the original, the heart was only used to reach Brahm's Mansion.)

Eye of Vlad:
One of Dracula's Relics, required to resurrect the count, the Eye of Vlad lies within Brahm Mansion. When equipped, any destructible walls, hidden passages or mechanisms (not traps) shimmer in brilliant golden hues and an audible cue is heard. Some destructible bricks and walls cannot be broken without the Tooth of Vlad relic; these locations will shimmer red instead of gold. Note that the relic MUST be equipped for these effects to occur. (In the original game, the Eye simply revealed the hidden Hint books.)

Tooth of Vlad:
The Tooth is kept deep within Bodley Mansion, and allows Simon to break specific bricks with his whip. Without the Tooth, these bricks simply crack, revealing a glowing blue interior, but cannot be destroyed. Once equipped, Simon can destroy these bricks, revealing treasure or secret passages. Note that these special bricks glow red when the Eye of Vlad is equipped. (In the original, the Tooth was called the Nail, and allowed you to break any wall that Holy water could. Holy Water no longer has this function. The name was changed to bring it in line with later titles.)

Ring of Vlad:
In the heart of Laruba Mansion, the Mask of Camilla keeps the Ring of Vlad at all times. When the Ring is equipped, Simon is able to draw health from any blood he encounters, specifically the spray from injured enemies. This effect grants approximately 5 units of health with each splatter. Scattered within Castlevania are also large baths and fountains of blood which Simon can soak in to regenerate all of his health immediately when wearing the ring.

Closing Remarks...
Overall, I am pleased that I was able to place second. Lately I've been having trouble working on my own pet projects, and rather than beat my head against them tirelessly I've been trying to shift my attention elsewhere in the hopes of inspiration. However, I can't help but feel guilty that I haven't done anything significant in the last 4 or 5 months.

That said, it's nice to take an idea and run with it, especially one as near and dear to my heart as Castlevania. I hope you've enjoyed reading.

Note: The images used in this post were taken from the following game manual scans: Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, Dragon Quest IV, Dragon Quest VII

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