JRPG Collection

Western-Style JRPGs: A Brief Overview

Where do we start when it comes to Western-style JRPGs? Perhaps we should get clear about what we are looking for. After all, the wording is ambiguous.

Does a game with JRPG mechanics that was made by a Western company meet the definition? If you believe that a JRPG must, categorically, come from Japan (as the name “Japanese Role Playing Game” indicates), then perhaps not. In that case, a “western-style JRPG” could simply mean one with a Western attitude to gameplay systems, though it was made in the East.

Alternatively, it could mean a Japanese game without traditional Japanese aesthetics (eg. not inspired by manga). Dark Souls (2011) might fit into this category… but that brings up the debate of whether Dark Souls is an RPG in the first place. 

We haven’t even started, but we can already see that this is a sticky subject. 

Perhaps we should start with the history. Cultural cross-contamination has been at play in the JRPG genre from the very start. Wizardry (1981), the dungeon crawler invented by students of Cornell University in New York, became a tremendous influence on Yuji Horii, the creative force behind Dragon Quest (1986).

And he isn’t the only one. Wizardry reached such heights of popularity in Japan in the 1980s that it might not be an exaggeration to say that all of the early pioneers of RPGs in Japan could trace their influences, game-to-game, to Wizardry in only a step or two.  

Today, the Wizardry series is owned by a Japanese corporation, who continue to make entries in the series, though with a slightly more manga-inspired character design. One of the first games to come out of the Japanese “Wizardry Renaissance” was Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls (2009)

This meeting of east and west is a good starting point for the discussion – Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls

A Japanese company gaining control of an American RPG franchise is a little unusual. Just as rare is an American company getting the opportunity to work on a Japanese RPG franchise. But did you know it almost happened with the biggest JRPG franchise of all, Final Fantasy? The cancelled game Fortress, which started production in 2008, was due to be a spin-off of Final Fantasy XII developed by the Swedish studio behind Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter, Grin. Sadly (I think), it never saw the light of day. 

However, it is not so rare for western and Japanese designers to collaborate, as was the case with Secret of Evermore (1995). It is almost an entry into the Mana series, taking its inspiration from Secret of Mana and developed by Square, but it was developed entirely by Square’s North American division. In fact, it was never even released in Japan. This makes it something of a poster child of the western-style JRPG. 

Nintendo Life: Was there a lot of emphasis placed on making sure Secret of Evermore had a very “American” feel to it?

Brian Fehdrau: Yes, very much so. That was practically our Prime Directive, so to speak, coming straight down from Starfleet Command over at Square Co. Ltd. in Japan, our mother company. We were, simply put, to make an American-flavored Secret-of-Mana-like game.

Interview with Brain Fehdrau, lead programmer on Secret of Evermore
Another contender for poster child of the Western JRPG – Secret of Evermore

Despite leaning on American cultural references, Evermore was set in a fantasy universe. To contrast, let’s next look at JRPGs with western-inspired settings. Sometimes described as Japanese Americana,  and released in the same year as Evermore, Earthbound (1995) is the most well-known example. You might not find the towns of Onett and Fourson on a USA map, but they do a charming imitation of a mid-western suburb and of the Empire State, respectively. Yet Earthbound was created entirely in Japan, in the offices of Nintendo itself.

In the same category (well, for the purposes of this section of the article only), Shadow Hearts (2001), developed by Tokyo-based Sacnoth Inc. by former employees of Square, foregos most of the typical Japanese fantasy tropes. Instead, it gives us a tale of an alternate history largely set in foggy 1913 Britain. 

Shadow Heart’s aesthetic, though darker than the average Final Fantasy, is still drawn from anime. For a game with character designs based on an American style of illustration, let’s jump across the ocean and look at our first “American-developed JRPG”. Battle Chasers: Nightwar (2017), might be distinct from most JRPG in terms of artstyle and country of origin, but it’s hard to deny that this turn-based battler captures the spirit of the eastern genre admirably. 

Battle Chasers: Nightwar battle screen
Battle Chasers: Nightwar

Where Dragon Quest has Akira Toriyama, Battle Chasers: Nightwar has Joe Madureira, the well known American comic-book artist setting the artistic direction. It is refreshing to see an JRPG with an uncompromising, almost stereotypical American look, straight from a comic book. 

The next example is again western developed, but stars characters from Japan. Though I said that it is rare for an American company to get their hands on a Japanese RPG franchise, this Japanese franchise is not very associated with RPGs at all! Yet this just makes the Bioware-developed, Sonic the Hedgehog-themed JRPG, Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood (2008), even more surprising!

Sonic Chronicles was released, it was a novelty, but it is not the only JRPGs crafted by reasonably sized Western studio. It is an occurance that repeats after long gaps. Several years before Sonic Chronicles, it was Anachronox (2001). Several years later, it was the Ubisoft-developer Child of Light (2014). Perhaps we are due another.

The trend can in some ways be attributed to nostalgic JRPG players of the 90s becoming game makers in their adulthood. With this in mind, it is far from surprising that the world of indie development has gifted us with its own canon of Japanese-inspired games, which typically recreate the pixel art style of the SNES JRPG golden age. 

Let’s start with the big one. Though the influences of Undertale (2015) are numerous and eclectic (who would have thought of combing JRPGs with shmups), the deep homage it pays to classic Nintendo JRPGs cannot be denied. It’s popularity even seems to have outshone it’s main inspiration, the aforementioned Earthbound. 

Spurred on by the success of Undertale and others, this trend among indie developers continues to this day. I don’t know if we’re at the pinnacle yet, but if you need evidence that we’ve not yet hit a decline, the recent success of Chained Echoes (2022), made in Germany but borrowing enthusiastically from the likes of Chrono Trigger and Xenogears, should convince you.  

Chained Echoes

Along a different line of thinking, we can look at Japanese-developed games that use mechanics more commonly found in western RPGs (they used to be called WRPGs, but that term, unlike JRPG, seems to have fallen out of fashion). Some examples are Star Ocean, that includes many character traits and stats that are only useful outside of battle, including athletics, cooking and divination. 

The height of the “Japanese developer, western-RPG inspired” category we can look at Dragon’s Dogma, which goes against the grain by offering players the chance to create their own characters and choose the members of their party, and offering more freedom than the story-driven, semi-linear approach of the Japanese genre classics. 

In this way, Dragon’s Dogma is less similar to a typical Final Fantasy game, and more familiar to somebody used to playing, say… Wizardry? Which brings us full circle. 

We have seen that a “Western-style JRPG” could mean many different things. Perhaps we have also learned that the definition of “JRPG” itself has blurred lines. If it looks, plays and smells like a JRPG, can we really exclude it from our consideration just because it was developed by Bioware? 

Eastern or Western? The lines seem to be blurred – Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen

Let’s sum things up with a few examples for each category:

Games made in the East, with a Western setting/aesthetic

  • Earthbound
  • Shadow Hearts
  • Dark Souls

Games made in the West, with an Eastern setting/aesthetic

  • Jade Empire
  • Indivisible

Games made in the East with WRPG mechanics

  • Wizardry: Labyrinth of Souls
  • The Dark Spire
  • Dragon’s Dogma

Games make in the West with JRPG mechanics

  • Anachronox
  • Child of Light
  • Cthulhu Saves the World
  • Sonic Chronicles
  • Nightchasers
  • Undertale
  • South Park: The Stick of Truth

This topic is an interesting one to me, and I well know that the conversation is ongoing and sometimes quite heated. If you have views on what counts as a JRPG, and what Western-style means anyway, be sure to jump into the comments to let us know.


[1] Interview with Brian Fehdrau regarding Secret of Evermore (Nintendo Life)

Oddworld Collection

What Is Oddworld?

Oddworld started with in 1997 with the 2D cinematic platformer Abe’s Odyssey

There are five major games in the series, the latest released in 2021. 

All titles are set in the eponymous Oddworld, a world of non-human characters and unusual (often deadly) animals and wildlife.

Among other things, the Oddworld series is known for:

1. A world of fantastical and exaggerated landscapes, of natural and industrial varieties:

2. A mix of puzzle and action-based platforming, sometimes involving the ability to control your enemies, and often with the goal of saving groups of other characters:

3. A long-term series plan and development history with twists and turns, including several cancelled games that have attracted fan attention

The mainline Oddworld games cover multiple genres. The series went into a long hiatus after the release of Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath and returned with a reboot of the series.

Release Date
Abe’s Oddysee
2D Cinematic Platormer
Sep 1997
Abe’s Exoddus
2D Cinematic Platormer
Nov 1998
Munch’s Oddysee
3D Puzzle Platformer
Nov 2001
Munch & Abe
Stranger’s Wrath
Jan 2005
Abe’s Oddysee: New ‘n’ Tasty
2D Cinematic Platformer
Jul 2014
2D Cinematic Platformer
Nov 2022

A quirk of the Oddworld series is the plan for a five-game “quintology”.

However, which games are canonical entries into the quintology may not be immediately apparent. 

Abe’s Exoddus, though the second game in the series, is not considered the second entry into the quintology, but rather a bonus game. Similarly, Stranger’s Wrath is set in Oddworld but is not considered a part of the Quintology. Therefore, prior the series hiatus, there were only two games in the quintology: Abe’s Oddysee and Munch’s Oddysee.

This changed with the New ‘N’ Tasty, which was a reboot of the series. Now the series looks like this:

Abe’s Oddysee
Abe’s Exoddus
Bonus Game
Munch’s Oddysee
Stranger’s Wrath
Bonus Game
Abe’s Oddysee: New ‘n’ Tasty
A remake of Abe’s Oddysee and a reboot of the series.
A loose retelling of the story of Abe’s Exoddus


The hero of the majority of the games is the hapless Abe of the humanoid Mudoken species:

However, in two games different heroes have taken the role of protagonist, as per the above table.

Also, the species that work, roam and rule in Oddworld are almost as important characters as the heroes themselves.


The themes present in Oddworld games include:

  • slapstick humour
  • environmentalist heroes vs industrialist villains
  • exploitation and resistance of a slave class.

Oddworld also doesn’t shy away from some gruesome and disturbing imagery, as you will see in any of the game’s “bad endings”.


The first game in the series established a few iconic gameplay features, demonstrated by these short game clips:

Possessing enemies

Commanding helpless (ocassionally helpful) allies with “GameSpeak” and leading them to rescue

Most future games in the series (but not all) used both of these features to varying degrees.

With the exception of Stranger’s Wrath, all games in the series have multiple endings. This started in Abe’s Oddessey, where if you failed to rescue at least 50 out of 99 Mudokens then Abe meets a grizzly fate at the of the game. 

Starting with Munch’s Oddessey, your success at rescuing the unfortunate captives of each level is called Quarma, and sometimes you will not be able to pay the final levels of the games without passing a Quarma threshold. 

The best of Oddworld

The first two games in the series are usually considered the high point in the franchise and the true classics. When it comes to fan-reaction, we would estimate the following (I have not included New ‘N’ Tasty is it is a fairy faithful recreation of Abe’s Oddysee):

Abe’s Oddysee*****
Abe’s Exoddus*****
Munch’s Oddysee***
Stranger’s Wrath****

Oddworld’ best-known creators are Lorne Lanning and Sherry McKenna, and most of the games are developed by Oddworld Inhabitants.

We have said that atmosphere is key to the appeal of Oddworld, and with that in mind we can not overstate the importance of the music of Ellen Meijers and Josh Gabrie that so effectively sets the tone of the series starting with the first game:

Starting with Stranger’s Wrath, Michael Bross take on the duty of creating the Oddworld soundscape, with tracks that are both familiar and distinct:

Everything else

As well as the five main games already mentioned, there are two more minor games that are rarely spoken of:

Release Date
Initial Platform
Oddworld Adventures
Dec 1998
Game Boy
Oddworld Adventures 2
Jan 2000
Game Boy Color

Oddworld community

The Oddworld series has seen moderate success and has retained a following of dedicated fans that commune in the following online spaces:

You can find out more about Oddworld via:

Had a thought about how we can improve this page? Let me know at Thanks!

Castlevania Collection

Predictions for Bloodstained 2 – Part 3: Setting and the Son

Part 1: The Belmonts & Zangetsu
Part 2: The Villians

Sometimes a rumour emerges of a revival of the dead Castlevania franchise. It reminds me of the Symphony of the Night Succubus taunting Alucard with the vision of his dead mother.

With a new series in production at Netflix and a crossover with Dead Cells nearing release, the Castlevania franchise is more active than it ever has been. Alas, where is our new game? This is an illusonary dance.

At least we know the Bloodstained sequel is in development. It’s not quite Castlevania, but is is very close… which means we can make some guesses about what Bloodstained 2 will be about.

The next question: without the Castlevania name, does Bloodstained even need a castle?

The recurring setting

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night castle

In Bloodstained, Dracula’s castle becomes Gebel’s castle. Or, that’s what we think at the start of the game. The true owner is probably Gremory. Gebel was the steward of the castle because he was possessed by Gremory. At the end of the game Johannes talks about returning the castle and demons to where they came: hell. In Curse of the Moon we also see Gremory as the master of the castle, not Gebel. 

Will we return to the castle in the next game? One game in the Bloodstained series has already bucked the trend. The major structure in Curse of the Moon 2 a demonic tower, not a castle.

Yet… I can’t yet imagine this series without any castle at all, even if we take detours away from them for some (or most) of the game. I already said I expect Gremory to be a recurring villain, so I expect to see her castle make an appearance regularly in future games, probably as a late game area that precedes the summoning of the final boss

The Castlevania castle had some recurring areas and we definitely see analogalous areas in Bloodstained. The clocktower, a late-game Castlevania area filled with moving platforms and other devious machinery, becomes the library, the Livra Ex Machina. (There is also the Twin Dragon Tower, which features rotating gear platforms like the clocktower, but I think the library fits the spirit of the clocktower better)

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night castle

What about the castle’s supposed owner? Gebel’s role in Bloodstained is supposedly that of the new Dracula, but we find this to be as a red-herring. By the end of the game, Gebel heroic core shines through. Not a very good trait for a series villain, but there is another character Gebel is similar to.

The recurring protagonist

Gebel also stars in the Curse of the Moon games. In this game, he is no dracula analogue, but an analogue for another Castlevania character: Alucard (his moveset is almost identical to that in Alucard’s debut game, Castlevania: Dracula’s Curse).

Alucard and Gebel. Can you tell the difference?

Things get more confusing when we jump back to Ritual of the Night and realise that game has it’s own, entirely separate analogue for Alucard!

Of course, I’m talking about OD, or Orlok Dracule, who not only looks the part but even sounds it: he is voiced by Alucard’s PS1 voice actor — both the Japanese one (Ryōtarō Okiayu) and the English (Robert Belgrade). I’m not sure how much more of a homage OD could possibly be!

It’s not surprise that an analogue of Alucard was desirable. The son of Dracula is one of the most well loved characters in the Castlevania franchise, and played major roles in some of the most loved game in that franchise, including Dracula’s Curse, Aria of Sorrow, and of course Symphony of the Night.

We have seen how Zangetsu has potential as a Belmont stand-in, and how Gremory is an excellent stand-in for Death. However, OD doesn’t inspire the same confidence in me. He just comes off as a pastiche, rather than a character essential to the franchise. 

I say that with some trepidation, because there seems to be plenty of call from the fans for more OD. He is highly requested in discussions about the next playable character. It’s not that I am an OD hater, it just seems to me that OD was supposed to be a reference rather than a substantial character. A librarian, like in Symphony of the Night, with the appearance of the protagonist of that game, with a fun name (OD being the reverse of Dio, a JoJo reference, like Alucard is the reverse of Dracula). It’s witty… yet OD has a miniscule role in the game.  

My guess would be that OD will return, but probably in a similarly minor capacity, as a recurring side-character, perhaps always found in the library.

If not OD, our new Alucard must be Gebel then? Well, perhaps, but… I think there is a better candidate: Miriam.

Our hero

First, let’s explain why I think Miriam will return: she is the most iconic, popular character in the franchise to date, and she has had cameos in other games, which would make it the most wasteful of wasted opportunities to bring back Bloodstained and not bring back Miriam.

As the star of the first game, she will always have a special place in this universe. I expect Bloodstained to play into that fact big time.

If Miriam is coming back, will the game be set in the same era as Ritual of the Night (Castlevania often made generational leaps decades and centuries across the timeline). Maybe, maybe not.

Consider this. Miriam is not a vampire, but she is a shardbinder. So was Gebel, who was initially this game’s version of Dracula. Shardbinder might well be Bloodstained’s version of vampire, or dhampir. Rather than sucking blood, they absorb crystalised souls.

Now, could Miriam’s powers as a shardbinder have made her ageless? If so, even if Bloodstained 2 leaps into the future, Miriam may still return.

As all this would make Miriam the perfect replacement for Alucard: she would a recurring hero, touched by darkness, closely connected to a villain, that defends the mortal plane across the ages, as an iconic franchise hero…

Talking about “across the ages”, in the next post we will discuss a potential timeline for the Bloodstained franchise. See you then!

Castlevania Collection

Predictions for Bloodstained 2 – Part 2: Villains

Part 1: The Belmonts & Zangetsu

Despite being a videogame franchise twice as big as Dance Dance Revolution and a Netflix franchise so popular they didn’t cancel it even after four seasons — they gave it a second show instead! — Konami isn’t making more Castlevania games. So it is a good thing Koji Igarashi is.

Bloodstained might not have Belmonts or magic whips (we talked about that last time), but it isn’t trying to hide its intentions: it wants to succeed that franchise, and it’s got a pretty good claim.

For over a year now, we’ve known that “Ritual of the Night 2” is in development. We don’t know anything else. But with 25+ years of Castlevania inspiration to draw on, we can make some educated guesses.

As I said before: I don’t think Bloodstained should slavishly follow the Castlevania blueprint, and they’ve even got good reason not too. The theme of Castlevania NES was monster mash. It was never designed to support a lore than spanned fictional generations. Bloodstained doesn’t have to build on those quirky foundations.

However, I want to explore the clues for the future of the Bloodstained universe that might be lying in its connections to the previous franchise. This time, new interpretations of classic villains.

The Future of Gremory


You don’t have to squint to see that Gremory is an analogue to Castlevania’s recurring boss, Death. I love how they have taken the visuals of some of Death’s traits, such as the sythe attacks, and managed to reinterpret them into a wholly original lore: the spinning half circles that Death was known for are no longer the grim reaper’s sickles, but are representations of a waning moon, the moon being the source of Gremory’s powers.

Gone is that odd quality of the Grim Reaper being a servant of Dracula. You would really expect it to be the other way around, wouldn’t you? Gremory is a powerful demon, but not something metaphysical and metaphorical like Death.

There’s no question in my mind that Gremory is going to be a recurring villain in this franchise. She already is, having appeared in all three games released so far, and that is bound to continue. 

But if Gremory is Death, who is Dracula?


The Big Bad Question

If there is one single thing that Castlevania is known for, it is that Dracula is the last boss of every game. So it’s natural for us to wonder, who is Bloodstained’s equivalent? You might say it must be Gebel, because he kind of looks like Dracula. But Gebel is not the final boss in Ritual of the Night. Other than that, he is also disqualified from the role as he is no longer a villain.

(He’s also no longer alive, though how often has that stopped somebody trying to become a Lord of Darkness?)

At the end of a Castlevania game, you almost always have a fight with Dracula starting as a man, then with Dracula as a demon. The final boss of Ritual of the Night is Bael, a demon, but before Bael it is Dominique, a human.

Therefore, the roles of Dracula are taken in combination in Bloodstained by Dominique and Bael. Is our new Dracula one of them?

Well, Dominique certainly has the name for it.

Dominique Baldwin
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

The Future of Dominque

Despite being the antagonist of the first game, I don’t think Dominique is going to be the recurring series villain. In her debut, she didn’t appear to have the charisma to carry a whole franchise, but that could change. She doesn’t have the long history of Dracula, but that could change, too. However, most of all she seems to better fit the achetype demonstrated by Shaft in Symphony of the Night. There are similar character throughout the Castlevania franchise: Brauner in Portrait of Ruin, or Albert in Order of Ecclesia. These are the humans that align themselves with the forces of darkness. Though Dominque surpasses them by featuring a final boss in her game — other corrupted human villians never do — this is the role she plays.

However, I don’t think her influence on the franchise is over.

The story of the Belmonts is one that spans generations, and allies are often cropped from familiar families. One of the key families in the Castlevania franchise was that of the Belnades, known for their powerful magic. The progenitor of this bloodline was Sypha Belnades, who now has a starring role in the Netflix series. Charlotte Aulin (Portrait of Ruin) and Yoko Belnades (Aria of Sorrow) are some of her descendants.

Yoko Belnades
Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow

There’s not a lot of evidence for this but one hint is something Dominique Baldwin says about exorcists, especially just before Ritual‘s final battle. She says that she and Gebel have the power of exorcists in their blood. Earlier she says that her parents are exorcists. So if this power is hereditary, I feel like if we take a leap to another generation we might see the Baldwin’s take a similar role as the magical family.

Though Dominique was a foe in Ritual, in Curse of the Moon she was an ally. Therefore it is not even much of a twist for her descendants to join the fight as true heroes, like the Belnades clan. In the canon of Ritual, they might be motivated by the evil committed by their mother/grandmother/ancestor.

Or it could be a bit more uncertain, where like Dominique (or like a Targaryen of Westeros), the Baldwin clan have a tendancy to turn to evil, summon demons, and cause trouble through the ages.

Either way, bloodlines were an integral theme to Castlevania and I think taking the villain of the first game and doing something with their descendants is an interesting way to start a new family tree for this new franchise. 

The Future of Demons

If not Dominique, who replaces Dracula? 

So far, there may be more more evidence to suggest there will be no recurring final boss. For the games released so far, we have various final bosses:

  • In Ritual of the Night, it is Dominque followed by Beal.
  • In Curse of the Moon, it is Gremory, and the secret boss is corrupted Zangetsu, who acts a little like Dracula.
  • In Curse of the Moon 2, the boss of the last stage is at first Beelzebub, but even nastier demons replace him at the climax of subsequent episodes, leading to a final confrontation with a beast called Sariel.

The theme seems to be a different demon will take the role of the ultimate antagonist in each game. 

If that is the case, I’m okay with it. Dracula’s narrative impact always felt lessened by the fact that he was beaten back to sleep every century without fail. By having a new, previously undefeated, demon in each story, the threat can feel fresh and urgent every time.

Unlike Castlevania, Bloodstained does not enlist a smorgasbord of movie monsters that Castlevania used as its bosses. Instead, many of Bloodstained real-world influences are found in demonology lore, such as the 17th century grimoire The Lesser Key of Solomon.

Now I don’t know anything about demonology, but according to Wikipedia The Lesser Key of Solomon lists eight other demons with the rank of king, the same as Bael.

By the way, the Gremory of real-world demonology is listed as a duke. Here is an interpretation of her:

I feel it would be pointless of me to try and guess which of the demon kings might appear in the next game. There are other demons with names that have pentrated popular culture in the same way Bael and Beelzebub have. For the sake of recognisability, perhaps we will see an Astoroth, Mammon, Asmodeus, Samael or Azazel.

If I had to choose, it would be Paimon, described as a man riding a dromedary camel followed by a procession of trumpet players. I very much look forward how such a thing might be turned in a fearsome last boss. 

I see a franchise in which each game, a new demon king is summoned by the power of the Liber Logaeth. Perhaps, as we work our way through the princes and kings of the demons, a greater threat stirs in the shadows. At the top of the demonic chain lies lucifer himself, which would make quite a climax for Bloodstained VII or so.

I’ve used the Curse of the Moon games as examples here, so I’ll also point out that they are considered alternate realities and are made by a different studio and therefore I don’t think they are precisely indicative of what Iga wants to do with the franchise. I’m confident Inti had plenty of creative freedom with the Curse games. An interview with the game’s director indicates as much:

The path to the ending was going to be pretty wild, and we were afraid that we might make IGA upset when we sent our ideas over to him. It was all for nothing though, because we got the OK for the main story with hardly any changes requested.

Hiroki Miyazawa

The Future of Bael

Finally, as a counterpoint to this theory, let me say that I believe there is power in developing an iconic series boss over the course of several games. One of the greatest pleasures of a Castlevania fan is seeing a new interpretation of Dracula at the end of each game. It is something that is novel but familiar. It will be a shame if that is lost entirely.

If Bloodstained does opt for a recurring demon antagonist, Bael seems the most likely choice. In Ritual of the Night, his name is first evoked by Johannes in some optional dialogue at the hero’s base. He tells Miriam to fear the demon Bael, because he is the most powerful of the 72 demons. If, in Igarashi’s demon heirarchy, Bael is already at the top, any other demon will be a step down. This would seem guarantee a starring role for Bael in subsequent games.

At this point, I think it could go either way.

In the next part, I will consider how Miriam’s role in the Bloodstained story might proceed.


Prioritising Games

Fun fact: each of us is going to die before we get to play all the games that we want to! Here’s my way of dealing with that:

People talk about their “backlog” of 20,000 games and sometimes ask the internet the best way to “get through” them all.

Wait, what?

The sad fact is, you’ll never finish your backlog. Even if it only had three games on it, just while (and as a result of) playing these three you’ll discover new games that excite you and you just need to add to the list. And so on.

I hate the idea of a backlog and have always advised against thinking about games that way. However, I have started prioritising games.

Games I haven’t played that I think about regularly, or games that I might regret never getting around to, they go at the top of my list. When I’m choosing what to play next, I’ll ask myself which of those “High Priority” games I’m most excited to play. I have a chronological preference, so I tend to play an older game before a newer one, but I won’t let age supercede priority or excitement.

Yes, I have a spreadsheet.

I’ll never finish the whole list, but I feel satisfied that I’ll at least get to the games that feel most important to me because I’ve put them in order.

After all, if I was hit by a truck tomorrow, I would hate my last thought to be “But I never played Valkyria Chroni—” 💀

Oddworld Collection

Oddworld: Strangers Wrath Review

Stranger’s Wrath was too unusual for its own good. That’s probably why EA never advertised it. 2005 was the year of Call of Duty 2 and Indigo Prophecy. Stranger’s Wrath began in an Old West town of chicken-men called New Yolk City.

Stranger himself was weird, a mixture of man and ram and wildcat. Take some hits and he will amass a hide full of arrows — you recover his health by shaking them off like a cat shaking off water. He shoots as you might expect, in first person, but if you want to cover more ground you switch the perspective, Stranger drops onto all fours, and you prance around the lush wildlands at speed. I loved it. If you’re going to have a fantastical videogame, why not control someone that acts and animates like something not of this world.

There was one thing in the game that let me down: “live ammo”. From Stranger’s crossbow he shoots rodents and bugs instead of bullets. The shooting itself is fine, but the instructions describing collecting these as “hunting”. That sounded enticing. I imagined setting traps to catch boombats, and flinging the bats like bombs at the enemies, and the booms would disturb a habitat of stunkz (which are used as smelly smokebombs), which would escape into the level for you to catch. In practice, there’s really no difference between Stranger’s “live ammo” and ammo in any generic FPS — it’s just lying around.

After Stranger’s Wrath, Oddworld went on hiatas. A mere 16 years later, in April 2021, they released another original game (Soulstorm is ostensibly a remake, but there can be doubt it is a new entry into the series, unlike New N’ Tasty). With Oddworld alive again, can there be hope for a Stranger 2 that does it even better? I would certainly love to step back into Stranger’s boots.

Till next time, Stranger

Metroidvania Collection

Zangetsu: The Belmont of Bloodstained

Predictions for Bloodstained 2 (Part 1): The Belmonts & Zangetsu

Castlevania is in my top three videogame franchises of all time, easily. Right now, Komani is doing nothing with it. Regular Castlevania director Koji Igarashi was unsatisfied with this state of affairs, which is why so he crowdfunded the Bloodstained franchise — his avenue to make new Castlevania games in all but name.

So far, there are three games under the Bloodstained banner, but only one in Igarashi’s characteristic metroidvania style. That game was Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, and at the time was the most successful videogame Kickstarter ever. A sequel, if not a whole franchise, seems likely.

I’m going to make some predictions. I think it will be interesting (for me at least) to see, if and when Bloodstained 2 is revealed, how close I am to correct. Perhaps you will find these speculations interesting, too.

Before I start, know that I will make lots of comparisons to Castlevania, but I don’t want to imply that I think Iga and Artplay should simply follow the historical Castlevania blueprint. I don’t think they should, I don’t think they will, and I would even say they’ve done a pretty good job of building an original lore already, even if it is obviously done with the intention of having a Castlevania equivalent.

However, I think we can definitely get some clues about what the plan for the future Bloodstained universe might be, by understanding it’s connections to the previous franchise. And I think the best place to start is with Zangetsu.

The Future of Zangetsu/Zangetsuto in Bloodstained


The signature weapon of the Castlevania series is the Vampire Killer whip, the only weapon that can kill Dracula. The equivalent in Bloodstained is the Zangetsuto katana, the only weapon that can kill Gremory. The Vampire Killer is only wielded by members of the Belmont family, and the Zangetsuto has a similar rule. It’s not a bloodline thing, but a title: if you are the warrior that wields the Zangetsuto, you are known as Zangetsu. 

I think this little bit of lore gives us a massive clue as to how things will progress in the Bloodstained universe.

The Zangetsu we meet in Ritual of the Night will not be the only Zangetsu, but will be just the first that we have met, a member of a line of Zangetsu warriors that may extend into the past and future and whom we may continue to meet more of the longer the Bloodstained series continues.

The Zangetsus will be the Belmonts of the Bloodstained franchise. I think the use of red in Zangetsu’s design is a reference to this, as Simon Belmont was also commonly portrayed with red armor or a red coat in laster interpretations.

The Zangestuto will be the Vampire Killer of the Bloodstained franchise. It is the weapon needed to put the demon threats to rest, and will be passed from hero to hero through the ages.

Simon Belmont

In future Bloodstained instalments, I can Zangetsus from various backgrounds, with both female and male versions of this warrior. Some will be side-characters, as Zangetsu was in Ritual of the Night, and protagonists, as in Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon.

They may be family members (as Trevor and Simon Belmost were), or the mantle may be picked up by characters who have no familial relation. It may play into mysteries in the story, where a character who did not seem have any connection to the Zangestsus is later revealed to be one (Julius from Aria of Sorrow would be a good comparison).

And, of course, every time a Zangetsu shows up the Zangetsuto, and Gremory, will be close by.

In the next part, I will be talking more about the villains of each franchise, starting with the similarities between Gremory and Death.

Marvel Collection Movies

What Do You Need To Watch Before Doctor Strange 2

Many of the MCU movies and shows can be enjoyed without having seen any of the other MCU movies or shows. However, most of them are improved with some context gleamed from the other stories. Therefore, I would like to suggest which shows I think you should try and watch before going to see Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, if you have time.

Doctor Strange 2 is out on May 2. I am writing this in April. These are only predictions for what films and shows will be relevant to best enjoy the new Doctor Strange movie, based on having seen pretty much everything in the MCU myself.

This list is in release order:

Doctor Strange: It is very likely Multiverse of Madness will assume you have watched the movie that introduces Doctor Strange. If you watch the sequel first I’m confident you’ll be able to pick up the key points, but it’s still a good idea to have an introduction to the characters. Likelihood of being important: 4/5

Avengers: Infinity War/Endgame: Characters from Doctor Strange had major roles in the two Thanos movies, but more than this, a large number of the stories released after Endgame have referred to the events of these movies in some way. Putting this on the list opens a can of worms, because if you want to watch Infinity War you really should really watch some of the other films first, but that’s just how the MCU is now. It’s only a guess that this will be relevant, though. Likelihood of being important: 2/5

WandaVision: This seems to be the story that directly precedes Multiverse of Madness. Wanda is featured heavily in all the marketing materials for the new film, and WandaVision tells you how she got there. Likelihood of being important: 5/5

Loki: This films dives heavily into the multiverse aspect of the MCU. I don’t think there were any direct indications that Doctor Strange 2 will pick up threads from Loki, but it’s very easy to guess that it will, just based onthe fact that both stories centre around the multiverse, and Loki did leave some big ol’ threads lying around. It’s totally possible they won’t be touched until Loki Season 2, though, so this one is just a guess. Likelihood of being important: 2/5

Spider-Man: No Way Home: It was the last movie released inthe MCU and Doctor Strange had a starring role. The plot revolved around the multiverse. I would be surprised if this wasn’t referenced in some way. As with the Avengers movies mentioned above, you probably don’t want to watch this without seeing some of the other Spider-Man movies. Likelihood of being important: 3/5


What films do you need to watch before Doctor Strange 2?

The films most likely to have significance to the plot of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness are the original Doctor Strange movie (for introducing the characters and rules of magic in the MCU) and WandaVision (as the direct prequel from Wanda’s perspective, and for introducing ideas that will likely make a return in this movie). Endgame and Loki could be significant as well.