For a while there, I was dangerously close to becoming just a Doctor Who fan blog.
Overall my “day job” has excessively cut into my blogging time, but – fingers crossed, knock on wood, salt over my shoulder – that shouldn’t be true for that much longer. Another factor is that, when my computer died last summer, I lost all the saved data for Spiritual Warfare. Despite my profound lack of computer skills, I did try hacking the password system to the ROM file, but couldn’t quite work it out, so I’m playing through it again. Even though I’m using a walkthrough to get up to the point where I left off, it’s hard to motivate myself to put myself through the righteous mediocrity of it all. But never let it be said I would never do anything for my readers.
Now what’s my excuse for not following up on Worlds of Power: Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest? Well...none, really, except it sucks worse than a starving vampire.
Okay, I’ll admit it’s really unfair – and from my angle it does feel a bit weird – picking on something like this. I mentioned before that it’s a franchise cash-in written for an elementary and middle school aged audience, but what I didn’t bring up was that at one time I was the target audience. After I got the Scholastic catalog one fateful day, I ordered the Mega Man novel. If it hadn’t been lost to the void, I probably would be discussing that one, especially since I still remember the author made the bizarre decision to turn Mega Man into a human at the start of the story. Still, I must have liked it, because I read it at least twice. Was I just a really dumb kid? Undoubtedly, but there had to have been something there in that Worlds of Power book that I liked, right?
So I did try to be charitable with this one, but then…
The magical world of Castlevania dissolved around Tim Bradley like twinkling gossamer. No longer was he Simon Belmont, vampire hunter. Once more he was in his boring bedroom. His mother stood in the doorway.
“Timothy! You’ve got school in less than ten minutes!”
Oh, this is gonna be one of those stories, then…
I’ve said it before, and it’s worth repeating. Nobody cares about being able to “relate” to a character, unless it’s a romance novel or porn, and that’s because the point is getting people to imagine they’re having sex with people they could never land in real life. So where did this idea that kids can’t get into a work of fiction unless there’s someone in it they can “relate” to? And why would you do this in a book about a video game? You say right there that if anything Tim plays Castlevania because if anything he wants to “relate” to Simon Belmont, a vampire hunter with a fetish. The point is that even Tim Bradley wouldn’t want to read about Tim Bradley.
Anyway, as you might imagine it’s the intro to Captain N: The Game Master all over again. Tim’s mother “just doesn’t understand” and reigns over him like a Stalinist despot, and he only finds validation in his life through video games, which really says a lot about what the author thought of his readers. I know the whole idea video games as a mainstream pursuit is a fairly recent one, but even in 1990 they had to have realized that even jocks played video games. To be fair, the narrative does go out of its way to say that Tim’s a big reader too. However…
He had never gotten through Bram Stoker’s famous novel Dracula. It was too darned scary. And Stephen King! Whew! Tim liked fantasy plenty, but when it came to horror books, horror films, or horror comic books Tim’s knees just turned to water.
Okay, maybe my own perspective is kind of skewed because I was something of a precocious reader and was reading Stephen King’s It by the eighth grade at latest, but…really? Not to say that Dracula can’t be effective horror, but I can’t help but wish I could toss Tim a copy of Clive Barker’s Books of Blood.
So, anyway, we run through all of these other characteristics of Tim that totally flesh out his character and aren’t obvious pandering to a very narrow demographic (he likes chocolate! he can’t wait until he grows up! he has friends!), but luckily the narrative doesn’t take too long before something actually happens: Simon Belmont appears in the real world! Oh God, we’re totally going into Masters of the Universe and Last Action Hero territory, aren’t we?
The spontaneous manifestation of a man in armor with a whip apparently doesn’t cause any commotion, because Tim makes it to his first class regardless. There something that strains at the reader’s suspension of disbelief even more than a video game character appearing in our reality happens. A girl flirts with Tim, our self-described video game geek:
“Hi, Tim,” said the cutest girl in junior high to Tim Bradley. “Janet Morrison told me you could give me some good tips on where to get discount rates on video game cartridges. My brother’s birthday is coming up and I need to buy him a nice present.”
Now I know what you’re thinking, but, let’s be reasonable, on top of a girl interacting with a video game buff, a female being interested in video games for their own sake would have just been too much for the reader to handle.
Actually, Tim turns out to be more of a Casanova than I gave him credit for, since it turns out that Carol has a jock boyfriend, Burt.
“Look, Burt. I was just headed into the boys’ room. Can we discuss this when I’m finished?”
Burt glared at him. “Yeah, I guess so. Don’t want you to have any accidents while I’m pulverizing you!”
To be honest, I’m kind of impressed that the author got a reference to pissing oneself (or worse?) in there. Yet the material gets even more surprisingly blue from there.
“Excuse me,” said a deep voice from behind him. “Are you Timothy Bradley?”
Tim jumped. Started, he looked up into the mirror. Standing behind him was a tall, blond-haired man who looked like a superhero from a comic book only with short hair and a vulnerable, perplexed look on his face.
Let me lay out the scene for you. Simon Belmont has somehow sneaked into a middle school – whip and sixteenth century clothing and all – and has accosted our adolescent protagonist in the bathroom.
This might be a good place to stop.