“Oh, You Know Who I Am… Musta Got Pretty Famous, Eh?”
“I will give you the greatest of pleasures.”
Delightfully devilish art by Neesh.
As a diehard fan of the franchise, I take no pleasure in having to cover bad Castlevania games on this website. But the way I see it, when life gives me lemons like Castlevania: The Adventure and Haunted Castle? I’ve gotta make long-winded essays about them — the proverbial “lemonade” of internet content, if you will. So, here I am to squeeze another lemon dry… presumably.
You see, I’ve never actually played Castlevania Judgment for myself. I’ve had the means and the want to, but I just never wound up getting around to it. It’s not even that I was dissuaded from doing so by the negative reputation surrounding it — that much should be obvious from the fact that I run a website dedicated to the very subject of maligned video games. But hey, now that I’m running said website, I reckon that’s just about as good an excuse as any to scratch this one off the list!
So, a Castlevania fighting game, huh? You know, it’s really not all that terrible an idea on paper, if you ask me. There’s certainly a large enough roster of established characters to pull from; spanning dozens of entries in the series across multiple centuries of convoluted canon. All you need is to whip up (pun intended) any weak excuse for them to inhabit the same space at the same time, and you’re off to the races! But of course, fighting games cannot subsist on premise alone: You’ve gotta back it up with some hard-hitting gameplay.
But Castlevania Judgment was never given so much as the benefit of the doubt that it would turn out to be anything other than awful. From the very moment it was announced to be a fighting game, an uproar began the echoes of which can still be heard to this day. Hell, I don’t even think folk got nearly as mad about those “erotic” pachinko machines! Which begs the question: Could the sheer volume of this fan backlash have drowned out what is possibly an underrated game? It’s up to us to pass judgement.
“Behold, the Master of the 99 Dragons.”
Today, I am happy to bring to you an interview with Last Dimension‘s Andrew Bado! With over fifteen years of games industry experience, he’s had a hand in all manners of the business — between his duties as a QA tester, pixel artist, programmer, and now running his own independent development studio. But this interview will take us back to the beginnings of his career in games software, to help shed some light on one specific title.
Between 2003 and 2005, Andrew was employed as a member of Majesco’s “Quality Assurance” team, and tasked with testing a variety of titles in their prototype forms. One release in particular serves as the primary focus of today’s interview: Drake of the 99 Dragons. Even after publishing our article attempting to examine the history and legacy of the title, I still had a number of questions about the much-maligned release. And luckily for me, Andrew had the answers.
This interview should hopefully serve to dispel a couple of long-standing rumors surrounding the game, provide some interesting insights into the game’s development, and to help illuminate the role that QA is meant to play in the production cycle of a video game. So, please to enjoy our first “Industry Interview” here on the Bad Game Hall of Fame!
“I Doubt I’ll Ever Be Done Feeding the Undying Dragon.”
“Let’s just say I’m done believing in ghosts.”
Undying art by Nina Matsumoto.
Dreams really do come true. Yes, as the President [and still sole member] of the “Drake of the 99 Dragons Fan Club,” I just about fell out of my chair when I heard the news that my favorite guilty pleasure game would be making its way onto Steam in 2018 — a surprise announcement which came just a day after the surprise release of Chrono Trigger on the platform. But while the version of Chrono Trigger currently on Steam would seem to serve as a hugely disappointing conversion of a beloved game, Drake of the 99 Dragons has no such high expectations to meet: It was a game critically reviled on its release, and whose legacy has remained one of infamy for the better part of fifteen years.
It’s been an uphill battle trying to convince people that Drake of the 99 Dragons has gotten a bum rap. Without it being readily accessible anymore on Xbox or PC, it was all that more difficult to convince folk to actually give the game a shot for themselves. But now seeing it land on the largest games digital distribution platform in existence, I know the time has finally come. The story of Drake’s revenge and redemption begins now, and I stand beside him as a devoted member of the 99 Dragons Clan. I may not have the firepower to back him up, but I like to think that the pen can be mightier than the sword.
Today on the Bad Game Hall of Fame, I will legitimately attempt to defend what some have referred to as one of the worst games of all time; a title which has earned itself a permanent home on Wikipedia’s “List of video games notable for negative reception.” And before we get started, I feel compelled to state that my love for this game is in no way ironic: I genuinely love this flawed little game for what it is, and my hope here in writing this article is to convince you, dear reader, to consider giving Drake of the 99 Dragons a chance for yourself… with a major caveat. But more on that later. For now, it’s time to rock the dragon.
UPDATE (3-11-18): We also have an interview with a QA tester for the game available here on the site! It corrects a handful of details / guesses I made in this article, as well as providing fascinating insight into the development.
This month’s batch of bad video game music is a selection of pieces from licensed releases! Featuring one of the most botched adaptations of a piece of classical music this side of DJ Mollynuts’ “Symphony No. 69.” Let it be known that of this lot, the Shrek kart racer was actually the most fun to play / the closest to being a functional video game.
- Fantasia (GEN) – “Night on Bald Mountain”
- Shrek: Swamp Kart Speedway (GBA) – “[Main Theme]”
- The Wizard of Oz (SNES) – “Poppy Fields”
“Smash the Cat.”
“This game is a piece of pure fiction, actually we think all animals are great!”
(International box art)
It didn’t always used to be this way. There was a point in time where Steam had something resembling some measure of quality control — where 90% of the contents of their digital games store wasn’t low-effort asset flips and interchangeable RPG Maker anime boob simulators. There was a wonderful era where seeing half-baked releases on the service felt something like a novelty, rather than them comprising the vast majority. And for as much as I love so-called bad games, there’s no denying that browsing Steam in this day and age can be a bit disheartening, even for me.
Before all the three-cent trading cards and gambling for gun skins, Valve had to make their money mostly on the back of actual game sales. And before users had their choice of thousands of one-dollar games to gift to their friends as a “joke,” they may have had to spend a little more and pick from a much smaller selection. For many consumers, the bad game du jour ended up being 2009’s Bad Rats: the Rats’ Revenge — more commonly shortened as Bad Rats.
According to Steam’s own achievement tracking, only 12% of players have played the game long enough to unlock what should seem to be its most easily-attainable achievement (beating 10 of the game’s 44 levels). If we’re being generous here, it’s still very likely that less than 20% of players who own the game on Steam have ever even bothered launching it. Because Bad Rats isn’t a game you’re meant to actually play: It is simply gifted and traded as a gag — an entry in your library that you can’t get rid of, and are meant to pass on to others like a plague.
… But what if you do play it? Could it really be all that bad? Is it fair for folk to judge this book by it’s cover? There’s a chance that Bad Rats may simply be a victim of circumstance — unfairly maligned based on its premise alone. There’s a very real possibility here that Bad Rats isn’t quite as bad as it’s made out to be. So, let’s try our best to clear our heads of preconceived notions, and give this game the benefit of the doubt it so rarely seems to receive.