Originally, I began this fan-game as my Multimedia Major Project. To be frank, I was quite ambitious. Roughly 15 areas, 20 playable characters, in hindsight it was a goal that I couldn't have achieved in time. But, it seemed just the demo that I'm presenting here at SAGE is enough for the project. I will still continue this game, until the very end. But now I truly understand why proper, polished games take a long time to complete.

Characters

The playable five characters you see in the demo are Ashe, Julius, Sonic, Wario and Crono. During development, I also revealled Bass, Soma Cruz, Blaze the Cat, Mario and Frog. But let's focus on what's in the demo. I was making somewhat odd choices for characters in some respects, the Castlevania representatives aren't, say, Richter, Simon, or Alucard, and none of the blue Mega Men (or Zero) are in sight. I was mostly picking favourites. As characters, I love Ashe and Bass, as well as Soma, and I think Julius is an absolute badass (anyone who has taken him on in Aria of Sorrow, or has this opinion of ANY Belmont, will agree with me). I felt they all had so much untapped potential as characters.

As for the Assist Characters... There's a second set of 'em that haven't been revealed yet (you'll never see them coming, and you'll also wonder what the hell I'm smoking, trust me), but that's for another time. To be honest, while Kefka was there from the beginning, the other Final Fantasy 6 characters weren't. In their places, were characters from a fairly obscure yet hilarious anime called "Those Who Hunt Elves". It's about a group from Japan who end up in a fantasy world by accident and in order to return home... They travel around and strip female elves. Hilarity ensues. Also, fanservice (no, it's not hentai, you twit, it's a comedy). But I didn't have the sprites, nor anyone to sprite 'em, so...

In the end, I just changed gears and swapped 'em, and it worked just as well, if not better.

Areas

That raining forest was originally from Mega Man ZX. It was supposed to be bigger at first, but, unfortunately, in the spriting community, ZX is notorious for being hard to rip from in the background department. Why is it raining? Particle effects.

Marble Zone was more fortunate. Green Hill didn't suit the Metroidvania style, but Marble Zone was a dungeon, perfect for it, and with the most gimmicks yet.  It also probably had the most annoying enemies yet. I took some... Liberities with the design. Then again, I did it with all the stages. The plasma effect carked out somewhere along the line, but I got it working again, and it is awesome.

Phantasie was... Different.  Heck, I only worked on it AFTER finishing the hideout. In fact, it was originally composed of stock textures combined with the 3D box object (and compared to what we have now, it was UGLY). The main problem was because my idea of it was roughly like Area C in Mega Man ZX, and as I said, ZX is notorious when it comes to backgrounds. Nobody had managed to rip anything from Area C, yet it was so desired. So I decided to do the job myself, using iDeaS and good 'ole AnimGet, not this fancy tile-ripping stuff. Somewhat crude, but it works. I used what I got in combination with scratch sprites of City Escape, found on Spriter's Resource (credit goes to Nebula, thanks dude). The results were sweet. Especially the trees, they look gorgeous. It's not QUITE finished, though. There's still NPCs to add, after all.

The hideout is more or less the bar from Mega Man ZX Advent combined with another room. Partly inspired by areas in the Castlevania games where you could talk to NPCs. I kept it to just Ashe for the sake of simplifying conversations, if everyone was playable in this section, the sheer number of conversation combinations would be staggering. As much as I like story, a point-and-click adventure game, this is not.

The training simulation area was another thought of mine that came in later on. When writing the script, explaining every single freakn' unlockable would just result in walls of text the player wouldn't want to read in a cutscene, so I relegated most of the information to this area. The background is from Mega Man Battle Network, but the little squares are, in fact, from the debug rooms from Mega Man ZX and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, as I was directly inspired by them (it takes a strange mind to be inspired by a freakn' debug room). The signs are from Sonic 3, except with transparency and question marks. And somewhere along the line, I discovered the wonders of the Wrap behavior. I also provided a platforming course for the sake of practice.

And I might be evil and include a Mega Man-style disappearing block puzzle.

The temple area is an oddity, I was trying for a Wario Land area, and this is all that I could properly conjure up, a combination of one of the first bunch of stages from Wario Land 4. So I tried to make the most of it. The wonderful thing about the type of world I'm working with? You don't have to make things all make sense. If something doesn't make sense in this world (such as flora in an abandoned temple), it's not supposed to. Defying common sense is fun! Besides, it doesn't look utterly barren, and stranger things have happened in the Wario Land series. Such as setting Wario on fire without him taking damage at all.

The Guardia Castle Dungeon was more or less directly inspired by Chrono Trigger. Except CT is a top-down RPG. Which makes using its backgrounds nigh-impossible for this purpose. So I decided to have it done from scratch.  Except I'm a terrible artist, so I needed to have someone else do it. Eventually, I was forced to turn towards the only avenue I had. My mother. STOP LAUGHING!

However, as you can see below, at least some parts resemble CT. Could be worse, I suppose.

Enemies

The first batch of enemies were in the Marble Zone. This is my first fan-game, so I hadn't expected programming enemy AI to be so... Hard. And they also turned out to be annoying in-game. I at least tried to curb the difficulty. I also actively avoided anything that required bone animations, because after that insanity that was the Catterkiller, I'm just not gonna bother until I find a proper solution to that. That, and bone animations are a b**ch. Of course, in hindsight, using containers and spawn points may be a good solution. Bloody hell.

The next two areas weren't much better. Wario Land rarely has enemies that give any real challenge. And every single Castlevania game since Rondo of Blood has a love affair with bone animations. I tried also having the Student Witch, but for some reason, I couldn't get her working. It was also hard to find Chrono Trigger enemies that suited the area and was gonna be interesting. Didn't turn out well either. Hopefully, with the next areas, enemies will at least be easier to work with.

Bosses

Perhaps I should start programming my enemies like I do bosses, because bosses are far less trouble, for some reason. They have more complex AI, more attacks, etc. It turned out making the bosses was far more fun than making the enemies.

The first boss was Metal Sonic. At first, he was supposed to have a second stage of attack, but the first stage turned out to be difficult enough for others, so I scrapped that idea and concentrated on making the boss as it was easier.

Spoiled Rotten/Cerberus was a strange boss. I ended up combining a Wario Land 4 boss with a boss from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Spoiled Rotten would make players lose their guard, and then Cerberus take them by surprise. It was simple. However, I was not willing to include Cerberus unleashing so many fireballs, juggled-to-death gameplay is not my style (not that it's in this game anyway).

26 July: I was informed by Sslaxx that Mushroom Kingdom Fusion used the same Spoiled Rotten/Cerberus combo. Funny about that. For the record, I didn't have a bloody clue about that, and I don't intend to change the boss, so meh.

As an RPG boss, the Dragon Tank was much harder. As a platformer boss, it was fairly easy. So I extended it to combine with the first form of Mega Man ZX Advent's final boss, and it helped that said first form was a multi-headed robot dragon. This was also the first instance of me using special effects from Street Fighter 3. Even for me, someone who had gotten used to playing this game and knew how to fight it, it was no pushover.

Sounds/Music

Honestly, I am glad that I was able to actually get sounds, because my resources were, to be frank, limited for anyone that wasn't Sonic and Wario. If you don't even have a jumping sound, players will call you out on it (it's called The Coconut Effect, ladies and gentlemen). Thankfully, freesound.org had a couple of good sounds. I used FF3 sounds for Crono. And lastly... I cheated and ripped from the Mega Man ZX Advent and Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow roms. This game would never be awesome without either Ashe and Julius' voices.

Music was much, much easier. I had the entire soundtracks of the ZX games as well as the Gigamix, and TSS has so much Sonic music. Also, YouTube. The internet is your friend.

Plot

I'm a writer by nature. Therefore, a simple excuse plot isn't my thing - the demo is only the beginning. More stuff will be revealed, plot twists (some easier to see coming than others) ahoy, and I hope to make at least one player cry by the end. If this happens, mission accomplished.

HUD and stuff

Note that the screens above of Marble Zone have a crappier-looking HUD. I made it myself. But then I realised that I shouldn't have bothered in the first place, so I threw it out and used one made by Domenico, which was not only more compact, but also allowed more space on the portraits. Trying to figure out which ones fitted which character without re-using any single one wasn't easy, but some of them are hints to particular traits of that character - I used fire for Julius as his theme song is 'Heart of Fire', and Crono's background is light because the type of magic he uses in the original Japanese and DS versions was called "Light" or "Holy". The others... They just fitted. Wario's pose was too damn funny to pass up.

Also, the pause menu is, well, from ZX Advent, the dialogue boxes are from Mega Man Star Force, and... Yeah.

Mechanics

The game's mechanics were, if anyone was paying attention, directly inspired by the Castleroids. Especially the Julius modes of the Sorrow games, hence the sub-weapons. Eventually, I actually decided to put in RPG mechanics. Yes, an inventory system is being planned, it just isn't implemented yet.

The mechanics aren't the most refined thing in the world, that's a given, since this is merely a demo, but I honestly think I can do much more to polish it. And I intend to make it as pollished as damn well possible by the time I finish this game, because there's nothing worse than having a game released with bits you know are bad.

 
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