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The Mad Monk: Rasputin

The Mad Monk:Rasputin

rasputin

In this chapter we are going to discuss a Holy man and supposed healer from Russia, yea I know it sounds boring, but hear me out. This holy man is not your average praying type, lying prostrate at the foot of a cross or something, this holy man is a drunk womanizer who, quite literally, caused one of the largest political overthrows in world history.

For roughly 400 years from 1600 to the early 1900s, Russia was ruled by one dynasty, the Romanovs. The lineage of Czars had many impressive leaders and forgettable ones, but everyone remembers the last Czar of Russia, Czar Nicholas II. Nicholas and his wife Alexandria were happily married and had four daughters and one son, the heir to the Russian Throne, Alexei. Alexei was a sickly boy and spent much of his childhood seriously ill from hemophilia which is a disorder where the blood does not clot properly, meaning the smallest injury can lead to massive blood loss. Throughout his young life, Alexei had many scrapes with death that left his mother and father in constant fear for their son and the fate of the Romanov dynasty.

Czarina Alexandria was always looking for people to help with her son’s condition, and in 1906, she had a chance meeting with a Holy Man from Siberia, Grigori Rasputin. Rasputin was an intimidating figure, tall, with dark piercing eyes, Rasputin was a renown healer throughout the country and was in St. Petersburg to meet well-connected individuals. The Czar and Czarina meet the Holy Man and eventually get to talking about Alexei, and soon after that Rasputin becomes the de facto healer to the Romanov family.

Rasputin held power over the Royal couple because it truly seemed like he could heal Alexei. On one occasion in 1912, Alexei was injured in a carriage accident and was near death for days. In desperate need of help, the Czarina telegraphed Rasputin who was away in Siberia, through telegram, the healer told the Czarina what to do and to have the doctors leave the young boy alone. Within days, the boy went from near death, to perfectly fine. Historians have debated and attempted to figure out what exactly happened with Alexei, but it remains a mystery.

What isn’t a mystery though was the power that Rasputin held over the Royal family, they listened to everything he said. This was dangerous because Rasputin was not everything he claimed to be, while he professed holy devotion, his favorite past times were drinking himself into a drunken stupor and sleeping with as many women as he could. His actions around the city caused massive amounts of embarrassment for the Royal Couple, and many times they had a falling out with Rasputin.

After the outbreak of World War I, the Czar turned to Rasputin for guidance, with Rasputin telling the Czar to go to the front and take command. While the Czar was gone, the Czarina allowed Rasputin to make monumental decisions of national importance on her behalf. This was the final straw for many in Russia, and soon three prominent men decided to kill Rasputin. Prince Felix Yusupov invited Rasputin over to his house for wine, food and womanizing one night. The Prince gave Rasputin cakes and wine laced with cyanide, with Rasputin eating three cakes and drinking three glasses of wine.

The cyanide food did nothing do the holy man, which freaked out the three men waiting for him to die. Eventually, the Prince shoots Rasputin point-blank in the chest and runs out of the house. Hours later the three men return and walk down the stairs to the basement where Rasputin’s body was. As the Prince walked in, Rasputin jumped off the floor and attacked him, running up the stairs and out the front door.

This is bonkers stuff here, this crazy healer has had six servings of cyanide and a bullet to the chest with no damage done, he is like the final boss on those hard as hell video games I played as a kid. Well, finally the three killers chase down Rasputin in front of the house, and shoot him in the head, ultimately killing the raging priest. With Rasputin dead, attention turned to the Royal Family and their failure to rule decisively and adequately during the World War. Eventually, all the distrust with the Czar and Czarina led to the Bolshevik Revolution and the execution of the entire Royal Family. The fall of the last dynasty in Russia, and the rise of the Communist regime, all began over the distrust of a crazy holy man and the family he served.

Two Shots in Sarajevo; The Death of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Countess Sophie

Photo via Wikimedia

Europe in the early 20th century was a gigantic pile of dynamite primed to explode. It was like when your little sibling doesn’t get what they want at the store and you see the rage boiling in their eyes; you know an explosion is coming; the question is only if it will happen in the dairy isle or the checkout lane. Europe was a confusing mess of monarchies (countries led by a king or queen) and inter-marriage that makes little to no sense in our era of republican government. Most of the crowned rulers of Europe were in some way or another related to each other, through inter-marriage (gross) and family ties, the crowned heads of Europe were mostly a gigantic family tree with a few branches but it mostly ran straight up towards to Queen of the largest empire on earth, Queen Victoria of Britain. 

Queen Victoria ruled for somewhere around 972 years, all kidding aside she was in the job a long time. During her reign she presided over the colonization (a fancy way of saying stealing land from people who already lived there) of most of the known world. The British tentacles stretched from the tiny island nation south into Africa, west to Canada, and east to Australia and New Zealand with many other holdings spattered across the world map. Queen Victoria was quite intelligent, she was always looking for ways to expand her influence and power, and she struck out on a grand idea, force her kids to marry people from other royal families, that meant, in her mind, that there would be a British influence in all the courts of royal Europe. And it is hard to dispute her brilliance in that regard. After she was finished she did have descendants in many of the thrones in Europe. Not to bore you with a complete family tree. It is important you understand just how far her influence went. Her first kid, also named Victoria, was married off to a Prussian Emperor and their son, William, became the Keiser (German word for Caesar, yea they were full of themselves) in the early 20th century. William would eventually lead Germany into a little conflict known as World War I, more on that later. Victoria’s daughter Alice was sent off to Russia to marry a guy in the Russian court and their eventual son would become Tsar Nicholas II, just the ruler over the largest country in Europe. No big deal. Throw in a few lesser marriages to Dutch royalty and you come to the most obvious descendent, good old George. Victoria’s son, the future Edward VII, married a Danish Princess and had a ton of kids, but the first boy is the only kid that mattered to these people. 

Victoria died in 1901 after her reign of like two thousand years, Edward took over for ten years, but he spent most of his life just waiting on his mom to die so he didn’t get to rule long. After Edward kicked the bucket in 1910, it went to his boy, the aforementioned George who was coronated George V. So, as you can see, the head of three massive monarchies were all the grandkids of this one woman because of her obsessive urge to force her kids to marry people they didn’t even really like, all that mattered was their royal blood and that sweet, sweet cash. 

All of this inter-marrying led to quite a few birth defects, because incest tends to cause such things, and many of Victoria’s descendents would develop neurological disorders (mental disorders), physical maladies, and genetic disorders. It is a certain genetic disorder, hemophilia, that would quite literally lead to the most important revolution of the 20th century. Victoria did all of this match-making to ensure that the crowned heads of Europe would get along and could work their problems out in a family way. Unfortunately for Victoria, she didn’t take into account human greed and the lust for power, so for the first decade or so of the 20th century the relations running the largest and most powerful countries in Europe were on a slow collision course with doom. 

It was another empire, the Astro-Hungarian Empire, that was the site of the explosion of that giant barrel of dynamite I mentioned before. The Austro-Hungarian Empire doesn’t exist anymore (spoiler alert), but it was an important empire that comprised Austria, Hungary and many of the countries known as the Baltics in southern Europe. The problem inside the empire was the fact that most of the Baltic States hated being under the control of a foreign power (who knew people like something called freedom?) and there was pure hatred for the leadership in those areas. In 1908, a small county named Bosnia and Herzegovina was annexed (friendly way of saying forced) into the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and with no chance to fight for their freedom, the Bosnians were forced to live under foreign rule. Obviously, this ticked off pretty much every Bosnian living so the Emperor, Franz Joseph and his second in command, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, were not too well liked in that area of the world. 

This mistrust and hatred for the Emperial overlords led to many people looking for a way to fight back and attempt to gain Bosnian independence. The Bosnian Nationalists (people who wanted to break away) were cool with the idea of joining another country, Serbia, but they wanted no part of living under Joe and Franz’s rule. Little groups of agitators sprang up, people who would meet in secret and talk about plans of overthrowing the Austrians. One of these groups became known as Young Bosnia, and as the name suggests, it was filled with young men and women, some still in their teens, who wanted to take down the leadership of the empire. 

Franz Joseph was old, like really old, so everyone knew that he would die soon, and the Archduke would take over any time now. The Archduke wasn’t a bad guy, all things considered, and he had even lobbied for the Bosnians to be treated better in the government. In 1914, the Archduke, in his infinite stupidity, thought it would be a great idea to take a trip to the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, to oversee a military parade, and an overall excuse to wear his fancy uniform and parade in front of the conquered Bosnians. 

The Archduke and his wife Sophie arrived in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, to public fanfare. In the days preceding their arrival, the newspapers in the city had detailed to exact plans and route that the Archduke and his wife were to take through the city. A group of young assassins including 19-year-old Gavrilo Princip placed themselves along the parade route. It is unclear how many members of Young Bosnia were in the crowd that day, some sources say over a dozen people were armed and ready to attack the Archduke. They made the first attempt with a hand grenade when a would-be assassin launched the explosive towards the Archduke’s car. The Archduke was able to fend off the grenade, and it exploded a car behind him, injuring over twenty people in the explosion. Police quickly arrested the attacker, and it seemed that the chance for assassination was over. The Archduke’s car sped off towards city hall and the parade was immediately cancelled. 

The assassins were bummed out, their big chance to take down the Archduke had sped off into the afternoon sun, and they were left on the side of the road trying to pick up the pieces. Gavrilo Princip decided to walk to a nearby cafe and gather his thoughts, as he was sipping on a drink and having lunch, the wheels of history were turning. The Archduke went to city hall to yell at everybody about the terrible security and the fact that his car was nearly blown to pieces. After chewing out the Mayor, the Archduke and his wife decided to go and visit the injured citizens at a local hospital. The Archduke’s driver had no idea where he was going in Sarajevo and began driving around the city looking for the correct road. The Archduke’s car turned down the road where Princip was sitting and having his lunch and the car stalls with the engine shutting down. This is crazy guys; all of these events had to fit in perfectly for the Archduke to be sitting on the same street corner as a Young Bosnia assassin. Princip was shocked, this was his chance! Standing on the corner, the Archduke and his wife were just below him on streetlevel, Princip pulled a revolver out of his coat pocket, aimed, and fired. Princip’s first shot hit Sophie in the chest, with the second shot striking the Archduke in his throat. Sophie immediately fell to the floor of the car, while security tried to stop the Archduke’s throat from gushing blood. The Archduke could only think of his wife, begging the love of his life to “Not die, stay alive for the children”, but the damage had been done. The Archduke and his wife Sophie died shortly after being shot.

The police surrounded and arrested Princip and quickly threw him in a jail cell. He made no excuses; he killed the two royals and was proud of it. Immediately word spread throughout Europe of the assassination and people speculated about who did it and why. When it was discovered the Princip was a Bosnian, it sent Europe into a tailspin. The Austro-Hungarians believed that the assassins were given weapons and money by the Serbian government. While they have never proven this it is quite likely the killer was given aid by Serbia. Austria Hungary immediately demanded that Serbia pay for the crime, and issued a threat to the country. Serbia had no intention of giving in to the Austro-Hungarians and immediately sent telegrams to their biggest ally in Europe, Russia. 

At the same time that Serbia was asking Russia for help, the Austro-Hungarians asked their European BFFs Germany to back them up. Once Russia and Germany backed their allies, the doomsday clock began. Eventually, Germany would tell Austria-Hungary to invade Serbia while the Germans invaded Belgium to get into France. This set off a chain-reaction of Britain and Russia coming to the aid of the Serbians and the French. The leaders of these countries, all first cousins, abandoned their family ties and the attempts at diplomacy, they went to war for the supremacy of Europe. After the dust settled in November 1918, 20 million people were dead, the Austro-Hungarian Empire was destroyed, they forced Germany to pay millions of dollars to the other countries they fought, and the world plunged into three decades of darkness. All of this because of the actions of one 19-year-old kid, and the deaths for two members of royalty. 

The Black Death

Courtesy of spookyscotland.net

One aspect of the past that often goes overlooked by modern people is just how absolutely disgusting life was during the past for our ancestors. During the classical period, there were modern advancements to sanitation in cities such as Rome and Athens where they had running water and proper toilets, but when the Roman Empire crumbled, so did the cleanliness of Europe. In the period known as the Middle Ages, or the Dark Ages, filth surrounded people who lived in larger cities daily. Everything from human poop and animal droppings to discarded animal carcasses was a part of everyday life for the citizens. Every person in town had their own little pot under their beds, they used this pot as a bathroom during the black of night. In the morning, people opened their doors and emptied their bodily waste into the streets or out of their backdoors. The waste would run throughout the city and enter the water supplies of the town. This meant that when citizens had a nice, refreshing drink of water, they would drink the waste of countless people and animals. Our ancestors did not know what germs were, germ theory did not become common knowledge until the early twentieth century. The idea of tiny, unseen bacteria swimming in water would sound insane to all citizens before the discovery of germ theory. Little did our ancestors know, they were ingesting dangerous bacteria daily. According to multiple sources, including the BBC, the average life expectancy of an adult in the Middle Ages was a mere 33 years old, meaning I would be an old man by those standards. The low life expectancy is no surprise though, the people of the Middle Ages were in the petri dish of bacteria and germs, and any of the countless diseases brought about by these germs could kill. 

Keeping the filth in mind, it is no surprise that citizens of middle ages cities, both big and small, were ripe for the picking for a disease. If you think COVID-19 is scary, it can’t hold a candle to the destruction and death that was unleashed on Middle Ages Europe and Asia, the Black Death. Scientists are to this day still at odds about what exactly the Black Death was, but the most prominent theory is that the Black Death was a combination of diseases with the most deadly being Bubonic Plague. The Bubonic Plague was a disgusting and deadly disease that killed nearly 80% of all people who contracted it. The disease began with flu-like symptoms such as fever, vomiting and diarrhea. The first step was dangerous enough, but in step two of the disease the afflicted knew they were in deep trouble. Puss-ridden and stinky Buboes began appeared on the bodies of the sick, the lymph nodes of the afflicted swelled to double and triple of their normal sizes, causing extreme pain and internal bleeding. These buboes were extremely painful and could even explode shooting puss and bodily fluids all over the sick person. The plague was dangerously contagious, and by the time these buboes appeared, doctors and family members wouldn’t go anywhere near the sick. It is hard to blame the family members for peacing out on their loved ones, but it is a tragic story to read about the dying being left all alone in their final days. People left the victims of the plague on their own, in excruciating pain and slowly dying. The sickness usually took around three weeks from the onset of symptoms to death, with the final cause of death usually being respiratory issues such as pneumonia. 

The plague spread rapidly throughout western Asia and all of Europe, beginning in the middle of the fourteenth century. Even though the world was not connected like we are today, there were dozens of trade routes that connected both east and west. Fleas riding on the backs of rats that traveled on trade ships throughout Asia and Europe carried the plague. When the ships docked in harbors in places such as Italy and Britain, the rats fled off of the ships and spread throughout the city. All it took was one flea from one rat to jump onto a human and bite it for the disease to begin. The terrible conditions in the cities led to citizens having terrible immune systems, so the plague had easy access to bringing down entire towns and most of the citizens of the large cities. By 1347 the plague was a full-blown pandemic, leaving the citizenry terrified of death. The sickness was so terrifying that even the Pope refused to leave his house, deciding instead to sit around blazing fires daily to burn away the sickness and praying for his health. Who knows if fire actually killed bacteria or if his self-isolation worked, but the Pope did manage to survive the plague. 

Life in Europe came to a standstill. It was all about survival, leading the era to earn its moniker, the Dark Ages. Doctors refused to visit patients, priests refused to administer last rites to the dying, families left their sick relatives alone to die. The Middle Ages was an era of devout Christianity, church was everything to these people, and the idea that they would die without a priest giving the last rites was nearly a fate worse than the disease. The plague traveled rapidly between the cities of Europe, leaving many feeling that this was the end of the world. The Black Death lasted nearly a decade through Europe and Asia, and the final statistics are staggering. While exact numbers are hard to estimate because of poor record keeping, historians generally believe that the Black Death killed about half of the entire population of Europe, numbering near 100 million people. Imagine that, half of the population of your town or city would be alive one day, and gone the next. When seeing the Black Death through these statistics, it is miraculous that Europe survived; it took nearly a century, but Europe recovered and would later thrive as a center of culture and economics for centuries to come. 

Geek History Part 3- Sega

Seeegaaaa! If you lived in the 90s, this name was synonymous with words like “Cool!” and “Sega does what Nintendon’t!” It entered the home video game console market the same year (1983) Nintendo’s Famicom would with The SG-1000, which I’ve never even heard of before writing this, it sold over 180,000 units blowing away Sega’s projections. But it would be curb-stomped by the Famicom which came out strong with a game Nintendo had already had massive success with two years prior in Donkey Kong, which was THE home version of the game to beat as it was very close to the much-beloved arcade version. Sega didn’t have that established mascot character to lean on; they were the new kid on the block. The SG-1000’s games looked better than most things on offer from Nintendo, but the inadequate response of the joystick and other problems doomed it. Not a good start at all, and it could have quickly condemned them Sega picked themselves off the mat and a few years later released the Master System in 1985. An 8-bit console itself, but like the SG-1000, the games on offer were more detailed than the NES; Sega planned to like Nintendo with the NES market the MS as a toy they teamed up with toymaker Tonka for this reason. However, ineffectual marketing on Tonka’s part would hamper the MS’ sales. It wasn’t a complete flop as it sold over 2 million units in North America. Still, in a market dominated by Nintendo and Atari, these numbers aren’t so good for perspective the Famicom ended up selling over 61M units, which no other Nintendo console had come close to beating until The Nintendo Switch which as of writing is sitting at 55.77M units sold.
All is not gloom for the Master System, it outsold the NES in the PAL market (Europe, Australia, etc.), and from talking to people from there, it was a much-beloved console. I sure as heck didn’t know it existed till later in life when its versions of Sonic 1, Sonic 2, and Sonic Chaos, among others, were packed into the GameCube game Sonic Gems Collection.
Sega helped arcades catch something of a 2nd renaissance around the world, but mainly in the US and Japan, games like Super Hang-On and Outrun created new genres and were massively popular with graphics that blew people away back then. Eventually, with the 80s coming to a close and the 90s looming both Nintendo and Sega would have to keep up with the times Sega actually beat Nintendo to the 16-bit era with the Mega Drive (or the Genesis to us murricans), but Nintendo just dropped Super Mario Bros 3 which I believe to this day is still the best selling Mario game of all time. The Mega Drive would find something of a foothold thanks to positive coverage by THE Japanese Gaming Magazine, Famitsu and other sources, Sega needed a strategy to really set itself apart from Nintendo and with the 90s being the era of being “too cool for school,” they made a mascot who could for a time anyway stand up to Mario. What started as “Project Needlemouse” became Sonic The Hedgehog released in 1991, and one of the best Christmas presents I ever got for sure, Sonic was cool he was faster than Mario too fast actually as sometimes you could run right into the void and die. But back then nah we didn’t care this was Sonic he was sarcastic, witty, fast, he rescued cute animals from the evil Dr. Ivo Robotnik, we ate up all the Sonic stuff the merchandise the cartoon show where he was voiced by Jaleel White (Steve Urkel!) it was awesome but kinda cringy and verrry corny when ya look back on it. But that’s just how the 90s were it was EXTREME, and in yo face, Bart Simpson, Ren, and Stimpy, Beavis and Butt-Head on the TV were warping our poor little minds. Sega ran with this they often had the uncensored versions of certain games on the Genesis, the Genesis version of Mortal Kombat had the blood the SNES version did not, and we wanted THAT version, where Nintendo of America was censoring the blood and (statue) nudity in Super Castlevania IV Sega was like “nah make it as bloody as you can without that M rating yo!” when it came time for the Genesis to get its own Castlevania game in Castlevania: Bloodlines. The Genesis had Splatterhouse 2 and 3 (not the original), which were some of the goriest games I ever played at the time other than maybe Doom, but Splatterhouse took it to another level with some of the imagery.
However, Sega’s main man was still that little blue Hedgehog; Sonic would see almost an endless run (heh) of successful games, the most noteworthy being Sonic 3; however, it wasn’t to last. The rise of 3D gaming in the late 90s/2000s was unkind to the blue blur, Mario landed on his feet with Super Mario 64, but Sonic would stumble out of the gate with Sonic Adventure on the Sega Dreamcast. A decent enough game but with a lot of problems like weird physics and a frustrating camera, which was fixed in Sonic Adventure 2 and was received quite well. The Dreamcast was released a few years after the Playstation, and it was in every way the more powerful console and almost arcade-perfect ports of games like Marvel vs Capcom 2, ports of games like Dino Crisis and Resident Evil 2 would look much better with cleaner textures on the Dreamcast and its library of unique and quirky games like Samba De Amigo, Crazy Taxi, and Jet Set Radio gave it a cult following, but it would quickly die due to a variety of problems.

Sega experienced a change in leadership that believed they should move out of the home console market, this combined with the astronomical hype for the PlayStation 2 which was being ridiculously hyped at the time as being capable of launching missiles and were basically supercomputers and a bunch of other nonsense doomed the Dreamcast. The Playstation 2 had some great games, but it was in no way that powerful even the original Xbox games looked better Marketing people am I, right folks!? Well, it worked. The PS2 sold several cruise ships worth over its lifespan.

Today, Sega is still around and doing pretty well for itself, they show a lot of love to their fanbase, and the best example of this is bringing in the developers of a well known Sonic 1 based fan game called Sonic Megamix to make Sonic Mania a very good return to the glory days of the Hedgehog, Sega itself still doesn’t seem to know what it wants to do with Sonic as the next game they released Sonic Forces made by their own people, not the fans they brought in for Mania was…. garbage. Despite that, Sega has other franchises such as Yakuza that have gained quite a bit of popularity worldwide and positive sales, and in 2013 they would acquire a bankrupt Index Corporation which owns the game developer Atlus. Sega brought Atlus’ IPs under their umbrella, which has provided them another source of decent sales with games like Persona 5. Sega may not be what they once were, but it is undeniable the impact they had on the industry, from the SG-1000 to the Dreamcast they always tried to push the envelope but for whatever reason just lagged behind the competition funny considering their mascot is Sonic the Hedgehog eh?

With Retro revivals being the hot thing with the return of franchises long gone dormant such as ToeJam and Earl, Streets of Rage (which apparently Sega doesn’t own anymore… cuz the new ones weren’t released under their name…) and Wonder Boy what long sleeping Sega franchise would you like to see come back? My vote would go to Shinobi; Joe Musashi must return!

Geek History Part 2- The Birth of Castlevania

Simon Belmont image belongs to Nintendo and other intetites

Castlevania 1: Not your father’s Dracula

Okay, let’s get this out of the way, I McFreakin love Castlevania the sounds, the music the eye burningly red color pallet (SO MUCH FREAKIN’ RED!) in the 2nd level’s aptly named “Red Brick Cathedral” the choice by the devs at Konami to equip our no pants wearing hero (or just like very short shorts…?) Simon Belmont with a whip that transforms into a flail with a morningstar tip! The sub-weapons; you had your sucky little throwing knife, the ax for aerial enemies, the Holy Water that spread fire on the ground (called the Fire Bomb in the US release cuz Nintendo of America was like “nope you’ll tick somebody off if you call this Holy Water.”) The Cross (again, censored and called Boomerang) and finally the Stopwatch that lets you FREEZE TIME for like 5 seconds everything except Simon and bosses grinds to a standstill. Castlevania is near to my heart, and future releases would expand the lore and even take a fair bit from Bram Stoker’s famous novel “Dracula” with some exceptions like Dracula cant be killed with a wooden stake, and he’s not affected by garlic Nah this aint ya daddy’s Dracula kiddo! But we’re focusing on the one that started it all, Castlevania on the Famicom (Family Computer) or the Nintendo Entertainment System as it’s known in the West. You are Simon Belmont, heir to a holy whip the Vampire Killer the most potent weapon humanity has against the immortal Count Vlad Dracula Tepes and his army of darkness. Equipped with the whip and the sub-weapons your goal is to destroy the newly risen Dark Lord brought back to the land of the living by a dark cult of humans who desire chaos and all that fun stuff, a bit of virgin blood on Dracula’s coffin and ol bat brain rises again to cause mayhem. With the return of Dracula comes the return of his castle, Castlevania or just Dracula’s Castle as its called in most games the castle itself is a living thing able to change its form to confuse and disorient would-be heroes making one’s memories of the previous Castle’s layout quite irrelevant. Castlevania does this by housing a being responsible for Dracula’s unending cycle of death and rebirth, a being named Chaos, but we’ll get into that some other time it’s a whole thing. Also, yeah, there’s a built-in lore reason why each Castle’s layout is totally different in subsequent releases, but none of THIS even came to light until Symphony of the Night on the Playstation, several years after this game’s debut. Anyway, to get back on track, Simon has to take his tree trunk sized legs that could level a building if he kicked it too hard through several levels of Castlevania to defeat Dracula and save the world. But along the way, you’ll meet the Giant Bat, Medusa, Frankenstein’s Monster and his friend Igor, Mummies, and The Grim Reaper. Yeah, nobody said a Belmont’s life was easy kiddos worst of all even when you do defeat Dracula it’s revealed in Castlevania II that with his dying words Dracula laid a curse upon Simon that slowly ate away at him and if he did not cure it he would die and by slowly yall I mean he didn’t even notice till he had like a week to live, devious. Castlevania was a difficult but fair game it was the usual you get limited lives and when they’re gone you game over but unlike most games, you had unlimited Continues but no password system at least not on the NES version, continuing started you back at the beginning of a level with nothing but your whip but you did not need to play the entire game over again unless you powered off the console. Future releases would thankfully include a password and eventually, a full-on Save system, when the US version of Castlevania came out there were already two major games out with the ability to save or at least use a password, Metroid and The Legend of Zelda it’s likely the developers intentionally left these out of CV1 to artificially enhance the difficulty and force people to buy a cartridge rather than just rent the game at Blockbuster or something and smash it in one sitting. Heh, if the devs could see the times Speedrunners have on this game though they’d feel absolutely silly is this was indeed the reason why there are no passwords/save system in the game. Seriously Speedrunners are insane; the World Record held by Italian Twitch Streamer SBDWolf (ahuhuhu, SBD) is 11m 24s! Absolutely crazy!

Anyways, I admittedly couldn’t find much on the development of Castlevania 1; it was developed in house at Konami currently located in the Ginza district of Tokyo, Japan. It was directed by Hitoshi Akamatsu, who approached projects with a “director’s eye” and surrounded himself with people who wanted to express through the game’s visuals and music his love for Cinema; he wanted players to feel like they were playing a classic horror movie. Heh, it seems Konami had a knack for luring in film buffs in the guise of game developers as their most famous (now former) employee, Hideo Kojima of Metal Gear fame says in his Twitter bio that his body is made up of 70% movies. The game released in Japan in 1986 under the name Akumajou Dracula which translates to Demon Castle Dracula the name was changed for the Western release due to Vice President of Konami of America at the time Emil Heidkamp’s discomfort over the name which he believed translated to Dracula Satanic Castle, he wasn’t far off honestly. I could see they also wanted a “catchier” name that still fit the general feel of the game they probably saw that the game takes place in Transylvania Simon Belmont explores a castle, so someone’s like “let’s call it Castlevania!” and they ran with it. I could hear my Dad right now in my head picking up the box for the game if it had kept its original title and going “what the heck is an ahkumahjoe?” so Castlevania? Good move Konami of America, good move.

Castlevania 1 alone would see many re-releases and “reimaginings” or even full-on remakes. There’s a lot of -Re here so bear with me folks. Ported to many many platforms including the current generation consoles and PC with the Castlevania Anniversary Collection, some of these remakes would even change Simon’s look entirely, ditching the Conan the Barbarian style of the 80s in favor of a darker more Gothic look with red hair and black leather armor instead of the brown armor and blonde hair and drawn in the Japanese style “Bishounen” or Beautiful Youth by now-former Konami employee Ayane Kojima. I love her art by the way 10/10 would look at again, MOVING ON!

Now you’re probably wondering “man if the fanbase is so passionate it must have sold a bunch of copies like Mega Man 2 levels millions of cartridges sold right”? Well, I couldn’t find numbers, but Castlevania for all the games in the series and all the passion from the fans in the world never was a strong seller. Unfortunately, Only Symphony of the Night managed to break a million copies sold. A bitter pill to swallow, especially with the current state of affairs at Konami, which are great for them as they’re raking in money with gambling and other ventures. But not great if you’re a fan of one of their legendary franchises as they just don’t release games anymore or if they do they’re cheap little nostalgia cash-ins or turned into a gambling machine or just not good like the latest Contra and Bomberman games. Castlevania may be gone, but its spirit lives on in the form of a game developed by a company founded by a few former Konami employees, headed by Koji “IGA” Igarashi who took the captain’s seat for Castlevania starting with Symphony of the Night and left Konami a few years ago due to dissatisfaction with his role there and a falling out with the big wigs. IGA’s new team Artplay would make Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night and release it in 2019 and deliver on the promises made. I will talk a bit about Bloodstained some other time it deserves its own space.

Geek History- Mario Brothers Through the Years

Mario Image Belongs to Nintendo

In the year 1889 in Kyoto, Japan a man by the name of Fusajiro Yamauchi founded a little company called The Nintendo Playing Card Company, that produced and marketed a type of playing card called Hanafuda or Flower Cards, these are the humble beginnings of what would become a giant in the video gaming industry down the road. Fast forward to the mid-seventies, Nintendo would branch out into the emerging video game market. Nintendo’s first few games were not very successful a young Shigeru Miyamoto who is still with the company today then developed Nintendo’s first smash hit; Donkey Kong lit the world ablaze with its simple but addictive gameplay. But just who was that fellow gamers controlled? A comically short mustachioed man that could only jump and sometimes wield a hammer to navigate the mazes and save the girl? The man who would eventually become the most recognizable marketable and successful video game character ever originally had no name at all in the Japanese release of Donkey Kong. The American instruction booklet named him Jumpman and sales brochures called this character Mario when Nintendo of America was doing the English release for Donkey Kong one day the landlord of the building they operated in came in demanding rent a heated argument ensued that ended with assurances the landlord, Mario Segale would get the money. Miyamoto and the people over in japan must have liked the name as the little red plumber has been named Mario ever since! Mario started out as a carpenter and a plumber, but he has had many occupations over the years. He was the referee in the World Video Game Boxing Association overseeing matches by some absolutely absurd fighters; he was the referee for every fight in the Bronx born Little Mac’s improbable rise through the ranks of the WVBA and victory over Kid Dynamite Mike Tyson himself! Mario likes to throw parties featuring wild mini-games and dastardly means to undercut the opposition he has shown to be good at driving go-karts, baseball, snowboarding, basketball, the list goes on. Mario shows no signs of slowing down, from having no name to becoming the mascot of Nintendo and helping restore people’s faith in the medium after the disastrous crash of ’83 the beat goes on for the cheery man in red to this day. Luigi is still the better brother, though!