Improving Old School Game Mechanics.

I just recently finished up Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow for DS. I really enjoyed the game and can't wait to dive into another Castlevania game sometime soon. I can't help but complain, though, about the difficulty of actually navigating the world within the game.

The game is set up so that all the action happens on the bottom screen, and the map is constantly displayed on the top. Much like other Castlevania, or Metroid games, your placed in an open world that is for the most part unmarked and devoid of any points of reference. The only rooms marked on the map are save rooms and warp stations. As a result of this, there were plenty of times where I would come back to the game and not really recall what I did last or where I left off. I was forced to double check every last spot on the map that looked promising. Towards the end of the game, I became more adept at reading the map and remembering the shapes of rooms to reduce the amount of time spent running around pointlessly, but should navigation really be the most diffucult aspect of a videogame?

It really wasn't as bad as I'm making it sound, but it seems like there are so many easy little fixes that could have done away with all my problems. For example, Dawn of Sorrow was really good at implementing the stylus within boss fights and puzzles. What if when I pulled up my map, I was able to tap a spot on the map with my stylus and make a note to myself? Something like "door is locked, need new magic seal". This would prevent me from repeatedly running back to check that same door. It doesn't seem like it would be too much to ask for, even the ability to set waypoints would be nice.

That being said, if you were into the backtracking and exploring aspect, there are rewards to be had. The world is full of nifty little secrets and there were several times where I accidentally discovered unmarked nooks and cranny's that contained special items, but nothing significant enough to erase the navigational paranoia I faced each and every time I started up the game.

While I'm not all about purging every last ancient game mechanic and making games super easy, I think it's safe to say that vague world maps in an open world game are a thing of the past and can easily be improved upon. Sorry for the rant, any thoughts?

Matt (MWG)

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