I recently completed a no-death run on Super Castlevania IV. To a younger version of myself, this would be a bold accomplishment. The Castlevania series is notoriously challenging, so the idea that I could so nonchalantly plow through the cursed walls of Dracula’s palace seems preposterous. In a way, my flawless run is deservedly unbelievable, since I was using save states to ensure my immortality.
Most of the classic titles being ported to modern consoles through Nintendo’s eShop or Sony’s PlayStation Network feature the option of save states. At any point while playing through an old game, I can pull up the system’s pause menu and bookmark my current progress. This feature was pretty much nonexistent on these games’ parent consoles. When playing difficult titles on the Super Nintendo, it was pure skill (and sometimes passwords) that affected a player’s success. With my Wii-U version of Castlevania IV, I can throw down a save state before a difficult moment. This is a perfect failsafe for when a Medusa Head inevitably collides with Simon Belmont, sending my avatar to his doom in a bottomless pit. As a kid, controllers would be thrown. As an adult, I simply pull up the pause menu and reload my save, erasing my previous misstep and preserving the flawless run.
The idea of save states is certainly not a novel one. Unlicensed emulators have featured this time-saving hack since their inception. Before Nintendo and Sony started selling emulators of their own, using save states was just another form of breaking the system to play classic games on my computer. Now that this option is built into the Virtual Console on the Wii-U, the use of save states could be considered a mental gray area.
You see, my inner child condemns save states, mocking my aged reflexes and inability to play like I used to. I shouldn’t need to use these tricks to play through Castlevania IV; the game should be encoded into my muscle memory. But my youthful side always forgets that adults have far more responsibilities and way less time to invest long sessions of gaming. Why should I be chained to the console for hours, slaving away at the grueling difficulty and time commitment of a classic when I can break the experience into delicious, bite-sized morsels of 10-20 minutes?
So I will continue to use save states and relish the option of avoiding frustrating failure. After all, I’m not trying to become an expert or set a speed-running record. I want to enjoy the games from my past at my discretion and on my terms. If that means small subconscious pouting from my inner child, then let him whine.