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Let's Play Boktai 1! Chapter 1

Posted June 9th, 2020 at 9:53 PM by Rainbow Chara X
Updated June 10th, 2020 at 1:33 AM by Rainbow Chara X
Tags boktai, lp8


Surprise!

I feel now more than ever that it's time for a good old fashioned comeback. I've been dabbling in my own indie projects and going through college, but it'll take quite a while before my projects even remotely presentable. I originally stopped making Let's Plays because by the time I finished Sailor Moon Another Story, I felt like I had run out of interesting things to say.

That said, welcome to the wild, wonderful and obscure world of Boktai. It's a long forgotten Konami series produced by Hideo Kojima (yes, the very same Kojima that made the Metal Gear Solid series) where you use the power of the sun to fight off vampires and their legions of the undead, although with a stealthy twist and some Spaghetti Western flair.

It made its debut on the Gameboy Advance in 2003 and had an extremely creative gimmick that also served as the franchise's downfall. I'll discuss more in the actual game itself.

That said, Boktai is precious to me for multiple reasons. It's a damn shame the gimmick ruined peoples interest, as the gameplay and stories of these games are top tier from start to finish, with every entry being solid even at their weakest points. I'm even going as far as Let's Playing every game in the franchise (there's only like four, chill) as a way to show my respect for them.

Let's break it down in...

Chapter #1 - Rising Sun
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Spoiler:




One thing I'll say right off of the bat: these games were extremely ambitious. The first example being that this is one of those games that had link cable functionality.

I don't think we'll ever get to see how it works, but it's still a neat concept.



Oooh boy, here we go.

Yes, you are reading that correctly: Boktai requires actual "you need to leave the house" sunlight to play the game. I'm pretty sure this is a Crazy Kojima Innovation since it just fits with how he likes to fit his games with at least one mind-bending gimmick or attention to detail (the melting ice cubes in Metal Gear Solid 2, the ability to freely cut down anything in Metal Gear Rising, etc.).

This isn't just a one-note trick either: the entire world and several mechanics of Boktai revolve around the sunlight you capture via the Solar Sensor (a little black solar panel embedded on the cartridge).

Like I'm pretty sure you can identify these cartridges from a mile away just based on their shape.



The ROM I'm using apparently comes from Europe, since it only asks me about countries from that region. Oops.

I actually own physical cartridges of both Boktai 1 and 2 as well as the DS entry, and I don't think I've ever had to worry about time zones during any playthrough. Yeah, I've had the incredible fortune of grabbing them while GBA games were still being sold in Gamestop (aka. a long ass time ago), and I haven't regretted it since.



Ooh right, you can name the main character in this. The default name is Django, based off of the Spaghetti Western film of the same name. Expect that theming for most of the characters in Boktai by the way.

I'm not sure why they went with that theme out of everything, but it's still cool and unique.



You can adjust the difficulty! Normal 1 has the puzzles be Easy while the Action is regular, and that's okay if you're not a puzzle person. I feel like Normal 2 perfectly showcases how the game is supposed to play, so that's what we're going with.



[Current OST: Dark Age]

"... The end of the world approaches... The Undead appear, breaking the natural cycle of life and death. The evolution of species ceases... and, one by one, they become extinct.”



... Badass.

If that doesn't set the mood for how this series is going to be, I don't know what to say to you.

This opening dialogue is also voice acted in the actual game, by the way! Not many Gameboy Advance games do that, but the person giving the delivery here does a stellar job.

[Current OST: Departure]



"Since time immemorial, this dark city has been ruled by a race known as the [Immortals]. But now, at last… the sun is rising…"



(Forgive me for the poor quality of some gifs)

: “The heir to the Solar Gun, [Gun Del Sol]… The new [Vampire Hunter!]! My name is Otenko, Messenger of the Sun. Together we will bring light back to this world!”


The Messenger of the Sun is a literal talking sunflower... Appropriate.

He may look silly, but trust me when I say he's actually pretty capable as a mentor.

(Also, I'm not sure what Otenko means as a name if I have to be honest? I can't seem to find the etymology behind it.)



"Let's go, Solar Boy!"



: "Uh... okay?"

I love how he goes off on his own while Django's standing behind wondering "what the hell did I get myself into?"

These portraits are also from the future Boktai games, as the original doesn't have them. Figured they would help spice up the playthrough.



Anyway, we are Solar Boy Django, also known as Red Django. We are armed with our fallen father's momento, the Gun Del Sol, a solar powered weapon that has the power to purify the undead.

It's genuinely one of the most creative ideas for a weapon I've seen in a while, even if it has one or two serious downsides.



Red chests in Boktai contain either consumable items or lesser equipment for your gun, like grenades. They're not terribly exciting, but they're good in a pinch.

The red apple we just picked up is a medium-strength healing item, with green being the weakest. I also love the little flourish followed by the item's icon flashing on screen for a bit.



I'm wasting shots to demonstrate the sunlight gimmick, since I absolutely need to show this off.



Pressing A will make Django do this stance. It doesn't do anything on its own, but this is actually how you capture sunlight to recharge your gun.

You're probably wondering "how the hell do you play the game during the night then?" if not outright "Dan, how the hell is this let's play going to work through an emulator?"

About that.



Some talented people whipped up solar sensor patches for every game in the series. How it works is that you press R on your keyboard and tap right to raise the Solar Gauge and tap left to decrease it.

It's actually much more convenient to play it this way than in real life, where the glare from the sun would probably make the game screen harder to see.

Like, when you think about it like that, it's... not hard to see why these games never caught on.

But it's also not 100% required to play the game like this! I'll explain more below.



Also, you get this dialogue when you try to leave. Sneaky Django, you can't escape fate.



[Current OST: End of Eras]

God the music and the cinematic angle makes this breathtaking, especially for the Gameboy Advance.

The way the text shows up and disappears is accompanied by this super atmospheric wind whistling noise that it's like... mwah. It's beautiful.

Every major dungeon gets a cool intro like this, by the way. They really put their best effort when they made this game, and you can see it as early as this.



[Current OST: Fog Castle]

A bit more subdued than what I normally listen to out of this soundtrack, but it does its job in setting the mood.



"This is the Pile Driver!"

Isn't that a wrestling move? Are we gonna wrestle vampires with sunlight?



Oh god never mind, he's summoning a nuke!



I mean you could have fooled me with how loud that sound was. The sound design in these games are pretty great too, by the way, which is good because that's something I really pay attention to when it comes to different games.

It's an underrated part of game design.

"Taiyoh!" is also the signature phrase of this series, meaning sunlight in japanese. Django says it too whenever he recharges the Gun Del Sol. It's a little cheesy, but it works.



“Leader of the race of Immortal vampires. The wounds your father gave him have not healed. This is our only chance. Even you can do it, if you act now. Listen, Solar Boy. Bring him and his [coffin] back here. We will purify him with sunlight and this Pile Driver.”

The game loves to put certain words into red parentheses, which is a good idea since it helps highlight what's important and what's not.

I love how we're starting the story out with "even you, a novice, can do it if we strike now" idea, though. It's something I feel could be interesting if tackled the right way.



“It shows the level of sunlight striking the [Solar Sensor]. It’s called the [Solar Gauge]. You can’t use the Pile Driver when the sunlight level is zero.”

Oooh... there it is. The number one downer of these games.

See, this is one of the rare times in Boktai where sunlight is outright required for progressing the game. The Pile Driver is used after you defeat a boss in standard combat, and if you don't have sunlight you can't progress.

For us that's not a problem because the emulator patch allows us to generate sunlight on a whim, and with no real cost.

But if you're playing this in real life and it's like, night time? You're stuck until the sun comes up.

It's a pretty major flaw that doesn't come from incompetence, but is a natural consequence of taking the gimmick to its logical extreme. You could also cheese it out with a UV lamp since that counts as "sunlight", but that doesn't seem like a cost effective way of doing it.





Whoa, what's the screencap doing. I was gonna mention how it's cool that Django pre-emptively ducks behind the rock as a cool little character detail, but I think he has his work cut out for him.




“This type of [Undead] serves the Immortals. Boks are weak, but don’t let them spot you. Try to avoid confrontation, hide in the shadows or run past when they’re not looking.”

Then Otenko talks about how if a Bok spots you, they spit out these funky little purple wisps called Klorofolun (chloro-foh-lun? cloh-foh-lun? Psyduck it, just call them 'Folun.) that drain your life if they touch you. You can shake it off or use your gun to get rid of them.

I'm not sure why they're called Boks, though. For the longest time I thought these guys were mascot enemies since the game is called Boktai. The DS entry just calls them Ghouls, so... does that technically mean the title is a variation of Ghoul Patrol?

God I hope not.



HP: Average
Type: Undead
Weakness: Sol (Light)
Perception method: Straight forward vision, reacts to wall tapping
Attack method: Spawn Folun

Boks are simple enemies. They have non-existant peripheral vision and are quite slow, even if you grab their attention, making them very easy to manipulate.

They also let out the cutest noises for cursed undead monsters I've ever heard. They like, squeak, and it's very distracting to me.

Also, they appear to have radioactive symbols on their shirts.



“Let’s go over the Gun Del Sol one more time. Use the Solar Shot to temporarily stun the undead. Attacks from behind are the most effective.”



“(see the [Sun Gauge in the lower right corner) runs out, you won’t be able to fire your Solar Gun. Recharge by letting sunlight strike the sensor. May the sun be with you!”

May the Sun be with you? I didn't know we were doing the Star Wars thing now.

[Current OST: Courtyard]

I like how the courtyard has its own music despite this song only appearing here in the whole game. They didn't have to do that, so I appreciate the extra effort.



Shooting an enemy from behind will often stun them, allowing you to sneak past them with ease or just... you know, kill them.

Boktai is interesting in that you can try a pacifistic approach. It doesn't really change anything major, but it does offer you choices and I like that.



... Not that it matters since I accidentally turned on the sunlight. (Out of context that makes it sound like I'm a wanton sun god out for blood, which sounds especially badass.)

Yeah, if the game is set to night-time hours but you have a source of sunlight, every Undead-type enemy on outdoors maps will die instantly. It's a puzzling but cool attention to detail that helps cement why sunlight is bad for these guys.



Enemies can sometimes drop items, with the Ghoul here having a Solar Nut. These recharge your energy supply without having to use sunlight. They're godsends since Django can't charge energy unless he's outdoors.

I really appreciate this because they didn't have to do this. They could have limited energy recharging to only the sunlight method which would have been annoying as sin since the gun is also your only method of attack.



Anyway, I was trying to press the R button since that allows you to move the camera wherever you want. This is extremely useful as it allows you to search your environment and see any upcoming threats.



[Current OST: Inside the Castle]



Otenko panels just give you hints for specific things. I don't really use them since Boktai is pretty straightforward, barring the times where the game pulls out some real brain teaser puzzles.



You see those little sparklies?



These are Solar Bugs, and I love them.

They're little magical fireflies that can heal you if they're green or recharge your energy if they're yellow. They're another example of good game design because they're a stable form of recovery if you don't have either solar nuts or sunlight.

But watch out, because sometimes Darkness Bugs can pop out - these are reddish black bugs that drain your energy if they touch you, and they suck.



The last form of energy recovery is the ever-reliable Solar Station, which carries extra recharge energy. It accumulates naturally if you just stand under sunlight, but there's a method later on that lets us put more energy in it manually.

It's generally not that necessary, but I appreciate the thought.



Ooooh!~

Green chests in Boktai are eye catchers because they often contain key items or at the very least rare items. I do enjoy how the chests are color coded, it allows you to identify which chests are valuable before you even get to them. (A design cue I've taken for my own games, I should mention.



For example.



“Looks like you got the [Knight] Solar Gun frame! If you equip it, you can use the [Solar Spread] attack on the Undead. Hold down the B button to fire the spread.”

Then he starts talking about how select opens the menu screen (which is odd that it’s not Start, but that function brings up the Save menu instead) and how to scroll between the map and weapon screens.



I like all the little icons for items, they're actually more detailed here than they are in the other games.



Simple map screen that does its job.



The weapon screen on the other hand is full of fun things to talk about... in due time.

* The Lens are special magnifying lens that the Gun Del Sol uses to determine elemental attacks. Right now we only have Sol, which is our default option for fighting enemies. If you damage enemies enough, the Lens level up and your Spread gets larger as a result.

It's interesting how RPG elements don't really play a role in the original Boktai. Your gun is more like a tool than an actual weapon in this regard, with the enemies being puzzles you have to figure out.

* The Battery determines how much energy capacity the gun has. Right now we only have one battery pack.

* Grenades are expendable side arms. They often have interesting effects, so we'll check them out later.



The Knight frame we obtained will actually allow us to damage enemies, since the Fighter frame only stuns enemies. (Not much of a fighter, then?)

There will be a lot of Gun Frames worth looking out for in the future, so expect me to get super happy whenever we find them.



Damn it Count, clean up the place. These holes are bad for guests.



I didn't get to talk about it earlier, but you can sidle up to walls and tap on them with A. Wall tapping is an excellent way to distract enemies without having to fight, making it essential if you're trying to be sneaky like I am.





Life Fruits are essentially Heart Pieces from Zelda: get four of them and your life bar is permanently increased, making Django a lot less squishy.

It's so weird how this game has a lot of Zelda DNA despite being made by Konami and playing like a fantasy 2D Metal Gear Solid. You don't get a hookshot, but the puzzle element is definitely there.



“This Vampire Lord, the [Count of Groundsoaking Blood], was the sworn enemy of your father. But do not be afraid, my young Vampire hunter. That crimson scarf… holds the spirit of your father. You are not alone!”

Okay can we just take the time to appreciate how goddamn metal that title is? If I were a high ranking vampire I'd definitely call myself that too.



: "The vampire that took down dad is here... I can't back out now!"

The "Immortal" sign is just as iconic to me as Django saying "taiyoh" since it lets you know how close you are to the boss. Other games should generally telegraph their bosses with something like this, to be honest.



[Current OST: Coffin]

... That's a lot of bats.

(Also, this song is super spooky for early Boktai. This whole room in general is a good setpiece, with the lone coffin sitting in the center of the room.)



Name: Bat
HP: Low
Type: Other
Weakness: None
Perception method: Chase Django if he gets too close
Attack method: Bite

Not much to do other than to just spam the Solar Spread. Bats get stunlocked by it pretty easily, and they're already just nuisances anyway.



“But he still can’t move, it seems. Your Gun alone cannot return him to nothingness. You must take the coffin to where the Pile Driver is, outside the castle.”

Yeah, this is where the "weapon is more of a tool" idea comes into play. You can shoot the coffin all you want, but nothing will really happen.



“Hold down the A button and use the Control Pad to drag the coffin along. You cannot run or attack while you are holding the coffin. Be careful.”

This is another feature of Boktai that's both neat and annoying. You'll see what I mean in a bit.



As a reward for killing all of those bats we get Speed Nuts. These weird orange pears double Django's walking speed, making them good for moving around. Unfortunately, their speed buff doesn't apply when it comes to shuffling the coffin around - that's actually the use of another item.



The other thing I don't like about Boktai is that when you defeat a boss, you have to backtrack through the dungeon while dragging the boss behind you. Like Otenko said, your speed is reduced and you can't defend yourself when holding onto the coffin.

Right now it's not so bad since the Fog Castle is pretty small, but just wait until the later dungeons.



You also have to worry about the damn thing shaking uncontrollably from time to time.

Plus if you leave them alone for long enough, they'll start to crawl away as a desperate attempt to get away from you. They really don't want to get pile-drived first thing in the morning, I guess.



At least the backtracking is spiced up by the presence of new enemies that weren't there before or new paths you couldn't originally take. That's cool.



You can make them stop throwing tantrums by hitting them with a solar spread or just waiting for them to stop, but the latter tends to cost you valuable time when enemies are making their patrols.





Like so. Please don't turn towards me...



Haha, suckers. Hey Count, your guards suck. Get some better ones to make it more of a challenge.



Some extra sneaking around...

Important tip: Tapping a wall will attract all nearby enemies to it and they'll just stand there confused for a few seconds. This is especially good with later enemies since they're (usually) not as dumb as the Ghouls, and are often more dangerous to boot.



[Current OST: Pile Driver]

The pre-Pile Driver music is so good as a "let's do this" song.



: "I'm on it!"



I am very curious as to what the hell this technology is, since the generators themselves look like giant green Gun Del Sols.



“Fire a Spread to strat up the [Generators] that just appeared. Equip the Knight and hold the B button to fire a Solar Spread. These Generators have been blessed by [Gaea] the Motherland, and the Sun’s spirit, [Sol], with the power to amplify solar energy. The Pile Driver is the only thing we can use to purify Immortals!”

... I love how extra this game is. Vampires are so powerful that just being out in sunlight doesn't hurt them. No, we need super solar generators railing them full force after they've already been weakened.

Imagine an entire army of Immortals - not just their minions. That'd be absolutely terrifying.



“Press the A button over the shining emblem to start the Pile Driver! Is the sun out?”

The generators will deactivate if you don't have sunlight, hence why you need to be playing during the day.



[Voice clip of Otenko shouting "Taiyoh!"]



[Current OST: Purify]

“Destroy the vampire with [Solar Piles] from the Generators. The stronger the sunlight striking the sensor, the stronger the Solar Piles will be. But the vampire will resist them! When he does, hit the Generators with a spread to boost its power. You can overcome the vampire’s resistance.”

: “When the vampire’s [Darkness Gauge] hits zero, we win.”







The boss will try to resist the piles by beating them back with dark matter. If a ray of dark matter overcomes a generator, you have to re-activate them with a solar spread.

This one doesn't even attack aside from that, so the purification is pretty free. Note of warning: if you somehow manage to go into this with no sunlight, the coffin will try to escape. If they somehow escape (which I've never seen happen before) you fail and have to go get them again.



[Current OST: Death Rattle]

Oooh, I like this variation. This plays when the boss is below a certain HP threshold as a way to show you've got em on the ropes.



[The Count screeches as his soul burns to a crisp, followed by the screen fading to white]



[Current OST: Results]

... Holy muk I didn't even know S rank existed in this game. I've never tried to play this well before.

Yeah, "Being Found" counts if the enemy spots you with a red exclamation mark, not white ones. I'm not sure what the point of these ranking sequences are for though, since they don't usually grant you with super useful rewards.





The Fool Card, contrary to its name, is invaluable. It's essentially a "do over" card that allows you to reset the room you're in if you've failed a puzzle or get yourself softlocked (somehow????). It has infinite uses and can't be discarded, making it an underrated favorite of mine.

I plan to incorporate something like this in my own games due to the potential it has for helping players get out of trouble.



[Current OST: Victory]

“The energy source of the Immortals, is complete. This eliminates all possibility of revival. Good work, Solar Boy!”

At least we never have to see them again once the Dark Matter's gone. Good, they can't cheat death forever.

: “Er… Come to think of it, I don’t know your name.”



... Wow we really did just put ourselves in danger before we even told him our name. Good start.

: "My name is Django, master Otenko."



Heh. Given how you can name yourself anything in this, I'd love to see if they have alternate messages for different names. I would not put it past Kojima to put an extraordinary amount of attention into something small like that.

[The screen darkens, followed by the music changing]



[Current OST: Dark Clouds]

???: “So here you are, Otenko, Messenger of the Sun! And this must be the new Vampire Hunter… But I’m afraid you’re too late. While you’ve been busy playing with the decoy, my wounds have healed splendidly.”



Not surprising, given that we marched straight into a vampire's lair and didn't even so much as fight a mini-boss. If this is a guy that gave even Django's father trouble, an experienced vampire hunter, then how could we get rid of him? We've barely had the Gun Del Sol by this point, so.



“When I attacked the City of the Sun, [San Miguel], and struck my enemy down… I had another objective. Yes, the Lunar Maiden… [Moon Beauty.] She… is still alive. Heh heh heh! Do you dare go after her, Otenko?”

This Count guy must think he's hot stuff for doing this. Let me at em!

[Screen goes back to normal]



“… Ha! She’s your… In that case, there’s still a chance!”

... She's my what? SHE'S MY WHAT?!

Okay in all seriousness I'm pretty sure they're saying that Moon Beauty is Django's mother. That's cool and all, but this doesn't really tell me anything. Ah, whatever, it'll get explained later on I think.



“Let’s go, Django! We have to save Moon Beauty! Do not fear, Solar Boy. We have the sun. The Sun will rise tomorrow!”



(This line is voice-acted)

I get that he's the messenger of the Sun, but maybe chill it with the sun talk. Either way, hell yeah sign me up for a Count Beatdown.

[Django and Otenko walk off screen. The screen fades to white, and then black]



Wow, we cut to the title already? That was a quick game. Pretty fun while it lasted, even though I remember Boktai 1 being a lot longer than this. Oh well, guess it was a tech demo. Next time we're going to do Boktai 2.

... Chapter two, anyway. (I'd actually be astonished if a game were really that short)

Next time on Boktai: The Sun is In Your Hand, we'll be going through the city of Istrakan and its various mini-dungeons to find where the Count's secret lair is. See you guys then.

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Django's Status:

- "Ugh... I hope they didn't do anything to mom. Losing dad was bad enough."

Life Fruits Obtained: 1

Battery count total: 1
- Single: 1

Solar Gun Lens Obtained:
- Sol

Current Frame: Knight Frame (Allows Django to do a basic Solar Spread and Shot.)

???: 0


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