When I was a kid, no other game had cooler monsters and a scarier atmosphere than Castlevania. It’s creepy, but just campy enough to keep you from getting scared. For those that are not familiar, here’s the set up: Transylvania, a place we all know and love. Filled with gypsies and creepy things. But, every 100 years the land is plagued by the ghostly return of the legendary vampire, Count Dracula. Throughout history, a family of warriors known as the Belmont Clan have always stepped forward to eliminate the threat.
The year is 1691 and Dracula has risen again, this time the hero is a young man named Simon Belmont. He must enter the fortress of Castlevania and make his way through the haunted castle, fighting armies of skeletons, zombies, and other monsters. His ultimate goal: hunt down and slay the evil Count Dracula.
Simon Belmont is armed with an enchanted whip: The Vampire Killer. Throughout the game, this is main form of attack. Although, he will eventually find various other weapons to help him out. The first level begins in the courtyard of the haunted castle, and takes Simon into the lobby. As the game progresses, Simon continues to infiltrate deeper into the castle. Each level is guarded by a “boss monster”. These bosses start easy and get progressively harder. Below is a list of the areas and the bosses that protect them.
Castle Courtyard and Entrance: Giant Vampire Bat
Castle Tower: Medusa
Castle Roof and Turrets: Mummies
Castle Catacombs and Lab: Frankenstein’s Monster and Igor.
The Dungeons: The Grim Reaper (Death)
The Clock Tower and Dracula’s Chamber: Count Dracula
The game starts off fairly easy but get harder as it goes on. By the time you’re to the mid-way point, you’re ready to pull your hair out. The fight with Death, is so difficult its maddening. Very few casual players ever make it past the reaper… Compared to Death, Dracula (who is the final boss) is easy.
Once Dracula is defeated, you’re treated to scene of Castlevania crumbling into ash and there is a really corny credit scroll filled with various puns. In my opinion, it really ruins the actual “horror feel” of the game. Konami, the publisher of Castlevania, was infamous for inserting these terrible jokes into games during the localization process.
Overall the best thing about this game is the music. WOW. This is some good stuff, you’ll be humming it for hours afterwards. Not to mention, anytime you hear it, you’ll have whip flashbacks…
Difficulty: Very Difficult – For many players, Castlevania consists of only two or three levels. Because for most, that’s as far as they get before walking away from the game in disgust. After that point, the game is brutal. That being said, those willing invest a little time and patience should eventually manage to get through. The boss fights seems a bit out of balance. For me, the Grim Reaper was always the hardest boss in the game. Much harder than the final boss, Dracula.
Story: The story is a bit strange. Here, we have taken Dracula, an iconic figure, and inserted him into a game with a different hero. It seems a bit unusual, but it works. The game itself is basically a tour classic horror movie monsters, set within the confines of creepy castle walls.
Originality: Castlevania was unlike many of the platformers that were popular at the time. Giving the hero a whip seemed a bit refreshing for some reason. The idea of making a showcase for various horror movie icons is a campy, but very fun.
Soundtrack: While I’ve heard better 8bit soundtracks, the music of Castlevania is catchy and very well crafted. This game introduces some iconic themes that still last into today’s Castlevania releases. Great stuff here.
Fun: If you like cheesy horror movies, and creepy environments, this is a fun stroll. However, for younger players and those that get frustrated easily, your enjoyment will often be ruined by the intense difficulty some parts of the game have to offer.
Graphics: The NES version of the game lacks a bit compared to some of the arcade cabinets. But I tend to forgive this as this was one of Konami’s first big titles on the NES. Everything on the screen is pretty much discernible, and still manages to capture that “creepy castle” feel.
Playcontrol: Overall, no big complaints. The jumping in the game can be a little stiff at times, and some jumps require you to be pretty precise. What little quirks the game does have with the controls, are easy to get used to after a while.
Overall rating (out of four stars): 3 – Another 8bit classic. For many, this little is something once visited and remembered. However, it is notable for launching a truly iconic series. Opinions on this game are all over the spectrum. Personally, I can easily look past it’s faults and enjoy it for what it is.
Available now on: Wii/WiiU Virtual Console
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