- Platforms: NES, Gameboy Advance, Virtual Console
- Suggested Platform: Nintendo Entertainment System
- Developer: Konami
- Genre: Action, Platformer
- Release Date: 05/01/87 (NA)
- Why Play It?: It’s a classic that everyone should play. Great music, great level design, great challenge.
- Why Skip It?: It’s really hard, and Simon moves kind of funny and seemingly laggy.
Castlevania. That word alone is enough to strike fear into the hearts of NES lovers. Castlevania and Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse are some of the hardest NES games in its library. Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest is generally the one people like the least, but it is by no means a bad game, and actually introduces some of the coolest music in the series. That being said, I’m here to talk about the one that started it all, Castlevania.
Castlevania is your standard side-scrolling action-platformer. You play as Simon Belmont on a quest to rid the land of the evil scourge, Dracula. You’ll take on several stages and a boss of each before facing Dracula, the final boss. You are armed with a whip as well as several subweapons you can find along the way to defeat bats, zombies, and other “horror” creatures. You’ll collect hearts from candlesticks to use as ammo for your subweapons, which, to me, has always been misleading. I mean, shouldn’t hearts be health?
Castlevania is very unforgiving and difficult. Castlevania is the Dark Souls of the late 80’s. Each stage gets progressively more difficult, challenging, and unforgiving. There are a couple of things that make this so. First off, Simon has a slight delay in his input. Therefore, you have to think about when you’re attacking and jumping and be absolutely sure that’s what you want to do. Also, Simon’s jump is either straight up or in a predetermined arc. There is no controlling your jump once you’re in the air. Next, every time you get hit, you get knocked back. Often, this knock back is directly into a pit, costing you a life. Lastly, as you get further, the game does more damage to you based on the level you’re on, not on the enemy that hits you. For example, on the first stage, if a bat hits you, it does 1 damage. No biggie. By the time you’re on the last few stages, the same bat enemy will do 4 damage! Seeing as you only have 16 health, 4 hits, and your goose is cooked. If that wasn’t bad enough, health items are far and few between and always hidden in a wall. The one saving grace of this brutality is that there are infinite continues, so you can retry as often as you like. And you will be retrying a lot.
Despite the difficulties, this is one of those games where the challenge seems fair. Even though it’s very difficult, you can see a definite pattern and strategy to get through it.
And when you do finally get through a stage, there is a great sense of accomplishment. As a matter of fact, there may be no greater feeling of accomplishment than defeating Death and the accursed hallway that precedes him. If you’ve played Castlevania, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Despite the difficulty, Castlevania is an amazing game that kicked off a great series with many awesome games to come.