Review by Psycho Penguin

"So, Dracula's a bad guy and stuff!"

Castlevania. Rarely will you ever meet a game player that does not have an opinion of the classic video gaming series. It is one of the most influential and storied series in video game history. However, in my opinion, the series did not really get good until the third game was released. Sure, I really enjoyed the original Castlevania, and the second one was average, but the third one just blew the first two out of the water, and the series has never looked back (although those Nintendo 64 ones could have used a lot of work).

Yes, I really enjoyed the hell out of Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse. It is one of the greatest Castlevania games out there. The scary thing is, this is probably only the fifth or sixth best Castlevania game out there. That's how damn cool this series is. Anyways, Castlevania 3 is such an awesome game. Take everything cool about the first game, and everything out of the suckiness that was Castlevania 2, and that's how cool this game is. Everything about it, for the most part, is awesome, especially the classic gameplay. This is the game that got me into the Castlevania series.

About the only part of the game that didn't blow me away was the storyline, which was merely average. This is a prequel to the original Castlevania, as it takes place 150 years before the events that took place in it. This story is truly the definition of gothic. Basically, Trevor Belmont has to save his town, which has been taken over by Dracula. The castle rose above, and he knew that the castle held the key to him being able to save the town. So, he goes off on a journey to rescue his town from Dracula's curse. It's a good storyline, but the main problem I had with it is it didn't really develop as well as I expected it to. You just went from scene to scene without knowing why you were, for the most part. Otherwise, the storyline was solid. I just hoped for a little more character and storyline development, that's all.

Wow, the gameplay in this game is simply amazing. This rates as the most fun game to play in the original Castlevania series for NES. For those of you that have played Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, you will remember that the game was mainly an exploration adventure game, unlike any other Castlevania game. I am glad to say that Dracula's Curse returned the series to its original roots, and did so with a bang. Gone is the exploration and role playing game elements, and back is the classic action, platforming elements we have come to know and love. I really enjoyed it.

The game is a lot like any other Castlevania game out there. There is a points system, as each enemy you kill does not net you points, but collecting items from the various candles does. The candles are back, as they house various items like hearts, money bags, special weapons, etc. You can use special weapons in the game. There are a few basic types, and each does something different. Using each one takes off a certain amount of hearts, and you can only have one special weapon in your inventory at a time, so it adds a certain amount of strategy to choose which one you want to have.

One of the cool parts about the game is how non linear it is. You may expect that this game just has you going from stage to stage. However, it doesn't. After each stage, you are back on the world map. As you go through the game, the world map starts to branch. In the stages where the world map branches, you are offfered two different paths to take. Each path is different, and enables you to defeat different enemies, and go through different stages. This definitely adds a lot of fun to the game, and it is amazingly non linear in this regard. Not enough games in the genre are non linear like this one is.

Another great and innovative element to the game was the addition of ''special helpers'' that Trevor can gain throughout the quest. He can find up to three different helpers in the quest. Each one has a different special ability, so switching between them to get through different areas easier is a welcome addition to the game. Alucard can fly as a bat, which enables you to get through stages quicker. Sypha uses magic spells, which work just like special weapons. They have different effects than special weapons, however. Grant can walk across around flat surfaces, upside down. It's definitely cool to have different special helpers.

Add all this together, and quite frankly, this is such a cool game. At first, the game seems just like another Castlevania clone. The game definitely borrows a lot of ideas from the original game. Once you get into it, however, you will see that it is a very unique and fun game, that has a lot of innovative and classic elements added. It was simply a blast to play from beginning to end, and the fact you can basically choose which path you want to take just added to the fun factor, as well as the replay value.

Control in this game could be better. The main control is just fine. The classic control scheme you expect is still in here. One button is for jump, one button is for attacking, and holding up and the attack button enables you to throw a special weapon. This is the nice part of the control. The downside is when it comes to controlling the special helpers, especially Alucard. It becomes extremely frustrating to control Alucard when he is a bat. You will also die a lot when trying to walk around upside down with Grant, because the control becomes a little slippery. For the most part, however, the control in this game is really solid.

This game has really great graphics, especially for a NES game. The backgrounds in the game are just tremendously great. The detail in each background is just amazing, from the trees in the forest, to the stained glass windows on the buildings, to the bricks on the walls. It is just incredible how much detail went into the backgrounds. The character designs are all solid, and each character animates incredibly well. The enemy designs could have used a little work, but the ones that were there were solid. I loved the design of the bosses, as they were really well detailed. I was really impressed by the graphics in this game, as they were surprisingly detailed.

One would come to expect great music from the Castlevania series, and this game fails to disappoint, but does the music live up to the other games in the series? For the most part, yes. I really enjoyed most of the music in the game, especially the music in the forest and castle stages. It was really well done. The music had a dark, brooding mood to it that really set it apart and fit the feeling of the game perfectly. Some of the music is not too memorable, however, which is a really big letdown for me. Sound effects in the game could have been better, as there was mostly basic sound effects, like whips, chains, etc. for the most part. There was nothing wrong with the music and the sound effects, but you'll fail to be blown away.

The replay value in the game was solid enough to begin with, but the addition of the non linear gameplay elements just increased the replay value even more. You can choose between a lot of different paths in the game, which affect what bosses you face, what special helpers you get, and how much of the castle you have to complete. It definitely adds a lot of replay value to the game, as you will want to go and choose all the different paths, to see what you can do. However, the only thing the replay value is really missing is the lack of secrets and side quests. Also, a percentage counter would have been cool. The replay value is really good nevertheless, however.

Challenge has always been one of the keys to the Castlevania series, so is this game challenging? Yes, it is. Some of the stages can get to be mighty tough, especially as you go through the game. There are a lot of precision jumps, which means there are a lot of chances to die. A lot of the enemies are tough, and the bosses will prove to be a pain in the rear end. The game gets to be really frustrating in certain areas, especially towards the end, so the game will definitely provide you with a good challenge, just like the other Castlevania games (besides the current generation ones, heh)

Overall, this game is just too fun. It is one of the best games I have played on the NES, and the amazing part is, it's not even my favorite Castlevania game. It would be lucky to even break the top 5. That's how amazing the series is. Regardless, this game rocks. The only bad parts about the game are the storyline which really doesn't develop too much, and the gameplay seems a little too much like the original Castlevania. Otherwise, this is a truly fun game with a lot of awesome and innovative elements. The game has not begun to show its age, and I reccomend checking it out, if you have not already done so.

Good Points
-The gameplay is classic Castlevania all the way, and it is innovative, to boot.
-The graphics are simply amazing, especially for a NES game.
-The music is really good, although not terribly memorable.
-The control, for the most part, is really solid.
-This game has a ton of replay value and challenge.
-It's the best Castlevania game on the NES..

Not So Good Points
-.. But it's not even close to being the best Castlevania game.
-The game feels a little too much like the original Castlevania.
-The sound effects could have used a little more variety.
-None of the music is memorable, besides a few themes.
-The game may be a little too challenging.
-The storyline is not very original, and doesn't develop well at all.

I Rate This Game.. Psycho Penguin Style!
Storyline - 5.1/10
Graphics - 9.3/10
Music - 9.2/10
Sound Effects - 9.3/10
Control - 9.1/10
Gameplay - 9.2/10
Fun Factor - 9.3/10
Replay Value - Above Average
Challenge - Way Above Average
Game Length - 2 Hours
Rent or Buy? - Buy!
Overall - 9.2/10

Psycho Penguin Lays The Smackdown!
Game Made By: Konami
The Bottom Line: This is one of the most innovative and classic games on the NES. It feels like the original Castlevania, but it has added so many new and classic elements, it separates it from the pack. I really loved this game, and urge that you check it out.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 11/09/01, Updated 11/09/01


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