Review by ShinSageRevival
"Belmont's Revenge: The Reckoning: Part VII"
The first Castlevania on the Game Boy, was, to say the least, a bit infuriating at times. Slowdown the entire game, a sluggish walking speed, and terrible input lag (don't you love it when you press a button to whip, only to wait for it to happen a second later?). Now at the time when the Game Boy was new and there weren't any other games to compare with, people would excuse these mistakes; some gaming magazines would go so far as to call it 'great'. Of course when it was all said and done, I did feel a certain sense of pride upon completion of the game -- in that I didn't go insane during the process of doing so.
So entering Castlevania II, I had low expectations (and rightfully so -- hell, Belmont's Revenge? Are you serious?). And yet, even had I entered with the highest of all expectations for a portable Castlevania made in 1991, I would still be amazed by it.
All the problems that plagued The Castlevania Adventure are gone: the slowdown, the snail-like pace of Christopher Belmont and, get this, when I press the button to whip, it actually whips on time! Impressive!
Updated versions of enemies exclusive to THE ADVENTURE are back as well, albeit much easier to defeat this time around. Remember the monster that seemed to stick on floors and ceilings, the one that spit out fireballs at sharp angles and were sometimes near-impossible to avoid? Well it's back (and with an updated sprite, nifty!), except this time the fireballs move slower and make killing it far more tolerable. The jumping molemen bosses in level 2 from THE ADVENTURE also make a return as regular enemies, as does that demonic boomerang guy.
To get this basic story out of the way, Dracula kidnaps Christopher's son, Soleiyu (hey a pun haha oh Konami you), and thus Christopher once again sets out to mess up Dracula once again (and apparently he's been doing some jogging in the years between the two games because he's a helluva lot faster). While it's not much of a story, it is a Game Boy AND Castlevania game, so who cares.
You begin the game in Mega Man fashion, as you can now choose which level (four castles, four choices) you would like to venture thru first. Now for a Castlevania game this is odd; the older Castlevanias usually begin outside of Drac's keep or in the castle itself. Yet you only enter Dracula's castle in the second-to-last level of the game. But whatever, because this way is fun too.
The four castles all have different themes; the first one, Crystal Castle, is obviously based around crystals, jumping on crystal platforms that break easily, etc. The other castles -- Plant, Cloud and Rock -- are self-explanatory. What's interesting about some of these levels is that they dare to move from right-to-left instead of the standard right-to-left, and while it may not seem like much, it's certainly something you don't see very often in sidescrollers, and that much I can appreciate for trying something new.
The first thing you might notice about Belmont's Revenge are how detailed and clear the graphics are. Whereas the sprites in THE ADVENTURE seemed sloppy, the sprites here are far more improved -- the enemy that spits fireballs vibrates a little when you whip it, the backgrounds actually have backgrounds this time around as opposed to tiles of a castle and blank walls of a cave. It's a beautiful game, eye candy for the Game Boy.
While the music in THE ADVENTURE was competent, every single track in Belmont's Revenge is memorable and worthy of the Castlevania name. Truly, the geniuses (or genius, should I say, considering only one man is credited for the sound) at Konami knew how to work the Game Boy's inferior audio capabilities and make them turn out beautiful pieces of music. Hell, during one of the boss fights, a Game Boy-ized version of Bach's Chromatic Fantasy plays! While I doubt many of the kids playing it realized this, it's certainly one of the more curious pieces in Belmont's Revenge. Many of the songs here deserve an updated homage in a new Castlevania game.
The bosses are totally up to snuff as well. Sure, there aren't any of the Castlevania regulars like The Mummy, a werewolf or the oh-so-lovable-and-copyright-infringing 'Frankie', but thank God, because all the guys in here are far more creative than some Hollywood monster knock-offs. My favorite boss design in the game has a creepiness factor from something out of R-Type; a giant human face in the wall with two tentacles reaching out with skulls at the end. And then there's the Bone Dragon King boss fight reminiscent of the lava dragon boss fights in the Gradius series (considering that's another Konami franchise, it's easy to see where the inspiration came from).
Perhaps the only thing that Belmont's Revenge needs that THE ADVENTURE had was a harder difficulty. Really, the whole game is a cakewalk until the final two levels (or second-to-last level and a final 'level' where you walk down a bridge with no enemies to fight and then there's Dracula, should I say), where the difficulty ramps up with the last two boss fights. And while Dracula does not have a second form as he usually does in other games, I will not be ashamed to admit that this could very well be the toughest Dracula fight in any of the early Castlevania games. It took me perhaps an hour to nail down his pattern and a youtube video to help me out (now that I'm ashamed of).
But yeah, way easy game until you beat the first four castles and then are given a beatdown upon entering Dracula's personal castle.
So when it's all said and done, this is a fantastic Game Boy game and a fantastic Castlevania. Any doubts you have that you gathered from THE ADVENTURE (oh please god don't let there be another spike-wall closing in on me thing) you should dismiss, because Belmont's Revenge is a far superior game in every aspect. Any self-proclaimed Castlevania fan owes it to themselves to go and give one of the best Game Boy games a shot, even if it is following one of the most antagonizing.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 11/15/07
Game Release: Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge (US, 08/31/91)
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