Review by Tenshi No Shi
"Some Belmont tales are better left untold..."
When the Gameboy first launched way back in 1989, I quickly bought each and every launch title- Tetris (packaged with the system), Super Mario Land, Alleyway, Tennis and Baseball. I then kept on top of all game launches, purchasing every game that was put out (it was easier back then- all I had was an Atari 2600, NES and a Gameboy). Eventually, Castlevania Adventure came out which I eagerly snatched up without question.
Casltevania Adventure has that all-too- familiar plot: Christopher, the latest member of the vampire hunting Belmont clan, must do battle with the forces of evil and ultimately defeat it's source, Dracula, before the world is shroud in an unending darkness. Like all games of this era, none of the story is told through the game itself and the ending will add very little more to this. Not great for entertainment value but not unexpected either.
It's an early Gameboy game, so naturally the graphics are far from groundbreaking. In fact, don't expect much of anything here- just simpler-than-NES quality that gets the job done but offers much to be desired. Animation is slow (Christopher's journey would take half as long if he only moved at the same pace as his great grandson Simon) and the background detail will often leave you wondering if this game takes place in a void with but a few bits of odd scenery to break up the monotony.
Interestingly enough, the sound isn't all that bad. In fact, I'd go so far as to state that it is nearly on par with the first two NES Castlevania titles. This is particularly the case with the music that is pretty faithful to the series as a whole. It's MIDI and it's simple at that, but it still has an edge composition-wise; an edge that, quite frankly, surprised me even playing it again all these years later. The audio effects aren't nearly as impressive but, then again, one cannot expect mono sound to give you a rich aural experience.
I think one of the reasons this game is so hard is you spend most of the time wrestling with the controls, thus artificially bumping up the difficulty. Aside from the aforementioned overall 'slowness' of our hero, he also seems to have trouble properly jumping (for someone who walks so damn slow, he can sure drop like an anvil) and a pre-boyscout level of rope-climbing skills. About the only thing this Belmont does right is whip, and even that is at a barely competent level.
Most of the typical design elements that define a traditional Castlevania game are present in this first Gameboy outing- a Belmont, a whip, Dracula, the castle and many, many fiendish creatures to hinder your way. Unfortunately there are a few things missing, chief among them are stairs (you climb ropes instead), recognizable enemies (no skeletons?!?) and sub-weapons (gimme my boomerang, dammit!). The levels are short but filled with many cheap deaths, unfairly prolonging the life of the game (there are only four stages) and the pace at which the game moves only add to this problem.
At this point, you might be asking yourself if you are rewarded in any way for your efforts. In short, yes, but with note. You see, once you beat the game, you are given a chance to continue with your current score, lives and whip power-ups in tow. Should you manage to beat this more challenging set of levels (which are exactly the same as before but with harder enemies), you get the chance to play through yet again at a higher difficulty setting. This in turn gives you the chance to play again...and again...and again... indefinitely or until you hurl your Gameboy against the wall.
Castlevania Adventure is nearly twenty years old now and in that time it did not age gracefully. Still, it has a certain appeal to it if you are a Castlevania fanatic (like myself) who doesn't mind the sub-standard graphics, design and control. If nothing else, it makes an interesting conversation piece if you are a collector. All others should avoid this like Dracula and a sharp pointy-stick sale.
Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 08/10/09
Game Release: Castlevania: The Adventure (US, 12/31/89)
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