Review by Aussie2B
"More fun than a bag of Under Moles! (Sorry Eric!)"
For a game that’s considered the worst Castlevania, horrible, impossible, and unplayable, Castlevania Adventure is a damn good game. Sure, I’ll be the first to admit that when I first picked up the game, I too said “Man, this game is a total piece of crap”. I wasn’t giving the game a fair chance, though. Castlevania Adventure does have some glaring flaws, but the more I played, the more I recognized the well thought out level design and overall excellence I have come to expect and demand from Castlevania titles.
The game is just like the classic Nintendo Castlevania games we children of the ‘80s grew up with. Dracula is the embodiment of evil. He’s hidden away in a castle that is a demon itself while he sends out his minions to torture the human race. You, a whip toting vampire killer, head out on the arduous mission of sending him back into the hellfire in which he will rest for a hundred years. Dramatics aside, Castlevania Adventure has virtually no story. Yes, even less than the little Castlevania III: Dracula Curse serves up to you in its intro. Hell, with no knowledge of Castlevania to begin with, you probably wouldn’t even realize that you’re fighting Dracula in Castlevania Adventure. Figuring out whom you’re playing as would be even more of a mystery. To put it simply, you’re random Belmont number 562. While the manual gives the man a name – Christopher, there’s nothing that makes him unique from his predecessors.
As soon as you start the game, it’ll hit you like a ton of bricks. Christopher, that is. He definitely moves like one. Saying that Castlevania Adventure is slow would be an understatement. Castlevania Adventure is a little old granny driving through molasses in a school zone slow. It all balances out, though, when you consider that the game only has four levels. Seems short? Well, the timer for the stages starts out at about 12 minutes, and you’ll need almost all of that to complete each stage. When you add in the challenge factor and the fact that there’s no passwords or saves for the game, Castlevania Adventure is neither a game that will take you forever nor one you’ll beat in a couple days.
Despite what many others may claim, the overall slowness of the game doesn’t affect the controls in the least. They’re just as tight as they’ve always been. Castlevania Adventure plays just like the NES games. You can whip left or right, and there’s a short delay between whipping, which forces you to plan out your attacks carefully when in tight situations. You have a short though rather high jump, which cannot change directions once executed. Like previous Castlevania games, making precise jumps is a key part of the game’s challenge. Playing Castlevania Adventure makes me feel sad when I ponder the current state of Castlevania games and how jumping is no longer a challenge. A sloppy jump in current games results in no punishment beyond maybe having to hop back up on a platform. The jumping in Castlevania Adventure is all about timing and skill. You have to walk to the very edge of one platform to be able to make it to the next.
The brilliance of this simplicity is most present in stage 3. In the second and third parts of this stage, you’re being relentlessly chased by walls of spikes below you and then from the right. While running from the spikes, whipping enemies in your way, and climbing rope after rope, you’re also put to the absolute test by having to do a long series of very demanding jumps flawlessly. One mistake and you’re doomed. While some game players fear and despise dying over and over, I savor the fact that the game expects nothing but the best of my skill.
Stage 3 is but one example of the superb and highly intelligent level design present in Castlevania Adventure. While the first stage is a simple romp through nearly straight paths, the three other levels show off future staples of the Castlevania series such as a bridge that breaks apart, a repeating maze area, alternate paths, ceilings and floors that rise and lower to crush you, collapsing and moving platforms, spiked-covered rooms, backgrounds coming to life, and many other unique and surprising challenges. It’s ironic that many of the levels heralded as genius in Super Castlevania 4 and other Castlevania titles were based on levels that appeared in Castlevania Adventure. If the plain levels weren’t enough, there’s even a bit more depth added to them with a secret room filled with goodies hidden within each stage.
Good level design isn’t quite enough, though. One must also consider challenge. If there were no challenge present, then every level would feel the same. If the challenge was cheap, then the game would be frustrating and again it would feel repetitive. Thankfully, neither is the case. Castlevania Adventure has the reputation of being “impossible to beat”. To this I say, “HAH!” Not only did I beat Castlevania Adventure, but also I did it in less than a week. I don’t even consider myself to be that skilled of a video game player. Castlevania Adventure only requires you to have a few traits to be able to beat it. Patience, strategic thinking, and a good memory. Each time I played the game I got a tiny bit further. Sometimes I’d reach the next continue point, while other times in the very tricky parts, I’d get past a particularly nasty jump or enemy only to die right after it. If you have the patience to practice, beating the game is a just a matter of time. Of course, you can’t be a dummy about it. You have to assess your situation, try lots of different strategies, and remember where things are. Beating the bosses in particular requires you to learn their patterns, and then execute your plan of attack perfectly. Yet again, like the old Castlevania games, Castlevania Adventure has a beautiful difficulty curve that challenges but is never unfair.
To compliment the gameplay of Castlevania Adventure, the game features simple clear graphics, which are to be expected from a first generation Game Boy title. Despite its age, it still manages to show off enough detail to capture the atmosphere of Dracula’s castle. From tombstones and vine-covered trees in the first stage, to the underground caverns of the second stage, and the pillars, statues, and other castle adornments of the fourth stage, Castlevania Adventure is exactly how I would picture a pocket-sized black and white Castlevania.
The sprites of the game add a bit of personality to Castlevania Adventure in that most of the enemies are unique to this game. Rolling eyes, squirming larva, hopping moles, and boomerang-tossing guys just to name a few. Unfortunately, naming a few covers almost all of them. Castlevania Adventure features a very small number of enemies, so be prepared to see the same ones many times in all the levels. Other sprites, such as Christopher and the bosses, are perfectly adequate. Christopher has got the whole “Belmont look” going on, as you could easily mistake him for Simon or Trevor. The first boss is a huge spear-wielding armor-clad demon, the second is many larger versions of the moles, and the third is a rather goofy looking gargoyle. My favorite graphic in Castlevania Adventure is Dracula. He may be squeezed on a tiny screen, but never before or after has Dracula looked this badassed. Draped in a ghastly black cloak, Dracula fluidly raises his arms to unleash four fireballs at a time. If this attack doesn’t fry you, he turns into a monstrous bat with a sadistic Cheshire Cat style grin and flings his little bat buddies at you.
The musical score of Castlevania Adventure is nothing to sneeze at either. We all know how primitive the Game Boy speaker is, but Castlevania Adventure still pumps out some rocking tunes. It may be one of the first games on Game Boy, but I can think of very few Game Boy games released that have music as enjoyable as Castlevania Adventure’s soundtrack. Even games released several years later can’t compare. There aren’t many of them, but every song is original and a welcome addition to the Castlevania series. The songs feature the same gothic classical feel and funky bass lines and beats of the other games. The sound effects are also up to the standards of Castlevania Adventure’s NES counterparts. On a system so easy to make the songs and sound effects come out as a horrible jumble of bleeps and bloops, Konami did an excellent job on the audio in their first Game Boy title.
Right now, I’m feeling quite proud of myself. As a lover of the Castlevania series, I’m happy to have another “notch on my belt” now that I’ve played Castlevania Adventure. I’m also still getting over the euphoria of beating a game that, wherever I go, I hear people say it is “impossible”. But most of all, I’m proud to get my opinion out. Castlevania Adventure should be embraced as a great addition to the Castlevania series rather than as the redheaded stepchild. Castlevania Adventure may not be the best Castlevania game ever, in fact it’s not even close, but it’s a bad game by no means.
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 07/20/02, Updated 07/20/02
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