Review by Simply Dave

"Challenging old-school gameplay at its finest"

Old school in every way

Introduction:

In this 1987 release from Konami, you take on the role of a young warrior named Simon Belmont in his attempt to make the passage through Count Dracula's sprawling castle and put an end to the Count's evil curse. You'll face six stages of nightmarish creatures along the way, armed only with your trusty whip and your wits. Are you up to the challenge?

Gameplay: 8/10

For one of the earliest releases on the NES, the gameplay in Castlevania is very solid in almost all aspects, except for some control issues which I'll get to in a bit. All of the action takes place in stages that scroll vertically or horizontally. You'll have to navigate stairways, jump platforms and negotiate spike traps along the way. There are 6 levels in total, with each level broken into stages. Most of the levels are short, but full of dangers. You skills will be tested.

Simon starts out with just his basic leather whip, but has the ability to make it both longer and more powerful as he goes through the levels. Along the way he'll also have the opportunity to pick up sub-weapons such as daggers, axes, stop watches and my personal favorite, the holy water. This sub-weapons are very important in the boss battles, and which one you pick up may make or break you when you battle the monstrosities that guard the end of every level. Pick the wrong weapon and you may meet an early demise. With the right weapon you can slay them before they even have a chance to mount an attack!

Controls are pretty basic and simple to use. One button smacks the whip, the other jumps. Using a sub-weapon is just as easy; just press up on the control pad and hit the button. Simon himself, however, is not the most graceful character to control. He's slow and not so agile. He cannot maneuver himself mid-air. This sometimes leads to some awkward moments, and a few untimely deaths, especially when you're trying to make a difficult jump while dealing with a pesky enemy at the same time.

It's interesting in that even though the controls are a little stiff, once you begin to understand the play mechanics of the game, they almost seem like a perfect fit.

Graphics 8/10

Castlevania has some great graphics that really enhance the gaming experience. All 6 levels are completely different from each other and have a dark, sinister look about them. You'll really feel like you are going through Dracula's domain with each passing level. I've heard some people state that the game could have used a little more color, but I disagree. I think the graphics lay down the perfect tone for this game.

Simon is not particularly well animated and some of the enemies are a mixed bag. Some look fantastic but a few of them are just meh. No problem with that though—we're here to whip them into submission, not have a beauty contest on them! There's nothing more satisfying then watching a poor skeleton bust apart into a heap of bones with one crack of the whip!

Music and Sound Effects: 9/10

The music and sound effects in Castlevania are some of the best on this system, bar none. The first level theme is the one that started it all and you will be humming it by the end of the level. It does not let up from there, as each level has it's only eerily fantastic music that sets the tone for the game that few game soundtracks are able to achieve. The boss music is catchy and pumps you up for the battle. Sound effects are admirable, if a little skimpy in instances. If you're the type who likes good tunes to go with their gaming experience, this one delivers the goods.

Difficulty and Playtime: 9/10

Please note that I judge this category on how balanced the difficulty is. A game that is either way too hard or way to easy will earn a lower score, while a game with a good balance will be awarded a much higher score.

Having said that, Castlevania will test your gaming skills to the maximum. It may seem almost unfair at some points, that is until you take the time to devise a strategy that will overcome the obstacles the game throws at you at every inconvenient moment.

This is one of those old-school games that make you perfect every level by lots of trial and error. You will die a lot your first time through. However, nothing in this game is impossible to overcome. Every boss can be defeated by the right weapon, and most can be defeated quite easily once you know a few tricks. Castlevania is one of the few games that is hard to master, but once you do it can be defeated without losing a single life.

Expect to sink a few hours into this game to see it to the end on your first play through. However, once you beat the game and master all the techniques, this game can be beaten in under twenty minutes. I've seen one guy beat it in twelve minutes. But don't fool yourself into thinking this is a short game, you will have to invest some serious time with it to get yourself to that level.

The Final Verdict: 9/10

Solid in almost every way. Great challenging game play, fantastic music and enough fun to keep you coming back for more no matter how many times Count Dracula's minions make mincemeat out of you. This game can be had for just a few dollars. Do yourself a favor and pick it up if you haven't done so already.

Pros:

Challenging gameplay

Memorable music and enemies

Good graphics

Tons of replay value

Cons:

Some of the bosses can seem impossible at first

Lot of trial and error needed—impatient gamers need not apply

Control can be a bit clunky at first until you get used to the physics


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 12/01/06


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