Review by XCommander
"3 Inches of Dracula"
Dracula is certainly one villain who will never cease to go away. This is especially true in the Castlevania universe where he is resurrected every century or so. Fortunately for humanity (and especially the residents of Transylvania) there will always be the Belmont clan and their venerated Vampire Killer whip to vanquish him. This has typically been the main premise for the series, and is especially true of the original title in the series.
The first Castlevania is an archetypal action-platformer. You play as Simon Belmont, one of the Belmont clan who are destined to take up the Vampire Killer and defeat Dracula in his castle. The game takes place in 1691 and Dracula's Castle has recently risen after 100 years of peace since the last defeat of Dracula. It's up to Simon to defeat Vlad Tepes Dracula and prevent his menace from spreading across the world. The game begins with Simon standing against the ominous castle in the distance. He must travel to the gates of this evil castle and back.
Pretty tough stuff for an early NES title. The game, albeit somewhat simplistic, is fairly ahead of its time. The major gameplay consists of Simon whipping everything in site. However, there are multiple planes of travel and somewhat different ways to go. You'll have to face hordes of villainous creatures along the way. Simon Belmont is a human gifted with the power to destroy such foes. He'll have to use everything resembling strength that he can muster and his trusty Vampire Killer to defeat Dracula and his minions.
Simon can jump surprisingly high for a normal human being, but he needs it. This game is one of the defining cornerstones in the action-platformer genre, and Simon must traverse ledges, stairs, bridges and the like in order to move throughout Dracula's castle. You see, Dracula's blueprint for his castle certainly didn't cater to heroic usurpers all that much. As an action platformer the action still holds up today, the controls are responsiveif a tad ancient. Unfortunately, unlike later games in the series Simon can actually follow most normal rules of physics and cannot turn his body in mid air. He can execute running jumps that propel him forward, but he cannot change direction in midair like a certain plumber can. This became an accepted feature in games that require jumping as such, so it may require some adjustment for all but the most seasoned NES gamer. It's a minor nuisance, as sometimes flying enemies will get in your way and they tend to knock Simon back, causing numerous pitfalls into the abyss. It's the only frustrating aspect of the game... to be jumping and suddenly have nowhere to go but down. It makes the game more difficult than it already is.
Fortunately, the game holds its own in just about every aspect. One thing that really stands out are the great music tracks. The first level's theme Vampire Killer is such a lo-fi NES classic, that can't be missed. All of the level's themes, and Draculas... all magnificent. The game's hallmark soundtrack was one of the features that is common in all games in the Castlevania series: great music. The graphics, while not as flashy as the music, are colorful and hold up surprisingly well compared to Castlevania games on 16 and 32 bit systems. I can see where Symphony of the Night got its inspiration from.
In the end, Castlevania is great game, plain and simple. It's one of those hallmark NES titles that every person can enjoy no matter what era of gaming they are playing in. It transcends that, with its music, gameplay, and fun factor of play. It's not entirely perfect; some of the unfair deaths that came forth to me in my time with the game cannot go unnoticed. However, suffice to say it has been a fun romp through Dracula's castle. With so many games in this series, I can't wait to go back another time!
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 08/11/08
Game Release: Castlevania (US, May 1987)
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