Review by kirbytoo
"Castlevania: A fine example of great game design."
Ah, Castlevania. A wonderful gem that came out in the States in 1987, and redefined (I guess?) the action genre during the days of the NES. Truly a wonderful game, and I was wowed upon my completion of the game.
Okay, so maybe I didn't play it back in 1987. Maybe it was around '06 or '07 when I first entered the series with Symphony of the Night on the Xbox Live Arcade. But even then, after experiencing that game, I went right back to the beginning to see this legendary franchise.
And let me just say: I was not disappointed.
The story is quick and simple. The game isn't a story-driven narrative, and the amount of story is confined to the game's manual. A man named Simon comes to Castle Dracula to slay the evil vampire because its his destiny. What more did you need in an NES action game?
The gameplay is pretty darn good, it is.
Lemme give you a quick rundown of what's going on with the gameplay. On the D-Pad, you move left and right with the... left and right buttons. You crouch with down on the D-Pad. You jump with A, and you swing your whip with B. You can use your subweapons by using up on the D-Pad and the B button at the same time.
Some of the things that people found as awful, such as the inability to control your jumps, or Simon's slow and clunky whipping, etc., I found as things that improved upon the gameplay. I saw Simon controlled ridiculously clunky so that the idea that people just plowed through games would not apply to Castlevania. You had to time your whip strikes, and since range and area of effect were rather limited, you had to use your subweapons. If something flew above you, you'd toss an axe upward at it. Something was too low for you to hit, or you need to deliver multiple hits at once on a land enemy, throw a fire bomb.
Enemy placement as well was designed so that you had to stop and think about what to do next. Running through would just get you murdered, and you'd have to restart at the last checkpoint (or in the case of game overs, at the beginning of the stage).
In any case, one thing I could see improved is the jumping. Slight jumping control would be helpful during some boss fights, but even then, the game is still very manageable.
The graphics - though considered dated by most nowadays - are pretty impressive when you take into consideration the system limitations. The main character, Simon, looks like some weird brown hunchback, but even then, the backgrounds are gorgeously detailed for an NES game. They have plenty of colors that pop, and no characters, enemies, or items wind up blending in the background because of them. One thing to note, however, is that some areas of the castle just look... weird. There's a random staircase in Level 3 that you can't even climb on, so why is it even there? It's just in the air, in front of you. Some areas of the trees out in the courtyard look like jumbled messes, too. And there's a few others, but even then, the graphics still hold up.
The music is great. It's wonderful, and it created some iconic pieces within the series today (Vampire Killer, Wicked Child, Heart of Fire). They have wonderful melodies, and they're very catchy. Sound effects are great and varied, and hey, Simon even has a little damage grunt. Neat.
FUN FACTOR: 7/10
The game has quite a bit of a learning curve. Level 1 starts you off easy, and it's no problem. Pretty much anyone can take care of it. However, once Level 2 begins, they begin to throw all kinds of new stuff at you, including the infamous Medusa Heads. Basically, if you're not used to retro action games, this game may be a bit of a toughie on you. However, once you learn to pick it up, it becomes fun, and you feel accomplished when you beat the game. There's a harder difficulty level available upon beating it, but besides from that (and a few hidden items throughout the game), there's no real replay value to this game.
If you're into 2D action games, well, this is one of the most iconic ones. And if you're a fan of the series who STILL hasn't played this game... You're missing out. I definitely recommend this game to anyone who wants a challenge, or just some hard fun. Pick it up, you'll enjoy it!
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 07/23/12
Game Release: Castlevania (US, May 1987)
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