Review by Kain Stryder
"The Castle Is Calling You, Simon...Your Destiny Awaits!"
Who ever thought that a game that's about trekking through Dracula's Castle to save your bride would turn into a massive series of an ever-lasting feud between the Belmont Family and Dracula, Prince Of Darkness? No one, really, but boy, most of us were surprised and very happy that a classic game like this is what set the spark off for the games that followed in the footsteps of this one. Castlevania, or as it's known in Japan as Akumajo Dracula, (Demon Castle Dracula.) is your typical platform action game where you battle your way across multiple stages fighting off the Undead and attempting for a one on one confrontation with The Count himself. Can't get much more basic than that.
Back in 1986, when this game was released, it was a smash hit and something that kept the gamers busy, even if it were for a short time. Not as easy as Super Mario Bros. was, there have been many players that have gotten fed up with Dracula and I can't blame them. This game has challenge and will give even the pros a hard time. Definitely not something you can breeze by your first time through. But, how good was the game? Was it short? Long? Perhaps the graphics sucked? Or did they? What about the story? Well, let's find out...
Story: The story's pretty simple, actually, but unless you either read the manual or get it off a fan site, you'll be left in the dark. The year is 1691 and you are Simon Belmont, the strongest Vampire Hunter of your time. You've been called upon by the people of Transylvania to rid Dracula from the world. (I've also seen the plot involve him rescuing his bride, which is a better story, but I'll stick with the NES version.) As it's his destiny like his ancestors before him, Simon rushes into action to stop Dracula, but little does he know, this is only the beginning of his problems...
The story isn't really much, like I said, but come on, it's 1986 and all. Give me one game then that had a story that was so amazing, it blew your socks off. Still, it's not exactly award winning material.
Controls: Eh...I'm going to be fair here. The controls are not very good. Simon moves with the swiftness of a Elephant and the grace of a drunken Monkey. Mastering the controls and how to use Simon to the best of his ability is going to take some time. He only has a few moves that he can perform and trying to maneuver him around the screen, let alone dodge or jump is just not something you can rely on. Simon can't jump at all and trying to dodge most enemies this way won't work. To make matters worse, whenever you are hit, you're sent flying and to recover from this isn't possible. So if you're standing on a ledge and are hit, you're going to die.
But, don't get me wrong. Simon can attack very well. Using his attacks are very simple and require just a tap of the Button to dispose of the foul creature that blocks your path. Other than that, the control's response is good and all, just Simon doesn't control well, even when you try. Oh and there's the stairs...argh, you can't jump on them. (Heh, there's an inside joke about that with Konami.) Anyway, the controls work fine, but Simon doesn't. He's like Mega Man, but with 100 pounds weighing him down.
Graphics: This game definitely shines with graphics. It has that spooky, creepy feel to it and that's good, because this isn't a party you're going to. The environments are greatly detailed and nothing looks repetitive one bit, as each stage you visit is different and you can easily tell where you are currently, either it being in the Main Hall or in the Clock Tower. Even the sprites for the enemies are very well done and Simon looks good, even if he is all orange. I liked how every sprite in the game had at least 2-3 frames of animation, which is standard for a game made in 1986 and the flow of animation is also good.
As for the detail to your surroundings...definitely well done. You can see how Dracula's Castle isn't in tip top condition and how it's ruined and falling apart and you can see how many different colors where put into each area. Just over all great for it's time, even if it can't hold a candle to the new games today. Graphics are good, sprites are good, animation is good, what else is there to say? Nothing, because these graphics won't leave you wanting to turn your NES off because your eyes can't stand the horror of what you're seeing.
Sound/Music: Brilliant. That's how to sum up this game's sound and music. To start, the music is definitely catchy and something that you'll remember, if you become a fan of the series or not. In my eyes, the best and most catchy tune is Vampire Killer, that plays in the first stage and is the ''Theme Song'' of the Castlevania series, but others will tell you that Poison Mind (Boss Battle Theme) and others are better. But the music is not something that disappoints or fails to make the game more enjoyable. No, it does the opposite and makes it better. (Heck, even the remixes of the songs are DAMN good if you can find them.)
As far as sounds go, they're good, especially Simon's ''Ulp'' sound he makes when he gets hit and the sound your whip, the Vampire Killer, makes when it hits someone or something. For what sounds are in the game, they're good and not irritating in the least. Not much more to talk about here, since there's not a whole lot, but over all, the music is AWESOME and so is the sounds. You can not get much better than this for 1986, trust me.
Game Play: Ah, the gameplay. Well, the game's actually pretty short, I'm afraid. There's only 6 stages for Simon Belmont to fight his way through, but each stage has multiple parts to it and will take a good 10 or so minutes or more to get through it. It's short, but boy, it DOES give you a challenge. Not only do you have a health bar, but it does NOT refill unless you find the VERY rare piece of meat to heal yourself or you beat the stage, which gives you your health back. So, you must get through a stage, THEN you must, with your remaining health, take on one of Dracula's Underlings, including a Giant Bat, Frankenstein, Death and more and they are NOT easy. You'll get a challenge, that's for sure. Not to mention, your whip can be upgraded to make it stronger and have a longer reach, but if you are killed, you start out with the Leather Whip again and you must get the two attachments to make it the Chain Whip once again.
As for replay value, there isn't any, really, unless you're the type of person who enjoys high scores and all, then you can play through the game again and continue to get a higher score, but there's nothing different in the second round of the game that'll really be worth playing to see. (There's ONE object that appears that's a Konami joke in many games, that Easter Island Head and to get it is NOT exactly something that's thrown at you so you can easily see it.) Anyway, over all, a great 6 stage challenge that'll leave you screaming with joy and stomping on Dracula's Remains once you banish him, since he's not in the LEAST the easiest final boss AT ALL. It could even lead you to giving up, which isn't exactly good, but, heck the game does last you at least an hour, IF you're a pro. If not, expect to be playing for at least 2 hours and God knows how long with Dracula.
Over All: Well, there you have it. I personally liked Castlevania, even if it was short and VERY hard to beat, but it's what started the series and gave me some of the better Castlevania games, such as Symphony Of The Night and Aria Of Sorrow. I think the game could've used a tweaking in the controls department with moving Simon and maybe a tone down in challenge with Dracula, but other than that, everything's good. But other than the controls, you have a pretty ok story, some great graphics, KICK ASS music and sound and gameplay that'll give the toughest of gamers a challenge, so what are you waiting for? If you already haven't, pick up this game and start slaying some Undead!
Well, if I had to suggest to you to either rent or buy this, definitely buy it. It's probably only a few bucks anywhere nowadays, even eBay has a ton of copies going up and if you can grab this for a good price, do so. It's a classic and a great addition to your collection. I doubt you'll be able to rent it, though, but if a friend or someone has it, borrow it and try it out. Anyway, just be sure to at least give it a try, so you can see where the Castlevania series started off and where some of the later games got some of their features from.
Final Rate: 8/10.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 10/13/03
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