Review by Tarrun
"The Return Of Simon Belmont."
When the Super Nintendo first came to North America, most fans were hoping to see their favorite NES games, except with newer graphics, better sound quality, and an overall upgrade. Along side Super Mario World, Super Castlevania IV was one of the first games to have this done. Released in 1991, this is still one of my favorite Super Nintendo games.
Like the Castlevania games before it, Super Castlevania IV doesn't show off very much in the storyline section, but does anyone care? In truth, Castlevania IV is actually a remake of the original Castlevania, so once again you take on the role of Simon Belmont to make your way through Castle Dracula to defeat the Count.
The first thing you're bound to notice are the new graphics, which are absolutely stunning. Simon has grown quite a bit since his last adventure, and his sprites are detailed and interesting to look at, as are the backgrounds, which have a dark, gothic theme to them. Castlevania IV does its best to show off the SNES' Mode 7 abilities with a rotating room and a rock monster that grows as you hurt it. Some of the more memorable ones include a courtyard with smaller castles around it, the library, and the treasury, which, in my opinion, has the best background in the game. With haunted spirits floating aimlessly and priceless jewels and gold littered everywhere, there's just so much to see and experience.
Like the visuals, the sounds of Castlevania have been kicked up a notch. Although the NES did have a lot of memorable tunes, the first games didn't really consider music to be a main factor and never really used music to its full extent; a prime example of this being the original Castlevania. Sure, Vampire Killer and Heart of Fire have grown on use, the fact remains that it was only used to fill in space. Later on, the music became more interesting, so how would Castlevania IV stand up against such memorable themes like Aquarius or Bloody Tears? Well, it's easy to say that Castlevania IV surpasses every other Castlevania before it, and it still remains one of my favorite soundtracks of all time. The music is very dark and gothic, and it utilizes the Super Nintendo's synthesizer to the maximum, which creates songs filled with drums, organs, and pianos. The game takes a sort of classical style of music and mixes it with familiar songs such as Vampire Killer, Bloody Tears, and Beginning; as well as adding new songs, including one of my favorite tunes of all time, The Theme of Simon Belmont.
Along with those amazing upgrades, Super Castlevania IV does a great job of keeping the player interested. The Castlevania series has always has always been known for being difficult, but surprisingly, Castlevania IV is easier than its NES counterparts, but that doesn't mean it's a walk in the park. I'll admit that there are one or two levels that can irritate me, but that's only after dying and being sent back to the beginning of the level. Not that I can't deal with it, but the ten levels are pretty long and being killed near the end can become annoying. Also, the hit-back problem that plagued the Nintendo Castlevania trilogy has returned, unfortunately; meaning that if you get hit you'll be sent flying backwards halfway across the screen, many times into a pit. Whether or not an easier game is a positive or not is a matter of opinion; some could find the game to be more relaxing while others yearn for an old-school challenge.
I for one enjoyed playing through the game, the fact that it was easier made it more fun to play and easier to revisit, although the battle with Dracula was more than disappointing. It could have been a challenge, an amazing ending to a fantastic game, but it was just way too easy. After taking a third or so of his life away, Dracula actually drops meat to restore your health, what the hell? This also happens right before he changes forms, after taking another third of his life away. Honestly, that bugged me as well; why does Dracula have only one life meter, what happened to the two from the original Castlevania, or even three in Dracula's Curse? Combining one life meter with the ability to regain full health twice in the same battle, what's the deal Konami, too many complaints about not being able to beat the Count in the original?
Borrowing from Dracula's Curse, you begin your quest a good distance away from the castle, fighting through rivers, waterfalls, caverns, and several smaller mansions, before actually entering Castle Dracula, which is made up of a dungeon, a treasury, library, and of course, the clock tower, where you face with the Count in a final battle. In between, you'll fight dozens of enemies, old and new, including skeletons, zombies, horse heads, harpies, and mud monsters. Bosses are equally numerous, and they are a mixed bag of new and old. While creatures such as Slogra and Gaibon make their first appearance, fans will recognize other monsters, including Medusa, Frankenstein, the mummy, and a huge bat (Only this time made out of gold and jewels.)
Like the difficulty, the gameplay took a step down; there aren't any multiple paths or characters like in Dracula's Curse. Also, Simon controllers pretty stiffly, which can make for some difficult jumping attacks or dodging projectiles. Thankfully, he can also whip the Vampire Killer in eight directions, even straight down while in mid-air. Simon can also twirl the whip in any direction just by holding down the whip button and moving the D-Pad; although it doesn't do much damage, it's great for blocking projectiles. And as if that weren't enough, he can also latch the whip onto certain metal rings and swing across gaps, Indiana Jones style.
Another addition to Castlevania IV is Simon's stair-climbing abilities; no longer do you need to press up to climb them, just forward and Simon automatically heads up the stairs. This makes it a hell of a lot easier than pressing up and forward, which has led to many deaths because it didn't register correctly. Also, by pressing up and the opposite direction you're climbing the stairs, Simon can perform a kind of moonwalk, and while having no real purpose, looks pretty cool. Even more with stairs, you can now jump onto stairs b holding up when you're about to land on them. Not only does it sometimes save you're life when you get knocked off of a ledge, but it's also used when Simon's ascending the clock tower while being chased by a spinning metal blade.
One of the best things, however, is the new sub-weapons button. Normally, in order to use a sub-weapon, you'd need to press up and attack, which sometimes would conflict while climbing stairs. But now the sub-weapons button is R, which completely diminishes the said problem.
It's true that Super Castlevania IV was one of the earlier Super Nintendo games, but it still stands out as one of the best action games for the system. Even if the alternate routes and characters were missing, Castlevania IV makes up for it in every other department. Out of the three North American released Castlevania games, Super Castlevania IV easily surpasses all of them; even Castlevania: Dracula X, a game that was released four years after this one.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 02/28/04, Updated 08/05/04
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