Super Castlevania IV
Review by ClessAlvein05
"Best 1st-generation SNES game, possibly"
Konami has usually been well ahead of the curve of most other developers, and there are very few facets of CV4 that stray from this tradition. The game takes the tradition of the Belmont family's adventures, and makes everything bigger, smoother, and crisper.
The graphics look more like they are from a '94-'96 SNES release than from '91. Pretty much every object has numerous colors, meticulous detail, lots of animation, and most importantly is huge compared to the prior Castlevania games and even compared to a lot of other SNES games (particularly of the time.) When I first played it in 1992, I was amazed by how the whip could rotate in any direction, as could Simon when anchored to a latch. Most of the SNES' new graphical gimmicks were applied impressively, be they mode 7 zooming on the map, rotation and revolution of rooms and objects like chandeliers, and shrinking of bosses, pixelation of enemies, or transparency. The graphics are usually dark and not at all blotchy or cartoony, and the colors are appropriately chosen--generally dark but not excessively so, seldom pastel, and very detailed.
The sound is also years ahead of its time. All of the powerup and whipping sounds are enhanced--a whip is metallic when it's supposed to be, or leather on the initial level. Creaking is wooden when it's supposed to be, treasure chests sound like the metallic spilling of coins, enemies howl and moan, and like other Konami SNES games, even when sounds have to resort to "glorified bleeps," they just sound like they're supposed to. The music is phenomenal; it captures the necessary medieval flavor, but can be deviate enormously from the basics in being dramatic, jazzy, techno, upbeat or dark as needed, and capturing recurring motifs (caves, castles, etc) and recurring songs themselves along with new songs. Bloody Tears, Vampire Killer, and Beginning all reappear at least once, just like in most subsequent games, and for the most part are vastly enhanced. It still sounds good today to open up an .spc of the first level, the two versions of the rotating and moving rooms of the tower, and the themes of Dracula and pre-Dracula "Room of Close Associates," the two of which contrast vastly in tempo and style but are both chilling. The organs, trumpets, bass, percussion, and other instruments are high-quality and appropriately mixed, and most of the songs still sound very deep in their numerous channels. Very few of the songs are in any way boring or annoying. The game offers a sound test, allowing you to preview any song or effect.
The game has length and variety. Almost everything is in some way based off of a prior Belmont adventure, but there are so many gimmicks added in the gameplay department as much as the graphics. You have a similar stock of special weapons, upgrades of whips, major 2D and even quasi-3D movement in areas, and much more mobility both in person and in attack style. While there isn't the kind of nonlinearity or additional heroes that are in Castlevania 3, or of course the adventure style of Castlevania 2, neither of these omissions really hurt the game's new style, since the primary purpose of the game was merely to put a new SNES style on the franchise. The gravity and physics are not as irritating as in the prior games; you have to pay attention when jumping on platforms and not get hit at the wrong times, but you won't be thrown into a pit from hitting a bat unless you really deserve it. There are a handful of secret powerup areas that add variety, and coupled with the excitement of the game you'll find plenty of replay value. Restart points, passwords, and overall difficulty are no less reasonable than prior Castlevania games, although you may have some trouble with the blades in the last part of Dracula's tower, and the pre-Dracula boss sequence. Most bosses are actually pretty easy compared to the main level sequence if you stay powered up (thanks, largely, to the instant death associated with getting spiked.) However, having a basic whip and minimal secondary weapons (I rarely found myself using both much, but you need one or the other) will put you in a bit of trouble. You won't find yourself frustrated too much, and as a whole the game is easier than the others in the series.
The game is as good as any other Castlevania and simply almost any other game; it's a must to find some way to play if you haven't. It has the same gravitas--the overwhelming upgrades and added depth that came with the SNES, with Konami's touch of added quality--as most of the developer's other franchise titles to start out the system, like Contra 3 and to a lesser extent Gradius 3 and the first SNES Legend of the Mystical Ninja.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 09/04/07
Game Release: Super Castlevania IV (US, December 1991)
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