Review by LightFantastic
"Super Castlevania IV: The Hollywood Remake"
Super Castlevania IV, also known as the big budget remake of the original Castlevania. The odds are, this probably mind fudged you graphically the first time you played it.
Super Castlevania IV is the fancy, Hollywood remake of the original Castlevania. For some reason they decided to add the IV to the title, but this was way before anybody actually cared about things like series canon or continuity, and at that point the series was still small enough that Konami clearly didn't think of dropping the number and just calling it Super Castlevania in order to try and make a few more dollars off of people. Yeah. Video game marketing wasn't super logical back then. The question is whether or not this is a remake like The Fly, where the positives of the original are accentuated and built upon with a host of new additions, or is it more like Dawn of the Dead (or essentially every other remake and/or Michael Bay movie) where the positives from the original are warped and hidden by flashy graphics and horrible everything else.
This is the basic boy meets Vampire, boy slays vampire story that has been keeping the series running strong for 20 years. Since it is really a remake of the original Castlevania, the titular Belmont hero, Simon, is back to whip some vampire ass. They actually took a step forward in fleshing out the game's plot by including a relatively long intro screen that explains what a bad dude Dracula actually is. Every hundred years, give or take, the forces of good for inexplicable reasons start to weaken which gives Dracula enough power to burst out of his coffined slumber and start to wreak havoc upon the country side.
Hmm, looking at the current world, one has to wonder when Drac is going to make his appearance. He seems overdo.
Although this game is clearly Castlevania, the gameplay has been altered and revamped to an almost unrecognizable degree. Of course you still jump around whipping various themed enemies, but now you have some new skills at your disposal. For instance, and this might absolutely blow your mind, you can whip in any direction you desire. Not only up and down, but also friggin diagonally. It is like a Christmas miracle. A vampire infested Christmas miracle; obviously the best kind. On top of that, throwing your secondary weapons is now done through the right trigger button, which means you can crouch and chuck boomerangs and other things at anytime you wish. The game also gets a little bit more forgiving with the timing of your jumps due to being able to slightly alter your trajectory as you come down.
You also have the option of keeping your whip unsheathed and kind of wiggling it at bad guys. There really isn't an adequate way to explain this. If you hold the attack button Simon won't put his whip away and, instead, will kind of hold it in front of him in a very disturbing and ridiculous looking manner. I guess the word I'm looking for is flaccid'. You can kind of let it dangle there and use it as a shield, and, technically, you have full range of motion with it so you can hit anything in any conceivable direction. It just looks absolutely horrible when you do it.
The glaring problem here is that, while Simon has tons of new and powerful moves in his inventory, the enemies don't really compensate for it. This is probably one of the easiest Castlevania games out there. From the smallest bad guy to the biggest boss, it really isn't a challenge. There are a few parts that stand out, but you can probably get through this game with extremely limited restarts. The boss fights suffer due to the fact the whip now stuns most of them, so the fights become more of a symphony in button mashing as opposed to the basic strategy generally employed by other Castlevania's boss fights. The only truly difficult parts are some of the platforming components, and even then the new additions will let you get through it easy. I wouldn't say it was dumbed down, but the additions weren't complimented on the other side of the spectrum, at all. You can find yourself blazing through this game in a matter of an hour or two, especially when taking into consideration the lack of replay value.
You do unlock a hard mode after you beat the game once, and the hard mode actually seems more balanced than the regular mode, but it is still beatable with a minimum of fuss if you master the new whip mechanics. Taking away from the replay value is the fact they didn't throw any alternate routes into the game. It, like the first Castlevania, is a pretty straight forward romp. Some levels have steps that make you choose between one set of power ups or enemies and another, but if you wanted you could just backtrack and go the other way but it is hardly necessary. Powerups and hearts are extremely plentiful.
It feels a little like when they made this huge jump to the more powerful SNES, they wanted to rope in that new generation of graphic savvy gamers and didn't want to send them away by giving them a difficult game, so they compensated for it a little bit too much and removed almost all of the challenge. It is also possible that the majority of the development time was put into the astounding graphics over the mediocre gameplay.
This is where this game keeps its mystique. You won't really hear people decry the gameplay as much as you will hear them extol the glory that is the graphics and sound of Super Castlvania. Sure, Mode 7 and parallax shading and all those other brand new graphic methods could get pretty gimmicky at that time, and this game is no exception, but if you can remember the first time you played a game with this level of graphics you probably remember being absolutely mind fudged by it. The game is simply gorgeous. Even the gimmicky levels and bosses don't really detract from the accomplishment. At the time Super Castlevania IV was as good as it got. The sprites are all big, colorful, and clear to what they are. The backgrounds are active and generally help add to the dark feel of the game. The only complaint of the Mode 7 gimmicks is that, well, they do kind of fell like they were shoehorned in. The levels that really take advantage of it are definitely neat to look at and offer a change, but the change can be kind of jarring and will probably cause you to die a handful of times until you get used to it. These graphical additions, including a very small amount of interaction with the backgrounds, tend to come off as gimmicky. It is impossible to downplay how amazing the rest of the game looks though, so the gimmicky Mode 7 experiments don't do anything at all to detract from the overall game.
Even despite the groundbreaking visuals, it is the audio that keeps Super Castlevania IV talked about. This game is one of the definitive soundtracks on a system that hosted literally dozens of absolutely classic aural treats. Within the game are enough new tracks interspersed with the classics to keep everything fresh. Couple that with one of the most memorable and well composed ending themes to ever grace ANY system and you have an absolutely legendary soundtrack.
In the end what we have here is a game that is clearly an improvement over the original in a few categories, but a step backwards when it comes to the actual challenge itself. The rating of this game has to come down to whether or not you rank challenge above everything else. I do in certain situations, but since the game was watered down due to attempted improvements, I feel like giving Konami the benefit of the doubt. It may be easier than the original Castlevania, but it surpassed it in every other conceivable category and presented a super enjoyable experience.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 07/10/08
Game Release: Super Castlevania IV (US, 12/31/91)
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