Super Castlevania IV
Review by GameSultan3
"The best of the classic Castlevania games"
While perusing a shelf at a local retro game store, I came across Super Castlevania IV, a critically acclaimed SNES game that I had yet to play. Now almost exactly 18 years since it's release I've decided to play it to see if it lives up to its reputation.
Super Castlevania IV is essentially a re-make and expansion of the first Castlevania on the NES. Castlevania on the NES had 6 stages all of which take place in Dracula's castle whereas Super Castlevania IV has 11 stages, 5 taking place outside and leading up to the castle and the original 6, all remade and updated. The story takes place in the country of Transylvania in the year 1691, and you take on the role of Simon Belmont, a descendant of Christopher Belmont, the man who defeated Count Dracula 100 years ago. Simon is on a quest to destroy the resurrected Dracula. The story isn't mentioned during actual gameplay but rather in the game's instruction booklet, so if you don't have it or can't access it somehow it really takes away from the whole feel of the game.
This is where Super Castlevania IV really shines. The objective is to make your way to the end of the stage to fight the boss. In the process you fight a multitude of enemies, bats, skeletons, medusa heads and leaf monsters to name a few. You destroy candles to obtain a variety of helpful items such as hearts, whip upgrades, and sub-weapons such as throwing daggers, throwing axes and holy water. Occasionally you can find drumsticks and pork chops, which refill your health; these are necessary in the more difficult levels. The control in this game is unparalleled by any other game in the Castlevania series before it in that it is very fluid, and everything feels perfectly executed. Simon can whip in all 8 directions however to whip in a downward direction you must first jump. This brings a whole new element of strategy into the game as you must decide the best way to eliminate your enemies to preserve your own health for the stage boss. You can even crouch-walk to get into smaller spaces. I only have 2 complaints and they are relatively minor. The first being the stairs. If you get hit while on the stairs, and there are a lot in this game, you fall through them. If you drop too far and end up offscreen you lose a life. It's relatively easy to prevent but it can get frustrating to have to start the level a few screens back just because you fell through a staircase. The second complaint is that when you take a hit from an enemy, you fly backward. The game is fairly challenging at first but after a few tries it's rather easy to get the hang of it; in other words, the game has a rather shallow learning curve.
Super Castlevania IV really showcases what the SNES is capable of. The game utilizes Mode 7 graphic effects to create a pseudo-3D image in some levels. One level comes to mind where you are walking through a cylindrical room as the background rotates, giving you the feeling that the room is spinning. Everything appears in the greatest detail, Simon, his enemies, the backgrounds, you name it, it looks great. Not much to say without giving away too much detail but for a Super Nintendo game, the graphics are nothing short of incredible.
The music in this game is very interesting. The soundtrack includes remix versions of music from the three previous Castlevania titles. Each stage has it's own background music that enhances the feel and really immerses the player into the game. The music in Dracula's castle for example is very eerie and foreboding and in conjunction with the graphics and lighting make for a gripping experience.
Play-Time & Replay Value: 9/10
My first time playing through the game was roughly 4 and a half hours, I imagine the time it would take varies greatly from person to person. I lost all of my lives a few times and had to begin levels over, but luckily there is a nice password system that isn't too long. It consists of a grid with 4 different icons on them in a specific pattern, just write down what you see and put it in the next time you play and you're good to go. As far as replay value goes this game is great. I've played through it about 3 times before writing this review and it never ceases to entertain me, there are always different ways to go about completing a level and beating bosses. If you're up for a challenge you could always attempt a speed-run, which I haven't as of yet, but it is something that many players do to see who can complete the game the fastest without dying. It's a lot of fun to play in the dark if you have a group of friends who enjoy horror games, the game's atmosphere is enhanced tenfold.
If you can manage to get a hold of this game, buy it. Seeing as renting isn't an option any more, buying is the way to go. It's usually anywhere from $25-$30 and is without a doubt worth every penny.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 12/22/09, Updated 01/04/10
Game Release: Super Castlevania IV (US, December 1991)
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