Super Castlevania IV
Review by fduboo
"Castlevania continues to age, but it does so gracefully."
Super Castlevania is the first Castlevania game to appear on the SNES, making an auspicious entrance in 1992. Many believed that there was no way that Konami could top Castlevania 3 for the NES, but once again the faithful company proved everyone wrong. Super Castlevania 4 works because it returns the series to its most basic 8-bit roots, while adding the versatility of a 16-bit system. In other words, you can tell by the quality of this side-scrolling action platformer that this was what the creators of the original had in mind when they first envisioned the gothic-themed classic. The story (which has been steadily becoming more and more irrelevant to the games) centers around another member of the Belmont family line, named Simon. No, according to the instruction booklet, this is NOT the Simon Belmont of NES Castlevania fame. This is a new member, and he packs the advanced skills to make quite a case for this. Simon must enter Count Dracula's castle to once again rid the land of this vampiric threat.
Castlevania never looked so good. The first level depicts rotting stables and ancient courtyard, and some effects like when Simon travels behind a gate (with complementing crawling ivy) show the true processing power of the Super Nintendo. Belmont moves fluidly and there are nice new touches added to the enemies (such as the writhing snake hair of the classic Medusa Heads). Konami manages to improve on the breathtaking graphics of Castlevania 3.
The music has a lot going for it. There are nice new tracks, such as the creeping beats of the second level and the spooky tribal drums of Frankenstein's dungeon. There are also a few stages that feature nicely remixed classic tunes from the first three Castlevanias. The sound effects are also crisp and accurate, such as the gurgling water that Simon wades through in the latter part of the second level.
Castlevania features the best control of any of the games in the series. Simon can whip in eight different directions, including straight up and down and diagonal angles. In addition, he can dangle and swing his whip around if you press and hold the attack button. Simon may now also move in the air while jumping, a vital addition to the strategy of tackling the stages. Also, you may jump onto stairs if you hold up after you have begun your jump. These last two features were the main griping points about the control in the NES games, so it is nice that Konami remedied this on the SNES. Also, special weapons are activated by the R button, which after you get used to it seems more natural that the traditional ''Up + B'' command. This game is well-suited to the Super Nintendo's superlative controller.
The gameplay receives a tremendous boost due to the aforementioned control innovations. The branching paths and spirit helpers of the third game in the series are gone, but the more straightforward approach suits this game. The action is the fastest it has ever been, and the Boss enemies don't usually go down easy (excusing the first two, of course). In fact, there are a few levels in which Konami wisely plays with the Castlevania traditional level construction. Certain levels have TWO bosses, while others have none. Still others continue after you defeat the Boss, throwing you a strategic curveball. Now you cannot throw yourself at will at the Boss, aware that your energy will be returned at the end of the battle. There may still be a few legs of the stage left. This is a nice feature that breaks up the fact that this is more of the same Castlevania action that has already been done three times before on the NES alone.
(N/A)...This is the first and only Castlevania that I have played in which I feel that I must disregard the story category. The plot is transparently unoriginal, but the game was constructed as a thrilling action experience, so this doesn't hurt the score by much.
Leave the game on at the ending screen, trust me. I don't want to spoil anything more than that, but my score should speak for itself.
Average (8/10)...Castlevania is getting old...but each game in the series is superbly done. This is Castlevania as it was meant to be played- fast-paced and screaming of production values.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 02/20/00, Updated 02/20/00
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