Review by plasmabeam
"You'll finish this short game while the night is still young"
Super Castlevania IV (SCV4) was one of SNES's first games. Released in 1991, Konami took the original Castlevania and actually remade it with different levels and far better controls as SCV4. The game also showed off some of the SNES's hardware capabilities with rotating backgrounds and other nice touches. Although not one of SNES's elite titles, it's a solid game nonetheless.
Ah... back to Dracula's Castle with our classic hero, Simon Belmont, as the star of the game once again. As I mentioned earlier SCV4 has the exact same story as the original, so if you've played the NES game, you should already know where this is going. Simon Belmont enters the castle, fights his way through several levels, and eventually conquers Dracula and his minions.
The basic Castlevania gameplay returns. You start with a weak whip and just 5 hearts for using special weapons. You can destroy candles to improve the power and length of Simon's whip and gain special weapons to make life easier for you. Make your way through each stage while killing small enemies, then defeat the boss before time runs out.
This time around, Konami has fixed most of the problems that plagued the NES classic. Simon can thankfully change his direction in midair or shorten or lengthen the reach of his jump. This makes dodging those pesky Medusa Heads a lot easier, as well as making the platforming action more enjoyable. Our hero still lacks the ability to jump while standing on a stairway, and this can cause irksome problems in certain stages. However, he can jump onto stairways, as opposed to the annoying system in which the player was forced to stand at the start of a staircase and press "Up," like in the original.
Simon's trusty whip is much more useful, and even has the capability of being used as a rope to swing from certain hooks that are sprinkled throughout the game. The "Indiana Jones style" rope swinging feels natural, and it is an important technique for advancing through the game. Simon can crack his whip in eight different directions, and he can also continue to swing it around by holding down the attack button and moving the control pad. This extra swinging can be helpful when blocking small projectiles, but it does little damage to tougher enemies and bosses. SNES's extra buttons mean that we no longer need to press Up+Attack for a special weapon, such as a knife or ax. A quick tap of the R button will allow you to use a special weapon.
After you get the hang of controlling Simon, it's time to move on to the levels. Although the game is on the short side and there aren't very many of them, the game's stages are action packed and require skill and sometimes memorization to continue through the game. Simon starts out with four extra lives, and you are expected to beat the level without losing all of them. The beginning of the game is rather easy, but the difficulty gets cranked up a bit by stage 6. From then on SCV4 maintains a moderate level of difficulty until the end of the game. A couple of the later levels smack you around a bit, and you need to hang around for a while to have a good shot at killing the boss.
It's noticeable that SCV4 is a bit easier than its predecessors. There are often two or three pieces of health-recovering meat in each stage. Although the levels are longer, the extra help dumbs down the difficulty of the levels. The levels themselves are quite entertaining though. Great level design combined with loads of enemies makes every stage a treat to play through. Floors will disappear, platforms will crumble away, and certain areas seem unreachable, unless you find a hook to swing from. Enemies will throw themselves at you and attempt to stop you from moving on with your quest.
SCV4 offers a boss in each of the game's levels. They are usually at the end of the last stage, but sometimes are fought earlier. I was a bit disappointed by the fact that most bosses require little strategy to be defeated. With an exception of the two-headed serpent and the last few, most bosses just walk around trying to attack and simply get whipped constantly until they die.
The graphics are simply average for a SNES game. There are some nice special effects in a few levels, but nothing to really get excited about. The music is superb, just like you'd expect from a Castlevania title. You'll even hear a couple remixed tracks from previous games. Sounds are basic with Simon making noises when he is in pain. You'll also hear weapons swing and enemies move and other various sound effects.
Super Castlevania IV is a great game, but, sadly, it's over a bit too quickly. You can breeze through about four or five of the levels, and the rest take more skill and patience. I would have gladly given this game a 8/10, if it just had a few more levels. Even so, Konami put together a fantastic game that is definitely worth a play through. I also loved the control improvements made. Give it a go if you ever feel the urge to crack a whip.
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 07/25/05, Updated 04/21/06
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