Review by Psycho Penguin

"How does the first in the series compare to the rest?"

When asked about favorite video game series, people usually respond with a few choice series. Super Mario Bros. Final Fantasy. Mega Man. and Castlevania. The Castlevania series has always been a beloved series, mainly because of the outstanding gameplay quality that each game in the series delivers. While my favorite in the series is Symphony of the Night (perhaps my fave 2D game ever), the original Castlevania holds a special place in my heart as well. Not only because it is the first game in the series, and it started the whole craze, but because it delivers outstanding gameplay and fun factor as well.

Yes, the first game in the Castlevania series is also one of the most fun and enjoyable games out there. Looking at it from a completely objective viewpoint, you may say that it is not that fun, and doesn't deserve antyhing higher than a six based on the fact that it's not as innovative as the other games in the series. I guess the fact that it's the original game means it's the most innovative by default, but I digress. It's fun, innovative, and balanced, so it gets a nine from me.

The storyline is where it all started, so you would think the entire Castlevania series storyline would rotate around this game, but surprisingly it doesn't. You are Simon Belmont, and you have to go into dracula's castle in order to save the world or something. Does the game give you an idea as to exactly why you are in Dracula's castle to begin with? Oh well, the storyline isn't going to win any awards for innovation, that's for sure.

The graphics in the game are very good for a game released in the ancient times of 1987. The background designs are very well done, and each stage has a unique background that blends in well with the gameplay. Some of the backgrounds can prove to be a little distracting, but those aren't too bad. For instance, the second stage has an extremely reddish background, but it's detailed well enough, and never really detracts from the gaming experience. The character and enemy designs are well done as well. Also, there is no, absolutely none, slowdown or other related stuff like that, so the gameplay moves fast and furious.

The music is also well very well done. The Castlevania series has always had great music, and this game is no exception. The music is spooky and fits the feeling of the game perfectly. The well orchestrated tunes are performed very nicely, and overall the music is great. The main theme is one of those songs that will live in video game history forever. There aren't much sound effects, but from what's there the sound effects are very good. I especially loved the sound of the whip as it whipped into walls and candles, etc.

Controlling Simon is pretty simple, but it can get to be quite difficult at times. Likening this to the Mega Man games, where you couldn't slide and power up your weapon earlier in the series like you could later on, you can't control your whip. It only goes in one direction, so you can't really let it go up or down. Regardless, the control is still solid, as the series mainstays like pressing up and attack to throw the special weapon are in full effect here. One minor fault: it's sometimes hard to jump onto stairs, as the game automatically makes you walk down them. This is especially annoying during the first boss battle.

The best thing about the Castlevania series is that each game adds a new innovation and different type of gameplay to it so the series stays fresh and doesn't grow old by the umpteenth sequel (tomb raider....) Anyways, since this is the first game, it also has the most innovations. The gameplay is classic platformer action but all the way, and is an action/adventure thriller. You got through lots of stages to kill Dracula. Personally, I enjoy this type of linear gameplay more than the gameplay in Castlevania 2. I think it fits the feel of the series a lot better.

Hacking and slashing has never been so fun. You go from left to right, along with up and down and left and right. You can do anything from platform jumping to killing large rows of enemies, and that's one of the things that makes Castlevania so fun. Each stage is so well designed and balanced that you will always experience something new. The game rarely repeats the same type of obstacle, so what you did in one stage might not apply to what you'll have to do in the next stage.

You get a wide variety of special weapons, ranging from the knife to holy water. You can only carry one special weapon at a time, which increases the strategy, because you will want to have the best weapon at the time. However, sometimes there isn't a ''best'' weapon, like you may need to use the Holy Water to stop some enemies, even though the holy water is less useful than an Axe. If you choose the wrong weapon, you can always get the one you just had up to a few seconds later. Hearts determine how much times you can use your special weapons, the more you get, the more times you can use one. Each weapon takes off a certain amount of hearts. It's a lot like a magic points system.

I still play this game to this day, especially now that it's been released for the Sony Playstation with a higher difficulty level. Yes, that's right. It has a higher difficulty level, like this game wasn't challenging enough. This is one of the most challenging games on the NES, which increases the replay value until you actually complete it, at which point you may decide to give up on it because of the insane difficulty that comes with it.

Castlevania is one of those legendary series, and you could tell from this game that the series was well in its way to superstardom. This is simply a fantastic game. One of the true classics from the golden era of video gaming, Castlevania combines some innovative ideas with the platforming idea to make a totally new experience that still proves to be quite fun to this day. It is well worth a purchase. Experience the magic today.

Good Points
-The graphics are really good for a 1987 game.
-The music is what you'd expect from a Castlevania game: outstanding.
-The controls are great, besides the whip and climbing stairs.
-The game is simply so much fun to play.
-A high challenge level means lots of gaming time will be devoted to this.

Not So Good Points
-The storyline is bland and basic.
-The controls have some flaws.
-The sound effects are really plain.
-Some of the level designs are a little too challenging and over the top.

I Run Down The Game... Psycho Penguin Style!
Storyline - 3.1/10
Graphics - 8.9/10
Music - 9.2/10
Sound Effects - 9.1/10
Controls - 8.8/10
Gameplay - 9.1/10
Replay Value - Above Average
Challenge - Way Above Average
Game Length - 1 Hour
Is This Game Worth A Purchase? - Yes.
Overall - 8.7/10

The Bottom Line
There's no reason not to play this, so make sure to. It's a truly fun game, and a testament to the quality of games being released in its time period.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 02/19/00, Updated 01/08/02

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