Review by Maxx
"Castlevania's first outing on the Game Boy just barely passes the bar"
If you're a fan of the Castlevania series and hand held games, 1989 was probably a good year for you. That was the year this game came out, and compared to maybe a few other Game Boy games out at the time, you were probably pretty happy with this game. Would you still be happy with it today? Not at all. But how many Game Boy titles can you still say you would play though 20 years later? I can think of maybe...one.
Anyway, this game takes the early Castlevania format and strips away all of the luxuries and more taxing features in order to fit it all in. Once you step back and take a look at all the content offered here you'll see that it really isn't a lot, but don't worryit gets better with later games. Playing this then checking out the later titles will help you appreciate the better ones more.
In this game you play as Christopher Belmont. If you don't have the instruction manual you might not ever know this, because the game sure doesn't tell you who you are. It doesn't tell you anything, actually. Maybe if you're a gamer with a good imagination you can think up the story as you go along and make up your own dialog that you exchange with the other non-existent characters in the game.
Along the four levels of the game you will come across a nice host of enemies that all have the potential to be really frustrating in their own way. You'll kill these enemies with your whip and nothing else. None of the secondary weapons like the holy water or ax make an appearance here. The good news is you can upgrade your whip to shoot projectiles so you can take out enemies from a safe distance, which will be incredibly useful in some parts of the game.
The levels are timed, and this alone wouldn't be much of a problem until you see how slow Christopher walks. Honestly, it's ridiculous. In some parts you'll be able to jump while moving forward to get a tiny boost of speed, but in some of the interior levels you won't even be able to do that because of the low ceilings. Fortunately I can say I never actually did run out of time. I was just always worried that I would considering how slow I trudged through the levels.
On top of being very slow, Christopher also has problems with jumping. Making your way across floating platforms will piss you off so much in this game. You'll have to fight your way through one terrible segment in the very first level, but at least in that one you won't fall to your death. You just have to crawl back over to the ledge and start all over again. It's a bad sign when the first level has a infuriating jumping sequence. And it only gets harder in the next levels. Instead of being easy and intuitive, jumping in this game requires exact precision and memorization of just the right spot to jump off from. In short: it's terrible.
The bad jumping only makes the environmental hazards in some levels that much worse. There are some incredibly irritating spike obstacles where the walls or floor chase you while you jump from rope to rope. That was......fun. You'll feel really good about yourself when you finally get past those parts. That is if you actually ever do. I was about ready to give up more than a few times.
Some of the looping backdrops are nice for an early Game Boy game. The enemies and Belmont aren't all that great and the foreground sections of the levels are pretty repetitive, but these really aren't serious complaints. It's not like I was expecting much anyway. The music tries to hang with the rest of the Castlevania soundtracks, and it's only limited by the .GBS format really. But there is rarely bad music in any Castlevania game, regardless of the format. The compositions are good but the instrumentation will sound dated to anyone's ears these days. I particularly liked the music from stage 4 (I think it's called Revenge).
There are better hand held Castlevania games out there. And I'm not even talking about the later GBA ones. They completely blow this out of the water, as you would expect. I mean there are better original Game Boy Castlevania games. My advice would be to take a look at those first instead of this one, unless you're a really big fan of the series and want to play them all. Which I guess you'd have to be if you were considering playing through the first hand held Castlevanias in the first place.
Replay Value: 3/10
Reviewer's Rating: 2.5 - Playable
Originally Posted: 03/19/07, Updated 03/22/07
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