Review by Retro
"There's a vampire but no other weapons? WTF"
We've all heard the saying, ''Don't get your hopes up,'' more times than we care to remember. After the success of the Castlevania series on the NES, fans couldn't help but to get their hopes up higher than stratus clouds in a winter sky. I was one of these people. While I wasn't a big fan of Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, I never could get enough of the original, and that's what this one seemed like according to the back of its box.
But that was before I played it.
Like the original, Castlevania: The Adventure stars a young vampire hunter, Christopher Belmont, who is hungry for blood. This isn't because he's a vampire, but because he's dying to hunt down and kill a vampire named Dracula before he even thinks about sinking his fangs into another human's soul.
I've always had mixed feelings when it comes to this first ever portable Castlevania title. It's a 2-D side-scrolling platformer in which Christopher carries around a whip all the time as if it were his Siamese twin. Whether it's in its weak ass original form or stronger than an ox, you'll be using this whip to whip your enemies into shape the whole way through. Candles that hang in the air are still a vampire hunter's best friend. By striking these waxy lights, you can obtain such items as coins that give you extra points, crosses for temporary invincibility, and perfectly round crystals that serve as whip extensions.
Finding extensions is vital, not only because it's cool, but because they make your whip much stronger. Collect enough of them and Christopher will have the ability to shoot balls of fire from his whip that project all the way across the screen. This is one of the cool things about Castlevania: The Adventure. With this, you can now destroy enemies from a distance and bust certain candles that previously seemed unreachable.
That neat aspect of the whip makes a great impression for the game right from the start. And it's not all that will make you think it's yet another great game in the classic whip it up series. While not being big on variety, many of the enemies are pretty impressive. Murky-looking flames fall straight down from the atmosphere, just to form into walking zombies upon hitting the ground. Sluggish worms that look like larva crawl around slower than any slug I've ever seen. If you have at least one extension on your whip, then one strike will kill this sickening nemesis. But if your weapon's in its weakest form, this slug will go from a slow earth-walker to a rolled-up ball that rolls faster than any soccer ball that has just been kicked. My favorite of all are those huge rolling eyeballs. They're much weaker than they appear to be, but they look very nice, and destroying one will make it explode like a bomb. You just better hope that you don't kill one while it's rolling on a bridge that you must pass over!
Those great enemies, along with the bosses, look good too. With their nice detail and animations, they probably won't send chills up your spine, but they do succeed in fitting in with the gothic/horror theme that the game promotes. The backgrounds look even more impressive with distant mountains, trees that are broken in half with moss hanging from them, castles, and more visuals that look fantastic for a Game Boy cartridge that was made in 1989.
Several groups of Castlevania fanatics would have sued the franchise for putting the word, Castlevania, onto the boxes and the stickers that stick to the cartridges if this game didn't have great music like its predecessors are known for. That it does have. As soon as you press Start, a mesmerizing Castlevania-esque toon blares out from the speakers, encompassing you while bringing you close without letting go. This is the best music you'll hear all game, but the tracks that make up the other three stages are no duds either.
What?!!? Only four stages!!? Unfortunately, that's the truth. They're of a pretty good size, but nothing can change the fact that there are only four. Stages in past Castlevania titles have always been known to take place in dark, evil places such as dungeons. It's not any different this time around. There is a basic level composed of enough bridges to stretch from Seattle to Tokyo, a haunting cave that's overflowing with blood-thirsty bats, a castle environment with spikes that make up one side of the wall that seem to have their murderous eyes on you and you alone, and other terror-filled places.
The more you play the game, the more you realize that the lack of a huge number of levels isn't the main downfall. A problem with Castlevania: The Adventure that doesn't take 20/20 vision to see clearly is the lack of other weapons. What were they thinking?? Sure, the whip is all you need, even against the likes of the bosses that range from a knight in armor who wants to stab you to death, to a flying creature that seems like it's half man, half bird, but it's still fun to use those tumbling axes, the fire-making power of holy water, and even the stopwatch that allows you to take a few cheap shots against a fearsome nemesis. Eh, why even ponder what might have been? You're stuck with nothing but the whip. Thank goodness Christopher never loses the whip!
If there's one thing a speed demon can't stand, it's slowness. If there's one thing a video game player can't stand, it's bad control. Castlevania: The Adventure suffers a little bit from one of these, and terribly from the other. Christopher doesn't appear to have cement blocks tied to his feet, but he sure does walk slowly. But that's the minor fuss; the bigger one is how the control makes it hard to successfully judge certain jumps, especially those from falling ledges. You have to get right at, and I mean right at the end of many platforms and ledges before you jump off of them, or else you're headed for a sure doom. Some of these jumps can be gotten used to, but even after playing the game enough to know the levels like the back of my hand, a few particular jumps cause me to lose a life or more every time.
Even with these flaws, I have to admit that Castlevania: The Adventure is an entertaining game to play, until that awful stage with the chasing spikes begins. From there on, the game begins to take a downward slope, and it never looks up. Sometimes it's alright to get your hopes up, but sometimes it's not. If things don't go as you expect them to, then you'll be disappointed. Castlevania: The Adventure may not be the worst game ever, but it certainly didn't live up to the hype, or to the hopes of thousands of fans. What we're left with is an average platformer with both good and bad sides.
Reviewer's Rating: 2.5 - Playable
Originally Posted: 04/10/01, Updated 05/26/03
Got Your Own Opinion?
Submit a review and let your voice be heard.