Review by Virulent
A blemished rose is still a rose.
I've seen multiple reviews slagging this poor game to kingdom come. Truth be told, The Castlevania Adventure is not, in fact, a horrible game. It's short, plagued by slowdown problems, and rather unforgiving in regards to the player's platforming skills, yes.
However, one must keep in mind that this was one of the launch titles of the Gameboy, which was revolutionary hardware for the time. Up until this point, the most one could hope for out of portable gaming was the simplistic Tiger handheld titles of the day and age, which were more like children's toys rather than serious gaming experiences. In fact, when my cousin and I, hardcore CV fanatics to the bone, got our GBs back in '89 this title was to die for..and we spent countless hours in school, on roadtrips, or anywhere else playing it.
Enough foreword, have at you!
Despite the claims of the advertisements going around in popular gaming mags at the time, The Castlevania Adventure puts you in the role of Christopher Belmont, the grandfather of Simon (CV1) and the grandson of Trevor (CV3). Dracula has risen after 100 years to terrorize the Transylvanian landscape once again, and as a Belmont it's your job to dispatch him with the legendary Vampire Killer whip, passed down through the generations by your forefathers Leon and Trevor (and foremother Sonia; see Castlevania Legends). OK, this is a bit more story than the actual game (and manual) gives you, but let's be honest; you can't judge the early CV games on storyline since it was pretty nonexistent. Time to go kick some Dracy arse!
Although age hasn't done very well for our dear CVA, at the time this was released these were astounding graphics for a game you could carry in your pocket. The sprites were detailed enough to be distinguishable, and although a few of the stages lacked backgrounds, the ones that did were pretty nifty-looking. This game sported some of the biggest sprites of the early GB titles, crushing the tiny renditions present in Super Mario Land for certain. This was also one of the first CV titles to not feature simple square stone blocks for a ground area, instead introducing multi-sized stone tiles and other assorted floors. The two problems here are the animation and slowdown; sprites are not very well animated, most having 2 or 3 frames max, and with more than 2 on-screen the game slows to a crawl. Still, the slowdown effect is actually beneficial in some hectic areas, such as Stage 3's infamous spike-race.
Once again, due to the fact that the GB was new and nobody really knew how to program for this exciting new portable frontier yet, the sound effects are sparse and not worth mentioning...however, the few that are there (such as the swinging of your whip) get the job done in stride. The high number of this score mainly comes from the extremely catchy tunes (a CV standard), which rival those of this title's big brothers on the NES. Each of the four stages features its own original track, as well as a boss battle theme and a final Dracula battle tune. It's a shame this game is regarded with such ill will by many, as I'd love to hear arranged versions of the first stage song and final battle in particular.
Ah, now here's where nostalgia starts to turn ugly. The gameplay in CVA is pretty standard Castlevania platforming, with a few twists. For one, there are no subweapons in this game, it's only you and your whip for offensive power. However, by picking up orbs that spawn from candles, you can power up your whip in traditional CV fashion...with an added bonus. At the highest level, your whip can shoot fireballs from the tip, giving you extra long-range offensive power that comes in handy. These fireballs are ineffective against some enemies and aren't as powerful as the whip itself, so exercise caution. Unfortunately, when you get hit in this game, you lose one level of whip power. While this may not sound all that bad, it can become a problem against bosses if you're not that skilled, so it pays to be alert of their attack patterns.
The challenge in this game ranks pretty high up there with CV1 and CV3 in terms of sheer difficulty. Christopher isn't the fastest or most maneuverable Belmont on the block, and much like his predecessor Trevor and grandson Simon, he has trouble with dodging and whipping at the same time. This can prove to be frustrating with certain enemies and bosses, but again, if you're a seasoned Castlevania vet you already know that some good pattern memorization can overcome most if not all of your adversaries. This game is fairly unforgiving with its platforming, which will most likely give you the most grief. Critical timing is required for jumps, especially in Stage 3 where at all times deadly spikes are chasing you down. The collision detection in this game also leaves something to be desired, as I've gotten hit a few pixels away from my sprite at times. In spite of the frustration factor getting used to this game at first, you'll learn to overcome its nuances in no time flat and play it like any traditional CV on the NES.
The final strike against this title is its brevity. 4 stages and you're done! Oh well, considering the original NES title had only 7, and when this title came out you had very limited options in the way of action gaming, you'd play this one over and over anyways. Besides, there are a few secret rooms to find as well, adding a TINY bit of replay value.
Despite this aging title's problems with high difficulty and slowdown, it still remains one of the best launch titles for the old-school Gameboy and a Castlevania game at the core. If you've got an old Gameboy and a few bucks, or feel like checking out some old GB games on an emulator, pick this title up and give it a go to see just how skilled you are in the art of platformers. Or, if you've picked up any of the GBA 'Vanias, check this one out just to see where portable vampire-slaying got its start.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
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