Review by Tenshi No Shi

"For many of us, this is where it all began..."

I love writing reviews for Castlevania games. My love for the series started with this very game lo' those many years ago when it first debuted on the Nintendo Entertainment System, so to say I was excited for this re-released is an understatement.

You are Simon Belmont, a legendary vampire hunter, out to slay the biggest evil of all: Count Dracula. But getting to him isn't easy- you must traverse the tricky labyrinth of his castle, avoiding traps and fighting an endless tide of his minions. By today's standards this is a pretty flimsy (if not overused) plot, but back in the day this was cutting edge stuff.

Castlevania's sprite-based graphics are comprised primarily of dark, earthy tones, which, at the time when most games were bright and colorful (i.e. Mega Man, Super Mario Bros., etc.) Konami's use of darker sprite palettes went a long way towards establishing the mood of the game. Also surprising was the amount of animation in such an early 8-bit game that, to this day, still impresses me.

This is one of the few games that I actually enjoy the MIDI soundtrack. Maybe it's because, despite the limitations of the hardware, Konami managed to pull off a cinematic feel with the score. Or perhaps it's that the tunes were so unique compared to the bubbly, poppy tunes of other popular games of the time. Whatever the reason, I fell in love with the game's audio.

It really doesn't get any simpler than this- Move Simon with the directional pad, attack with the whip by using the "B" button while the "A" button causes him to jump. You can use special items (holy water, cross, knife, axe ands watch) by holding "up" on the directional pad and pressing the attack button.

There's no denying that Castlevania is a very solid, well-designed game; The variety of enemies, the boss battles and even the levels themselves are all carefully put in place to challenge you every step of the way. And even though the series has gone through a few dramatic changes (RPG-lite, exploration based and even a few attempts at 3D), each game borrows from this early one's design.

Sadly, unlike later games in the franchise, there are no extras or bonuses to speak of. Well, unless you count the hard mode (which is unlocked by simply beating the game once). I don't consider playing a more difficult version of any game a "bonus"...

For twenty bucks I find it difficult to recommend this game to anyone but fans of the series. While it's nice to go back to the roots of the franchise (especially for new-comers who think the series began with Symphony of the Night), the next-generation of exploration-based Castlevania titles are a far-cry from the twitchy, action-thons of yesteryear and may therefore have limited appeal on next-generation gamers.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 08/10/09

Game Release: Classic NES Series: Castlevania (US, 10/25/04)

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