Review by Arkrex

Reviewed: 11/02/07

I'm a Belmont...

Simon Belmont has a problem. Every one hundred years or so, the evil vampire Dracula rises from a restless slumber. Why does he hibernate for so long? Well you see, Simon’s ancestors made a pledge to kill the squalid being every time he should stir up some trouble. Being quite the blood-sucking SOB, when Dracula kicks the bucket he always vows to return with wrathful vengeance - as soon as his wounds have healed. But since he never improves upon his simple hellfire attack and clichéd transmogrification, he inevitably gets beaten into a bloody pulp time after time again.

The year is 1691 and Dracula’s back. Dropping whatever he was doing at the time, Simon immediately marches off to Castlevania armed with only his proud whip - the Vampire Killer - and Belmont nerves of steel. Without a doubt, we all know that he’ll be able to nail the coffin shut once again. However, the pertinent question is: how many game-overs will YOU take to fulfil his destiny?

Being a 1986 video game, you can’t expect Castlevania to share the same luxuries we have these days. There are no level ups, no instant saves, no easy modes; you go in as a hard-hitting 8-bit sprite and you leave as a hard-hitting 8-bit sprite. Along with the Vampire Killer whip, Simon can pick up several sub-weapons that do evil great harm. The holy water, knife, axe, cross and stopwatch have since become synonymous with any good Castlevania game (virtually all of them). While he doesn’t have any special item-crashes or spell-fusions, what he’s got will fully suffice.

Trudging through Castlevania is tougher than a titanium fixture. Simon will not only have to contend with zombies and irksome bats, but several unique-to-Castlevania enemies such as incessantly bouncing fleamen and - perhaps the worst enemy known to mankind - flying medusa heads that just love to knock him back into countless instant death pits. Fast reactions and the ability to improvise quickly with what sub-weapons he currently possesses will determine whether he makes it to the end-level boss with barely enough health, or dies a premature death placing him back at the start with a reset score and minimal bearings. It was quite a challenge to beat it back in 1986 and over twenty years later now, it’s still as rock hard.

As its title suggests, Castlevania is the first official game of the series (not chronologically). However, it as aged like any fine wine and despite the simplistic 8-bit graphics, the action and the now-legendary soundtrack firmly cement it as one of the greatest beginnings for a video game franchise. At times, it may seem like the overwhelming waves of darkness can be too much to chew, but stick by Simon’s steely resolve and you’ll soon be whipping them up like fancy cream. Finish the game and you can consider yourself to be among the ranks of the best gamers in the world. Finish the game and you can say that you’ve played one of the best retro games in the world.

VERDICT – 8.0/10 Simon says, “play this game!”

Rating:   4.0 - Great

Product Release: Castlevania (US, 05/31/87)

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