Review by horror_spooky

Reviewed: 06/18/08

A bloody good time

You may be wondering why I’m reviewing a game that is so old. Well, when I first played this game, I actually went into it not expecting to like it (this was before I had ever played the practically perfect Dawn of Sorrow of course), but I was very surprised to find that I couldn’t stop playing. No matter how many times I died or how many times I had to start over, I just couldn’t quit playing. The challenge made Castlevania fun and to this day the game provides a rewarding and challenging experience that still makes it worth playing for any fans of the series or people who are just being introduced to it.

If you are familiar with the newer Castlevania games, you will be pleased to learn that the original isn’t very different from the other installments. You, of course, are able to use the classic whip to take out the monsters, but also at your disposal are various sub-weapons, which range from axes to holy water. You can’t just use these as much as you want, though. Instead, you have to collect hearts to power these weapons. This may sound like a restricting system, but you’ll get used to it and learn to only use the sub-weapons when absolutely necessary.

How do you collect these hearts though? Well, you have to destroying various lighting fixtures (just like in real life!). For a NES game, Castlevania seems to be pretty advanced as when you whack these items the breaking animation is actually very well done.

The original does happen to be a little more linear though. Unlike the newer games where it’s more of a Metroid-like explore-where-you-need-to set up, this game is basically broken up like this: at the beginning of a level, you have to fight your way until you reach a checkpoint. You continue fighting until you reach a boss, and then you go on again.

Like many games of its generation, Castlevania can be blisteringly difficult, especially for newcomers to the series. You will die a ton of times as you repeatedly go through the same levels trying to figure out where the hidden health is and what weapons you need to use and where the most hearts are located. Cheap deaths are abundant also, and I know that’s going to drive some gamers up the wall.

For a NES platform game, Castlevania’s story is surprisingly dark in tone and even contains some religious elements, which was controversial during the third generation. Simon Belmont is called upon to stop the resurrected Dracula using the legendary whip called the Vampire Killer which was used by his ancestors before him to defeat Dracula. The game has a surprise ending and while the story isn’t very enthralling at all, it’s still a little bit interesting, so you have to give it credit for that, right?

You have seen uglier games on the NES, but you’ve also seen prettier games. Castlevania’s graphics definitely are better than some NES games, but noticeably worse than other NES games like the third Super Mario Bros. title. However, Castlevania does take pride in providing many different types of weapons and animations as well as a large variety of enemies and environments. There are some glitches though that can definitely cause some gameplay problems and it’s a shame these weren’t worked out.

Since this is a classic NES game, you’d expect the audio to be amazing since a lot of the games at the time had some very great soundtracks for some reason. Castlevania’s soundtrack may not me as memorable as the one found in The Legend of Zelda or Super Mario Bros., but the tunes are still catchy and if you absolutely had to, you could definitely recall them. Sure they aren’t worthy of a Grammy, but they’re still pretty damn good.

Technically, the game is very short, but it does provide a ton of playtime since it’ll take you a long time to master it enough to be able to beat the damn thing. Replayability is in the gutter, though, because after you take all that time to finally beat the final boss, I doubt you’ll want to try to do it all over again. No multiplayer modes also kill the replayability, and it’s a shame that a Mario-style multiplayer wasn’t implemented in Castlevania as that would have definitely had more people playing.

Honestly, ever since playing Dawn of Sorrow for the DS, I have been a huge fan of the Castlevania games. I mean, that game is freaking legendary, but everything has its roots right? That amazing game has its roots right here with one of the best games released for the NES and simply one of the best and refreshing platformers ever released. This game gave everyone a break from the child-friendly Mario and provided a game about killing monsters with a whip. If you happen to still have your NES, I suggest dragging it out and looking for this baby somewhere because it’s well worth you time. And if you don’t want to go through all of that, this game is available on Virtual Console, so if you get the chance, please check out this gaming classic as soon as possible.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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

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