Review by FFM

Reviewed: 01/20/04 | Updated: 06/07/05

Before all the fancy nouns, there was this.

Throughout all of history, a powerful villain named Dracula has awoken every one hundred years to destroy all of humankind. However, there is one man challenges the authority of history and this Dracula with nothing more than an old, leather whip and dauntless mindset. What is this hero’s name that will lead the world through its darkest hours? Simon Belmont! (or the Spanish sounding Simon Belmondo if you go by the credits). Simon will have to navigate six stages of complete terror to save the world from its impending doom. This tale of courage and heroism can only be told through... an eight-bit cartridge.

Who knew that one of Konami’s longest standing cash cows would start off in such quaint fashion? Surely no one expected it, and within the first few minutes of play, it’s easy to understand why Castlevania’s medieval ambience combined with superb game play features is what makes it a classic that’s stood through the test of time.

Most likely one of the first things you’ll notice is Castlevania’s exaggerated gothic look. Frightening gargoyles overlook the castle’s courtyards to discourage any would-be hero from making an unexpected arrival at Dracula‘s secluded adobe. Nearby walls are adorned with candelabras as to illuminate the pathway to this wicked hellhole. Push our brave hero past these intimidating obstacles and be faced with knights, bats, leopards, and even Frankenstein himself!

The first stage will test Simon’s wits. Make him smite walking, decomposing corpses with vengeance and watch gleefully as they fall back into the very stone floor they unearthed themselves from. Lash out; whip bats and chuckle as they rot away into the unforgiving cold night. Press forward to the second chamber and descend into the ruthless waters of Dracula’s castle. Slay foul denizens that suddenly jump out of the nearby placid waters. Don’t think much of all this; it’s just all in a days work for a vampire killer.

Simon knows what he’s doing because he’s been here before. While he may be portrayed by nothing more than the omnipresent eight-bit adventure sprite, he doesn’t let that discourage him. Simon knows his limitations, too. He realizes that he’ll only be able to attack his foes with one long, strenuous lash of the whip. He also realizes while he’s in midair that he won’t be able to move and is subject for attack. If any monster happens to appear from the side of the screen and hit Simon, he could very well die by falling into a nearby pit. If he’s in midair and gets hit, his body will fly the opposite direction. However, being such a strong man, he can take quite a beating before he succumbs to death. If his life is in grave danger, he can seek out the giant hunk of meat to restore his vitality.

Along his quest, he’ll run into a vast array of items that’ll more than prove helpful. His whip, as you may know, is nothing more than an old, leather whip. Simon will run across upgrades to make his whip stronger and able to kill more efficiently. The second version will be a medieval flail, capable of tackling stronger foes with ease, such as an axe-man. The final version will turn his flair into the legendary vampire-killing whip. Foes will cower in fear as Simon thrashes and lashes away at their friends.

Of course, Simon will have to be a great detective to uncover the castle’s best-kept secrets. At the start of the second stage, Simon will have to bust open a decrepit wall and walk into the hole that‘s left. As soon as he does so, a crown, that’s worth thousands of points, will appear from nowhere as a reward for his great adventuring skills. Other items will come to him as he breaks candelabras located around the castle. In case his whip isn’t suitable for the challenge, he can use auxiliary weapons found in the candelabras he smashed. Some of these include an axe, that, when thrown, will hover in midair before coming down upon an enemy with relentless force. Fire water that will burn the foes back to the abysmal hell where they came from. Others include a dagger that will be thrown in a straight line, and a watch that can stop time all together. Using these weapons at the appropriate time will give Simon his much-needed advantage over his opposition. There’s nothing quite like the scream from a boss as you throw a dagger through their face. Oh, so very satisfying. The way Castlevania manages to combine all these superb game play aspects is beyond amazing.

Eventually, Simon will have to face Dracula in a hard fought battle for supremacy. Firewater will be spilt and crosses will be broken in the most sacrilegious manner. Sweat will be poured and lives will be changed. Do you have what it takes to lead Simon through this adventure of gothic mayhem? Are you able to single-handedly rescue the world from the macabre hell that Dracula has created?

Final = 9

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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