Review by DReed

"The beginning of an excellent console series"

Long ago, Dracula, the king of vampires, cursed the Belmont family. Many generations later, Simon Belmont seeks to end that curse by vanquishing Dracula in his own lair. This is the thrust of the game Castlevania, and it is a thoroughly enjoyable classic. I give it a rating of 8, and I feel it earns every point.

The player’s alter ego is Simon Belmont, the vampire hunter who vows to destroy Dracula and end his family's curse forever. He is armed with a whip and an assortment of ranged weapons, though he is only able to hold one ranged weapon at a time. Castlevania is a side-scrolling action game, with more emphasis on destroying enemies than timed jumps. Throughout his quest, Simon has to journey to every niche of Dracula's castle, defeat his B-movie villain henchmen, and ultimately confront Dracula himself.

Castlevania has a simple interface, consisting of the player's health meter, the number of hearts the player has (they're the number of times he can use his ranged weapon), the weapon the player has, his lives remaining, his score, and the health meter of the stage's boss. The player's whip starts off with a small reach, but by destroying candles and globes placed around the game, the player can get upgrades that extend the whip's reach. Most enemies are destroyed with one flick of the whip, though a few require two. Every 20,000 points, the player receives an extra life. This is standard action fare, and in execution, though bland, works well enough. The game’s sound, however, is excellent.

The sound effects in Castlevania, while neither complex nor flashy, are solid. The enemies being hit and destroyed, the picking up of power-ups, and the landing from falling sounds are decent without being spectacular. What really makes the sound shine is the music. This musical score is one of the most memorable and enjoyable scores in the Nintendo cartridge library, second only behind Legend of Zelda. From the opening piece to the final stage, the music is very strong, adding immensely to the game play. I usually tire of music in games and turn off the sound, but I never did that while playing Castlevania. The music stayed fresh and original, and was always a pleasure to listen to. It meshed well with the visuals in the game, reflecting the dark and active nature of Castlevania’s graphics.

The images in Castlevania are somewhat blocky, dark, and grainy, but they fit the mood of the game. The color palette seems to be mostly gray, red, and black, but again, this is a somber toned game, and while fun to play, the story is not particularly uplifting. The graphics are crude but effective, and capture the various enemies and bosses well. Simon Belmont is indistinct, but the whip has a good representation, therefore leading me to believe the artist on the game was a sadist. All in all, the visuals are adequate for the task at hand. If only the same could be said of the plot…

The sentence about Dracula cursing the Belmont family and Simon Belmont seeking to revoke the curse is the plot. That's it. Case closed. This is an action game, so the plot is secondary, but it would have been nice for at least some in game explanation of why Simon is the one who is going after Dracula, why Dracula cursed the Belmonts, etc. There is no story besides that one sentence blurb. Then again, that's more story than many games possess, so I guess I should be thankful they bothered with anything at all.

The game does lend itself to re-playing, if only because it is enjoyable to play. While there are no secrets to speak of in the game, the game play is very strong and is a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours. It is best to replay the game after leaving it for a while, so as to rediscover just why it is a classic. The question of renting or buying is rather moot, since renting Nintendo games, as far as I know, is not possible any more. I highly recommend purchasing this game, if it can be found for a reasonable price. The game is worth owning, both to play and to share with others the beginning of a long lasting series of quality action games.

Castlevania is a classic, and has spawned numerous sequels on almost all the major systems released since the Nintendo came along. It has excellent gameplay and sounds, and even the visuals are adequate for the game. The plot is very thin, but that is an occupational hazard with action games, and cannot be taken to mean too much. This is one of the games that made the Nintendo system worth buying, and even now, after all these years, it is still enjoyable to play.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 06/25/00, Updated 05/09/02

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