Review by ImNotYourPapa
Great music and solid action somewhat makes up for for quirky movement and annoying Mode 7 gimmicks
Super Castlevania IV is often noted for its soundtrack more than anything else, but it's actually a very solid remake of the first Castlevania with some unique features. It's not flawless, but it's still a game you'll probably play to the end. I don't usually do this, but I'll break the review down into sections, otherwise I'll probably end up bashing the game. On a side note, if I refer to "SCIV", I mean this game.
The gameplay is fairly solid. You jump around, whipping stuff and throwing weapons. What's entirely unique to SCIV is that you can whip in any of eight unique directions. This might not sound particularily exiting, but after playing this, you'll probably feel pretty handicapped in other Castlevania, since you can usually only whip forward. Throwing subweapons is done by a button press, R by default. This takes some time to get used to, but is very handy when you do. This is the only Castlevania in 2D that I know of where you can crouch and use subweapons simulateniously. Very handy.
Something else to note is that SCIV is far more platform-oriented than most other games in the series. Expect to see a LOT of spikes along the floors, and a lot of flipping platforms, disappearing blocks, and other "fun" stuff. The spikes wouldn't be an issue if Simon didn't have a fobia of spikes - Walking into the side of a spiked platform gets you instantly killed. Very, very annoying. Some levels are absolutely gruesome, forcing you to jump onto moving platforms only inches from spikes over your head, while on a time limit. Like a lot of Castlevanias, stairs are pretty quirky. To jump onto a staircase, you have to hold up when you make contact with it. It seems that holding forward is also often neccesary, which can be a pain with falling stairs.
The subweapons are all classic stuff - Cross boomerang, Holy water (No, it's not a firebomb), Hand axe, Dagger, Stopwatch. Annoyingly enough, the weapons are very spread out, getting ahold of one let alone a useful one can be very tough.
Nevertheless, the gameplay is tough, if not flawless.
The graphics are beautiful. Detailed backgrounds, fluent animations, nice special effects, you name it. The looks of the levels range between "Great" and "amazing". The only thing keeping it from a perfect 10 are the really annoying and pointless Mode 7 gimmicks. Mode 7 was a texture mapping method on the SNES which allowed resizing and manipulating of backgrounds such as rotating and resizing. This is great in a lot of games such as F-Zero and Final Fantasy VI, but... I really don't need a room that twists 90 degrees, stops, then twist 90 degrees again. I really don't need a golem that gets smaller and bigger when you hit it, and I definitely don't need a Dracula that turns into a pixelated mess whenever I hit him.
Still, the graphics are great in this game, and especially the backgrounds are beautiful.
Do a google of "Super Castlevania IV" and I can guarantee that at least five results per page will comment the soundtrack. The soundtrack, it's... Beautiful. It's very symphonic, and gives a gloomy, dark feel. The Vampire Killer and Bloody Tears remixes are amazing. The original tracks are all great. Not much to say here, except absolutely amazing.
Level Design: 6/10
The level design isn't bad, but it's pretty poor. A lot of enemies are oddly placed, in ways that they could impossibly hurt you while you can easily kill them. Many platforms and jumps are just plain annoying. And THERE ARE WAY TOO MUCH SPIKES. Everywhere. Spiked floors, spiked ceilings, spiked wheels, spiked traps, what have you. Often coupled with whimsical enemies that knock you into them. Frustrating, in a very random way. Some jumps are just plain terrible; In one of the later levels, there are platforms randomly coming up from the floors, and you have to jump between them VERY quickly not to get impaled through the ceiling. Random. Far too random. Speaking of random, there's a bridge where the pieces RANDOMLY disappear and come back. "Oh I'm almost there DAMN the floor disappeared gotta jump DAMN that floor disappeared too I'm dead!". I like challenges, but not when they're based on pure chance. There are one or two very good level designs, but most of the others aren't too good. There's also some plain annoying places, like a level when a spiked wheel constantly chases you and you have to jump upwards constantly on falling stairs. There are a lot of enemies with random movement here, and if you aren't lucky, they'll hinder you for a few seconds or push you down, spelling doom for you. Another very annoying things is that some stages are simply... Too long. Way too long. With a lot of far too unpredictable enemies, while others are way too shorts with checkpoints everywhere. Speaking of enemies...
Enemy and boss design: 5/10
The enemies are what you're used to see. Skeletons, Knights, Bats, Fleamen, et cetera. Some of them are made in annoying ways though, for example, one skeleton armed with a rapier attacks so quickly and has such a long range that even with the full Vampire Killer upgrade it's nearly impossible to hit him without having him retaliate. Now, as I said, I don't mind challenges, but not when they're this poorly made. The thing is, with the correct subweapon (I swear, there's no more than one of them in some stages) most enemies are jokes, but without them, nearly impossible. If they're going to incorporate things like that, they could at least make acquiring said subweapon feasible.
The boss fights are horribly boring save for two or so. Most of them consists of "Hit boss, hit boss, hit boss, hit boss, go back a few steps, hit boss, hit boss, hit boss, hit boss, hit boss, go back a few steps, hit boss, watch boss die". All in all, there are three boss fights that are remotely challenging - Slogra, Death, and Dracula. All three are fought on the last/second to last stages. And Death, in Castlevania tradition, isn't challenging in the least if he just happens to execute a certain pattern once or twice. Dracula casts orbs that can be hit for food. Slogra is a pain, though, and probably the only true challenging boss in the entire game.
The enemy designs and boss designs aren't exactly great, but they're acceptable.
The game is quite challenging, I probably used at least 30 continues playing it. It's fairly long, too. Sometimes, however, it's not as challenging as it is unfair. Pixel precision jumps, superhuman timing, and similar things to overcome otherwise measly challenges. It feels a bit as if the developers thought "Hey guys, making a fun challenge is hard, so let's just put in a ton of spikes and make their hit box detection horrible!". Still, I played it all the way through and had quite a bit of fun with it. Some games have great challenges, others don't... But let's just say you'll find yourself dying far more often from touching a spike or falling down a pit rather than being killed by an enemy.
You unlock a hard mode when clearing it. I've yet to try it out, but I assume it's fun. If you like the game, you'll not unlikely find yourself playing it through again, but not unless you're a big fan of Castlevania. Overall, I think this game is fun, but it suffers from a decent number of design flaws. I don't recommend it to a newcomer to the series - You should try Chi no Rondo, Castlevania or Dracula's Curse instead.
Average score: 8.5, but I give it a review score of 7, because music and graphics doesn't entirely make up for other flaws.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
Product Release: Super Castlevania IV (US, 12/31/91)
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