Review by BrakZero

"I can't think of a tagline"

I suppose I should have bought and played the original Castlevania games for the good ‘ol NES before taking a stab at this newer Super Castlevania IV. But I didn’t. Stupid me. Well, because of this, I cannot really compare this game to its predecessors — and I think that’s a rather nice thing, because I can judge it on its own rather than look down upon it because it pales in comparison to the originals or praise it simply because it’s better than them.

And I say Super Castlevania IV is a very good game.

From what I understand, you must take the role of Simon Belmont in SCIV and do what his forefathers did best: kill Dracula. So now, Simon sets out to kill Dracula for himself and follow in the footsteps of his father — and that’s all there is to it. Very, very interesting.

Anyway, the story isn’t exactly spectacular, but it doesn’t matter once you start playing the game. It is laid out in a fairly simple way... you take control of Simon and progress through about ten side-scrolling action levels (each one split up into a few sub-stages) while beating down various strange and undead creatures that stand in your path to Dracula. What makes it so great and fun to play is the fact that you have so many different abilities to use in each level. You start out with a simple leather whip, but you can quickly grab a power-up that changes it into a stronger chain whip. You can lash this whip in eight different directions, allowing you beat down foes easily no matter where they may be, and you can also hold out your whip and swing it wildly to let it flap around in the air. These abilities makes the game considerably easier (especially because the enemies usually go down after one good smack), but you still have to deal with various types of tough monsters that use cheap tricks to bring you down.

Of course, you can’t just expect to blast through the game with just a whip. Throughout Super Castlevania IV, you can use your whip to hit candles set up on the walls and magically change them into special items. These items can be many things: some power hearts, a special ability of some sort, a health restore item, etc. You see, you can gain items that appear in a little box towards the top of the screen and use them against your enemies, but you need special ‘power hearts’, as I call them. Each time you use your special item, the number of hearts you have goes down a little bit, but luckily, there are more than enough hearts that can be found in each level. With that problem usually out of the way, you are free to use your special items freely, which include things such as throwing knives and explosives that destroy all of the foes on the screen.

The more difficult parts of the game are boss fights. The bosses are typical big and ugly monstrosities that like to tower over you and frighten you with their size. Some of them are very easy, such as the first boss in the game, but others may really give you a run for your money, which is kind of nice after dealing with some relatively weak enemies in the actual level.

Super Castlevania IV is a linear game, so you can’t take any special secret paths to avoid enemies and such. It seems impossible to stray away from the main path unless you are getting some kind of secret treasure found in a little nook nearby. This does seem to make the game a bit dull if you compare it to a somewhat similar game such as Nosferatu, in which you can take multiple paths and decide on which one is the easiest to travel, but it still shouldn’t dissuade you to try out this excellent game.

Controlling Simon is simple, and therefore this game is quite friendly to novices. The controls are smooth and responsive, although it is worth mentioning that it gets rather irritating when Simon walks, because of his rather slow pace. This was one of the only gripes with the game that I had, but it is a very minor one at that, and as long as you have an ounce of patience, this shouldn’t bother you too much, and you can have plenty of fun with the game.

The visuals featured in Super Castlevania IV are nothing short of outstanding. Everything is lacking in color to give the game a dreadful sort of atmosphere, and it is done extremely well. The character and enemy sprites are well designed and proportioned, and they pack an incredible amount of detail while standing crisp and clear. The environments are just beautiful and the effects of the game are done wonderfully and run very well. You might just have a hard time believing that these graphics come from a Super Nintendo title.

But where this game really shines is in the area of music. There is no denying that SCIV had one of the most outstanding soundtracks ever featured on a cartridge game, if not the best soundtrack. The musical score is arranged exceedingly well to complement the environment, and it truly makes the game more exciting and even more fun to play. And from what I understand, many of the tunes were brought back from the originals for nostalgic value. Nice.

If you have not experienced this game, I strongly recommend that you find some way to get your hands on this wonderful game. And don’t think for a second that you have to try the 8-bit Castlevania games just to enjoy this game, because you can enjoy this game quite a lot without having to do so. It is a truly great game.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 02/25/02, Updated 02/25/02

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