The Ninjabot

Retro Review: Castlevania

Posted on October 31, 2012 at 11:40 am by Stephen Janes

Seriously, this game is amazing.

by Stephen Janes (@stephenkjanes)

After the catastrophic bucket of filth that was my Halloween Special, it was only fitting that my palette be cleansed by one of the greatest games in the NES library. It also fits the Halloween theme, so playing Castlevania is nothing short of a perfect option here.

Controlling Simon Belmont, you are destined to ascend Dracula’s castle and exterminate the fanged menace. Along the way, you will encounter several of his ghoulish friends including Medusa, Frankenstein’s Monster, Igor and the Grim Reaper himself. To help you on your quest, you will wield the ‘Vampire Killer,’ a legendary whip able to defeat the most stubborn of creatures, as well as various sub-weapons. These sub-weapons range from somewhat useless (throwing dagger) to useful (stop watch, throwing axe) to so powerful it’s your new friend (holy water, crucifix). You can also increase the frequency in which you fire these sub-weapons with the double-shot and triple-shot, both of which can be found hidden in the walls of the castle.

Do you dare enter Dracula’s castle and face the dangers within?

Speaking of the sub-weapons, I never understood why hearts were used as anything but health in the Castlevania series. Here, they are used for ammunition for your sub-weapons, while in Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, hearts are a form of currency, which really freaks me out now that I think about it. I really could not find an explanation for this little turnaround, however.

The game play for Castlevania is platforming at its finest. As mentioned earlier, you are required to progress through four levels within each stage, ending in a boss battle. Each stage takes place in a different part of Dracula’s castle and has various themes. Stage one is a typical left-to-right progression, while stage two and three have a climbing progression with a lot of stairs and jumps. The artwork and style of each level is different enough to be noticeable, but still has some design consistency’s to feel as though everything belongs in the same castle.

Some enemies are only seen in certain environments, making each stage a different experience.

If you ever had a friend tell you that Castlevania was easy, they obviously need to get their head checked. The franchise, and this game specifically, offers one of the most difficult experiences in video game history. Even to this day, Castlevania provides a challenging experience that continues to get the best of me. Seriously, this game is older than me and I still can’t beat it. To clarify, the challenge in the game is in the difficulty, not the poor exploits. There are some ‘cheap’ elements to it, but your constant game over screens will be a result of a worthy challenge and not poor controls or exploits.

The soundtrack just might be my favorite element of Castlevania. The music fits perfectly with every level, and is as close to rock n’ roll on an eight-bit sound chip as you can get. I could spend hours listening to this soundtrack and respective remixes. Even if you aren’t a fan of the game (which again, get your head checked), the soundtrack has to be appreciated.

Frankenstein’s Monster proved to be too much for me. I’m glad those villagers burned your hut down, you jerk.

I could easily replay this game over and over again, except I will not because I’m tired of hearing that “lost life” tune. Bottom line, this is one of the greatest titles in the NES library and should be played by everybody looking to expand their catalog. This is one of the best games made for the NES, and still holds up as a fun title twenty-six years later.

You can relive those terrifying moments from Castlevania on the Nintendo Virtual Market.

Retro Rating: 4.5/5

Bottom Line: This game is too good to pass up.

    • Leon

      Takes me back. It took me forever to beat that game as a kid. I tried playing it a couple years ago on an emulator and it killed me. I was like a one legged man in an ass kicking contest. Might need to try in earnest one weekend.

    • I never realized how incredibly short this game is. With something like Legend of Zelda or any Mega Man, they still require a lot of time, even if you know where you are going. This game, however, really only needs about an hour if you practice.

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