Sunday, October 14, 2012

Game Review: Castlevania

Action/Platformer; NES; Konami; 1987
Good Evening ghoulish guests! All Hollow's Eve is just around the corner in a few weeks and so I decided to celebrate the occasion with a series of classic reviews with a slightly horrific twist. I am reviewing all three Castlevania games for the NES: Castlevania this week, Castlevania II: Simon's Queset next, and on the week of Halloween, Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse. And, if I'm feeling so inclined, I might even provide walkthroughs of each game since I am so awesome at beating these games, that I might as well aid my fellow gamers. However, first up is the review for the original Castlevania. Que the Vampire Killer Music.

Simon just strutting into Dracula's Castle.
It is the end of the 17th Century, and in the heart of Transylvania is a vampire lord who goes by the name Dracula. Terrorizing the land with his unholy abominations of death and darkness, Dracula goes unopposed spreading his evil across Europe. The people call out for a champion, one to defeat Dracula once and for all (*COUGH*Not really*COUGH*), and one man heeded the call: Simon Belmont. Descended from a long line of Vampire Hunters, The Belmont Clan, Simon ventures forth with his family's whip in hand, The Vampire Killer, into hellhouse that is Dracula's Castle, Castlevania, in hopes of returning light to the land of Transylvania and the rest of the world. His success, depends on your skill.

Tip for this part: Time your attacks and keep moving.
Castlevania, like a lot of classic NES games, is an Action Platformer of notorious difficulty; however, it is unique when compared to it's contemporaries of Ninja Gaiden and Megaman. While most Action games focus on fast reflexes, masterful platforming, and blazing through wave and wave of enemies, Castlevania takes a more methodical approach, and this becomes quite apparent when one actually looks at the controls. While tight and responsive, movement is very sluggish with no way to increase you movement speed and jumping is completely fixed. When you leave the ground you will jump to a certain height regardless of how long you held the button down, and you will maintain momentum in whatever direction you where heading unable to change direction in mid-air. If you where jumping forward, you will continue to move forward regardless of any button input during your trajectory. This forces you to plan your movements more carefully as one mistake takes up a lot of time to try and fix, leaving you open to attacks, especially since your own attack has a delay to it meaning that you have to time it correctly to be really effect at it. However, there are a lot of things that can help you, throughout the stages you will find candles that will drop tools for you to use when you hit them (*SHRUG*), including various sub-weapons and the hearts that fuel them (don't ask). The sub-weapons include the Dagger (which flies across to the end of the screen), the Ax (which goes in an arching motion above), the Holy Water (which is dropped in front of you to create a lingering flame), the Cross (Which moves slowly forward and comes back like a Boomerang), and the Watch (Which freeze time for a few seconds). If you want to be good at this game, you'd need to be proficient at all the weapons you can find.

You will see this screen... A lot... Wait, STAGE ONE!?
This game is brutal. Very VERY brutal. At first it seems fine, nothing too difficult, but on the later stages things get really frustrating for two reasons: 1) The later enemies are bastards. They either take a ton of hits to take out (even with your fully upgraded whip) or are much faster than you are (Stupid Fleamen), or, most notoriously, you are faced with both at the same time in a configuration that ensures at some point you will be hit. 2) Damage scales as you go. Simon has 16 points of life throughout the game, and on the early stages each hit takes out 2 points, no biggy; however, not that long into the game enemies start dealing 3 points of damage, and at the end all enemies deal 4 points of damage, that means you only have 4 hits before you are dead. The only way to restore life is to either, clear the level, die, or find some hidden turkey... I'm not sure I want to eat said hidden turkey. However, I find Castlevania's difficulty to be largely manageable, given it's tight and precise controls. If you die, you can't blame the game for it, the game gave you fair warning ahead of time. You can't blame the controls, because there is very little of that "No, I wanted to jump! How the hell did I miss that platform!?" That means the only person to blame for you're failures is yourself, and you learn how to overcome the obstacle far faster because of it. Although, you will still probably have to start the stage all over from the beginning several times in order to do it.

Castlevania is like a rite of passage for gamers. It's one of those games that you have to play and beat in order to be a true gamer. Though the high difficulty is going to keep people away, anyone seeking a challenge from years gone by should definitely find any of the means of playing this classic. Highly Recommended.

Stay tuned to a brief walkthrough of Castlevania, and my review of Castlevania II: Simon's Quest. Until next time.

-Crescent, "FUUUUUUUUUUUU---------!!!"

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