It’s hard to believe that any video game series has been around for 26 years, but Castlevania is one of them, and the series is still going strong today. Castlevania was released on many consoles back in the eighties including the Famicom Disk System, Amiga, and of course, the Nintendo Entertainment System. The game follows Simon Belmont on his adventure to vanquish Dracula with his trusty Vampire Killer whip.
Castlevania is a linear action game with some platforming elements. There are six levels in the game, each with 3 stages and a boss battle. There are a variety of horror enemies in the game that each behave differently and require a different approach to defeat. Simon is easily controlled with the D-Pad for movement, the A button to jump and B to swing his whip.
Confronting enemies can be difficult during your first time through the game. Learning the level layouts and enemy placements will help you build a strategy and make the game easier, but otherwise it can be pretty challenging. Adding to the challenge is an awkward jump. You can’t change direction once you commit, and you fall quite fast which may take some time to master. Another element of Castlevania that can be considered challenging is that you get pushed back whenever an enemy hits you. This can lead to many unwanted scenarios, one of which is the highly feared bottomless pit. If you don’t fall down a pit, Simon will lose a small bit of health when getting hit by enemies.
Simon Belmont can also use sub-weapons (press Up+B) in addition to his whip, but these weapons have a limited use. These weapons include a dagger that is thrown straight, an axe that is thrown in an arc and holy water that will burn upon breaking. Hearts are considered ammo for your sub-weapon, so collecting them is important. Hearts can be easily obtained from enemies and candles, unlike health which is hidden in the castle walls. Sub-weapons are useful for defeating enemies, but are best kept for boss fights.
Every level concludes with a boss fight. Those familiar with Universal monster movies will recognize that a few of these bosses are inspired by classic films. Frankenstein’s Monster, Mummies, and of course, Dracula will oppose Simon Belmont. Each boss can easily be overcome with the correct sub-weapon. For example, if you keep throwing holy water at Frankenstein’s Monster he will be frozen in place, allowing you to alternate whipping and holy water until it’s defeated. Most bosses can be disposed of in a similar manner, but can be challenging if you don’t have the desired weapon.
Castlevania’s graphics don’t hold up quite well today, and not so much in the eighties either when compared to games like Super Mario Bros. Sprites are nicely designed, but the backgrounds and tiles are cruddy. While technically the visuals aren’t impressive, there is still a certain charm and atmosphere created that makes Castlevania unique. On the contrary, Castlevania has an amazing soundtrack that is solid across the game, something that can be said about many early Konami titles. Stand out tracks include Vampire Killer, Wicked Child, Heart of Fire and Out of Time.
3/5 D-Pads: Those looking to get into the Castlevania series should look no further than this game. It is challenging, but like many NES games, can be overcome with practice, patience and a bit of luck. There are 18 stages with six boss fights, a variety of weapons to experiment with, and a ton of hidden treasures to find. Beating the game will give you the opportunity to embark on an even harder second quest, so there is a lot of value to be found. Regardless of its flaws, Castlevania remains one of my favourite NES games and comes highly recommended if you haven’t experienced it yet.