As great as the original is, Castlevania III further improves in nearly every category.

User Rating: 8.8 | Akumajou Densetsu NES
Castlevania III: Dracula's curse further improves in almost every area on top of the original with just the right mix of excellent gameplay and presentation. Further continuing the success of the original game after the disastrous departure that was Simon's Quest, Dracula's Curse reintroduces the player to familiar elements while adding the more successful elements of the first sequel and all-new features.

With Simon Belmont's departure in Simon's Quest, Castlevania III introduces us to Trever Belmont, Simon's ancestor from two centuries prior. His goal remains the same, however: journey to the castle of the infamous vampire Dracula and defeat him. Along the way, Trevor will also have to make important choices that effect the story's ultimate outcome, the game's greatest and most important departure from the original.

While gameplay remains fundamentally the same at its most basic level, Dracula's Curse introduces some important changes effecting a greater scope. Perhaps the greatest of these changes involves the player's ability to select different routes in order to get to Dracula's castle, which in turn allows the player to encounter one of three characters: Sypha, a witch; Grant, a pirate, and Alucard, who is no less than Dracula's son. Once one of these characters is encountered, the player has the option of choosing that character to accompany Trevor in his quest, and each character offers various attacks and abilities to assist the player. Sypha has at her disposal various magical attacks while Grant can climb walls to reach secret areas and Alucard is capable of transforming into a bat, allowing levels to be transversed quickly and most enemies and obstacles bypassed. The choice of character also effects the ending of the game upon completion. Because of the new additions and greatly expanded level design, the game is also significantly longer than the original, but a new password system effectively allows the player to save his progress.

Graphics remain top-notch, and given that Dracula's Curse falls in the later era of NES games, it brings the console near its full potential of graphical processing. The rich environments that elevated the first game are made all the more richer, and the game developers took full advantage, blending the graphical elements directly into gameplay. The game's sound presentation experiences perhaps the largest improvement with a moving midi score that has set the tone for the rest of the franchise. The old school, horror film presentation that started with the first game also gets to benefit from the full presentation, immersing the player in all the richness the NES can possibly offer.

With a disastrous reception in Castlevania's immediate sequel, Simon's Quest, Konami successfully rebounded and more with the release of Dracula's Curse. Returning all the familiar elements that made the first game a success, Dracula's Curse also expands and adds new features which greatly add to the game's depth. Dracula's Curse firmly set the franchise's success and expectations in stone and this game continues to be the benchmark for all of the Belmont family's adventures.