Vampire games are quite hard to come by these days. Unlike sports and first person shooter titles, they're very scarce. The 80's did have had a wide array of horror themed games though, including classics like Splatter house and Sweet Home, which gave birth to the Resident Evil series. Castlevania, depending on which way you look at it, is a revolutionary, epic tale of a vampire hunter who is after Dracula, the world's most well known Vampire.
Playing the game is as simple as any other NES game. You venture through each level, killing whatever creature comes before you, collecting upgrades and keeping an eye on your current health. It's an old school staple. The basic gist is hardly complex, but that's what makes it so fun to play. Trying to top your score from the previous level or staying alive for as long as possible proves to be a brutal test for the unprepared. In fact, just making your way through the first level can catch you off guard. Since it's an NES game, you'll come face to face with some of the most irritating enemies to ever be created. The infamous Medusa heads included. Due to all this, some people will drop the game not long into it. It's a shame because even after all these years, it holds up fairly well.
The general controls are just fine. Moving around and attacking is simple enough, considering the lack of buttons you have at your disposal. The platforming is not so great though. You can't really blame the developers here because maneuvering back then was painfully difficult to get right. It's nowhere near as fluid as it is today, so the next time you rage at a jumping puzzle, count yourself lucky that you aren't enduring a game with a lot less programming involved. Like I mentioned before, you collect upgrades to use. These power ups range from extended whip range, additional points, throwing knives and more. Most things that you pick up have a limited use. For instance, once you die after upgrading your whip, it will revert back to it's original form, forcing you to collect it again. It adds more challenge to the overall adventure, and I must say I like it.
For a game released in the mid 80's, it looks acceptable. Everything looks on par with other games of it's time. It's nothing new or ground breaking, but at least it's not taking any steps back. Now of course the visual aspect isn't going to hold up, but the style and legacy lives on. The game doesn't really have an abundance of predicaments, but it's far from perfect. The boss fights are, in a word, displeasing. Each one has highly unpredictable patterns that are hard to follow. They also dish out a ton of damage, way more than the regular enemies. Even the very first boss that you encounter manages to smack you around like you're nothing. The music in the game has the ability to make your ears bleed if you listen to it for more than a few minutes. Sure, the soundtrack is fantastic the first time you hear it, but you hear it every time you replay a level, and it loops over and over. Let that sink in for a moment.
Castlevania is an old, dinosaur of a game. It's stuck in the past, without a doubt. While it does have absurd boss fights and repetitive music that continues to replay itself, it still manages to be a fun ride. It's definitely not for every gamer, because of it's harsh design, but those who know what they're getting themselves into will be in for a nostalgic treat. It's worth every penny too, because NES games usually cost less than a dollar in this current age. Getting it would be a wise move.