One of the best action games on a system built on action games.
In Castlevania you play the part of Simon Belmont the vampire hunter as he navigates through Dracula’s Castle.
Although Castlevania today is probably most famous for it’s action/RPG games, the original game is a straight-up action-plat former (similar to the early Ninja Gaiden games). You start out at the beginning of the level and work your way to its end, fight the boss, and move on to the next until you’ve reached Dracula at the end of the sixth level.
As far as weapons, Simon carries a whip, that starts out small and wimpy but can quickly be upgraded to a longer, more powerful version. Upgraded so quickly in fact, that I have to wonder why they didn’t just give you the most powerful whip in the first place. Special vampire hunter weapons like holy water (aka fire bomb) or a cross (aka boomerang) can also be found throughout a level. These are actually very useful and you’ll have to use them skillfully to get past the game’s challenging boss fights.
Speaking of challenge, this game is HARD, not just NES hard, but really hard. Although the first three stages aren’t too bad the last three are a real terror to get through. Monsters can kill you in only a few hits and recovery items are scarce but even if you can make it to the end of the level some of the boss fights can seem impossible. Perhaps the worst thing, however, are the many pits that in the levels. You’ll often be forced to cross a series of pits while avoiding flying enemies which wouldn’t be so bad if not for the game’s quirky jump physics. You see you can’t control Simon mid-jump, you can only tell him when and in which direction to jump; and if you get hit Simon will travel in a slow-motion/sideways L-pattern often resulting in you pulling out your hair as he falls backwards into the pit like a toy caught in a claw machine. Lucky the game gives you unlimited continues, not that it means you will be making it past the fourth stage or anything.
One thing I do really like about the game is the way it hides the harder to find items. You can always tell great level design when you can play through a level a few times casually finding special things and then amazing your friends later as you take amazingly make special items seemingly appear out of nowhere. Although some of the items aren’t all that useful (wohoo, I got bonus points!).
Fairly well done for a NES game, the sprites are all well detailed and somewhat large and the environments all have that dark and creepy look to them. The color selection is particularly nice. I also liked the picturesque castle tower in the moonlight silhouette that can still be found later in the series.
Generally agreed to be one of the better usages of music out of the NES games and with good reason. The music starts out fairly unimpressive but by stage three the music gradually gets more epic as you go from stage to stage.
None really, but if the challenge doesn’t bother you, the time it will take you to master the game will be quite enough. Castlevania really doesn’t need any artificial replay value.
Although it has some slight flaws, Castlevania is a very enjoyable game for those up to it. If you’re the type of gamer used to today’s standards which usually all but guarantee a win you’ll probably be turned off by the game’s high difficulty and somewhat unforgiving controls that take time to master. Yet, Castlevania is one of the most fun to master on the NES. It takes experience in order to know where to find the special power-ups and which weapons are best for each boss, yet it never quite feels like your completely lost because it tends to come naturally. The level design is great, and the presentation is good even when compared to later NES games. Easily one of the best action games for a system built on action games.