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Castlevania II: Simon's Quest

ドラキュラII 呪いの封印

Developer / Publisher: Konami
28 August 1987
Castlevania II: Simon's Quest [ドラキュラII 呪いの封印] - cover art
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394 Ratings / 4 Reviews
#54 for 1987
After their fateful encounter seven years before, Dracula, with the last of his power, placed a curse on Simon Belmont. To revoke this curse, Simon sets out in search for the remains of Dracula in hopes of reving him, and destroying him for good.
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What baffles me about this one is that there is an amazing like perfect, outstanding game somewhere hidden in this mess of mechanics. The 2nd game in the Castlevania frnachise is a somwhat weird departure from the perfect bitesized beauty of the original. The smooth short and beautifully designed stages are exchanged for a non linear cryptic open world and I'm still not really sure what to think about it.

Considering where Castlevania will end up later down the line, even coining the term "Metroidvania", it kind of makes sense to shift the focus from mastering stages to exploring and "puzzle" solving. But let's just say that Simons Quest doesn't really master anything it is trying to do. Which makes it kinda charming in its own right.

The story of the game is only conveyed through the start screen and tbh I didn't really get what's going on neither did I care really. Later on I figured out that Simon has to collect 5 "parts" of Dracula to summon him in order the banish him once and for all. The story isn't really a big a part of the game even though most of the gameplay is done through reading text boxes. Or at least this is what I thought the developers tried to do.

You start in a town and immediately you're able to go anywhere and explore at your own pace. Simon feels a bit more smooth and responsive to control here but it might just be placebo. However this improvement in the handling isn't really being used anywhere as there are literally no serious combat or platforming challenges in this game. The main loop is the following: Talk to NPCs, decipher what they're trying to tell you, apply what you learned.

The only big problem about this is that the hints the NPCs give you are complete gibberish. There's an NPC telling to go to a place and wait there for someone to take you somewhere yet it doesn't tell you where that is or what "waiting" actually means. Who would have thought that waiting is pressing down in the d-pad for multiple secs. The whole game is mainly this,

Oh and there's washed out Castlevania gameplay in between You go from city to city which are connected through "stages".. However the design of these parts is really shallow and basically just an onslaught of enemies and pressing jump once in a while. You collect hearts through killing baddies and these hearts are your currency and ammo for sub weapons. So you grind to buy some item to solve some cryptic puzzle. Like buy an orb and crouch somewhere or something like that.

I was playing this game for about 2h until I got stuck. I finished the first "dungeon" which basically is just a randomly assorted maze of blocks and enemies with invisible/breakable blocks to annoy you or pretend to have some secrets. Then I explored the entire map and had no clue what to do. Guess what: I needed to select the blue orb and crouch in front of a lake so that a secret staircase would appear. Lol figure that one out.

This game seriously lacks some sense of progression or some sense of anything to be honest. There are 2 bosses in this game which you can just run past in order to "beat them. I really prefer this version of death to the one in the original though. I beat Dracula by just standing in the corner and hammering the whip button. So there's no real sense of satisfaction in anything you do. Even the enviroment looks kinda dull. All cites look the same and parts in between are bland as well. Sometimes the color scheme of the game looks incredibly beautiful and then the night ends and... OH yeah:

This game has a day and night cycle. Does it add anything to the game? No. Is it being used in a creative way anywhere? No. When night falls it basically means you gotta wait for 10 minutes and beat monsters as all the cities close. So to conclude this mess of a review: There's a reason I wrote this the way I did. It perfectly reflects the game. Ideas pop out of nowhere and are established but never really integrated or improved upon. There's many unqiue and wonderful things in here especially for the time but combing it all together didn't really work out. In the end your just left with a feeling of: Wow I just experienced this I guess.

I can see how this influenced a lot of other games and quite frankly: Dark souls draws a lot of inspiration from this game. The cryptic messages, the open ended yet kind of confined level design (some stages even do the infamous loop thing) and the dark atmosphere remind me so much of this game. LOL lets's just wrap this up: It's a mess but kinda charming. Music is killer though. Ok I'm done now.
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"AFTER CASTLEVANIA I WARNED YOU NOT TO RETURN."
On its surface, Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest is an odd sequel. It maintains the same controls and aesthetic sensibilities that the first Castlevania had, but completely shifts into a brand new genre with a different mechanical appeal. I can think of quite a few NES franchises that went through a similar progression, like Zelda and Super Mario Bros., but Simon’s Quest remained the most vexing of them all among Western audiences for many years. Without the additional context of Vampire Killer, a JP and EU exclusive sibling of Castlevania released for MSX Home Computers, the move from a traditional 2D side-scroller into an Action RPG or Action Adventure game seems jarring. Vampire Killer shared the same basic premise as Castlevania and even reused many visuals, but the levels were designed more like puzzle boxes with NPCs, items to purchase, destructible blocks of terrain, and hidden keys that were required to uncover items or progress through the castle. Simon’s Quest clearly seeks to combine the gameplay styles of the two original “Castlevania” games into one experience; it carries over the basic controls and enemy design of Castlevania and the exploration-driven progression from Vampire Killer. This is an admirable and ambitious direction to take the series and it allowed Simon’s Quest to lay the groundwork for many of the Castlevania tiles that came after it, but the execution here leaves a lot to be desired.

“I’VE BEEN WAITING FOR A GOOD LOOKING GUY LIKE YOU.”

The disappointments begin as soon as we start a new game. Instead of a cutscene similar to the iconic opening shot of Castlevania, we are dropped straight into the first town of the game without any direction. The title screen informs us that Simon has returned to Transylvania to cure himself of a curse inflicted upon him during his climactic confrontation with Dracula. Simon’s body is withering away and he must find a way to revive his nemesis and slay him for a second time in order to rid himself and Transylvania of Dracula’s curse once and for all. We aren’t exactly sure how to do that when we begin, though, at least without the game’s manual. The player’s first instinct will be to go right and interact with some of the villagers in town, which is where we see the first real flaw of this game: the English translation is horrible. The stuff of nightmares, really. This is the case with many NES games, but it’s a huge issue here because these NPCs are the main source of information for nearly everything in this game.

“LAURELS IN YOUR SOUP ENHANCES ITS AROMA.”

The first villager tells us: “FIRST THING TO DO IN THIS TOWN IS BUY A WHITE CRYSTAL,” which is very actionable advice. None of the villagers have been given names and they reused a narrow set of sprites, so you’re just going to need to chat with everyone you see to find somebody who is willing to sell you a crystal. This first task is actually quite important and will lead the player into the longest running “quest” that the game has to offer, which involves trading for differently colored crystals to progress through a few key riddles in the game. So far so good, but the next villager says “A CROOKED TRADER IS OFFERING BUM DEALS IN THIS TOWN,” presumably the fella that we’ll be purchasing the white crystal from. While that may end up being the conclusion that a new player comes to, this wise old villager is actually supposed to explain to the player that there are villagers living in hidden rooms around the buildings in town. This information is important throughout every town in the game and players are left to discover it on their own because of the bunk translation. Personally, I spent my first few hours wondering why there are so many empty houses in Transylvania. There is another NPC who tells you the following: “A MAGIC POTION WILL DESTROY THE WALL OF EVIL.” The magic potion he’s referring to is actually the holy water, which can be used to destroy fake blocks. Who is supposed to figure that out? I’ve never heard anybody call holy water a “MAGIC POTION” before in my life.

“TO RESTORE YOUR LIFE, SHOUT IN FRONT OF THE CHURCH.”

These mistakes don’t mean too much in isolation, but the problems created by these pieces of mistranslated “advice” are a microcosm of the confusing and cryptic nature of the entire game. In the original Japanese text, villagers would often be ill-informed or outright lie to Simon; this is perfectly acceptable on its own, and an argument could be made that it creates a more immersive setting, but it is catastrophic when combined with the poor translation. It is so poor that the text displayed on two different ending screens was outright swapped by accident, resulting in a sloppy feeling product. The funky translation errors can sometimes be entertaining as unintentional comedy, but villagers are rarely as helpful to the player as the first bit of dialogue directing them towards the white crystal.

“WHEN I WAS YOUR AGE, WOMEN LOVED ME.”

While you’re navigating through the town looking for merchants, you will no doubt take some time to absorb the music and visuals of the game. If there is one thing that Simon’s Quest is successful at it’s definitely the presentation. The town theme, titled “The Silence of Daylight,” is your first indication that Simon’s Quest will be scored with the same catchy gothic loops that the original Castlevania was full of. Once again, the arrangements really show off what the NES’ limited sound technology was capable of through some of the most well-known music in the entire series. In many respects, the song “Bloody Tears” is the most iconic Castlevania track out there, even surpassing Vampire Killer, and it has been remixed and covered thousands of times by artists ranging from amateur internet musicians to professional composers. The music is more “upbeat” this time, despite the actual gameplay being less energetic, but it still has the same overall tone as the original Castlevania.

“LET’S LIVE HERE TOGETHER.”

The visuals are polished in Simon’s Quest and typically avoid the vague clumps of pixels and strange color palettes from the previous game. Simon’s Quest takes us through a variety of environments around the monster-infested countryside of Transylvania, which is defined by dense forests, dank caverns populated by floating eyeballs, scenic mountain ranges, and eerie cemeteries. Sadly, these areas are merely the liminal spaces in between your true destinations: the towns and the dungeon-like mansions. You will be spending a majority of your time in Simon’s Quest interacting with villagers and searching for Dracula’s body parts inside of the mansions. Unfortunately, all of the towns and mansions have identical tilesets; the only visual differences between them are the color palettes. Mansions are also dull for mechanical reasons we’ll explore later, which means that a bulk of your game time will be spent in the least interesting parts of Transylvania.

“BELIEVE IN MAGIC AND YOU’LL BE SAVED.”

While looking around the first town, you’ll come across three separate merchants selling important items. One is selling the aforementioned white crystal for 50 hearts, another one is selling holy water for 50 hearts, and the third one is selling a thorn whip for 100 hearts. You only have 50 hearts to start with and all three of these items are valuable enough to justify saving up for them, meaning you’ll have to scrounge up some funds to start your adventure in earnest. Players will either miss out on some of the items or realize that the best solution is to grind for money. Grinding is a common requirement across many genres, but starting the player off in a situation that pushes them into grinding isn’t a good first impression. You will definitely need to go hunting for monsters in the countryside if you want to upgrade your whip and you’ll need to walk out of town to do that. Unaware players might head towards the right side of the screen as if they were playing a traditional 2D platformer, and the game designers were clever enough to assume that we will do exactly that. The right path out of town takes us straight into a wooded area with a few wolfmen and classic skeletons to fight.

“I WANT TO GET TO KNOW YOU BETTER.”

As you wander deeper into the woods, you might start to notice how simple the level design is. It’s just the first section of the game, of course, but it is a huge step down from the first screens in Castlevania. You are mostly walking across flat ground with an occasional ledge to hop up or a pit of water to jump over. The original Castlevania uses verticality within its stages to teach players about enemy behavior, craft threatening enemy encounters, and to make Dracula’s castle feel tall and imposing. In my Castlevania write-up, I mentioned how I felt like I was “climbing” Dracula’s castle as I progressed through the stages. Simon’s Quest, despite being an exploration focused game, doesn’t even come close to recreating that sense of scale. There are so many named locations in Simon’s Quest, which should give the impression that you are traveling across a larger segment of Simon’s world, but the borders between things are unclear and it’s hard to create a labeled map of the game in your head as you play. The countryside’s minimal level design lacks clear landmarks because so much of it consists of flat, lifeless spaces. The screens in between towns and mansions bleed together; eventually the towns themselves start to as well. The game doesn’t provide a map, so you’re probably going to have to draw one yourself.

“DON’T MAKE ME STAY, I’LL DIE”

I got the impression that Transylvania is a very flat region of the world, which is obviously contradicted by the mountain ranges in the background. A simple text overlay that tells you the name of the area you’re in would have gone a long way, but an even better solution would have been to spread unique encounters and mechanically distinct locales across the world. There is so much empty space that enemy encounters quickly become boring; you can only fight a skeleton slowly walking towards you in a field so many times before you start dozing off. They’ve also removed the ability for Simon’s whip to destroy enemy projectiles and replaced that feature with a shield, which is a much less interesting way to interact with your enemies. Gone are the days of timing your attacks to match an enemy’s attack patterns, instead you must stop attacking to block incoming damage. It feels a lot less satisfying than the simpler system from the original Castlevania. The countryside and the enemies throughout it seem like they were designed to be as simple as possible because players will end up wandering back and forth between areas multiple times. We play games for the joy of learning new patterns and confronting new challenges, but Simon’s Quest refuses to indulge us and doesn’t advance beyond the most basic types of enemy encounters imaginable. The mansions don’t fare much better, but at least they have pitfall traps, some vertical platforming, and hidden pathways to discover. The enemy design is too basic to create anything as tense or challenging as the hallway leading up to Death from the first game, but there is enough complexity that the player is pushed into using subweapons like the holy water to deal with enemies and interact with the environment. The mansions are also hamstrung by the same “two way” design restrictions as the overworld because you have to walk all the way back out of the mansion after reaching the end; this feels like blatant padding. These areas could have been designed as traditional Castlevania stages that teleported you back to the entrance after a boss fight, but instead they feel like botched Zelda dungeons. Simon’s Quest is much easier than the first game because of the uncomplicated level design, which some might view as a positive, but it totally lacks the sense of tension, nuance, and friction that Castlevania was known for as a result.

“I'LL SEE YOU AT MIDNIGHT ON THE RIVER BANK.”

While you’re processing all of that, your epic anime battle with a wolfman will be interrupted by the infamous “WHAT A HORRIBLE NIGHT TO HAVE A CURSE” text crawl. This is nice if you’re trying to grind out hearts to purchase items because enemies drop twice as many hearts during the night. Enemies get additional health under the moonlight, too, which means that it becomes slightly more dangerous to travel. Despite this, night time is still the best time for Simon to move between towns and mansions. Everything inside of the towns is closed at night, making it much more time efficient to spend your days interacting with villagers and your nights traveling and treasure hunting. After collecting enough hearts, you’ll notice that Simon can level up in this game. It is an obscure mechanic that isn’t explained to the player at all, but it only slightly increases Simon’s damage resistance and maximum HP so you aren’t missing much if you don’t utilize it. Simon’s level is capped by what area of the game world he’s currently in and you are given an opportunity to level up in between each mansion. There are some exceptions to this general rule, but they also aren’t communicated to the player in any way. This is an effective (but cryptic) way to ensure that the player is never stronger than they are “supposed” to be for a given section. I praise this since it is solid game design, but the game’s bosses and levels never capitalize on the potential created by gating the player’s power in this way.

"THE MORNING SUN HAS VANQUISHED THE HORRIBLE NIGHT"

Hearts have an immense importance in Simon’s Quest because they’re used for both leveling up and buying items. The game takes advantage of this fact by punishing you for game overs by erasing all of your hearts. Game overs don’t do anything else; dying or using one of your unlimited continues starts Simon off right next to where he died, which means that death only has consequences if you’re carrying a bunch of hearts to purchase an item or level up. This nullifies all of the tension that might have remained in the game’s streamlined level design by allowing you to brute force every challenge. It also means that game overs, and by extension death, only exist to waste your time by forcing you to grind. In isolation this is an annoying but honest representation of how death functions in any game, but Simon’s Quest has a sinister motivation behind this implementation of its “lives” mechanic.

“SORRY, PAL. NO TIME NOW, MAYBE LATER.”

From the moment you start the game there is a timer ticking down. Simon is dying from his curse and if you don’t complete the game quickly enough he will die after his confrontation with Dracula, rewarding the player’s efforts with the bad ending. While you might have thought that you were making a wise financial decision by saving up for upgraded supplies during your first day in Transylvania, you may have actually condemned Simon to a painful death. It’s a lot like how investing works in the real world. This also means that every “time wasting” mechanic present in the game is an intentional distraction or punishment meant to push the player towards the bad ending. Getting the good ending in Simon’s Quests requires knowledge of the game’s layout, item placement, mechanics, and favorable RNG; you can throw your hopes of getting the best ending on your first playthrough into the nearest pool of water, because it’s difficult without a guide or some trial and error.

“DON’T LOOK INTO THE DEATH STAR, OR YOU WILL DIE.”

After you’re done grinding for your first whip upgrade, you’re going to start exploring and discover the first mansion of the game. New players will most likely come across the one containing Dracula’s rib first, and its entrance has an invisible platform that is revealed to Simon by holding the white crystal. This would be a teachable moment if there was an indication that the white crystal is the reason you can see this platform, but that isn’t explained anywhere that I could find. I’ve already been over a few of the weaknesses of the mansions, but I have even more to say about them. They operate on a simple formula: find a merchant that will sell you an oak stake and then find an orb to strike with that oak stake. Dracula’s body parts are “inside” of these orbs and they are always found in the deepest room of the mansion. Finding the merchant is your main challenge because the first few mansions don’t have boss fights. This would be bad on its own, but the boss fights that are in the game are horrible.

“DRACULA'S EYEBALL REFLECTS THE CURSE.”

I spent a lot of time describing the bosses of Castlevania, but there is almost nothing to say about the bosses in Simon’s Quest. The three bosses are Death, a crying mask called “Vampira,” and Dracula. Death and Vampira can be outright ignored when you encounter them by just walking through their boss chambers. That’s right, there is nothing forcing you to confront these enemies. If you do decide to kill them for the items they drop, you’ll quickly discover that they are even more rudimentary than the Phantom Bat from Castlevania’s first section. Death slowly floats towards the player while spawning one scythe projectile at a time. Vampira floats around the room in a circle while spewing out a consistent pattern of projectiles. Dracula teleports around the room like he did in the first game. All of these bosses can be stun locked by basically any subweapon in the game, and even by garlic, making them even more trivial. As if that wasn’t anti-climactic enough, the bosses will respawn when you leave the screen and come back. I can’t even begin to fathom why the game was shipped like this, especially since the bosses from the previous game were so well thought out and synergized so well with that game’s subweapon and power-up placement.

“HIT DEBORAH CLIFF WITH YOUR HEAD TO MAKE A HOLE”

The subpar level design, terrible boss fights, and basic enemies mean that the game is relying solely on its exploration and riddles to carry the experience. We’ve already gone over how the translation negatively impacts this part of the game, but it gets worse.How the hell are players supposed to figure out the riddles that involve kneeling with the blue and red orbs without hearing the solution from an external source? You are required to equip these orbs while crouching in specific parts of the game world in order to open up secret passages. How are they supposed to know where to drop garlic in the cemeteries to summon NPCs? A few of the game’s subweapons are locked behind these sketchy graveyard deals. How are they supposed to know that the Ferryman will take you to a different location while you’re holding Dracula’s heart? Your only hint is a villager informing you that the Ferryman likes garlic, which is pretty much the total opposite of a vampire’s heart in my mind. All of these are required to complete the game, and yet there is almost no way that a player could realistically discover all of these on their own. Simon’s Quest is renowned for its obtuse design and it lives up to that reputation in every conceivable way.

“YOU'VE UPSET THE PEOPLE. NOW GET OUT OF TOWN!!”

Once you finally reach the final stretch of the game, you will walk through the empty halls of Castlevania to revive Dracula. The town outside of his vacant castle is equally devoid of life, which was probably intended to create a sense of dread in the player. Like many parts of Simon’s Quest, this is ambitious for the NES but falls completely flat. Perhaps if the game had been great up to this point it would have created a sense of tension through contrast, but at it stands it just feels completely anti-climactic. Pushing through all of the mansions, terrible boss fights, and esoteric riddles rewards you with the most boring section of the entire game and what must be one of the easiest final boss fights I’ve seen in any video game. It’s a real shame because this formula has a ton of potential. Castlevania fans would have to wait quite a few years before the series would return to this style of gameplay and when it did they had definitely learned from the mistakes of Simon’s Quest. It is crushing to see a sophomore slump of this magnitude, but there is a certain beauty in looking at Simon’s Quest in retrospect. It brought people together by getting them to collaborate while solving riddles and sharing secrets. It introduced people to the innovative and entertaining pages of the Nintendo Power magazines. Other NES games accomplished these goals while providing a better overall experience, but Simon’s Quest also has a unique claim to fame: it helped lay down the groundwork for Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and the Metroidvania genre as a whole. Thank you for your service Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, but I never want to play you again.
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During the NES era, the sophomore slump ran rampant like the black plague. Many iconic series that debuted during the 8-bit era were once young and impressionable, and what do the youthful do when they are at this age? They experiment. Nintendo dabbled in changing the formula with both the Mario and Zelda series, first party titles for their first home system that cemented Nintendo as gaming mainstays. Nintendo decided to follow their two new juggernaut IPs by making sequels that deviated entirely from what made the first titles overnight sensations. Nowadays, this bold move would’ve resulted in gamers sending mail bombs to Nintendo’s PO box. At the time, the now iconic franchises and the young gamers were impressionable enough where radical change didn’t bat an eye. Only in retrospect through better solidifying the DNA of these franchises were these NES sequels maligned and ostracized from the “canon” of exemplary titles. Nintendo weren’t the only developer during this era that unceremoniously pulled the rug out from under gamers. Third-party developers that also released their landmark titles on the NES also followed suit with odd, second-year experimentation. Namely, when Capcom followed up their fast-paced, horror-inspired 2D platformer Castlevania. Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest is a sequel that is spoken in the same breath as the other less-than-savory sequels in the NES library for changing up the Castlevania formula that won so many over only a year prior. All of these sequels were seen in a poor light decades on, but Castlevania had the added misfortune of being the first review of the Angry Video Game Nerd; the early Youtube sensation whose reviews kept the forgotten mistakes of gaming’s past in the collective consciousness for my generation. Upon finally playing through Castlevania II, I can clearly see why James Rolfe would’ve picked this game as the pilot for an internet series whose premise was to slander awful examples from this bygone era of gaming.

Castlevania II is a controversial, experimental sequel that shares more common ground with Zelda II rather than another game masquerading as Castlevania like in the case of Super Mario Bros. 2. It's still a direct sequel that takes place after the events of the first game. Dracula no longer reigns over the land after both him and his castle have been smited, but Simon must retract a curse that Dracula has put on him. Simon must scrounge the land and find pieces of Dracula’s body and immolate them together to permanently extinguish the dark vampire lord and save himself. Castlevania II at least shares the same ominous, foggy atmosphere that was established in the first game, but that’s not the point of contention that separates itself from its predecessor. Castlevania II sees the 2D platformer gameplay of the series in the vein of a quasi-RPG. Rather than climbing the stories of Dracula’s tower, Simon traverses the grounds of the land that Dracula used to cast a shadow over. He’ll visit the various towns and the ghoulish grounds that surround them looking for the pieces of Dracula’s body to then destroy them. This premise does not sound as if it lends to the fast-paced action of the first game, and that’s because it doesn’t. Castlevania II takes things down a notch with more calmer gameplay. Castlevania II’s approach is somewhat of an ambiguous blend of a 2D platformer with primitive Metroidvania and action RPG elements sprinkled into the design. Hearts are now currency instead of ammunition which is used to buy a plethora of items throughout the various towns Simon comes across. NPCs are scattered about and will give Simon clues about how to progress, but these hints are incredibly vague and rife with typos. This game was the first to feature an extensive guide in Nintendo Power detailing what to do, and gamers in 1987 probably would’ve been hopelessly lost without it. The occasional moments of cryptic bullshit found in many NES games is one thing, but Castlevania II seems to revel in this to a great degree.

The emphasis on exploration means that the combat in Castlevania has been subdued exponentially. The frustration of being launched back ten feet from every hit of damage has been mitigated entirely. The enemies in Castlevania II are set pieces for the foreground of the land, standing around minding their own businesses rather than savagely trying to decimate Simon Belmont. The enemies have collectively lost their luster, and it’s a shame because the game supplies Simon with more than enough firepower. Most of the purchasable items in Castlevania II serve as tools to use against the various creatures that roam around. Simon’s trademark whip only had one upgrade in the first game, but now the purchasable additions will grant Simon a stocky fire whip. The same can be said for the dagger which can also be upgraded to a golden knife that pierces defenses. Laurels will grant Simon a brief window of invincibility, Dracula’s rib will deflect projectiles, and Simon can go buckwild with the unlimited use of the holy water item. All of these upgrades are nice, but they would’ve been more appreciated in the first game. I’d be willing to bet that most players of the first game would’ve given their left nut to have had at least one of these to help them on their journey up to Dracula. The only bit of challenge Simon’s Quest offers is the occasional spacious platforms, but I’d argue that the player has to make a pinpoint accurate leap here due to bad game design more than anything else.

Both the combination of the quasi-RPG elements and the subdued action gameplay make Castlevania II boring as hell: the biggest cardinal sin across all forms of art and entertainment. As much as I groaned and gritted my teeth at some of the challenges presented in the first Castlevania, I started to yearn for that level of high-octane difficulty when playing Castlevania II. The hybrid that Konami concocted does not make for an invigorating game. Diminishing the action-intensive gameplay present in the first Castlevania has made the sequel a facile experience. Whether it be having to traverse through the mundane towns or take down the lethargic enemies, Castlevania II doesn’t offer much in terms of providing the player with a substantial experience. To add insult to injury, this mundane game also pads the experience with tons of grating tedium. The infamous quote from this game, “what a horrible night to have a curse” refers to a recurring moment in Simon’s Quest when day changes to night. The irritating factor revolving around these shifts is not due to the abrupt nature of the jarring textboxes or the languid pace at which the text is presented. Day and night in Simon’s Quest are as different as…well, day and night. Daytime is the only time when any of the NPCs are out and about along with their various wares. During the night, all of these NPCs shelter themselves from the ghouls that run rampant throughout each town who look and move like 8-bit Scooby-Doo villains. Because of this, none of the NPCs who are vital to progression are available, including the church which lets the player fully heal. Nighttime in Simon’s Quest is a giant inconvenience, and its purpose seems to be a giant, forced grinding session. Like with every other point of difficulty, the consequence for dying has also been substantially neutered. The punishment for getting a game over is the player losing all of their currency. It doesn’t sound too harsh until one realizes how acquiring currency is a huge point of progression in this game, and the game forces the player to undergo this process of grinding for their money back. The process is a grueling excursion made even more tedious for me because it plays on one of my biggest pet peeves in gaming. Each moment when the message of “the morning sun has vanquished the horrible night” was a sheer blessing. Something of a “Sun’s Song” type of manual time transformation would’ve mitigated the tedium drastically.

Between the towns and hostile wildlands are the mansions, gothic manors that house Dracula’s assorted parts. The mansions take yet another apparent influence from Zelda II as they seem to be modeled after the temples of that game. However, these mansions are no Zelda dungeons. Unlike the intricate, labyrinthian designs that the Zelda franchise is known for, the mansions in Simon’s Quest attempt to capture the same tone as something from Zelda falling flat. Each mansion's look is as cookie-cutter as the towns and their designs boil down to two simple objectives. Simon must come across an orb with a body part in it somewhere, but the only way he can crack the orbs open is to purchase an oak stake from a merchant located in the mansion. Each mansion provides two obvious paths with one leading to the merchant and the other leading to the orb. Traversing through every one of these mansions made me feel as if I was simply picking up something from the store, a simple chore with a clear objective with little to no inconvenience in the process. If I’m sincerely comparing an aspect of a video game with a dull aspect of reality, then this game has a serious problem.

Some of these mansions have the occasional boss battle, and these encounters are just as underwhelming as the gothic estates that house them. The first Castlevania offered some of the most difficult boss fights on the NES. I still have somewhat of a gaming PTSD against both Dracula and the Grim Reaper from facing them in the first game. In Simon’s Quest, these horrifyingly challenging bosses are reduced to being so trivial that it’s hilarious. Something about The Grim Reaper, a boss that practically brought me to red-faced, frustrated tears moving at a snail’s pace with infrequent scythe swings is almost therapeutic. The same can be said for Dracula, who can be defeated in seconds by spamming the holy water here. The only other boss is a gray, floating mask named Carmilla who does not deviate from the pattern of pushovers intended to be menacing, end-level foes. The even funnier aspect about the overall nonchalant boss encounters is that they can be bypassed entirely (except for Dracula). The player can simply walk on by and use the oak stake to grab the item and leave. I would be bewildered by the fact that none of the developers caught this, but then I remember all of the other careless factors in this game and begin to draw my cynical conclusions.

Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest sucks, and I wish I was being glib with an ironic pun. No, Castlevania II is unfortunately a dark stain on the legacy of the Castlevania franchise. Initially, I thought this negative reputation was as undeserved as that of other sophomore sequels on the NES, but it is the most deserving of being maligned than the others. I am now hard-pressed to say that Castlevania II's radical direction away from the format of the first game was an experimental move because the word “experimentation” implies that the developers tried. From what I can tell, they could not have been bothered to give a shit about the design, combat, or any other aspect of this game, and the general laziness shows through all of these lackluster elements. I will defend the legacies of both American Super Mario Bros. 2 and Zelda II, but Castlevania II deserves every bit of criticism it gets.
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Erockthestrange 2018-05-14T01:31:36Z
2018-05-14T01:31:36Z
4.0
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After playing the classic first Castlevania game for the NES, the next logical step was to play the infamous sequel, Simon’s Quest, a game that despite the widespread disdain many hold for it, still has its defenders, simply calling it deeply flawed, yet with a decent game lying underneath. After playing through the entirety of it, I definitely fall more on the side of saying that this is just not a very good game, for reasons that go far beyond the insanely cryptic nature of trying to progress in the game, as when looking at a lot of other design choices, you can see that this game has a lot that’s wrong with it in terms of other core elements of the game.

With that said, if there’s one thing that Simon’s Quest ought to be praised for, it’s the impressive ambition that went behind the game, with non linear progression and RPG elements incorporated making for a very unique, innovative experience for the NES, even though the archaic design philosophy of games from this era really reared its ugly head throughout. Ignoring the glaring issue that I’ll get to a bit later; this game just isn’t very enjoyable to play through in a few other ways as well. While the soundtrack definitely softens the blow of having to grind, parts of this game end up slowing to a painful halt if you want to make your way through optimally due to the fact that this game requires you to grind to get enough hearts to be able to afford not only weapon upgrades, but items that are absolutely essential to be able to make your way through. This issue is further worsened by the fact that you lose all the hearts you’ve accumulated if you die 3 times, which is something that is quite easy to do, especially due to how many cheap deaths can occur, quickly draining an unsuspecting player’s lives and by extension, hearts, leading to a vicious cycle of repetition and wasted time.

The game’s grasp on fair difficulty is absolutely all over the place, with frequent moments that seem designed specifically to make the player angry through the sheer garbage put on display. One of the most egregious examples of this is the extremely janky physics that are a part of any of the sections involving vertically moving platforms, requiring absolute pinpoint precision to be able to make it across, lest you’ll end up dead at the bottom of the death pits below. The shame is that this is combined with some downright uninspired world design, with most enemies being placed around that all act more or less identical, with areas mostly looking extremely similar and haphazardly designed, making the exploration of this relatively vast world feel extremely unrewarding to explore. That said, I would take uninspired designed over the abysmal mansion areas, which employ the most stupid forms of artificial difficulty and asinine choices within this game. The layouts of these places are sprawling and labyrinthine, with dead ends everywhere making it frustrating to find your way to your goal, especially combined with some absurdly precise, yet unnecessary platforming that only serves to lengthen the time taken to get past certain sections. This alone would cause these areas to be unenjoyable, but then the game takes this to another level of awful by putting false floors and walls everywhere that are impossible to tell the difference between, sometimes leading directly into spikes. What this does is force the player to expect that the only way to safely more forward is to inch forward at a snail’s pace while throwing holy water at the ground after every step on the off chance that you’ll discover that a tiny bit further would’ve sent you down a floor, wasting more time, making these sections not only annoying, but painfully tedious as well.

Of course, the worst part of the game is the progression, with a ton of cryptic requirements to really make any progress in this game rendering a walkthrough almost essential if you want any hope of making it through this. The villagers that are meant to be giving you helpful hints and directions on where to go end up being vague at the absolute best at times, and flat out incorrect at the worst, meaning that the player isn’t able to trust any of them due to the potential of what they’re saying being completely false, not to mention that the lack of area names make many of their directions completely useless even ignoring the chances of them being false. What truly makes this problematic is the fact that so many parts of the game make the player do incredibly unintuitive things in order to progress, such as having to equip a certain item before the ferryman will take you to a specific place, except nowhere in the game is this hinted at. The most infamous example that comes to mind is of course needing to equip a red crystal, and then kneeling for 5 seconds up against a cliff in order to make a tornado take you to the next area, which really speaks for itself in terms of cryptic nonsense, really cementing this game as an extremely frustrating, unsatisfying playthrough.

Overall, while this game is definitely impressive in certain respects, and one that I do personally think is at least a noble failure, given how there clearly had some ambition behind it, even if it almost entirely didn’t pan out, there’s no doubt in my mind that this game is far from something I’d consider even decent. Everything just feels really unsatisfying, disjointed and slow paced, with the player regularly finding themselves grinding, lost or fumbling about rather than doing anything that could be considered outright fun. The game itself is definitely functional and playable at a base level, with the character controlling about as well as in Castlevania 1, but I do implore that if one wants to check this game out, to either do it with a walkthrough by their side, or to go an find the “Redacted” romhack of the game that improves at least a couple of elements of it, such as fixing what the villagers say in order for their directions to actually mean something.

Scattershot Statements:

While the music in this game isn’t as consistently amazing as the first game, it has THE most iconic Castlevania track on it, Bloody Tears, with the rest of the soundtrack also being of very high quality

The atmosphere in the game is admittedly impressive in parts of the overworld, and really manages to set a mood despite the fact that this game is incredibly ugly looking, even for its time.

The bosses are such a joke that they singlehandedly make the game feel about 10 times more unfinished than it actually is, they even respawn when you transition screens.

The day-night cycle is honestly something that I think is cool, even if its implementation in the game felt rather limited

Subweapons in this game are all basically entirely useless other than holy water, never needed to use them once since most enemies act the same, so just standing back and whipping them always did the trick

Time doesn’t pass inside mansions, so do any grinding there if you’re going for the best ending, which requires you to finish the game in a certain amount of in game days
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Kempokid 2021-06-26T08:03:44Z
2021-06-26T08:03:44Z
1.5
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2024-05-25T04:10:38Z
2.0
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Lucasi ドラキュラII 呪いの封印 2024-05-24T22:40:26Z
2024-05-24T22:40:26Z
1.0
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ricopomelo ドラキュラII 呪いの封印 2024-05-17T18:22:48Z
2024-05-17T18:22:48Z
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saturncast ドラキュラII 呪いの封印 2024-05-15T23:50:42Z
2024-05-15T23:50:42Z
2.0
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fleshtache ドラキュラII 呪いの封印 2024-05-08T07:50:24Z
2024-05-08T07:50:24Z
1.0
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Unfinished
ranzac ドラキュラII 呪いの封印 2024-05-02T15:46:34Z
2024-05-02T15:46:34Z
6.5
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kenbenlen ドラキュラII 呪いの封印 2024-04-28T15:12:00Z
2024-04-28T15:12:00Z
2.5
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Rafayurikoo42 ドラキュラII 呪いの封印 2024-04-27T01:00:15Z
2024-04-27T01:00:15Z
3.0
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WeskerStar ドラキュラII 呪いの封印 2024-04-26T14:40:19Z
2024-04-26T14:40:19Z
3.5
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Azekahh ドラキュラII 呪いの封印 2024-04-24T16:10:24Z
2024-04-24T16:10:24Z
3.0
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Foppishcrow ドラキュラII 呪いの封印 2024-04-23T17:33:05Z
2024-04-23T17:33:05Z
3.5
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FrostSonium ドラキュラII 呪いの封印 2024-04-15T06:54:40Z
2024-04-15T06:54:40Z
2.0
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  • Castlevania II: Simon's Quest
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  • Previous comments (21) Loading...
  • FleegalFlargel 2023-10-16 18:32:20.361445+00
    Of course with a guide included, this is way more enjoyable than its given legacy. My favourite music of the Castlevania NES games and the most atmospheric
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  • Revolution666 2024-01-11 05:22:54.089612+00
    Embarrassing rating. The original translation sucks, but the game itself is just fine.
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  • salem_3 2024-01-30 20:18:24.536685+00
    horrid
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  • foiebump 2024-02-23 02:28:08.568623+00
    baffling game design but there is some basal enjoyment i get out of this and idk why
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  • fleshtache 2024-05-08 07:51:40.674639+00
    Awful, couldn't even finish it
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  • fleshtache 2024-05-08 07:52:37.981826+00
    Honestly prefer adventure over this
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  • chikin 2024-05-24 06:29:52.328341+00
    secret best game in the series but youre all too dumb to understand
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  • PhrostByte 2024-05-25 04:09:28.388872+00
    This game sucks
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