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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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291 Ratings / 3 Reviews
#4,463 All-time
#49 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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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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Title
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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Straybow ドラキュラII 呪いの封印 2022-11-26T21:08:38Z
2022-11-26T21:08:38Z
1.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
ChuckB ドラキュラII 呪いの封印 2022-11-25T20:11:24Z
2022-11-25T20:11:24Z
2.5
1
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Dan_Chavez9117 ドラキュラII 呪いの封印 2022-11-21T00:15:51Z
2022-11-21T00:15:51Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
CrashV1978 Castlevania II: Simon's Quest 2022-11-14T02:03:49Z
NES • XNA
2022-11-14T02:03:49Z
3.0
1
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
A_Latin_Guy Castlevania II: Simon's Quest 2022-11-09T03:53:29Z
NES • XNA
2022-11-09T03:53:29Z
4.0
2
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
2D platformer castlevania vampire gothic NES mixed feelings action-adventure platformer supernatural undead b-horror konami
Teglement ドラキュラII 呪いの封印 2022-11-03T14:48:16Z
2022-11-03T14:48:16Z
2.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
GiornoMio ドラキュラII 呪いの封印 2022-11-02T16:00:03Z
2022-11-02T16:00:03Z
3.0 /10
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
frank79a ドラキュラII 呪いの封印 2022-10-30T20:08:52Z
2022-10-30T20:08:52Z
2.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Baller16 ドラキュラII 呪いの封印 2022-10-24T03:53:08Z
2022-10-24T03:53:08Z
2.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Vantablxck ドラキュラII 呪いの封印 2022-10-15T12:48:39Z
2022-10-15T12:48:39Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
nakedsquirtle Castlevania II: Simon's Quest 2022-10-14T19:51:02Z
NES • XNA
2022-10-14T19:51:02Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
zeldalike
Aidenbowe45 ドラキュラII 呪いの封印 2022-10-10T00:23:36Z
2022-10-10T00:23:36Z
3.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
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  • Previous comments (7) Loading...
  • wallrooseyes 2021-12-25 01:16:14.906828+00
    This game sucks. [2]
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  • ... 2022-03-13 19:07:54.604748+00
    This game sucks. [3]
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  • DavidthePearce 2022-05-17 03:25:59.011416+00
    With a guide it's fine. Iterates on the aesthetic of the first game with better visuals and music. The game is literally unbeatable without a guide however, and while certainly a negative, I think its a trait which with the internet has become more forgivable. Many games today are designed in a similarly obtuse way which necessitates the use of a guide or fan wikis, it is a normalised quality amongst indie games at this point. Minecraft is a pretty clear example wherein the game doesn't adequately explain how to reach The End within the text and relies on wikis for a lot of info.
    None of this absolves Simon's Quest, however I think in our current context with access to the internet the game isn't nearly as bad as its reputation suggests.
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  • fakeredshoes 2022-07-03 13:10:42.922771+00
    simon looks like a buff david bowie
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  • feargm 2022-08-27 15:00:03.961585+00
    happy 35th to this shitty game lol
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  • heavymetalthunder 2022-09-11 01:32:02.893357+00
    This game sucks [4]
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  • Myriadis 2022-09-27 14:29:54.175592+00
    This game is great, you all just suck
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