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Castlevania

悪魔城ドラキュラ

Developer / Publisher: Konami
26 September 1986
Castlevania [悪魔城ドラキュラ] - cover art
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907 Ratings / 6 Reviews
#1,074 All-time
#2 for 1986
Simon Belmont travels through Dracula's castle, which appears every 100 years, to defeat the minions of evil and the legendary vampire himself.
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Title
All Vampire Killer
Castlevania is an impressive game for its time. It inspired many side scrollers that came after it and laid the foundation for one of the most iconic franchises in gaming. I don't have much interest in analyzing the conditions that the game was forged and released under, as other folks here have done, because I think it still holds up even when viewed on its own merits. Castlevania isn’t perfect, but it is a triumph that surpasses many other NES games with its aesthetic, tone, and remarkably simple gameplay.

Starting with the basics: in Castlevania there is no save system. However, the game has infinite continues. If you want to slay Dracula and his crew, you're going to need to slaughter all of the nail-biting horrors in the castle in one sitting. The only thing keeping you from watching the credits is your own lack of skill and patience. You can quit at any time, but that means that next time you boot up the game you're going to be starting from scratch. This was pretty common among early NES games, but there is a lot that Castlevania does to make it interesting for the player. In the book “A Theory of Fun for Game Design,” Raph Koster explains the concept of “Chunking.” Chunking is a psychological process where our brains attempt to sort information into chunks of ordered knowledge. Essentially, we turn chaotic or confusing systems into something that is easier to understand and recall later. This kind of mental stimulation is something that we actively seek out when we are bored. Learning new skills or playing games (of all kinds) are ways that we can satisfy the urge to process and organize new information and Castlevania capitalizes on this by forcing us to replay a dense set of stages over and over. The player will be chunking new information during every playthrough; they will get better at the game, progress further, find more secrets and power-ups, learn enemy patterns, enemy placements, uncover secrets, and master set-pieces. Using save states completely cripples this part of the experience because every screen of Castlevania is delicately designed to be replayed and memorized, not glossed over once. The secrets are well hidden and rewarding to organically discover, the level design is admirable, and many bosses have quirks that can be exploited after some experimentation. Once a player has been acquainted with the game, they can easily breeze through its early stages to take another shot at Dracula. In essence, Castlevania is all vampire killer and no blood sucking filler.

The opening shot gives us an overview of Dracula’s castle. The entire game takes place on the castle grounds and the visuals are working 8-bit overtime to make it feel like a cohesive space. You will see late game areas from a distance in the early levels and there is a constant sense of climbing higher as you progress. The color palettes are pretty funky sometimes, but it's always easy to tell what the graphics represent. Enemies have clear, easily read sprites that sometimes include outlines and the backgrounds effectively illustrate the different environments of the castle. There are stained glass windows representing chapels, scientific equipment lining the shelves of alchemical laboratories, chains hanging off the walls of the obligatory dungeon, and large tattered curtains lining the halls of the grand entrance. The final section of the game sees Simon Belmondo fighting through the inner mechanisms of Dracula's clock tower and there is an impressive amount of detail put into the gears for such a short stage. The presentation was clearly inspired by classic horror movies, which is an influence that Castlevania wears on its sleeve by featuring a film reel graphic on its title screen. The credits of the game “humorously” reference famous figures associated with horror media, which is an amusing and bizarre way to reward players for beating the game. The distinctly dark and Gothic tone of the visuals is reinforced by the music. Like many NES soundtracks, the tunes are short loops consisting of punchy melodies and simplistic basslines. Castlevania's musical identity is clearly influenced by baroque-era music and utilizes classical functional harmony to evoke its unhinged 8-bit medieval setting; this was a novel combination for its time. The arrangements use the limited sound technology of the NES to great effect with some seriously catchy melodies, many of which would be remixed and referenced by future Castlevania games. Some of these songs are so iconic that they’ve even been referenced by games in other franchises. Every element of the presentation is well executed and they weave together to create a cohesive theme that runs through the entire game. After seeing the castle you’ll be confronting in the intro cinematic, you are pushed right into the first stage.

Castlevania has six finely tuned sections consisting of three stages each. Your continues will only bring you back to the room after the previous section's boss (with one exception), which means that you need to complete each section without running out of lives to progress. Your health pool is surprisingly generous for an NES game, typically allowing you to take at least four instances of damage per life, but that doesn't mean that the game is easy. No, Castlevania wants to brutalize you. Castlevania wants to sucker punch you in the jaw and steal your lunch money. Despite this, the early levels teach you all of the enemy types and show you their behavior before you are forced to contend with them in truly dangerous situations. You are given a chance to see the waving patterns of the Medusa Heads, the erratic movements of the Hunchbacks, and the lovely throwing axes of the Knights in safe environments. There is no point when you are introduced to an entirely new enemy in an unfair manner and the level designers were clever with how they accomplished this. Many screens are sorted into two elevations, even as early as the first stage, and enemies will be placed on platforms above you so that you can observe them before being forced to engage with their attacks. You can't attack straight up without subweapons, and enemies are generally designed to be approached on even ground even if that isn't how you first encounter them. The first three sections of the game are simple and don't push you too hard, your main threat will be falling into bottomless pits.

Castlevania doesn't require the same intense platforming precision that Super Mario Bros. 3, Ninja Gaiden, and Celeste do on account of Simon Belmondo's stiff jump arc. As soon as you leave the ground you are committed to your jump like you pressed R2 with an ultra greatsword in Dark Souls. Castlevania typically adds challenge to its platforming by combining simple platform arrangements with enemies instead of creating complex arrangements of platforms. The most precarious spots in Castlevania are ledges where a single hit from an enemy can send Simon careening into a death pit. The mid-game ups the ante by combining Medusa heads, bats, and projectile attacks with platforming. There is a bit of memorization required here; sometimes enemies will come dashing in from the edges of your screen in the middle of a jump. You will have to be ready to respond to these threats immediately or be killed. The mid-game also throws large groups of enemies at you, forcing you to prioritize targets and dispatch them quickly or risk being overwhelmed by a horde. Hunchbacks and Medusa Heads are much more mobile than Mr. Belmondo and they are often combined with other enemies, leading to some pretty frustrating moments. Once you hit the late game, which I would define as Death’s section, they really crank up the difficulty. It is a brutal onslaught of enemies and attacks sweeping across your screen at all times, creating situations that push the player’s mobility and attack range beyond their reasonable limits. Subweapons become more effective than your whip during these final sections, but luckily the game does an excellent job teaching this to the player.

You are shown the value of subweapons during the first major boss: the Phantom Bat. There is a throwing axe placed right before the boss room and it is, by far, the most useful weapon for slaying it. Subweapons are dropped on death, but you will still have access to the throwing axe for the Phantom Bat even if you fail the first fight. The axe’s throwing arc is perfect for striking the Phantom Bat as it flies around the screen well beyond the reach of your whip. This is a pattern that is found in every section of the game, although the ideal subweapon for a boss is not always placed so conveniently. In general, subweapons are spread out with an impressive amount of consideration. Acquiring one and keeping it through multiple stages might end up giving you free passage through a boss encounter, a concept illustrated by the second boss: Queen Medusa. Holding on to the stopwatch trivializes her and the holy water will completely freeze her place, allowing you to essentially skip her fight with a bit of preparation. The challenge of maintaining a good subweapon throughout an entire section is a way for skilled players to express themselves! The third boss, the Mummy Men, can be easily dispatched using the holy water from the very start of their section. Dying to the Mummy Men will result in you having to fight them with the throwing dagger and your whip, which is definitely suboptimal. The throwing dagger seems like it exists to troll the player and it is almost always an item that you want to avoid. Mummies are the first true bosses of the game, although there are quite a few ways to trivialize them even without the ideal subweapons. You can stand on a block near the entrance of the room to avoid their attacks and get free hits on them. Breaking that same block to consume the pork chop found inside of it will prevent you from using this strategy, creating a tradeoff between safety and a heal. Players are likely to discover this pork chop quickly since one of the Mummies starts right next to the breakable block concealing it. This is another instance of Castlevania doing a great job placing its power-ups. The game’s only real flaw in this regard is the random power-up drops, which can unexpectedly cause you to replace your subweapon. The game also has a nasty habit of dropping useless money bags that give you points instead of giving you ammo, which can be annoying, but maybe they’re useful if you’re going for a high score. If you want to get real ambitious, you could take a picture of your television screen and mail it in to Nintendo Power to get on their leaderboard.

The boss fights really start to ramp up in the second half of the game. The fourth section’s boss is another duo: Frankenstein and Igor. This fight forces the player to evade Igor, a fast moving enemy that throws projectiles at them constantly. Attacking Igor doesn’t actually drain the boss’ HP and only buys you a moment to attack Frankenstein. If you have the boomerang or holy water this fight becomes substantially easier; you can use the boomerang to hit Igor from a distance or use the holy water to keep him frozen in place with its residual flame effect. The hallway leading up to the duo doesn’t provide the player with either of these weapons, sadly, meaning that dying to the boss can be seriously punishing. Facing off against Frankenstein and Igor using only your whip is very doable, but it requires a lot of patience and restraint. Igor’s movements are effectively random, meaning that the ideal strategy is to attack him once and then get one or two strikes on Frankenstein before turning your attention back to Igor. Frankenstein himself is not much of a threat, but allowing Igor to freely dart around the screen basically guarantees that you will die. The next boss, Death, expands on the randomness of Frankenstein and Igor by attacking with floating scythes. These weapons appear in seemingly random places and there is no rhyme or reason behind how they move. Sometimes they will move slowly towards Mr. Belmondo and sometimes they will move in a random direction. All of the scythes look the same, so there is no way to tell what direction they are going to move after they become a threat. They can approach Simon from angles that the whip and subweapons can’t easily deal with, resulting in some seriously cheap deaths. If you want to take down Death, you will need to carry holy water from the very start of the section to freeze him in place or rely on the boomerang that you can find right before his boss room to keep the scythes at bay. Carrying holy water seems like the ideal thing to do, but the hallway before death might be the most brutally difficult room in the entire game. Losing the holy water there was almost an inevitability in my own experience. There are Medusa Heads flying at you from both sides of your screen and two Knights throwing axes at you. There is a clear rhythm to everything, but falling out of it for even a moment can have catastrophic results. You will have to make your way through this room AND kill Death on a single health bar in order to beat the stage. There is a huge amount of tension after you beat this gauntlet for the first time. You can’t quit now, otherwise you’re gonna have to go through that sadistic hallway again.

Dracula himself is much more consistent than the previous two bosses, having only one real attack during his first phase. He will teleport to some random part of the room (potentially on top of you) and then fire a few fireballs in your direction. The angle of the fireball projectiles will vary depending on where you are when he fires them, but the timing is predictable enough that you can get into a nice rhythm of jumping over Dracula’s attacks and then attacking his head. The first phase of this boss isn’t limited to the room where you fight Dracula, though. The hallway right before Dracula can be grinded for subweapon ammo and double shot or triple shot power-ups. You might not want to do it, but grinding for ammo and power-ups there is almost a necessity. Beating Dracula’s second phase will require a good execution of his first phase and a double or triple shot subweapon. It’s an unforgiving challenge that pushes your knowledge of the game’s systems to their limits. Thankfully, the designers were generous enough to give the player a checkpoint right before the fight. Seriously, Dracula would be miserable without that checkpoint. I found myself using the holy water to destroy Dracula’s attacks in the first phase in order to grind out a triple shot power-up before reaching his transformation. The triple shot holy water will freeze his second phase in place until you run out of ammo, allowing you to deplete all of his HP without even giving him the chance to attack you. Despite this, I was sweating HARD when I finally got to his second phase with enough preparation to stand a chance. I was truly in the “gamer flow zone,” which is a state of mind that retro games like this are really good at pulling me into. It was genuinely satisfying to finally slay the big man and become a true Vampire Killer.

If you asked me to describe the experience of playing Castlevania in one word I would say “satisfying.” The solid mechanics, the snappy and responsive attacks, and the crunchy sound effects make this game a joy to play. The music and visuals are the pork chops on top that tip Castlevania over into the category of “8-bit masterpiece,” and it’s a masterpiece that has aged marvelously well. I would wholeheartedly recommend this game to anyone who wants to test their mettle against the fearsome horrors that lurk within the walls of Dracula’s Gothic lair just so that they might experience the gratification of watching the castle crumble as the credits roll. Castlevania is a testament to the power of the NES and proves that great game design doesn’t age.
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MisterSynthesizer 2023-05-19T08:45:05Z
2023-05-19T08:45:05Z
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concise good soundtrack pain accessible written review scoring
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Whip it Good
Introduction:
Video Game horror tropes were once not so tropy. In the modern era where everything is regurgitated - elements of horror run rampant in gaming. Scary games are among the most popular due to Twitch streamers filming their reactions as well as titles like Call of Duty releasing a Zombie Mode in what seems like every iteration. But in 1986, horror games were not so common. Castlevania for the NES brought to many, for the first time, monsters ripped straight from classic films and literature; placing them in video games. This undeniably made impressions across the globe. Now anyone can kill sentient skeletons, brave a gothic castle and even challenge Dracula himself. What isn’t to like?


History:
Being a horror movie buff, Hitoshi Akamatsu recognized the appeal of spookiness. He felt that translating the cinematic horror to video games would yield impressive results - not to mention would be a blast in itself. So with a team dedicated to creating a horror movie-infused game production began. And on the 90th anniversary of Bram Stroker's Dracula; Castlvania hit the shelves.


Story:
“Step into the shadows of the deadliest dwelling on earth.”
Page 4, Castlevania Manual

In the year 1591, Dracula was slain by Christopher Belmont. Being a member of
the famous vampire hunter family whilst also wielding the holy whip known as the Vampire Killer; Christopher knew that it was his destiny to slay the evil count. One hundred peaceful years pass until one day, vile denizens of Transylvania resurrect Dracula and his castle known as Castlevania. The next of kin in the Belmont family, Simon, drew up his ancestor’s whip and set off to best the count. In the dreaded Castlevania, Simon found himself surrounded by dangerous creatures like zombies, skeletons and hunchbacks. LIttle by little Simon made his way up the castle. More dangers befell the hunter the higher he clambered. After battling Frankenstein, Medusa and even Death Himself; Simon entered Count Dracula’s chamber. The battle was epic and Dracula fought ferociously. Eventually, Simon defeated the vampire. But was surprised once a gigantic blue-beast erupted in the count’s place. The battle commenced and ended with the creature's death. The Belmont saved Transylvania but was deeply wounded in the process.


Gameplay:
Castlevania is a linear action game with minor platforming elements. You pilot Simon and make your way through mostly horizontal rooms. Baddies with different ways of moving and attacking litter the castle hallways. Your main means of attacking is your holy whip. Its hit box propels outward, horizontally in the direction you are facing; after a short delay. Its limited versatility requires some tactics and positioning; making it feel realistic and weighty. Five sub-weapons are strewn across Castlevania as well. These weapons require the heart collectibles to use them. The Stopwatch freezes time at the cost of five hearts. The Dagger shoots across the screen. The Axe is a projectile with an upward arch. The Holy Water leaves a burning flame on the ground where it is thrown and the Cross acts like the dagger but returns where it is thrown. Their quality varies highly but are undoubtedly all useful in certain situations. The notable standout is the Holy Water and its capability of stun-locking bosses. Finite upgrades can be found that increase how many sub-weapons can be on screen at once; allowing the player to dish out more damage at a faster rate. Each sub-weapon was expertly placed to introduce the character to it and at a time where it is necessary. This shows a development team keeping the player in mind at all times.

Each Level is made up of four stages and ends in a boss battle. Level 1 is a tutorial of sorts. Easy one-hit enemies teach the player about the whip, four of the five sub-weapons can be obtained here and stairs are introduced as well. The second level introduces bottomless pits and platforms. This environment really hits home with the importance of well placed jumps; prepping players for the levels to come. Level 3 is more combat focused as the sporadic hunchbacks attack you from all angles. After these first 3 levels, difficulty dramatically increases. Castlevania’s level four, five and six require intimate knowledge of its mechanics and systems to effectively progress.

Fortunately, death does not sting as much in Castlevania than in other titles from its era. This game features unlimited continues; only bringing the player to the beginning of the stage if they are felled. This allows the players to keep trying until they are victorious or satisfied.


Gripes:
Simons’s movement is a clear sign of the times. His jump is limited to straight up and a fixed angle forward. This creates difficulty in maneuvering a barrage of projectiles and enemies. Also, another point of frustration is the knock-back upon receiving damage; which leads to a lot of one-hit deaths.

The floating Medusa heads leading to Death’s boss fight are particularly agitating. Their overwhelming presence is sure to lead to a lot of restarts. Even if you do pass them, the Grim Reaper fight is one of the hardest in the game.


Conclusion:
The illustrious Castlevania series had a wonderful start that led to many sequels of mixed quality. I believe that despite its age, this iteration stands time’s test remarkably well and was a joy to play for the first time in 2020. Although not perfect by any means, it is stable bedrock for the Castlevania monument to be erected on. Few games this old, hold this fast in today’s turbulence.


Favorites:

Song - Vampire Killer

Boss - Dracula

Sub-Weapon - Holy Water

Enemy - Fishmen

Level - 4th Stage


Grade: (77.5/100)
Story: 3/10
The bulk of the narrative is found online or in the manual. The rest is told with cutscenes rather than text stills.

Gameplay: 7/10
Archaic in some ways and everlasting in others. Definitely a joy to experience.

Graphics: 9/10
The graphics of this NES game are stellar. Each level feels visually unique and varied. A standout for its time.

Replayability: 7/10
Its small run time along with its unlimited continues allows one to revisit this game when the need arises.

Music: 9/10
Spectacular score that encompasses the atmosphere perfectly. Feels more like a film score than a video game soundtrack.

Immersion: 9/10
The cohesiveness of levels progressing towards Dracula’s tower is a great touch that keeps me engaged. The difficulty is never overbearing and can be beaten with some purposeful effort.

Innovation: 8/10
The ripples from this game are far-reaching and not just in its own series. The unlimited continues was refreshing in a game with this caliber of challenge. IS MAD SPOOKY.
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TheGrayWorld 2023-10-09T14:51:21Z
2023-10-09T14:51:21Z
77 /100
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I consider this game to be a true classic. It truly embodies some fundamentals archetypes of gaming. Usually I hate comparing anything to Dark Souls but in the case of Castlevania it's kinda of a given. The "clunky" controls are a fundamental aspect of play. Every move has to be calculated. One single mistake and your run is over. The delayed attack and the slow and pre determined jump are buttery smooth when mastered. The combat in dark souls is virtually the same (but far more complicated of course).

What strikes me even more as fundamental in this Archetype of a game is its atmosphere. Castlevania was one of the first NES titles to use detailed backgrounds and it separates it from the crowd and manifests it into your brain as a living breathing wonder of a dark gloomy world. It's wonderful. Simple yet varied and the brain does the rest. Adding to this is the invigorating soundtrack that just oozes being a badass. Even today this game just transports me into its world faster then most modern absurdities of escapism.

But this game is not perfect and my main criticism arises in the later 3rd of the castle. See the main premise is to get to the top of Draculas home and kill him. You don't need anything more than that. The world consists of 6 cohesive levels which are represented on a map making the world believable and meaningful. The 2nd to last stage is where the designers decided to completely dump all of the previously proven design knowledge.

The first 2 stages of that level are completely fine and actually stupidly easy. But then we enter the infamous hallway. You have like a billion fucktards of enemies flying all over the screen and its anxiety inducing nature probably destroyed more gamepads then one might think. But let's be honest. Even this can be easily mastered and after about 20 tries a could do it without getting hit. So what's the big deal? Right after this segment Konami decided to put the biggest turd of a boss in human history.

Ok maybe it ain't that bad but Death got to be one of the typical "nes hard/i wanna end my life" moments. The dude spawns a billion projectiles moving way too fast and in angles you possibly can't reach while jumping around like a goofy bitch. What I'm trying to tell you is: it's unfair and stupid. It literally feels like pure luck. There's a way to cheese him apparently and I tried it later on but I never got it to work. Sad...

This boss is the sole reason this game suffers. I really can see the beauty in anything else though. The turkey in the wall, the perfect level design, the challenging yet beautifully designed controls and the whole atmosphere make this one of the finest games on the nes. It influenced most of the great action games that will come in the future and It still plays like a charm to this day. But fuck death. (It literally took me a week to beat him, I'm not joking)
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JoahannisBaerStrysl 2023-09-27T23:48:33Z
2023-09-27T23:48:33Z
4.0
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Every 100 years, Count Dracula arises in Transylvania in a black mass ritual brought by his circle of heretics. He terrorises and abducts the populace, spreading black magic of cruelty. Will you, a descendant of a family line of vampire killers, be able to stop him?


I remember when Arin Hanson used to talk about game mechanics and how "Akumajou Dracula"(or "Castlevania") has wonderful tactility. The whip mechanic is snappy and feels right, and so do all the jumping and climbing trajectories, rigid as they are. Both crouching and jumping have a lot of practical and mechanical use, and both help you either avoid harm or reach out with your whip, predating this necessity in Zelda II. And it's great how everything in this game tries to be damn campy. I imagine the bats flying towards you are the same rubbery bats on a string coming in the 1931 "Dracula" film, and you got the whole cavalcade of stock Halloween creatures like the mummy, the Frankenstein monster, creatures from the Black Lagoon, skeletons and strange hunchbacks. I'm rather surprised there was no room for werewolves here, but what's in is cheesy fun nontheless.

And many of these enemies are utter dickheads. "Castlevania"'s so notorious for its difficulty. The Medusa often get paired with either bottomless pits or some projectile-wielding enemy. Medusa heads suck. And the strange, monkey-like hunchbacks especially suck during the run for your life at level 4, which also plays nasty environmental tricks by fooling you what's a real floor and what's a background element. So many of these foes seem insurmountable at first, and you can definitely study their patterns if you take your time and see how they react to what - but for a game as breezy and brief as this and with no window for some downtime(throug all of the game you're under a strict clock), it kills the mood in me to actually take my time with them. And often I get the daggers 90% of the time, which is just the lamest subweapon.

The visual direction of this game though, is truly unparalleled. I love how there's a small diagram of the castle every time inbetween levels, showing you where you are in that "SMB3" fashion. So many resources blend seamlessly to construct this truly ancient, gothic space, with magnificent chandeliers, pillars, and archways everywhere. They always blend with the foreground elements seamlessly which drives you to a double take. And level 4 has this superb view of Dracula's hideout in the distance, under the moonlight. It's such a powerful moment and a deliberate artistic choice to devote so many precious kilobytes of memory space to just a graphical element, putting even more emphasis in the oncoming culmination.

When you fight with Dracula in his darkened lair, it's so cold and stark. He appears silently and cuts a quarter of your health. It's the one part in the game where I would welcome the high precision needed to defeat Dracula, since every moment and every attempt to place one of the 16 shots on him is filled with more suspense than a cowboy standoff.

Drac puts out a cruel fight, but it's really the rest of the game's difficulty that deters me from this otherwise classic game and makes me moan with displeasure when I "have to" play it, and I'm far from the only person to feel this way. I'd feel more at ease if many of the perils weren't such bullshitty(hello, inflated spike hitboxes!), and if I didn't get the feeling that hearts were so scarce that I need to hang onto them for dear life.

Fortunately there are ways around it!

So first of all I did play this in the Famicom Disk System release. It has a saving system just like "Zelda" that is so cool. But it still keeps its merciless difficulty, which I do think is too much for the first time player. When Konami ported this game to the cartridge in Japan(and I mean Japan ONLY), they did put an added easy mode, which is a blessing. This easy mode makes bosses and enemies a lot easier to traverse, and it also gives you bonus hearts so you actually won't be scared of using the side-arms and removes Simon's damage blowback entirely: Meaning you can say goodbye to falling in pits, if you still have jumping precision.

A thing that takes it even further is "Castlevania Simplified", which is a hack for the US cartridge release(for the "Revision A" ROM) that also boosts your power, your hearts, gets rid of pits entirely(a bit too much for my taste), and lowers the enemy spam. For a lot of people accustomed to the OG this would be stupidly easy, but I think it's a hack that's amazingly servicable for people who are daunted by the difficulty and feel like they can't play "Castlevania" because of it. Well guess what - this hack's for you!

If I had to re-frame all of these versions into genuine difficulty levels I would say:

Easy mode: "Castlevania Simplified" hack
Medium mode: Japanese cartridge release, easy mode
Hard mode: Just regular ol' "Castlevania"
Expert mode: Beating "Castlevania" once and doing the second quest after it

Also, for the FDS version - no super cool and special music arrangements this time, I'm afraid. I think the music used none of the FDS sound channel gear and is instead completely identical to the NES chiptune. So besides the saving system I'd say the NES and FDS versions are completely identical.
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Clownboss 2016-08-18T14:03:38Z
2016-08-18T14:03:38Z
3.5
2
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Hard
PREVIOUS REVIEW (18 Aug 2016)
You are Simon Belmont, you enter Dracula's castle, you beat monsters like skeletons and zombies with your whip and shit. That's it.

To be honest, this is quite a clunky platformer. Obviously functional, and way more engaging and tight than any other platformer action game in the previous years, but it was beaten by its own sequels later(and the cheap falling off of cliffs is something I can still never forgive this game). The enemies' patterns are easy to get used to thankfuly, and you are given an interesting arsenal of weaponry, though the holy water practically breaks everything plus the bosses. Aged poorly, but was a competent game in its time, and one of the early gems with such other pioneers like Metroid, Zelda and so on.

At least the continue option takes you to the beginning of the stage and on the Dracula stage it leaves you right in front of his chamber. Boss.
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Has surprisingly aged very well, and is packed with up-to-date features (mainly infinite continues), but suffers from what most NES games are plagued with; pretty tough difficulty with very little payout. Castlevania fails to give a good dopamine rush for killing a hard boss or beating a tough stage, because the game gives you nothing as a reward. Well, of course, that depends on if you think points are a well deserved reward. As a result, I fail to continue to bring myself back, because why would I? To get a high score?

Gameplay is surprisingly decent, but again, this game has nothing pulling me back in besides the gameplay. I want to feel some type of reward when playing a game, earning something as I play, some examples being loot or bits and pieces of story. Either that, or the gameplay has to be pretty exceptional, which Castlevania's is not.

Castlevania is a not so special game with an okay soundtrack, decent sprite work, and pretty good gameplay. It's leagues above most NES games, but that isn't saying much.
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Qwertchi 2022-01-28T05:06:29Z
2022-01-28T05:06:29Z
3.0
1
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As a horror fan, I am someone who appreciates the golden age of horror from the 1930s. I enjoy indulging myself in the roots of everything I’m invested in, and it’s interesting to see how far the horror genre has come since depicting these spooky, gothic creatures in grainy black and white. While I appreciate the artistry of golden-age horror films, I would be hard-pressed to call any of these films scary. The Draculas, Frankensteins, mummies, etc. present in the golden age of horror back in the 1930s were meant as kooky distractions from the economic despair of the great depression. Almost a century later, the horrors we’ve endured since then have been colossally more hair-raising and we’ve become much more jaded as a result. Since then, the Universal movie monsters have become synonymous with a specific brand of classic horror. They were characters that were relatively scary for their times that have melded into Halloween culture for some light-hearted spooks every October. While time has not preserved the initial scare-factor these monsters may have once had, at least they are still fun and relevant in some fashion. Their lasting impact must have been somewhat felt half a century later because all the characters and aesthetical elements that make up classic horror were translated into Konami’s 1986 NES game Castlevania. I wouldn’t consider Castlevania as a horror game, especially by modern standards. Of course, I could say the same thing about the Universal monster films of the 1930s. I don’t think the horror elements of Castlevania have depreciated with time as the case is with the films that inspired it. The slasher genre that dominated the horror landscape of the 1980s was far too evolved to give the classic horror elements of Castlevania any room for chills and thrills for that decade’s audience. I don’t think Castlevania was ever intended to be a horror game anyways. It revels in the elements of the golden age of horror not to elicit fright, but to tribute the best elements of old-school horror through the medium of gaming.

Castlevania doesn’t just borrow a few elements from the classic monster movies, it’s a game that revels in them. They are the crux to its foundation and the base of its personality. Dracula, the most famous vampire of all time created by Bram Stoker, is the centerpiece of almost every Castlevania game. In the gaming world, Dracula is as notable of an antagonist as Bowser, Ganon, or Dr. Robotnik (Eggman). That’s the extent of Dracula’s place in the Castlevania franchise. Unlike the thin, borderline anemic character played by Bela Lugosi that we’re all familiar with, Dracula is a grand, towering figure like Chernabog from Fantasia donning vampire garb. His castle is also no longer a remote palace accessed through the forest on a dirt trail by horse and buggy. Dracula’s castle in Castlevania is a stupendous tower, the most inescapable thing in one’s peripheral vision at night next to the moon. It’s large enough to be divided into six different levels that make up the structure of the game. Simon Belmont, the renowned vampire hunter of the esteemed Belmont clan, is tasked with ascending Dracula’s castle and challenging him in his throne room at the peak of his castle, ending his reign of terror.

Castlevania is also one of the most lauded games on the NES that pushed the capabilities of the console. It was released in 1986, only a year after the NES made its international debut. Most if not all of the games during the first year of the NES’s life cycle were rudimentary, to say the least. The graphics for these games were simplistic with sprites only vaguely depicting what they intended to. It was a leap in progress from the amorphous chunks that made up the Atari-2600’s graphics, but the sprites of the first Super Mario Bros and the first Legend of Zelda left much to be desired. The opening sequence of the game where Simon appears at the gates of Dracula’s castle with the monument of horror imposing its presence over him is practically the first cinematic in an NES game.

Once the game begins, the spectacle of the castle never leaves the player. The backgrounds of early NES titles were barely given any detail, probably due to a mix of the elements of the game existing in the foreground and limited capabilities. They were mostly a constant color to portray light or darkness such as the bright fantasyland land of the Mushroom Kingdom in Super Mario Bros. or the barrenness of space in Metroid. The backgrounds of Castlevania are the colossal walls of Dracula’s gothic estate. If the opening cutscene of the game is any indication, the monumental presence of the castle is something that is felt throughout the game. The game achieves this by consistently offering what are arguably the most detailed backgrounds of any game at the time. The yard of Dracula’s castle depicts crooked trees in the back with hanging green foliage and the vestibules of the castle feature wide columns with giant hanging drapes. The interior foundation is cracked out and deteriorated to exude the feeling that this castle has been standing for quite some time. The backgrounds also alternate smoothly between the levels. In the first level, Simon will descend a staircase to find himself in an area near the grounds surrounded by the deepwater of the castle’s moat. The background becomes dark to signify that Simon’s outside now and the water is now a new hazard with fishmen leaping out of it. Linear sidescrollers that made up the early NES library only offered a consistent layout per level with one backdrop. The transitions in Castlevania were something to behold.

Another rudimentary aspect of early NES games was the simplistic gameplay. Many of them still borrowed too heavily from the design philosophy of quarter-devouring arcade games with no continues. This was an inappropriate choice for the home console, and I’m glad Konami felt the same way. Castlevania gives the player three lives with the chance to earn more through increasing the score. A high score is something from the primitive arcade games, but it can be excused here because of how arbitrary it is. Frequent checkpoints are implemented in each level to restart the player at a certain point after they die. If the player loses all of their lives and receives a game over, they start at the beginning of the level instead of the beginning of the game. This means of penalizing the player was a more ideal, refreshing change of pace that should’ve been included sooner in NES’s lifespan. Castlevania also implements a health bar so the player can get hit multiple times and not die. The player can also find roasts in the crevices of some walls to restore their health. All of these deviations from the norm seem commonplace now, so I guess I’m not the only one who thought of Konami's acts of mercy here as ideal.

Simon Belmont is also much more readily equipped than most gaming protagonists before him. Like many playable characters from early 2D side scrollers, Simon moves briskly through relatively linear levels with the need to jump arising on occasion. One might criticize his one jump as it tends to be rather rigid, but the obstacles Simon needs to jump over are never that far apart to pose as a problem. His trademark whip also feels somewhat stilted due to its restrained, unidirectional trajectory every time he cracks it. However, I’d argue that this limited range gives the player a concrete understanding of how attacking works, making it easier for the player to acclimate to the controls. Simon can also upgrade his whip by breaking candles that appear all-around each level. The first upgrade will increase the damage the whip deals and the third, final upgrade increases its length. Breaking these candles will also give the player extra weapons for Simon to use. The axe is lobbed overhead at airborne enemies, the boomerang covers all ground horizontally to it, the watch freezes time momentarily, the dagger is a forward-moving projectile, and the bottle of holy water ignites the unholy forces of Dracula’s castle in flames. This batch of extra items is far more intricate than the simple Fire Flower projectile from Super Mario Bros. These weapons are activated with the same button as the whip with the additional pressing of “up” on the D-pad. This single-button scheme was only awkward in times where I was climbing up a staircase. To replenish the ammo needed for these weapons, the player collects hearts from enemies and candles. Using hearts as weapon currency takes some time to get used to, I’ll admit.

Thank Christ that Castlevania gives the player enough firepower and gracious room for error because the game is really fucking difficult. Every time I review an NES game, I feel like a broken record talking about how the game represents the phenomenon known as “NES hard”, but it bears repeating with Castlevania. Without the unlimited continues and eclectic arsenal, Castlevania would be unplayable. It’s already an excruciating affair as is. The game expects a lot from the player’s reflexive skills and utilization of the weapons. Replaying each level is a must to get through the game. Bottomless pits are everywhere, enemies will attack the player in vulnerable situations, and the screens will often become hectic with hoards of different enemy types. The reason why all of this is the base of Castlevania’s difficulty is that Simon will get blown back by any hit he takes. I’d be willing to bet that most deaths in Castlevania are caused by getting hit by a bat or Medusa Head and plummeting to their prematurely timed deaths. The saving grace of the difficulty curve is that the game fluidly acclimates the player to it. The first level offers simple enemies that careen towards the player without any tricks while introducing simple platforms to jump over. The second level introduces the notorious medusa heads that while moving in a consistent pattern, manage to catch even the most seasoned of players off guard. The third and fourth levels are filled to the brim with bottomless pits and enemies that run around erratically.

The bosses of these levels also follow the same difficulty curve. This array of spooky, classic monsters also gets progressively more difficult. The bat and Medusa can be shredded by the whip in no time at all while fighting against the mummies and Frankenstein’s monster with the additional hunchback (Yes, these things are hunchbacks, not monkeys. It’s kind of hard to tell because of the graphics, but the reference to Igor the hunchback fighting with Frankensteins’ monster makes more sense) can be hectic due to being cramped on a stage with two boss enemies. The fifth level is a culmination of escalating difficulty and one big roadblock. This level does not mess around. Suddenly, the game includes the durable knight enemies and scatters them all over the place. The hallway before the boss of this level forces the player to confront three of these enemies with a constant stream of medusa heads flying around. The player’s accuracy has to be dead-on to survive, also staying conscious of their level of health for the boss. The formidable foe at the end of this hallway is Death himself, the scythe-wielding Grim Reaper. He’s about as hard as you’d imagine fighting the personification of death would be: practically fucking impossible. Even if the player manages to defeat him, his rotating scythes remain and can still kill players that survived by a strand of health.

The developers may as well not have programmed another level after this one because I’d imagine most people haven’t surpassed it. For those few who have, a spellbinding fight with count awaits them. The platforming section before his fight is simple enough, but the player then has to endure a tedious grinding section to fill up on hearts outside of his quarters. Trust me, it’s essential in beating Dracula. This doesn’t apply to his first form as his patterns are simple as long as he doesn’t appear in front of the player. His second form is the reason for the grind session. His head comes flying off as he unsheathes his robes to reveal an indescribable demon. This phase does not subscribe to normal amounts of health as it seems five to six hits deplete one block of health here. This usually results in the player frantically alternating between the whip and the holy water with an added force of prayer on the player’s side that the ugly demon will die. Once he does, Simon is victorious and Dracula’s prodigious castle crumbles to the ground.

The golden age of horror films may not be as effective as they were during their heyday at providing scares. That does not mean that the general properties of these films are ineffective in being fun and entertaining. The NES classic Castlevania put Dracula and the rest of these horror relics back into the limelight in a completely different medium. The spooky, grandiose halls of Dracula’s castle are treated with arguably the best attention to detail the NES could offer. Dracula reignited his role of being a supernatural, imposing force of evil by providing some of the starkest challenges in his gothic manor in gaming and being the tense climax of all of it. All of these factors constitute a solid early NES title that was ahead of the curve in many ways making it one of the shining examples for the system.
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Erockthestrange 2017-07-21T19:08:17Z
2017-07-21T19:08:17Z
7.5
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Peppone550 悪魔城ドラキュラ 2024-02-27T11:09:17Z
2024-02-27T11:09:17Z
1
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alexgm3107 悪魔城ドラキュラ 2024-02-21T01:22:35Z
2024-02-21T01:22:35Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
DaggerDraven Castlevania 2024-02-20T10:05:30Z
NES • XNA
2024-02-20T10:05:30Z
6
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
DaggerDraven Arcade Archives Vs. Castlevania 2024-02-20T10:05:11Z
PS4
2024-02-20T10:05:11Z
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DaggerDraven 悪魔城ドラキュラ 2024-02-20T10:04:39Z
2024-02-20T10:04:39Z
3.5
6
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Coldplaz 悪魔城ドラキュラ 2024-02-19T23:10:55Z
2024-02-19T23:10:55Z
3.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
danilo_bmm 悪魔城ドラキュラ 2024-02-18T22:08:59Z
2024-02-18T22:08:59Z
3.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
foiebump Castlevania 2024-02-16T05:13:58Z
Wii
2024-02-16T05:13:58Z
3.0
1
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
hi
HSoaresLima 悪魔城ドラキュラ 2024-02-14T12:41:27Z
2024-02-14T12:41:27Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
tackyproduct 悪魔城ドラキュラ 2024-02-13T05:07:51Z
2024-02-13T05:07:51Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
SynnGD 悪魔城ドラキュラ 2024-02-10T22:55:55Z
2024-02-10T22:55:55Z
3.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Joe_Kloos 悪魔城ドラキュラ 2024-02-10T19:26:28Z
2024-02-10T19:26:28Z
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  • Previous comments (14) Loading...
  • Bskeezer 2022-12-03 17:33:35.287887+00
    I’ve played this game countless times, but I’ve never once beaten Death without the holy water.
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  • KesiMiao 2023-01-23 21:00:10.888971+00
    Get the boomerang with II power up and then just spam it. I somehow had a no damage fight but was probably lucky.
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  • anderd0504 2023-03-15 19:54:49.912759+00
    Beat Death with a stopwatch (which doesn't do anything) after dozens of tries with a savestate. Fuck this game but I really want to beat it
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  • Brandon657 2023-03-19 14:33:12.445262+00
    the most playable nes game other than mario 3
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  • slioganach 2023-05-02 01:07:34.015324+00
    genuinely not sure if it's harder to get to death without losing a single life to keep the holy water three shot or to just fight him without a subweapon lol
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  • thm_yrk12 2023-05-29 20:14:01.40366+00
    most fun nes game i've played
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  • superae 2023-08-17 06:05:24.793136+00
    Good game, but the design of the last two levels in particular feel particularly unreasonable, and there are a few too many sections which rely on an enemy not absolutely coming out of nowhere and ruining your platforming. People who are rating this especially highly, do you tend to play with save states? Or is there a part of the strategy that I'm missing?
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  • superae 2023-08-22 01:24:28.84229+00
    Okay, beat it for a fourth time since my last message, this time without any savestates. I beat it with tons of savestates first, then with the Japanese easy mode (and no savestates), then with my own custom rom with some (but not all) of the changes in the Japanese easy mode (specifically, no knockback, and half damage), without savestates. Then, finally was able to beat the US version legit. I've grown to appreciate the level of thought put into the mechanics and difficulty each time I've played, and it didn't get boring or too overly difficult when I ramped up the difficulty for myself this way.

    The fight with Death is still unreasonably hard but I cheesed it with holy water, and the hallway leading up to that fight became easier and easier the more I practiced and played. The Frankenstein and Igor battle, and the rooms leading up to it, was also an intense difficulty spike, and took me about a dozen tries before I finally beat them, but I figured out a decent strategy through trial and error. I've noticed that mostly all of the difficulty in this game does come from skill and learning the mechanics, rather than unfair RNG as it felt at times when I initially played. Essentially every single one of my deaths was avoidable, it just took practice to be able to get to the point of avoiding them. It was a blast to play once I got a bit better at the mechanics, and this is undoubtedly a well-crafted and well thought-out game. Bumped my rating up twice, from a 3/5 to 3.5/5, and now to a 4/5. Great game.
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