You like Castlevania, don’t you? Yes. The answer is YES.
The first Castlevania was alright. It was fun, but never quite one of my favorites, not like the original Contra. Playing it again now, it definitely doesn’t hold up as well as Contra. It’s great, nostalgically, but other than some really memorable music, it was just too basic and unforgivingly difficult to be great.
Castlevania 2 was an interesting next step, though the changes were a little jarring at the time. This was one of that wave of first gen NES sequels where they decided to try something massively different than the original, much like Zelda 2 and Mario 2 (sorta). It actually turned out pretty well though, despite some laughable translations and the poorly explained leveling system. The game just lets you run wild in the “open world” and you’re pretty much on your own figuring out which is the right way to go, and it had been so long since I played this one that I actually had to make some little maps to keep track of things. It holds up pretty well overall. The only real downsides to it being the severe lack of bosses and that sometimes the clues you get regarding directions are completely wrong due to overseas translation issues. Good times.
Here’s another one where there’s a very good reason that you never hear anyone ever talk about it. I’m guessing this one wasn’t too popular in the arcades even back in the day either, because I never once saw this game in any arcade in the 80s. This is possibly the most sadistic game I’ve ever played. This is a game blatantly designed to make you fail. I’m surprised they even bothered putting all the levels in because there is absolutely no fucking chance that anyone finished this game in the arcade. It’s beyond difficult and punishing, with enemies and traps coming at you constantly from every direction, doing massive amounts of damage, making you wonder why you even have that big health bar full of 18 little bits or so when all it takes is 2-3 hits to empty it entirely. You also have an extremely limited number of continues before it just gives you the old “fuck you you’re done”, and you don’t even get to see how many you have left, you’re just done when you’re done. It was a struggle to get through this even using save state spamming.
The last level was perhaps the worst level ever designed. It’s all just a single bridge that starts crumbling behind you when you get on it and you just have to keep running forward while bats keep coming towards you at random times at an awkward-as-hell angle. If you fall, you die instantly. If more than a few of the bats hit you you’ll die. This all leads to a big Dracula boss fight at the end too, so good luck even getting across this longest fucking bridge ever without cheating. It was interesting to see once, but I don’t think I would ever bother touching this one again.
Fun little game. I don’t know how much anyone would enjoy it that doesn’t already have a nostalgic itch for it. It’s slow-moving AND kind of laggy, and is extremely basic and linear, but it does have a certain Castlevania charm to it and some pretty catchy music.
Castlevania 3 went back to the style of the original, but with a lot of improvements. The difficulty was slightly toned down to be still pretty tough, but not in a painfully punishing way like those last few levels of the original. There are more levels and even a few branching paths, each with varying levels of difficulty, and more bosses than ever before. There are also the 3 new secondary characters that you can recruit one at a time and change to at any time, though their actual usefulness is questionable. Grant and Alucard’s abilities can be used as shortcuts for a few platforming parts, but for the most part the extra characters are all kind of useless when it comes to combat. The soundtrack is one of the very best of the 8-bit era too.
While not an official Castlevania game, “I’m Kid Dracula” (never released in English, only available as a translated rom) would seem to be a child-like parody version of Castlevania, and the first level would seem to support that idea, with it being a blatant clone of familiar classic Castlevania levels, along with cartoonish versions of Castlevania enemies and music, but the game says “yeah, nevermind all that” immediately afterwards and the game actually turns out to just be a completely unrelated shooting platformer that has you hopping around in the arctic or on desert pyramids or on the rooftops of New York, fighting ufos, blue not-Spider-Man-spider-men, and having a quiz battle with the statue of liberty.
It’s…certainly an interesting experience, but not a particularly memorable one. I wouldn’t play it again and I wouldn’t call it a Castlevania game at all (thanks a lot, wikipedia). The only thing of debatable worth that I learned from all this is that apparently that secret super-tough boss in Symphony of the Night, Galamoth, is actually supposed to be the main bad guy of the same name from Kid Dracula,
though it’s hard to tell by looking, since they have no resemblance whatsoever…
The 2nd Gameboy Castlevania is much like the first one, simplistic and arcadey, though with enjoyable gameplay and music, despite being a vomit green portable game. It’s not exactly an essential title, but it’s fun enough for a Castlevania freak like me, and that’s really all there is to say about it.
That’s all for now. To be continued…