Written by  :  ETJB (450)
Written on  :  May 28, 2014
Platform  :  NES
Rating  :  4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars

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Simon's Quest: Non-Linear! RPG-Puzzles! Engrish!

The Good

Castlevania II: Simon's Quest (Simon's Quest) for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) is one of those great NES games that could break up friendships.

In designing this sequel, the developers opted for an adventure or role playing game-style, which people tended to love or hate with a deep passion

Nintendo did a similar thing with Zelda II, a game that is not as polarizng among Zelda fans as Simon's Quest is among Castlevania fans.

For better or for the worse, the “haters” of Simon's Quest won the day, because subsequent Castlevania games returned to the original, action-packed, blistered thumbs game-play style.

However, I am one of these people (perhaps in a minority) who actually enjoyed the changes seen in Simon's Quest.

This is not to say that I “hated' the arcade style of Castlevania or its sequels. However, as someone who does enjoy role playing and adventure games, it was refreshing to see these elements used in a home console game.

Most of the really great role playing games were only accessible – especially without censorship – through the original computer edition or Japanese imports.

Likewise while some great adventure games were designed for the PC and Mac, few of them ever made the jump to the home console sytems.

I am not saying that hack and slash, arcade action isn't fun, but it was only a small slice of what the gaming industry was doing throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

Maybe this is not a complaint widely shared, but it is my opinion and I am sticking to it. Now that I have dealt with the love-hate relationship attached to this game. Let us get back to Simon's Quest game itself.

Simon's Quest combines side-scrolling arcade game with some traditional role-playing or adventure gaming elements.

Instead of linear stages, the game presents a large world to explore, with both night time and daytime elements. The player has to explore the world, interact with different characters (especially in towns), locate items to solve puzzles as well as upgrades to your weapons.

Simon needs to improve his strength, obtain money and stronger weapons if he is going to succeed in this quest. If you enjoy basic role playing or adventure game elements, then you will enjoy what this game has to offer.

Did I mention the night and day sequences? Well, they are worth mentioned again! Not only does the game actually switch between night time and daytime, but things tend to get creepier at night.

Nighttime means that town shops are closed, as towns are invaded by zombies and, yeah, generally everything gets creepier at night in this game. Frankly, this is probably as close to a horror film as a game for a Nintendo system could get – outside of Japan.

Simon's Quest features improved animation and graphics and players should have little complaints with the hit detection, inventory menu or other such basic game play mechanics.

Simon's Quest does not skimp on the arcade action. Several creepy-looking buildings in the game return the player to side-scrolling action.

Even when you are explore the rustic charm of Translyvania, their are plenty of supernatural creatures – large and small – will have to be killed if Simon is to break the curse.

Ah, the curse! Simon is forced to locate the missing body parts of Dracula, so that he can burn them in the fire – of Mount Doom? No, but someplace special.

Apparently, when Simon killed Dracula the first time, he forget to burn the body, or maybe Simon just didn't know any better.

Granted, one would have thought that a skilled vampire hunter would have known to do this beforehand. It does make you wonder whether or not Simon has the education background needed to fight evil supernatural creatures, without, you know, causing widespread destruction or spreading dangerous curses.

OK, maybe Simon does not need a "license to kill", but I refuse to believe that I am the only Castlevania fan who has wondered if Simon (or his ancestors) is “winging it” a bit more then he should be.

The Bad

Simon's Quest emphasis on adventure role-playing game elements did not sit well with all fans of the Castlevania franchise.

Zelda II pursued a similar format, with much less much criticism, but the first Zelda game had mixed blistered thumbs action with adventure role-playing game elements. The change in style between Castlevania and Simon's Quest is much more significant.

Castlevania is entirely a side-scrolling, arcade action-type game. While Simon's Quest did not totally abandon the side-scrolling elements of its predecessor, it clearly sought to bring fans of adventure role-playing games into the Castlevania franchise.

It was successful in doing so, but many Castlevania fans simply did not want have the franchise turned into an adventure role-playing game (RPG).

These Castlevania fans simply did not want to see the franchise take its cues from Ultima, Zelda or The Secret of Monkey Island. Instead they wanted an arcade side-scrolling game that was heavy on supernatural action and violence.

Fans of RPG or Adventure Games, especially of the non-linear sort, may still have some complaints about the game. Some of the puzzles in the game do not seem to have any clues or have close that got lost in the translation. This bring us to the issue of "Engrish"

Part of the problem is with the English localization or adaption. Translating Japanese text -- often a major feature of pre-CD-ROM adventure RPG games -- into English that is not only legible, but also captures some of the mystery or nuance of the text is difficult.

Language (especially the informal language that most people use in their daily lives or an epic quest) is oftentimes influenced by a nation's culture as much as it is the background and beliefs of the author.

A direct-literal translation of Japanese text to English text is not always appropriate because of the nation's culture and history (and even geopolitics) behind the language.

I seen worse English localization in a NES video game, but not all of the text in Simon's Quest is as translated as well and as smoothly as it could be.

The Bottom Line

Castlevania II: Simon's Quest for the Nintendo Entertainment System seeks to bring fans of adventure role-playing games into the Castlevania franchise, at the risk of alienating fans who expected the sequel to follow the arcade action format of the first game. It is a great game within the non-linear, adventure role-playing genre, but its ability to appeal to gamers looking for side-scrolling action is limited.