SummaryHurts So Good
The GoodAhh, the 80's - when we wanted our games to HURT us. Make us bleed and sweat and cry and throw the controller across the room. No saving every five seconds, no health packs around every corner, a great early-generation platformer like CASTLEVANIA punished failure, clumsiness, inattentiveness, hell, they even punished SUCCESS by ratcheting up the difficulty yet another agonizing notch every step you progressed. And here you've got six levels of beautiful raggedy-Gothic 8-Bit visuals and palm-sweating jumps, capped by boss fights that demanded the best (at the time) in pattern recognition and twitch-timing. The continues, sending you to the beginning of the level, gave you just enough reason to hope you could learn from your mistakes and take that boss down this time. But you had to earn your way back.
The CASTLEVANIA franchise has always thrived on theatrical atmosphere, colorful monsters, and stirring musical themes - and that formula arrived here fully intact. Given how few colors and patterns the designers had to work with, the pacing and foreboding sense of place they managed to coax out of the old Famicom is a marvel, one that pointed the way towards a more mature breed of gaming.
The BadThe clunky controls have been voluminously documented in more comprehensive forums than this, and the Medusas and Hunchbacks put up a good fight against the birds from NINJA GAIDEN as "Most Annoying 80's Game Scrub Monster Ever". But you could argue that without these agonies, the triumph wouldn't taste so sweet.
The Bottom LineThe doesn't-need-to-be-humble start to one of the greatest franchises in video games, and a masterful artifact of the time when platform games were designed to take on in one brutal sitting.