The whip-wielding franchise-starter
Ah, the game that kicked off the whole Castlevania franchise. This true classic remains as fun today and it was when it was first released.
I really liked the unlimited continues, and the fact that when you got to the final showdown with the Count, and failed, the game would start you just down the stairs from the Count's chamber. This is particularly advantageous since the first time I ever met the Count, it took me the better part of an entire day of trial and error to beat him.
I enjoy the fact that Castlevania plays like an encyclopedia of classic monsters and horror movie adversaries: You have your basic ghosts, ghouls, zombies, and bats. There are the fish monsters, Medusa heads, hunchbacks, Frankenstein monsters, and unkillable skeleton warriors. Even the Grim Reaper makes an appearance pulling sentry duty for the big Drac-man.
It's amazing to play this game and appreciate how well all of the best gameplay elements came together. Not only were the graphics top-tier, they were incredibly well-designed and consistent. At the start of the game, you scan Dracula's castle, including the tower that you must eventually hike up to. During level 3, you hike across a long bridge and you see the tower again in the background. I just think touches like that are genius in graphical design.
The tunes are all classic, which explains why they seem to be re-used in every subsequent Castlevania game. Hey, don't mess with success!
Hunchbacks and floating Medusa heads. I did not like the hunchbacks or floating Medusa heads in this game. They had an alarming tendency to knock you around at the least opportune times.
Simon has also been rather difficult to control during his NES adventures. He's very slow and clunky, has no jump control, and his whip only goes in one direction (forward). At the very least, the designers took this into account and programmed the game's enemies and challenges accordingly.
And I was always frustrated that using the boomerang weapon depleted hard-earned heart points. The thing comes back to you, right? So you should receive some kind of reimbursement on your heart points. It only seems fair.
The Bottom Line
Experience the creepy glory of the original Castlevania.