Written by  :  Katakis | カタキス (39505)
Written on  :  Jun 10, 2013
Platform  :  NES
Rating  :  4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars

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Whip it, baby!

The Good

The NES came out in the Eighties, the same era that game companies began to shine with classics that spawned many sequels. One of these classics was Castlevania, Konami’s popular series that survived for eighteen years before being reduced to pachinko machines. I am reviewing the first game, which was released in 1986, first for the Famicom Disk System and then the NES a year later. It introduces the world to Simon Belmont, who I believe was the main protagonist for the first two games.

Armed with “Vampire Killer”, a whip given to him by his ancestor Christopher Belmont who defeated the Dark One many centuries ago, Simon must venture inside Dracula’s Castle and search every floor, killing a lot of creatures and defeating Dracula’s henchmen that will try to stop him every step of the way. Candles are scattered along the way, and whipping these will allow Simon to collect power hearts that may be used in dangerous situations.

Castlevania was unique to the other platform games that were in the same era, where you only have a single weapon to destroy enemies. More than one weapon can be used, such as dagger, axe, and holy water; and these weapons can be collected by whipping candles. Also, the game draws inspiration from classic horror movies from the early twentieth century. The creatures that attack you and the guardians you face are taken from horror movies. At the end of each stage, you will fight movies icons louche as Medusa, Frankenstein, a couple of Mummies, the Grim Reaper, and Dracula himself.

As I just said, Castlevania was first released on the FDS. It has a name entry screen reminiscent to The Legend of Zelda. I have no idea why there is one, maybe it is to used for a high school table; but it makes a return in Dracula’s Curse. There is also a version for the PlayChoice-10, Nintendo’s Arcade system. It is much harder than the normal version, and continues can be obtained by inserting coins.

The game's soundtrack is brilliantly composed by Kinuyo Yamashita, and some of the tunes are easy to remember, especially the ones in the first two states. Each piece is unique to each stage, but there is always the one piece reserved for boss fights. Stage six features three different pieces: one for Simon climbing up the stairs, another that plays while you are doing battle with Dracula in his crypt, and another one that plays after Dracula turns into a hideous monster. I really like what you'll hear during the end credits.

The castle consists of indoor and outdoor sections, with the majority indoors. some of these sections look quite nice. The animations are great, especially Simon walking up and down stairs and using his whip. I like the opening cutscene where Simon overlooks the castle, with the dark sky and crescent moon blending in with the game’s theme.

The Bad

There are two annoying aspects of the game. First, when you get hit by an enemy, Simon will jerk back -- to his doom in most cases. I actually lost count on how many times where I tried to jump on a series of short platforms, only to have some creature knock me down into the water or chasm. Also, some situations require strict timing, with an example of this dealing with the damn hunchbacks you meet in stage three. In most situations, these things take away part of my health just before I hit them with my whip, since they are so damn fast. And don't get me started on the final boss.

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, Castlevania has everything that fans of platform games would want - a simple plot, nice graphics, and excellent sound. The game is unique for its time as it contains elements that other platform games at the time didn't have - the ability to use more than one weapon, movie references, etc. Sure, there are certain situations in the game where one hit by an enemy will lead to your doom. But once you overcome this problem, the game will be much easier to complete. Anyone who decides to play a game in the Castlevania series should at least play this one.