Super Castlevania IV (SNES)

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Written by  :  The Silverlord (4)
Written on  :  Dec 03, 2003
Platform  :  SNES
Rating  :  4.6 Stars4.6 Stars4.6 Stars4.6 Stars4.6 Stars

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The best old-school Castlevania game in the series.

The Good

For years now, fans of the Castlevania series have stood and argued their corner for what they feel is the greatest triumph of the series. For me, and for many others, it is surely Castlevania IV.

The game is a masterclass of music, environment and atmosphere. This game in the series inspires an almost macabre emotion within the gamer, a sense of spine-tingling dark excitement—emotion we use to bolster and enthuse our hero, Simon Belmont, that his diminutive strength overcome the many dark denizens and perils of the night.

Almost from the go you’ll encounter garishly drawn backgrounds, use of dark colours such as purples and greys—dismal tones indeed—the game establishing its setting through an impressive gloomy palette. Graphics appear at times insipid and tasteless, flawed, yet therein lies perfection in capturing setting, locality and feel. In Castlevania IV the experience of the game is everything. Landscapes are anxious, small crumbling towers decay in the backdrop, fell fogs roll in and out, the moon remains vacant in the night sky.

Musical compositions go a long way to assisting the immersive quality of the game. You’ll quickly come to realise this: the sinister introduction sequence is particularly effective through the use of a disquieting piece of music. You will literally feel your spine shudder. Even this is followed up with an eerie title display and music vaguely reminiscent of a Hammer Horror. Orchestral value is significant, with use of strings, cello, flute, and many more—the instruments frequently (and very comfortably) lying atop bass. Compositions are generally short, but take nothing away from them: each is a masterpiece; the collection a remarkable feat of instrument sound engineering and programming.

Castlevania IV doesn’t disappoint with the gameplay. It’s the only 2D game in the series to let Simon cast his whip around at any angle, let if freely dangle as a means of protection, or use it to swing off objects. There’s nothing more satisfying than whipping and dispatching an enemy with a downward forty-five degree angle assault, or making two or three successive whip swings and jumps to a rewarding platter of fowl (yum). There are eleven levels in the game, so it’s by no means small, and the levels vary significantly in feel and design.

The Bad

Admittedly, the game isn’t too difficult, and being able to flick the whip out at angles makes it easy to kill some enemies above you, for example, without becoming embroiled in direct hand-to-hand. The main character, Simon Belmont, is a little slow and sluggish, occasionally unresponsive. That said, when you get into the game, and become more adept at controlling the character and his whip, the fun will begin.

The Bottom Line

The game doesn’t have the depth of Symphony of the Night, the wealth of collectables, the size of the castle, etc. It more than makes up for this however with atmospheric action. Rondo of Blood is often argued a better game, although I think this depends on whether you like its anime style or not. Castlevania IV is infinitely darker, more mature, for the Hammer Horror in you.