Easily one of the most enjoyable platformers for the SNES.
Super Castlevania IV is the fourth installment in the very famous Castlevania series by Konami. After releasing 3 successful titles on the NES, Konami didn't just rest, on the other hand they provided this gem early in the SNES live. It is basically some kind of remake of the original Castlevania story wise, you also take the role of Simon Belmont in this one, but on the design side it is totally different and improve most aspects of the older games.
Graphically wise, I often do not like early SNES games (prior to 1992), because they often just waste the 16-bit graphics of the console, since designer weren't used to this system, and I tend to prefer late NES games released in the same period. However, Castlevania IV is without a doubt an exception : It fully uses all of the SNES' graphical capabilities, and look just as good as many later SNES games.
The look of the hero himself isn't perfect, I think it has some weird color in him. But that is my only small complaint. Every thing else in the game, background, enemies, special effects, looks absolutely perfect. The game does a whole load of very nice usage of the infamous mode-7 at several places in the game. Instead of trying to do dummy 3D, it does a smart use of this mode, featuring big rotating objects, a boss that will go smaller and smaller when you hit him, and at some place a very cool and very frightening rotating room, which won't leave you just forgetting it.
However, there is quite some load of slowdowns here and here.
The music is very great, and fit very well the situation. There is also two different boss music (which is a great idea), and many levels are speared in different sections with different music, often a variation about the same theme, which is incredibly cool and more varied that just having the same music over the whole level (and the levels are long). And not a single level shares any music with another, unlike previous Castlevania games. Finally the music of the first level is easily the best music I've ever head in the whole Castlevania series (which globally have excellent music all the way). My only small complain is that a last boss music is lacking, the game re-use the strange frightening intro music for the first part of the final fight, which fills incredibly well the situation making you anger, and the rocking level 1 music is used for the last part of the final fight, helping you to have hope in defeating the final boss. This is fine as it, but why didn't they have a music especially written for the last fight ?
The sound effects aren't very realistic, but they are quite exiting and very fun to listen overall.
The gameplay is 100% perfect all the way along. Just like previous Castlevania, you are travelling on side-view platforms, hitting enemies and candles (that hold powerups and score points) with your whip.
The game has standard SNES controls, B jumps and Y attacks. Older Castlevania games on the NES had incredibly corny controls, jumps were impossible to time (your player being jumping always the same distance), and you had to press up and down arrow to climb stairs, else you'll fall in the stairs. Now all this crap is gone for good, and Simon Belmont will always do what you tell him to do. You can time your jumps normally, you just have to press forward to climb stairs, and just press the R button to trow your special weapon, instead of doing that crap up+B combo like in the NES Castlevania games. You can attack not only forwards, but also up and down (in all 8 directions actually) Last, but not least, you can hold the Y button down to release your whip, blocking all projectiles from enemies ! And you can then swing your whip around with the control pad, destroying projectiles and slightly hurting enemies (however, this often won't be enough to seriously hurt them).
The levels are very well inspired and designed. It's always hard to determine what makes levels look like so inspired, but the CV4 levels should be one of the most inspired levels I've ever seen in many platformers. I think the huge amount of non-repetitive background details, the high density of different enemies, and the fact that often whole levels are made around "themes" is what makes them feel so inspired. For example, a particular level in the game is make all of gold. And, like if it was just a random fact, there is a very high density of candles holding gold bags. And guess which color the skeletons are in this stage ? While they are either withe or red everywhere, they are gold in that place. Definitely those levels are a constant surprise when making trough the game for the first time, that you'll never forget it even if you make trough the game after one hundred times knowing all levels by heart. That's just what I call a perfect gameplay experience.
The difficulty is very well balanced. All levels seems very hard on the first try, but you'll eventually pass them all when gaining knowledge. It is definitely easier than CV1 and 3 on the NES, and that is a good thing (unless you are one of those hardcore fans of CV1). It's not easy either, just perfect difficulty for me. If you're a hardcore CV1/3 fan and the easier difficulty bothers you, beat the game and try the second quest.
Honestly, there is nothing much to write here. There is really no major issues (nor minor issues also).
The only thing that came to me is that they censored some details of the game, like nude statues and blood for the US and European version. While this don't ruin the game at all I'm just against nonsense censorship, especially considering that Nintendo did place nude statues in their own Kid Icarus
, and then force Konami to censor their statues. Oh, well.
The Bottom Line
I think this is the best of the Castlevania games I've played, but I did play only the early games, so I don't know much about the others. I think anyone that happen to like the console platformer genre should give a try on this one, because the game is simple very accessible to everyone. Personally I like this one a lot better than all of NES Castlevania games, which a lot of people seems to like. So if you liked them, you'll like this one even more. And if you disliked them, chances are that you may like this one.