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Written by  :  Katakis | カタキス (40858)
Written on  :  Jun 21, 2019
Platform  :  MSX
Rating  :  4.6 Stars4.6 Stars4.6 Stars4.6 Stars4.6 Stars
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A classic game that should have been ported to other systems rather than its predecessor

The Good

Back in 1986, Konami’s Castlevania was released for the Nintendo NES, and this was successful enough that it warranted a sequel called Simon’s Quest, the only game in the series that breaks the original concept. There was a little known game that was released in between but still belonged to the franchise, and that game was Vampire Killer released for the MSX2. In my opinion, it should have been the one who should have received ports to other systems, rather than the debut title.

Anyone who has played Castlevania knows that you play Simon Belmont who must tour the 18 levels of the castle in search for Count Dracula, using his whip to defeat hell spawn that dare stand in his way and, providing that you don’t run out of energy, defeat Dracula’s henchmen before proceeding to the next stage. The game’s interface is similar to its parent, but some elements are rearranged. In the game, you have the score in the same place, and the stage, heart, and life indicators next to it. Below that are the player and boss health gauges, and three boxes that are reserved for specific items.

The front cover for the game has a picture of Simon showing his famous whipping skills against a backdrop featuring Dracula and his castle, and this is similar to the front cover for Castlevania. The Konami logo on the bottom is huge. Back in the day, you know the game is going to be good if the company logo is present on their packaging. The label for both the cartridge and disk is well designed, too.

Although the two games are similar to each other in terms of mechanics, Vampire Killer has one major difference. You have to search the level for the white key needed to unlock doors that lets you access the next stage, making up for the lack of a time limit. These keys can be out in the open, or hidden behind a wall you need to destroy to get to them.

There is another feature added to the game, and that is the inclusion of “Old Crones”, merchants that offer you items for a small number of hearts, which can be collected by defeating enemies. In addition to the white keys, there are also yellow keys that can be used to unlock blue chests scattered around the levels, containing weapons, holy water, crosses, and more. In my opinion, it is best to just collect as many hearts as you can, since the game uses these hearts to refill your energy bar when you defeat the end of level boss.

Some of the stages in Vampire Killer are puzzle-oriented. In one point of the game, there is a white key on a platform you can’t get to, so you have to find some way to make that key fall down. In another, you have to go through a series of openings in a specific order to get to the door, with the key that it opens located above it.

The graphics are much clearer than its parent, and although the level design is similar there are a few differences. For instance, instead of the final confrontation with Dracula in his crypt, you’ll fight him against a huge portrait of the same foe, which holds a few surprises once you defeat him. Vampire Killer also boasts some good animations. I like the way doors opens and act like portcullises. The music is brilliantly composed, and each stage in the game has their own individual piece. I like that some of the pieces fade out to make way for the boss theme. The ending music is rather catchy as well.

The Bad

The kickback is very annoying. I have lost count how many times I got hit by enemies and jumped over an entire platform and went off the bottom edge of the screen or landed in water. It seemed to be a thing in some platform games released at the time. You can also whip any candles you pass in each stage, making the addition of the blue chests pointless.

The Bottom Line

Vampire Killer is an excellent game from Konami which should have been ported to other systems other than the MSX2. The two games are similar in style, but this one is more puzzle-oriented in that you have to find a specific key that unlocks the door to the next stage. There is also no time limit. The graphics are detailed, and they have been tweaked in some areas. The sound is excellent, and given that some of the levels can be destroyed to reveal new items means that the game can be replayed over and over again. Classic.