Developer(s) – Konami
Publisher(s) – Konami
Director – Hitoshi Akamatsu
Programmer(s) – Nobuhiro Matsuoka & Yasuo Kuwahara
Rating – N/A
Drawing comparisons with the original Metroid game, released a year before, Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest made a departure from the linear style of play of the original game, and included an open world environment back in a time when the concept of an open world in video games was in its infancy, and before it eventually became an industry standard. Whilst I didn’t find it anywhere near as annoying as the first game, the second is by no means without its flaws.
Graphics – 8.5/10
Graphically, the second game is a massive improvement on the first, making use of even more colors and variety in character sprites on a console with an extremely limited color palette. It was also one of the first games developed to have a day-to-night transition, which has since become yet another industry standard in video gaming. Many have expressed opinions about how they think the character sprite for the main character, Simon Belmont, is much less detailed than in the first game, but I would disagree. New enemies are also added to the sequel on top of classic ones from the previous games, which were inspired by horror movie culture. But unlike the first game, the second has a bit more originality about it in terms of visual style and variety.
Gameplay – 6/10
Many reading may have expected me to think infinitely more highly of the second game than the first, since the difficulty had been dubbed down considerably, thus making it a lot more accessible to a lot more players, and that of course, it is non-linear. But as I pointed out, Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest is not flawless. As this game was developed at a time when open-world games were virtually unheard of, a lot of the industry standards for open-world games had not been either met or established; standards such as the inclusion of an in-game map or quest markers. Not having any of these consequently makes Simon’s Quest a very awkward game to play without a strategy guide. Not a lot can be figured out by the player on their own, and a strategy guide is more or less mandatory if players have even a vague desire to finish the main story; let alone complete it to 100%.
Controls – 9/10
Like the first game, the controls can be a little bit slow to respond at some most crucial times. For me, it marred down the quality of the first game to some extent, and the developers made the same mistake again with the second game, and would also do with the third in the main NES trilogy too. Otherwise, however, there are no other problems with the game’s control scheme, and the majority of what it boils down to is the player’s own individual skill.
Lifespan – 8/10
Although the game can only be made to last for a few hours, the fact of the matter remains is that this was exceptionally long for an NES game, since a single cartridge could hold only a fraction of the memory that a modern game can. After all, it was exceptionally long games back in the day, which would eventually inspire the creation of even exceptionally longer games throughout the course of the industry’s history, and I think if that standard hadn’t been set, video games would not be a fraction of what they have evolved into over the last 25 years or so.
Storyline – 5/10
There is a bit more depth to the second story than there was to the first. The second takes place some years after the first game, with the main protagonist Simon Belmont out to break a curse that had been placed upon him by Dracula following their previous confrontation. To break the curse, Simon must collect the 5 pieces of Dracula’s spirit and take them to the ruins of his castle to seal them, defeating him and ridding himself of the curse. There’s a little bit more of a twist to the story to help it effectively deviate away from most other story-driven games of the time, but the problem that hinders it almost as much as the first game was the poor attention to detail during the localization process. A lot of the dialogue in the game was very poorly translated, and many clues that were integral to what had to be done throughout the game ended up being misunderstood, and it took a lot of seriousness away from the overall game.
Originality – 7/10
Although 2D side-scrolling was the standard at the time, Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest did also end up pioneering a lot of future video game standards that are still adhered to today, and any game that could do that with the limited technology available at the time is deserved of an honorable mention. It was refreshing as well as important for the industry that so many different franchises would branch off into all kinds of different directions in terms of gameplay during the NES days, and in a lot of ways, this game was at the forefront of that.
In summation, Simon’s Quest, whilst not without its annoyances, is certainly an improvement on the previous game in many ways, as well as it being a very historically important title. Without games like Simon’s Quest and Metroid, there would be no open-world games, and the transition from 2D to 3D would have been a lot more awkward if standards like what this game set hadn’t been set beforehand.