Developer(s) – Konami
Publisher(s) – Konami
Director – Hitoshi Akamatsu
The original Castlevania, originally titled Akumajou Dracula (Japanese for Devil’s Castle Dracula), has been considered by the likes of PC World and Nintendo Power to be one of the greatest video games of all time, and has kicked off a library of sequels, spin-offs and prequels in a franchise that has been going for almost 30 years. Whilst I don’t think the original game is one of the worst I’ve played, it was the first game I ever played whereby I thought the level of difficulty was nothing short of unreasonable. Three years after my first playthrough, I still can’t see the overwhelming appeal that many others see in it.
Graphics – 8/10
The best thing I can say about this game is that the visuals were extremely well executed; especially for the time. The NES only had a very limited colour palette, which made visually realizing video games particularly difficult on the system in many cases. But in this case, Konami made it look easy. Not only did they manage to create some excellent scenery, but they also manage to create a very fitting atmosphere too. On top of that, like Strider, there are some superbly designed boss fights (in terms of concept, anyway), including the likes of Medusa, the Grim Reaper, and of course, Dracula. Not to mention that the soundtrack to the game is was very well composed too.
Gameplay – 5/10
Just like Mega Man, which I reviewed some time ago, this game will work better for some than it will for others in terms of gameplay. The main reason being is because it’s extremely hard. For example, the boss fight with the Grim Reaper is considered to be one of the hardest boss fights in video gaming; if not, the hardest. Most of the courses in the game are just as testing. With such obstacles as flying Medusa heads and suits of armour attacking players from several different angles, it can cause a lot of frustration at the best of times. I don’t mind challenges in video games, but not to the point where developers make an overly hard game for the hell of it, and consequently make the game unnecessarily inaccessible.
Controls – 9/10
A problem with the controls that I found whilst playing Castlevania for the first time, and have become a frequent source of frustration since, is that they can be slow to respond at times; especially when jumping from one platform to another. And in my opinion, that can add even more unnecessary frustration to a game made for the sake of it being excessively difficult. Otherwise, however, there are no problems, and the rest is all down to player skill.
Lifespan – 6/10
I should think that experienced players would be able to complete the original Castlevania in roughly half an hour, which was the average lifespan of a video game in those days, but for most players, most time will be spent dying. Players will die over, and over, and over again in this game, and it can become very frustrating very quickly. But for the people who relish challenges like this, it can potentially make for hours of entertainment.
Storyline – 4/10
The story of the original Castlevania game revolves around the vampire hunter Simon Belmont, who must defeat Dracula, as his ancestors have throughout the ages. Again, like Strider, it was all pretty standard stuff, except much less is elaborated on. Even for the time, it felt quite empty in terms of story, but this game was developed in a time when story mattered little in video games anyway. At least gameplay took priority, I guess.
Originality – 8/10
Regardless of its lack of substance in story, I can commend this game for being particularly unique for the time. It was the first time that many gamers experienced a challenge on this level, and although many gamers (including myself) may express a disdain to it, the fact of the matter is that many other gamers don’t, and they have since grown to want more games like it, which is fair enough; at least for that certain demographic.
In summation, I wish that the original Castlevania could have indeed been a bit more accessible to other players, who may have wanted to play through the game without as much difficulty in order to more easily appreciate it for the other aspects, which in my opinion, save from even being an average one. I can’t help but feel that with a difficulty setting in place, the franchise could have possibly gone on to the kind of heights that video game franchises of comparable longevity can brag.