Tag Archives: Castlevania

Super Castlevania IV (Super Nintendo)

Developer(s) – Konami

Publisher(s) – Konami

Director – Masahiro Ueno

Producer – Kazumi Kitaue

PEGI – 7

Release relatively early on in the Super Nintendo’s shelf Life, Super Castlevania IV was a game directed by Masahiro Ueno, who was credited under the name Jun Furano, since Konami at the time prohibited the use of real names), who’s a favourite game in the series at that point was the first and wanted to create a similar experience, minus the frustrations that came with the first. To me, this game is the perfect jumping-on point for people who want to indulge in the series and is vastly superior to the original game in quite a few different ways.

Graphics – 10/10

The most obvious improvement is in the game’s visuals, which are not only many times more realistic-looking than the NES classic, but also present a darker and even grittier atmosphere than the former. The opening sequence, in particular, has been cited as one of the scariest moments in video gaming among many other critics. Another massive talking point is the soundtrack. Ueno also wanted the environments of this game to be a lot more interactive and believable, and has stated how proud he is regarding how well the music and sound effects were implemented; and to me, this is rightfully so.

Gameplay – 9/10

Aside from the extensive improvements made to the game’s visuals and sound quality, dramatic enhancement was also made to the gameplay. The difficulty has been greatly toned down, which I believe is a pivotal factor in determining why this is the best possible starting point for prospective fans of the saga. The original game was much more difficult, and therefore much less accessible to as wide a variety of players as there could have possibly been otherwise. Not only that but there are also longer levels, and by proxy, it makes for a longer game overall.

Controls – 10/10

Another extremely positive change is that the control scheme has also been improved to a great extent. The player can now attack in 8 different directions instead of just one, allowing for more of an edge in combat as well as the elimination of enemies delivering sucker punches that can’t possibly be avoided otherwise. Another feature introduced to the series was the facility to swing from hook to hook using the whip to get around certain obstacles in the game.

Lifespan – 7/10

Super Castlevania IV will take around an hour and a half to finish, which may not seem like very much today (or a lifespan even passable in most modern games), but at the time, it was longer than the average side scroller, and quite literally, three times longer than the original game. The levels are longer and much more drawn out, featuring a bigger map and more enemies added to slow players down. I would be shown what a truly great lifespan was in the following generation, but at the time, a game like Super Castlevania IV was fairly impressive.

Storyline – 3/10

The biggest problem with this game, however, is the fact that the story is exactly the same as that of the original game, and no real innovation or improvement has been made in this aspect. It is simply a re-telling of Simon Belmont’s quest to destroy the newly resurrected Dracula, and rid the world of his castle. The fact that it’s the same story being told again isn’t the only problem either. It’s also still extremely typical of the kind of story that was being attached to most video games at the time, and throughout the previous generation as well.

Originality – 6/10

2D side scrollers were the industry standard at the time, so consequently, there’s not a great deal present to make this game stand out to any great extent. It loses a lot of its uniqueness for the fact that it isn’t as challenging as the first game, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. What is bad, however, is that the general setting and basic premise have been presented before, and despite improvements, there wasn’t much innovation made Outside of this.

Happii

Happii

Overall, despite the few things wrong with it, Super Castlevania IV is easily the best game out of the original four, and I would recommend it to any gamer who has yet to experience any other facet of the series before they try any game in the original trilogy. It would get better from hereon with the release of Symphony of the Night, but this game is most definitely the best possible place to begin.

Score

45/60

7.5/10 (Good)

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PlayStation & Sega Saturn)

Developer(s) – Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo & Konami Computer Entertainment Nagoya

Publisher(s) – Konami

Director – Toru Hagihara

Producer – Toru Hagihara

PEGI – 12

Symphony of the Night is often regarded as the commercial and artistic pinnacle of the entire Castlevania series. At the time of its release, 2D gaming was going out of fashion, and 3D gaming was considered the next best thing; the future of the industry. For a lot of people, Symphony of the Night served as a reminder that traditional 2D side-scrolling video games can still be played and enjoyed regardless of what style might be the more popular, and it also left a lasting legacy behind, as the release of the game prompted the coinage of the term Metroidvania, for the style of play that involves 2D open-world exploration. After finally playing this game, I can say that I haven’t been disappointed, although it did leave me wanting more at the end.

Graphics – 9/10

Symphony of the Night also sent out a significant message to do with visuals in video games; that they should be judged not by their level of graphical advancement, but by their artistic merit. And this game certainly delivers on artistic merit. The environments in this game are wonderfully designed and add to the atmosphere very effectively. A lot of gloomy and scary-looking locations such as the library, as well as the outlandish roster of enemies throughout, certainly make the game look original as well as excellent in terms of conceptual design. I think the most annoying enemies in the game are the flaming ghosts, that make particularly annoying sounds when they die, but that’s not down to visuals at all, but the sound. And the game certainly makes up for that in its stellar soundtrack.

Gameplay – 9/10

As this game coined an extremely popular gaming term, it was always going to have at least some depth to it; and I wasn’t disappointed. As I said, it’s rare that I’ve seen this level of freedom in a 2D side-scrolling game, and it makes me regret that I didn’t try when it first came out. In terms of combat, the game is fairly challenging in lieu of the franchise’s tradition, but the true satisfaction to be had is from leveling up the character as the player progresses. It’s that RPG element that makes the game even more appealing to me. Although it can seem repetitive at times and that it does get somewhat easier, later on, I’d rather have it that way than it is impossibly hard like the original trilogy was.

Controls – 10/10

In terms of controls, I’m happy to say that there are no problems with them. Players should not experience any difficulty with them as far as I’m concerned. This game was released at a time when countless 2D side-scrolling games had been released prior, so it was to be expected that there would be no issues with the control scheme, and there aren’t any.

Lifespan – 6/10

In my opinion, Symphony of the Night doesn’t last anywhere near long enough, and like Batman: Arkham Asylum and Deus Ex: Human Revolution, it left me wanting a whole lot more. A first playthrough may take around 15 hours to complete, which to me, for the amount of depth there is in gameplay, is unacceptable. Although that is fairly long for a 2D side scroller, I’m confident that more could’ve been more added to it.

Storyline – 7.5/10

Whilst most entries in the series before focused solely on the Belmont family resolving to defeat Dracula, Symphony of the night follows Dracula’s son, Alucard, who is questing to stop Dracula’s resurrection and finds himself in various different situations throughout Dracula’s castle along the way. It’s a positive departure from what was typically found in previous entries in the series in that the story has a lot more depth to it. The one bad thing I would say about it is that the voice acting is pretty bad in some instances; even in the latest versions of the game, which were re-dubbed by different actors and actresses.

Originality – 8/10

A portion of this game’s staggering level of uniqueness can be found in its conceptual design, and in the multitude of different enemies to fight, but of course, the main reason why this game stands out well among others is in its gameplay. The reason why it has left behind such a legacy is that it considered its own genre by some; Metroidvania. Although Super Metroid, the other game that this term stems from, came first out of the two, Symphony of the Night in effect kept the 2D side-scrolling genre alive and helped to inspire the development of many future games of its kind after it had been abandoned for some time.

Happii

To summarize, whilst it doesn’t last anywhere near as long as it should have done in my opinion, Symphony of the Night is most definitely worth playing through at least once or twice. It’s an important piece of gaming history as well as a particularly enjoyable title.

Score

49/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse (Nintendo Entertainment System)

Developer(s) – Konami

Publisher(s) – Konami & Palcom

Director – Hitoshi Akamatsu

Designer – I. Urata

Rating – N/A

Essentially a carbon copy of the first game, Castlevania III took the majority of the principal mechanics of the game, and gave it multiple passages, taking away much of the linearity of the first, as well as having a fresh coat of paint in terms of visuals. Though it is indeed fractionally more enjoyable than the first game, in my opinion, it still had its flaws.

Graphics – 8/10

Though the limited color palette of the NES is still relatively evident in this game, the visuals are a dramatic improvement on the first game, featuring more detailed scenery and characters. Though many elements of the first have been recycled for use in the third, it still made for one of the better-looking games on the system in my opinion. The soundtrack is also as epic as ever; something that the series would come to be known for as the years passed.

Gameplay – 6/10

The basic gameplay premise of the original Castlevania title was bought back for use in the third game, with players having to use their wicked cunning to overcome any and all obstacles or enemies thrown at them. Aside from giving players more to play for, certain paths are also not as unforgiving as the first game, and it’s ultimately a lot more accessible because of it. The series would go on to accommodate for a greater range of players as it would progress, but to me, this was the ideal turning point, since it would have also geared potential fans up for the different directions the series would be taken throughout future generations of video gaming.

Controls – 9/10

A lot of the same issues that cropped up in the first game also, unfortunately, cropped up in the third too, with a good few glitches that cause players to fall beneath disappearing platforms. The issue isn’t as big a problem in the first game, however, and on top of that, there aren’t any others to address thankfully.

Lifespan – 7/10

Designed to played multiple times, the third game actually lasted much longer than what was the average lifespan of a video game for the time, totaling to about three and a half hours for experienced players. But taking into account the time it can take to master each facet of the game, since whilst not unforgiving, does still provide a fairly stern challenge, it can be made to last even longer.

Storyline – 6/10

The story was actually made to be an origin narrative to the entire series. Set in 1476, it features Trevor Belmont, as opposed to the more familiar Simon Belmont, in what was at that time, the first struggle between Dracula and the Belmont clan. This time, Trevor can also be accompanied by one of two different characters, dependent on what path the player takes; either a sorceress called Sypha Belnades, or Dracula’s son, Alucard. It added a little bit more than the average story in gaming, but it didn’t really break any new ground in this respect at the time, since games of the day were pretty light on the story in any case, and didn’t feature many of the story elements found in video games today.

Originality – 8/10

Although the game didn’t introduce many new story elements to the gaming industry, and largely stuck to the same principles as most games on the NES, it still perpetuated the same ideas as Simon’s Quest did, Games didn’t have to follow a linear path; they could go in several different directions and play out differently from one another. That ideal may have been toned down somewhat with this game, but it still made for an experience unlike many other 2D side scrollers on the NES.

Happii

Happii

Overall, Castlevania III is my personal favorite out of the original three Castlevania games. Though things would get even better for the series as it progresses in my opinion, it was still a very positive departure from the shaky start that it had gotten to.

Score

44/60

7/10 (Fair)

Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest (Nintendo Entertainment System)

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 since. 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, the game 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 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, 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.

Happii

Happii

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.

Score

43.5/60

7/10 (Fair)

 

Castlevania (Nintendo Entertainment System)

Developer(s) – Konami

Publisher(s) – Konami

Director – Hitoshi Akamatsu

Rating – N/A

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 color 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 armor 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 the story mattered little in video games anyway. At least gameplay took priority, I guess.

Originality – 8/10

Regardless of its lack of substance in the 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 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.

Niiutral

Niiutral

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.

Score

40/60

6.5/10 (Above Average)