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.
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.