NES Review – Castlevania

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Konami was in its heyday during the days of the NES. Apart from Contra, the company started their fan-favorite franchise of Castlevania! It’s a game that takes the player directly into Dracula’s castle where they must journey through a number of levels, battling evil monsters, and eventually ending Draculas rein of terror for good!

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In terms of gameplay, the game is fairly simple in design with a mix of action and 2D platforming. The platforming has our hero Simon Belmont hoping over pits, onto moving moving platforms, and dodging enemies. For the most part it works well, but feels a bit stiff. Once Simon is in the air, he cannot change direction. Most annoyingly however is when he gets hit by an enemy – he flies back a couple feet and often into a pit (and in my case – repeatedly frustrating deaths at the same spot). Initially I really hated this mechanic as I could barely get past the second level, but after some practice (and multiple continues – they are infinite by the way!) I learned to live with it and actually started having fun!

In terms of the action, Simon uses his trusty whip to destroy monsters, zombies, bats, and even the dreaded MEDUSA HEAD (which lead to my repeated pit deaths)! The player can also get numerous secondary weapons ranging from knives, axes, holly water, among others, which help kill oddly placed enemies and bosses with weird movement patterns. The player can only hold one secondary weapon at a time, so if you find one that you like (e.g., the knife), don’t touch any of the others because you never know when you will find another!

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In terms of the levels, there are six in total, with each being broken into numerous sections. So for instance, in the first level, the players starts just outside the castle in a garden-like area, then moves into the castle and down into a watery basement (with Mermen!), and finally encounters a giant bat for a final battle! In later levels, each of these sections are guided by new game mechanics (e.g., facing Medusa heads, attacking a new type of enemy, challenging jumps on moving platforms) that really keeps the game feeling fresh. I particularly liked the fourth level where you start in an underground water area with challenging platforming, then head upstairs to a wide open area with ruins scattered everywhere and enemies falling from the sky – both fun but played quite differently.

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The bosses are all classic monster villains –  I couldn’t help but smile when I first encountered them! Frankenstein’s monster, Medusa, and Dracula himself all make an appearance!  While not overly difficult, I died at least once on each boss until I figured out the patterns and what secondary weapons to use. Unlike Mega Man games, players don’t respawn just outside the boss room if they die. This made the game a bit more challenging, but in the end more satisfying because when I finally beat the boss and completed the level, there was a real sense of accomplishment!

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In terms of graphics, the game looks okay for an early NES game. Each main level certainly has its own look, but I felt like the developers repeated the colour pallets a little too much within the same level. For instance, the second level is basically all red and black throughout the whole thing! The enemies and bosses all look fine, but nothing outstanding. The music on the other hand is fantastic! As soon as I heard the music in the first level, nostalgia flooded back and I knew that I was playing Castlevania! While the game is difficult, I felt like the music always motivated me to press continue and push further into the game – exactly what good videogame music should do.

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In summary, this action platform game is fun and challenging but feels a bit dated with its archaic jumping mechanics. It’s certainly not the best Castlevania game on the NES (I’m looking at you Castlevania 3), but still charms with its awesome music and cool bosses. Overall, I give this game a 7/10, with the caveat that it receive the historic videogame tag for initiating such an awesome franchise.

Final Score: 7/10

3 thoughts on “NES Review – Castlevania

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