Friday, June 22, 2012

Castlevania (NES) Guest Retro Review

Now, here's something completely different. I've never had a guest review that was a retro review at the same time. Can't say that anymore, I guess. My older brother enters Dracula's castle with wooden stake in hand to give us this review of Castlevania. With the upcoming Fall release of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate for the 3DS, seems like a good time for this review. He wrote the actual review, I wrote the "witty" captions. Enjoy.

Whip It Good

Back in the mid-80s, many companies were trying to get the hang of creating their own platforming franchises to compete or at least offer an alternative to Nintendo's Mario series. One such company was Konami as they cracked the whip to deliver a franchise that has been going strong for over a quarter century now in Castlevania. While the series has had many classics along the way such as Symphony of the Night and Dawn of Sorrow, I wanted to go back to the roots of this franchise to see if they still held up after all these years.

Castlevania sees Simon Belmont running through six levels of three stages each to try and stop Dracula and his minions from terrorizing and transforming the populace into a deadly dystopia. You start off as a man with just a lame whip to attack, but that's okay. You can not only upgrade the whip twice as you go along, but Simon will also find sub-weapons like a cross, holy water, or an axe that he can use by press up along with the B button. You can only use the sub-weapons if you have enough hearts (the game's "magic" currency) to do so, and these can also be upgraded to be used up to three times onscreen at once by collecting tablets with the numbers II and III on them. If you collect a new sub-weapon, you have to recollect the tablets, so it's best to just stick with whatever weapon you find most valuable.

My brother insisted I write that this game 
has six levels. An inside joke, if you will.
While I'm glad there are plenty of ways to stick it to Dracula's undead armada, that certainly doesn't make the game an easy one. In fact, a good portion of the difficulty in this game comes from the fact that when you die, you lose all of your upgrades and current sub-weapon. This really got to me in a short stage in the middle of the game when you have to face two bone dragons right before a boss that hops around all over the place. Even though the whip got fully upgraded again, I had no reliable sub-weapon for taking down the boss or the dragons right before that fight and paid the price over and over again, watching as all of my extra lives dwindled down to zero. It was only when I managed to survive the entire level with my fully-upgraded self that I was able to beat that short but painful part.

Ah, stairs... the bane of my existence.
Enemies are also generally a nuisance when there are multiple ones on the screen at once. Any foe that flies will be a constant danger of knocking you down into a pit, but they'll usually be teamed up with harder enemies that need to be taken down before they deplete your health bar. Flea Men are the worst as they'll hop up, down, and all around to mess with your character that doesn't exactly have the grace of a Mario or Mega Man. In fact, once you've committed to a jump, you're stuck going in that direction until you land. That can and did mess me up on a couple of occasions, but it's nothing that breaks the game. It's just an old school NES platformer that expects you to memorize the levels and adjust to them.

Whoa. Nice makeup work, man!
Overall, I enjoyed my short time with the game, but I do feel that as with many platforming franchises that began on the NES, there would be sequels in the Castlevania series that would come along to refine the gameplay into a more enjoyable experience. Still, it's a pretty good starting point if you just want to have a title that you can pick up, play, and probably finish after an afternoon's worth of frustrating fun.

Overall: 7.0/10

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