Before I start "reviewing" everything I love about this game, Let me tell you something about video games for a second. Lately, I've been in a video game rut. In every game I played, I felt the same poor design choices, time and time again, and that is games that practically hold your hand along the way, never allowing you to explore the game's true potential. In today's gaming market, unfortunately, the market is oversaturated with games like this, when there are much better ways to help you learn to play the game. I then, after jumping out of the zone of games I have completed a hundred times, turned to what has now become my absolute favorite game; the very first Castlevania, and there is NO such mercy to be found here. If you know anything about this game, you know it is as hard as titanium coated shit. This game, is ruthless, unforgiving, and at times, infuriating. And I loved every god damned second of it. Why? Because it was so well designed, and so unique in every aspect. They focused on the game
, no bullshit in between. From the minute you step onto those unholy grounds, pure hell was put to be conquered.
Now let me tell you something about how game developers design AI. What's a "hard", or "unforgiving" game by todays standards? Take a game, like Resident Evil 5, for example. How did they make shit "intimidating"? By grabbing you, running really fast, or just flat out being gigantic.
Now take Castlevania. Every single enemy in this game is defined so well, if you look at an enemy, you know what to expect. You can plan out what to do, as soon
as you observe the situation. For example, The Fleamen jump around, so you know that you have to dispatch them quickly, before they get close to you. The Medusa heads fly in wave-like patterns, so you know you need to watch carefully. And the knights throw axes at two different altitudes. You KNOW what you are up against, so that you have a perfectly fair chance at victory. if you **** up, it's because the enemy hit you. And while it is very difficult to avoid this, it's completely possible. Parts like the hallway before the grim reaper, in other words the notoriously difficult, dodging two knights' axes, with a shit storm of Medusa heads coming your way would be absolutely IMPOSSIBLE without that enemy classification!
Castlevania is clearly the most well thought out, well polished game I have ever played, and quite frankly, it is the most rewarding, fun experience you will ever have. A hard game by today's standards would infuriate me to the point where I don't want to play anymore. A hard game like this that is themed so well, makes me want to keep pressing on. I could never imagine just dropping this game halfway through, simply due to the fact that I knew It was 100% doable.
Now, to talk about the game as a whole. If you aren't already aware, the game consists of Simon Belmont whipping enemies, and throwing special weapons, at the cost of Hearts, in a quest to defeat the resurrected Count Dracula. Now, this, alone, is what makes Castlevania's premise so unique. A) there's barely any story at all, it's entirely premise based, and B) This is a full out, one-on-one fight to the death between you, and Dracula. The character is vague enough to put yourself into Simon's shoes. You feel that you genuinely are conquering one of the hardest feats imaginable. And it feels damn good once you do.
No two levels are alike, and each of them looks absolutley beautiful. Every single one incorporates complimentary colours that make the design pop out, and is truly a test of character for the NES hardware. However they made it, it's beautiful enough that it makes you want to explore the levels, just to see the spooky scenery. There is just something compelling about the way they pieced each and every level together with so much care and admiration. Which is something I rarely feel in games today.
Each level foreshadows the enemies before either of you can attack. There is always time, albeit a short window to strategize your attacks. It tests your character, as well as your reflexes. However, the level design can truly help you, if you take advantage of the terrain. And trust me, you'll get to know the terrain. I died so many times on the Grim Reaper stage that I knew the level inside and out. I rarely ever needed the wall chicken, which restores your health, just due to this terrain advantage.
I believe I have touched upon the items, but I didn't touch upon the actual feel of Simon's movements, and how they are in conjunction with the items. The whip ONLY attacks what is directly in front of you, and unless you get the best whip upgrade (The second whip item that falls out of candles), it is entirely useless. The key is to get used to the items. They almost always give you the necessary item when you start a new area, but the key is to experiment with each and every one until you find a use for them. They also give you upgrades for what ever you are holding, in the form of a square with either a "II", or a "III" on it. This doubles, or triples the amount of items you can throw quickly. It's almost imperative you get these if you want to stand a good chance against the bosses.
That element alone is quite possibly the single thing that separates the game / franchise among others, and quite frankly, makes the game scary as shit. This game is practically the definition of sidescrolling survival horror. Which is exactly what they where trying to achieve. They executed it perfectly, and truly made up for the clunky control with this single aspect. They truly thought of everything when designing this game. You felt like you where truly traveling forward through this massive castle, with every step you took. No filler.
This game also has one of the best soundtracks I have ever seen. The game is only six levels long, and the music truly helps move things along. I think it's pretty safe to say that Castlevania has left a legacy on the history of video game music. I mean, listen to this.
This is the first thing you hear when you actually get into the game! It gets you so pumped up, and makes you feel ready to face the horrors that lie ahead. Every song fits the level it represents perfectly, as well as being completely amazing on it's own. I'd say that deserves a round of applause in my book.
Click the image for music
At the end of the game, eerie music kicks in, and you are greeted to that looming, moonlit staircase. At this point, you just know. You farm the hearts out of those candles, until you are sure you have enough. And then, you are finally greeted to the one that you have been seeking to destroy. And let me tell you, with a smile on your face, you want to rip him a new one after all the shit he put you through. But through it all, it feels more like a rivalry than slaying a monster. Once you get this far, there's no turning back.
And then, you do it. You put Dracula to rest, after hours, and hours of trial and error, you finally do it. And then, you watch the castle crumble in the dawn of the rising sun. At this point, you are beyond euphoric. You feel like you got 100% of your time's worth out of playing this game. And that, I think, is what this game's legacy entails. No Castlevania after this one, or any other game I've played matches the pure sense of satisfaction you get out of beating this game, and watching that castle crumble.
And of course watching the joke credit names
Overall, I think I have praised enough as to how great this game is, in every aspect. It is the only game that I have played that truly manifested a simple concept of overcoming hardships, into a clear, concise, and overall fantastically weaved, memorable adventure. Tens, right across the board, for a Misdirection result of: Youbetterplaythisgameyouasshole out of ten.
You played the most important part in this review. Thank you for reading.