Monday, 18 July 2011

Castlevania (NES)

Like The Legend of Zelda, this is a genuine NES classic that I've somehow managed to avoid playing until now. Or maybe I just always got killed by the first boss, I forget.

Castle Dracula itself. Or is it Castle Castlevania? Either way that wall's probably there for a good reason and if Simon Belmont had any sense he'd stay on this side of it.

No guard dogs? The walk up to the front door is surprisingly enemy free. Also this music is basically awesome.

I take the opportunity to stock up on whip upgrades and ammo by smashing these lights. It's lucky I knew breaking things got me items, and hearts are ammo, or else I would have just walked through this level without collecting a thing.

Enemies! I can take them out in one lash from my whip, but there's a delay on my attacks so there no way I'm taking both of these guys out without taking damage. Fortunately Simon has a couple of seconds of invulnerability after taking damage, which is weirdly something a lot of platformers screw up.

It doesn't seem fair to criticise the art in an early NES classic, but this art looks pretty damn nasty. Simon looks fine in still screenshots, but his animation isn't as good as it could be.

Castlevania (DOS)
The DOS version of the game manages to look even worse. They've turned Simon from a vampire slayer into a boy scout.

Castlevania (Amiga)
Somehow though the Amiga version is the worst looking of all of them, to me anyway. You could argue that it has more details and colours, but it's lacking all the atmosphere and charm. Plus Simon looks like a tiny cardboard cutout. I mean damn, Defenders of the Earth came out the same year and even that looks better than this.

Worse, they've ruined the music!

These stairs are little awkward. If I try to jump onto them I just fall through, and I can't jump at all while I'm standing on them. If an enemy comes by when I'm on the stairs all I can do is whip them or try to slowly walk out of the way.

I'm not impressed with this holy water attack. I throw it like a grenade, but it only damages enemies on one tiny patch of floor. Still it was enough to kill that glowing cat.

I reached a dead end, but noticed there were stairs going down. Now I'm stuck in the basement trying to jump across ledges with mer-monsters leaping out of the water and doing their best to knock me in.

Colliding with an enemy throws me back, so if that happens while I'm crossing those platforms on the right, I'm screwed. Like in Super Ghouls 'N Ghosts, there's no way to steer the hero once he's airborne. Plus he doesn't even get a double jump!

Son of a bitch. I'm on the other side of the dead end now... and now I find out that there was an actual health pickup over there, hidden in the wall! I tried to jump over and grab it, but by then it had disappeared.

That's just typical, I find one opportunity to get some health back, and I miss it.

Now I'm paranoid that there's more health pickups hidden in the walls and floor that I'm missing out on. I haven't found one yet, but they could be anywhere. I need to be diligent and observant.

Oh SHIT, there's a bat up there... and he's a boss! And I've only got 28 seconds left to kill it.

Damn it's lucky I brought an axe as my subweapon. Suddenly picking up all those hearts doesn't seem like it was such a waste of time.

The boss is defeated with only 4 seconds left on the clock! My reward, an orb that refilled my health, and a map of the castle!

It's nice to actually be able to see where I am in the game, and how much further I have to go. Suddenly the seemingly endless corridors have been put into perspective and I feel like I've actually been making progress.

It takes two hits to kill these armoured knights, even with my boomering-cross thing. No worries, it'll give him his second hit on the way back.

Crap, flying enemies! Bloody Medusa heads.

The worst thing is that these things just fly across the level, bouncing up and down as they go. Their path is entirely predictable and so they should be easy to dodge. But I really suck at it.

I'm just lucky there's no bottomless pits for them to knock me down, because these things would massacre me.


ONE STAIRCASE LATER.


Crap, more Medusa heads! I immediately move to avoid being hit, forgetting that I can't land on stairs.

Simon falls to his death, and I'm put back to the start of the section.

Agh, these damn Medusa heads. Another fall down the bottomless pit.

Seriously, if I ever meet Medusa we are going to be having words.

Damn. Unlimited continues but no saves or password. If I stop playing now I lose all my progress. To be honest it's much more generous than I was expecting. I assumed Castlevania was going to be one of the harsher NES games but it's been very fair so far.

Okay Castlevania, I'll continue... this time. You've earned that much.


ONE REPLAY OF STAGE 4 AND 5 LATER.


Damn, it seems that there's not much margin for error on this bit. I was sure I was standing in the middle of them.


SEVERAL DEATHS, A CONTINUE, AND STAGE 4 AND 5 (AGAIN) LATER.


If I have to get past those Medusa heads and spiky crushers one more time I'm going to quit. I've reached my tolerance level for being knocked down bottomless pits and crushed by insta-kill death traps.

On a related note, I wish there was a quicker, safer way of dealing with these fireball spitting skull columns. I can duck to avoid this one, but I don't see how I'm going to get close enough to attack the other one without taking fireball hits.

Oh right, holy water! Finally I have use for it.

I've found a unique looking room and a locked door. I'm starting to get a bad feeling about this.

MEDUSA! Right, that's it. I don't care that I only have 4 hit points left, there's no way I'll letting this thing live after all the trouble it's caused me.

BATHE IN HOLY WATER YOU SNAKE HAIRED BITCH.

It's just a shame there's no 'Simon Belmont head' subweapon in this. I want to summon a wave of Simon heads that move slowly across the screen, knocking her into some kind of bottomless pit. To die.

Annoyingly, the death of the Medusa didn't wipe out the Medusa heads. And once again I'm doing a really shitty job of dodging them.

It doesn't help that they're teaming up with bone throwing skeletons now. I don't know where to jump any more.

That's awesome. It really helps make this feel like an actual place when I can see later levels in the distance.

I hate mummies. Okay, I'm done now.


I was all set to despise this game, and rant about all its flaws... but to be honest I liked it. It's clearly not a bad game. Sure it's annoying, and I wish I didn't have to replay entire stages when I lose a continue, and that there were more health pick-ups and saves, and Medusa heads can basically go fuck themselves. But apart from that, it's a fairly decent NES game!

I'd feel guilty about giving this a gold star though, when I didn't give one to Nosferatu all those months ago, which was a similar pain in the ass with a similar setting. So I'll give them one gold star to share between them.
They can each have half of this. Next game.

1986 - Castlevania (NES)
1986 - Vampire Killer (MSX2)
1987 - Castlevania II: Simon's Quest (NES)
1988 - Haunted Castle (Arcade)
1989 - Castlevania: The Adventure (Game Boy)
1990 - Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse (NES)
1991 - Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge (Game Boy)
1991 - Super Castlevania IV (SNES)
1993 - Akumajō Dracula / Castlevania Chronicles (X68000)
1993 - Akumajō Dracula X: Chi no Rondo / Rondo of Blood (TurboGrafx-CD)
1994 - Castlevania: The New Generation / Castlevania: Bloodlines (Genesis/Mega Drive)
1995 - Castlevania: Vampire's Kiss / Castlevania: Dracula X (SNES)
1997 - Castlevania Legends (Game Boy)

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