Monday, 22 August 2011

Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse (NES)

I thought Castlevania II was the one about Dracula's Curse. Though I suppose he can have more than one curse, he is pretty evil.

I feel like I've wandered into Castlevania 1 again by mistake. The original hud is back at the top of the screen, all the Castlevania 2 rpg elements have disappeared, no more day/night cycle, hearts are back to fuelling sub weapons and the original art style has returned. In fact I'm sure some of the art has been taken straight from the first game, like those orange blocks.

And the music is awesome.

I was sure this guy had the same sprite as Simon Belmont from Castlevania, but I guess not.

Castlevania III is actually a prequel, set 100 years in the past, starring Simon's ancestor Trevor Belmont. Even now the Belmonts are famous as being vampire hunters, but the villagers fear their awesome skills so they kick them out of town. And then vampires back come and wreck everything, huge shock. So Trevor has to come over and sort this situation out.

Stairs are the same as ever. Can't jump on them, can't jump off them. Also jumping is the same, can't steer in the air etc.

This bit looks better than anything I saw in Castlevania 1, now I'm out of those crappy grey ruins.


Zombies aren't too bright, are they? I keep waiting for an opportunity to jump, but these things seem to keep pouring out of somewhere off screen. And if I get hit I'm probably going to end up knocked down that pit... right on top of the zombie pile.

I like the background to this place, it looks a lot less... messy than the areas I've seen so far. All the tiles seem to be where they should be for once.

You little leaping bastard. I hate these things, they're so hard to hit.

Akumajou Densetsu
The Japanese version of the game, Akumajou Densetsu, has different enemies here for some reason. I can imagine they were taken out for the western release for being annoying assholes that follow you around and never give you a chance to get into a position to hit them.

This version also has a simpler font for the hud, but more layers to the music. Konami were able to enhance the music with their VRC6 sound chip built into the game cart. But the NES doesn't support extra sound chips like the Famicom does, so the music had to be reworked for the western release.

Which is a big shame, because the music in this sounds way better with the three extra sound channels, and to be honest I'm tempted to drop Castlevania III right now and play this instead.

This undead warrior is the first boss, and he's putting up more of a fight than the first boss of Castlevania 1 did.

I guess I need to keep leading him around, using the platforms to jump over him as he follows me. Then I can get in a quick hit or two before running off again. What I definitely don't want to do is jump on his sword again.

Fortunately I've got lives so I don't have to replay that much of the stage to get back here. Less would have been better though.

A branching path on the map screen? Now this is something Castlevania 1 didn't have.

Well it seems that I have two paths to travel, and two versions of the game... so we're going split up. It'll mean I can't compare them directly any more, but that's boring anyway. Castlevania III will go down to the creepy forest, while Akumajou Densetsu will take the high road to the tower of cogs.

This is 'BLK 3-01' apparently, so it seems that by going down I've skipped a stage.

Okay, that tree looks way better than anything in Castlevania 1 or 2. It's even got creepy eyes hiding in the shadows, watching me.

Oh crap... the creepy eyes belong to owls, OWLS! They appear out of the shadows and swoop around at me. Fortunately I've got my awesome boomerang cross sub-weapon, so if they could just stop hitting me for five seconds I can jump up and clear the screen of them with one shot. 

Ow. I just don't know what to do about these things. I can't duck below the fireballs, and my attempts to jump over usually end with me landing on one. I'm just going to rush it and take the damage because I don't know what else to do.

Wait, I can just hit the fireballs with my whip? Son of a bitch.

Wow, the forest stage doesn't have a boss fight? Well, uh, okay then! I'm not complaining.

Akumajou Dracula
Now that's done with, I can switch over to Akumajou Dracula to take on 'BLK 2-01'.

Can you tell what I've done wrong here? That's right, I tried to jump up a staircase without thinking, and now poor Trevor's going to fall right through all the way down the tower to his death. Man, I really hate the way these Castlevania games handle stairs. I must have more deaths due to stair related incompetence than I do from enemy attacks.


Akumajou Densetsu
I have a really bad feeling about this. Full marks for getting giant swinging pendulums working on the NES though. Well, the Famicom... both of them.

Akumajou Densetsu
Yeah, this is why I had a bad feeling. Fortunately I had a life left so I haven't got far to travel to get back here, but my next death after that will send me all the way back down to the start of the tower again. And it's a big tower.

Akumajou Densetsu
Okay that's creepy, the cogs continue to spin when the game is paused.

Uh, this is a dead end, I've ran out of green blocks to walk on. Unless... I've got to jump onto that big grey cog? But it's grey, grey means background! And if this doesn't work I've lost my last life.

Akumajou Densetsu
Okay, good news is that I was supposed to jump on the cogs and get carried around on top. The bad news is I can't get off!

Actually by some miracle I did manage to jump from there to safety. So zero lives, but I'm still going.


Akumajou Densetsu
No! Damn Medusa heads always gotta knock me off my ledge.

And now I've got to climb all the way up this bloody huge tower again... great. Fortunately I have infinite continues though, so I'm in no danger of losing the game. And Castlevania III has PASSWORDS, so I don't have to finish the whole damn game in one sitting.


Akumajou Densetsu
I've finally reached the top of the tower! And now I've got to fight this yellow bastard.

Annoyingly though, he can climb walls like he's Spider-Man, and keeps throwing axes down at me. Though I think if I can get some distance from him and throw some daggers his way I can wear him down.

Akumajou Densetsu
I killed the boss, and he turned into a regular sized non-yellow version and started to chat to me... in Japanese.


Honestly the game is so much like Castlevania 1 that it never occurred to me that I'd have to read dialogue or answer questions. And now this guy's patiently waiting for a response to a question I can't even understand.

Akumajou Densetsu
I chose the top answer, then the bridge from the tower to Dracula's castle collapsed! So I guess now I have to go through the bottom route instead. I basically went all this way for nothing.

Hey, this is the Japanese version and it still says 'Castlevania' on the map. When I played the western version I figured that was just the game title written on the map, but I guess this place really is called Castlevania.

Akumajou Densetsu
Oh hang on, it seems there was a reason to go this way after all. Now I can switch characters between Trevor and pirate Spider-Man (who's back to being yellow again).

And this guy is awesome. His regular attack is throwing daggers, he can climb up walls... he can steer himself mid-jump!

Akumajou Densetsu
Seems like I have to go all the way back down through the entire stage to get out of the tower.

I'm finding it a bit awkward to pull off the wall climbing, but it's definitely a handy skill to have. This is finally starting to feel like an actual sequel to Castlevania, rather than a stand-alone expansion pack.

Apparently in the western version of the game, this guy has a crappy stabbing dagger rather than a throwing dagger, which seems like a bit of a drastic change. I'd check that out myself, but that means replaying these two stages all over again (with worse music). It doesn't really seem worth the effort.


Things aren't going so well for poor Trevor on stage 4. These flying skeleton ghosts are being assholes, and I don't appreciate it.


Fuck you, bats! I'm out of here, before you steal the other half of my health bar.

Oh crap. A bat boss.

Unlike the one near the start of Castlevania, this guy splits into smaller bats when he's hit. And then the smaller bats split into even smaller bats when I hit them. I start off fighting a giant bat, but I end up taking on a swarm.


And every time I die, I have to fight all the way through those bats upstairs to get back here. So I keep making it to the boss fight with one bar of health left, without a chance of beating it.


Akumajou Densetsu
Haha, you owls aren't so tough now are ya! Throwing daggers beat flying enemies.

This seems to be the same forest stage I was playing through as Trevor, but I'm racing through it as this guy. There wasn't even a boss fight on this stage if I remember right, so replaying it isn't so bad.


I don't know what's dripping from the ceiling here, but it's melting through the blocks so I'm going to avoid it if possible.

If I wait around long enough it seems that the drips will have melted a path through to that lower room, which might be full of awesome pick ups. I don't really like to wait around too long in a game with a timer though.

Oh crap, it's Dracula! And he's firing fireballs at me (not pictured)!

A bit early for the final boss battle isn't it? This is only stage 5-5.

Every time I get a hit on him he explodes into bats and reforms somewhere else. Fortunately Dracula seems to have no idea that bats are my biggest weakness, and leaves me alone until he can get back into human form.

Hey, it was Dracula's son Alucard all along! He just wanted to make sure I was up to the job of killing his evil father (probably). Now he's seen my awesome whip skills first hand, he's eager to join Team Belmont and help me take the guy down.

Unfortunately for poor Alucard, this seems like a good place for me to stop playing. Because otherwise I could keep going for hours.

I wasn't impressed with this one at first. It seemed obvious that Konami saw the response to Simon's Quest and thought 'oh crap, this isn't working... quick, we need to remake the first game again!' But the more I played it, the more it won me over. This might actually be the best of them so far, and I do want to keep playing, so it gets the star.

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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