Monday, 5 September 2011

Super Castlevania IV (SNES)

This is another game known in Japan as just Akumajou Dracula, along with Castlevania, Vampire Killer and Haunted Castle. Does that mean it's supposed to be a remake of the first game?

A bolt of evil lightning cracks open Dracula's gravestone, allowing him to sneak out as a glowing bat. Every one hundred years this crap happens, the last time in Castlevania III it was up to Trevor Belmont to sort it out. And now his descendant Simon Belmont has the task of putting Dracula back in the ground. Again.

To be honest I'm pretty sure I've played this game before at some point, and I remember hating it. But maybe now I've played the earlier games I'll be able to find some entertainment in it.

This is really familiar somehow.

Castlevania (NES)
Yeah, it's definitely starting to look like it's a remake. Though Simon's swapped his brown outfit for a grey one this time.

Dracula's got a giant skull rock in his front yard now? I wonder if I'll be headed over there later, or if it's just scenery.

Shame there's no music at this point. All the other Castlevanias started with an excellent stage 1 tune, but this has nothing.

We're closer to the action in this than in the NES games, though the screen is a little taller to make up for it.

Also the SNES artwork is a massive improvement over the NES graphics. I haven't found a tree yet, but if I ever do I have full confidence that it'll actually look like a tree this time. Also there's more frames of animation, layers of scrolling in the background... this is a nice looking game.

No, I've changed my mind! I don't want to go to the lair of ultimate evil any more. Even if I win and destroy Dracula, that just leads back to that Simon's Quest bullshit again!

Whoa, these skeletons really pop in this one. In the NES games there'd be a a little bit of fire, in this one they explode into flames.

Wait; fences, trees in the background... this is getting very Castlevania 1. At least the layout seems different. Also the music has started to kick in. And it does not disappoint. (youtube link).

That's cool, the level has two levels of depth to it. I use the fences to switch between them. I don't remember ever seeing that in a Castlevania game before.

Oh sorry, were those fireballs supposed to hit me? Turns out that now I can just duck safely under them. And I can still whip them out of the air! This is the best Belmont ever.

Yeah, I think it's fair now to say that this is not a remake of Castlevania. Sure it retells the same story of how a guy called Simon went into a castle and hit things with his whip, but these are two clearly different games.

One big difference... Simon can actually steer himself a bit in the air mid-jump! Finally I have some control when he's airbone. Also he can move when crouched, which helps too.

Yeah, they look like trees to me. That's a weird looking floor though.

All the sub-weapons seem to be back as usual, and they're powered by the hearts I get out of candles, as is tradition. But now they're activated by a separate button, not up and fire. Which I keep forgetting at all the worst times.

Eww, plants are dropping on me from the ceiling. That's never a good thing.

Huh, am I in a barn now? Is this Dracula's evil stables?

Oh shit, yes it is! There's a bloody demonic flying decapitated horse head after me, and I can't get enough of a lead to turn around and hit it.

And then a plant drops on Simon's head and kills him. Not his most heroic moment.

Hey it's a Medusa head, my arch nemesis! Only this time, I can just stand on the spot and spin my whip around, so it doesn't matter where they're flying, they're gonna get hit. These things were such a pain in the ass in the NES games, but they're much less of a threat against my awesome spinning whip. Which is awesome.

Just gonna wave my whip around in the air for a bit. It's not the fastest way to kill enemies, but it gets the job done.

Ow, fireball to the back.

Oh no, it's a skeleton boss riding a skeleton... animal. I have no idea what that would be. I'm guessing it's not a horse though.

Throwing knives, that's the way to deal with asshole skeletons lancers. Oh crap, that was my last one!

Look at that! My very last hit point, and that asshole is in pieces.

The floating island domain of Castlevania, with obligatory waterfalls. You know I would have thought I'd be much closer to the castle right now, seeing as I went through the castle drawbridge already.

Oh crap, spiders! Spiders that fire spiders! I don't like this.

I like those leaves though. There's some nice pixel work there.


LATER.


Hey, I fell in and it didn't kill me! Definitely makes a change from the other games where touching water meant instant death.


LATER.


Crap, like in Castlevania 1, the second boss is Medusa herself. Only this time she has a body, and can actually turn me to stone... for a short time. A special kind of stone that can just hang in the air.


She only managed to knock of two bars of health? Medusa just ain't no match for my spinning boomerang cross. I love this thing, I'm always annoyed when I accidentally collect a different sub-weapon instead and lose it.

These guys split into more guys when I kill them? Shame Simon can't do that. An army of mini vampire slayers could come in handy. Each of them with their own little tiny whip.

The NES games had the occasional brick or two I could break, but I don't remember any of them letting me destroy entire walls. There's no way this isn't leading somewhere good.

Food! The greatest treasure of all. Points and hearts are always nice, but a full health bar is invaluable.

Hang on, I'm going to look up what these fireball firing skull towers are called....

I'm sorry bone pillar, but I can whip this thing vertically now!  Moving the sub-weapon to a different button means I'm free to attack vertically, horizontally, diagonally... I got all the directions covered.

Just when I thought this game was going to be nice to me, the ground starts crumbling underneath me.

What is it with all these bone monsters in this game? Is Dracula just recycling enemies that Trevor killed in Castlevania III?

And then I forget how stairs work and fall through, right down into a bottomless pit. Which actually made me smile, so I think this is a good place to stop.

They've actually tweaked the stairs in this for the better. I still can't jump off them, but I can fall onto them, or off them if I want. Which definitely helps make them a lot more bearable... as long as I remember to pull up at the base of the stairs instead of just walking off the edge like an idiot.


I have to admit that this game surprised me. For one thing, it turns out that this isn't the Castlevania game I remember playing and hating all those years ago. So I've still got that one waiting to jump out at me at some point, just when I least expect it. Like a creepy evil owl in a haunted forest.

But this one really does feel like it deserves the title Castlevania IV. It's a step forward for the franchise in graphics and gameplay, and there's some good music in there too. It's probably my favourite of the series so far, and I definitely want to play more of this one.

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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Semi-Random Game Box