The Tour de 64 returns with a 3D take on a classic series.
Often referred to as “Castlevania 64” to distinguish it from the NES game, Castlevania is the first 3D entry in the long-running series. Many of the series' staple enemies and weapons are present, as well as some new twists brought on from the transition. I don't have much experience with the Castlevania series myself, but what's here is a decent adventure with a sometimes chilling atmosphere that provides enough excitement to be worthwhile.
After booting up the game, the first sight is the camera slowly rotating around a large castle, which looked more like a scale model due to the Nintendo 64's limitations. Upon the pressing of the Start button, I was presented with a choice of somehow unsurprisingly stereotypical characters, the buff hunk Reinhardt Schneider and the wimpy magic girl Carrie Fernandez. The guy has a whip as his main method of defeating enemies, which has limited range but is relatively powerful. The girl, on the other end, has a magic attack that homes in on targets from afar, but with little oomph. Still, the increased range seemed more important than increased strength, so I went with Carrie.
Looks like I'm going to have to make my way to that castle, as the first stage is what appears to be a forest. It more closely resembles a movie set with trees painted onto walls, but that brings me back to the system's limitations so I won't go there. Up ahead were two individual trees, so I got the feeling something was about to happen as I got close to them. Sure enough, upon approaching them, a bolt of lightning zaps then in a flash, causing them to catch fire and fall to the ground. Maneuvering around the burning trees, I press on and come across a skeleton. I kneel down to examine it, and its jaw drops, followed by it beginning to shake! I back off, it then proceeds to sit up, then finally stands on its feet. Once there, more skeletons begin to rise from the ground.
The game has a few little things like that, which helps keep the enemies from being too generic and contributes to the atmosphere. Said skeletons can have their legs blown off by certain attacks, after which they will crawl along the ground toward you. A seemingly innocent villager will be revealed a vampire when he is shown to have no reflection in the mirror. Upon approaching a certain statue of an angel, it will cry blood... which soon morphs into a blob enemy and attacks! And soon, someone from Carrie's past will appear, wielding the biggest horror of them all: cheesy dialogue.
The game features a day-night system complete with a fast-moving clock, but the time affects so little that I often forget it exists, and most of the adventure takes place inside the castle. There are a couple events which take place only at a certain time, a couple of secrets only accessible at a certain time, and vampires are stronger at night, but that's the extent of it. Strangely, if too many days pass, a certain good guy will challenge Dracula before you reach him, which results not only in having to fight the guy, but a “bad” ending as well, which gives the game a sort of time limit for completion.
Although the game is separated into levels, they are all connected to one another, allowing backtracking in most cases but it's largely pointless. Save points are scattered about the stages, and the game can also be saved when entering a new level. They are usually placed before tough spots, but not always as close together as it feels they should be. The game probably would have benefited from a system of lives, to avoid playing the same segments over again when the finicky jumping control inevitably leads to an untimely demise.
On the whole, Castlevania is a decent game, and is worth a look for anyone who likes adventure titles. It is a bit of a short game as it is only ten stages long, although it's worth playing once more as each character has a couple of unique stages and bosses. However, there exists a sort of remake, Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness, which is a better game in many ways, which I will get to in the next article. It tends to fetch higher prices though, so Castlevania is still viable as a cheapie.