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Castlevania Review Rewind

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On 10/20/2015 at 12:00 AM by Jamie Alston

Stalk the Night

A good time for anyone that enjoys the classic NES platformer formula.

For years, the story of Count Dracula has been told many times over, with different spins on how he wrecked havoc on human society and such things. I dare say that there isn't a person on Earth who hasn't heard of the some point in their lifetime. So given the popularity of this character, it was only natural that Dracula would find a new life on the NES. And sure enough, in 1987, Konami released Castlevania-- a game that featured a whip-wielding hero on a mission to defend the local townsfolk and stop Dracula's bite for good, or so he hoped.

I vaguely remember seeing my brother take turns with a friend playing the early sections of this game many years ago. I especially remember catching episodes of Captain N, featuring a poorly drawn [and awfully characterized] Simon Belmont. Between watching the show and looking at screenshots of the game in those Nintendo Power hint books, I always wanted to play Konami's vampire-hunting series for myself.

Long story short, the Belmont family has been waging war with Dracula and the terror he spreads over Transylvania for hundreds of years. Each time he is defeated, some of Dracula’s minions somehow revive him with the passing of time. The current year is 1691 and he has again come back to life, bent on doing what evil blood-sucking counts do best. Simon Belmont, the current descendant of the Belmont family has vowed to stop Dracula with the legendary whip, the Vampire Killer. His whip in hand, Simon goes to Dracula’s castle to face the destiny that awaits him.


Starting off, the game lets you know that a serious undertaking is ahead, showing Simon preparing to enter Dracula's castle. From there, the action keeps on rolling and rarely lets up for very long. You'll have to help Simon battle zombies, bats, walking skeletons, and sewer creatures called "Fishmen"- just to name a few. Enemies like the zombies or bats are the easiest to kill, as they are among the weakest of your foes. Of course, as any game would have it, that all changes as you advance further into the castle.

Simon starts out with his trusty whip, which can be powered up twice by destroying candles or normal enemies along the way. With each power-up, the length of Simons whip increases, allowing to attack from a greater distance than you could without the enhancements.

You also have a good selection of sub-weapons that can be used during your journey. You'll be able to utilize such weapons as the dagger, ax, and the occasional holy water (I hear vampires hate that stuff). Other helpful items include a small jug of liquid that grants Simon temporary invincibility, and the cross & chain- a weapon that clears the screen of all enemies. 

Simon has stamina points that get drained every time you use one of your secondary items. However, stamina can be restored by collecting hearts from candles or fallen enemies just like all the other items in the game. Also, Simon's health bar can be restored by finding roast beef dinners hidden in the faulty bricks of the castle.

I guess we should give Dracula some respect for at least being kind enough to feed our hero before he makes an attempt on Simon's life in a very painful way. Of course, only he would be evil enough to hide these instant meals in the walls of his castle. Believe me, you'll be hard-pressed to find this life-giving food as you progress through the castle, unless you've probed this game for all it's worth...or maybe use a strategy guide. Regardless, it's fun to discover these things on your own when you least expect it.


Almost every section in the game presents its own particular challenge. Some areas can be a bit daunting to pass through when you have to jump across chasms or over water while fighting enemies conveniently placed in your path. But that's really just a minor irritant, compared to what's in store in the later levels.

The major difficulties mostly come from the stronger common enemies, such as the Skeleton Snake, which block the hallways and require about 6 hits to kill with your whip. It doesn't help that the monster spits fireballs that are very difficult to avoid.

The bosses at the end of each section are no walk in the park to kill either. You'll be going up against likes of Medusa, twin mummies, Frankenstein & Igor, and a few more foes before you face Dracula himself. I can tell you right now that, in most cases, the holy water or stopwatch will be your best friend in a tight spot. Just make sure you have enough stamina points to use them.

Thankfully, you have unlimited continues at your disposal. The only downside is that you're forced to start at the very beginning of the level when using a continue. Even so, it's way better than only having 2 or 3 chances before being forced to completely start over.


The controls are a mixed bag. While on foot, Simon moves with ease and seems just fine. But that changes when he has to jump to different platforms. Part of the problem is that you can't alter your direction while in the air, which means big-time trouble if you suddenly have second thoughts about taking that leap. It also would have been nice if Simon could strike with the whip a little faster too. Maybe it's just me, but he seems to attack a half-second slower than I would have liked at critical moments in battle.

When Simon takes a hit, he gets knocked backward. This often presents a problem because enemies will constantly be a threat to your ability to cross platforms...especially when you're on a short one with little or no room to safely dodge an attack.

Konami's games were usually known for displaying crisp graphics and bold colors and Castlevania is no exception. Every area captures what a European castle of the 1600s would look like. Huge windows in the background, candles lining the walls, piles of bones in the basement dungeon-- it all looks authentic and is enjoyable to take in. Everything has an overall dark look and feel to it, which really shows up best when you reach the higher outer areas of the castle.

You'll see overgrown vines and moss that line the walls, along with broken statues sitting on old ledges and extending catacombs that are present in the background. Not to be overlooked are the color patterns that Konami used in each area. It’s very easy to distinguish which objects can be interacted with, or where you need to jump, and Simon will always be easy to spot, should you take eyes off the screen for a moment. These details are outstanding for a Nintendo game of its time.


Another high point for Castlevania is its audio quality. From start to finish, each tune is well composed and really goes well with the whole Dracula theme. The often moody music goes hand-in-hand with the wonderful graphics mentioned above. The sound effects hold up just as nice too. You'll hear all the usual 8-bit Konami sounds here.

The high-pitched, bouncy sound effects add a lighthearted balance to the overall serious feel of the game. And really, Konami has always been very good at providing a nice audio experience in many of the games that they've produced over the years. And this game is certainly no slouch here either.

Castlevania was truly an outstanding game for its time. Despite the few irritations that can be found in this game, it doesn't take anything away from the better parts of this fine title. Since 1987, Castlevania has spawned sequels and spin-offs across a large variety of home consoles. In fact, I'm pretty sure that this is one of the longest-running series that's still relevant today. It's definitely worth having and is also a great way to see how one of the most popular names in gaming history got its start.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

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Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.




10/20/2015 at 02:13 AM

I beat the first CV and it was hard as hell! Whipping off Drac's head was exhilirating for a lad like myself,including watching the castle crumble in the background as Simon looked on. What's ironic is the bosses in Simon's Quest were ridiculously easy....some could even be bypassed entirely!

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

10/20/2015 at 10:24 AM

Man, I'm so jealous of folks that could beat the game. I could never make it past the tiwn mummies.  But I always enjoy the game when I play it.  I'll beat it one day.

Matt Snee Staff Writer

10/20/2015 at 06:13 AM

this was one of the few games my older brother really played. When he got to the end, and beat Dracula, Dracula then took on his demon formed and killed him. He never played games again, except for the occasional racing game and Tony Hawk.  

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

10/20/2015 at 10:27 AM

Wow...Dracula pulled a Freiza on your brother...."and this isn't even my final form!" I can understand how your brother could have gotten frustrated though.  It sucks when you make it through the whole game, reach the boss and destroy him, only to have to deal with the "real" version of the same boss and it kills you.

Matt Snee Staff Writer

10/20/2015 at 11:04 AM

If I ever start another band, I'm gonna call it "Final Form".  Laughing

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

10/20/2015 at 12:54 PM

Let us know if you do, LOL!


10/20/2015 at 06:36 AM

Seeing and playing this game for the first time was a watershed moment. It was on my friend's NES when we were in elementary school. I knew nothing about it, didn't even know the game existed. But from the moment I saw the opening animation to the defeat if the first boss, my life changed. I was transfixed. The atmosphere and sounds of the game mesmerized me.  It was a whole new level of that video games had ascended to, in my eyes.  The music compositions were unparalleled in their originality (for games) and catchiness. Nothing looked or sounded as good, or was as compelling to play To put it simply: I was awestruck.

To date, this series still sits among the very top of the heap, and the gothic horror/fantasy genre is still one of my favorites due to this game and its successors. There was just something about the genre, this game, that music that spoke to my being, as if it were crafted just for me or someone had peered into my soul and made a game from whatever its contents suggested. A definitive touchstone in my life.


10/20/2015 at 07:13 AM

Jeh,I'm with you,m8. I especially was impressed when I played Super CV on the snes then the Genesis CV Blood-lines right before moving onto Rondo of blood (Er,it was the kinda crappy yet still "good" snes remix Vampire's kiss) & Symphony of the night on the playstation. That stretch of time was a great period for CV though sadly I never got to play any of the DS outings like Portrait of ruin or Dawn of sorrow.

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

10/20/2015 at 10:34 AM

@BrokenH: You just reminded me that I need to get Symphony of the Night. I wonder if I can purchase it on PSN?


10/20/2015 at 07:39 PM

I imagine so,Jamie! It was also on Xbox live awhile so I'm sure PSN has it too! I even have it on the psp bundled with Rondo Of Blood. (Aka,The Dracula X chronicles)

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

10/21/2015 at 11:18 AM

Come to think of it, I actually had SOTN the my Xbox 360 from the Live arcade, but the system crapped out on me back in 2008.  I think at the time, I didn't feel like trying to repurchase it on the PSN.  I hope it's still there.

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

10/20/2015 at 10:33 AM

@ Machocruz: Yes! That music in Castlevania was amazing for it's time.  The composer didn;t just setting for a ho-hum soundtrack. I think the musical score helped to change the way other video game composers thought of music and how it could be used to really accentuate the adventure.

Cary Woodham

10/20/2015 at 07:18 AM

I could never get into any of the Castlevania games for some reason.  But there is ONE Castlevania game I really like: Kid Dracula.

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

10/20/2015 at 10:35 AM

I hear Kid Dracula is a pretty good lighter take on the Castlevania series.  Do you know if it's available on the 3DS eshop?

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