Before the Castlevania games became non-linear RPG/ platformers, they were very simple, very straightforward platformers. Anyone whose experience with the franchise starts and stops at the more modern games might be a little surprised by just how primitive the early Castlevania games are, but that’s not to say they aren’t still good fun.
There are of course some familiar elements. The default weapon is the famous whip and the monsters comprise the usual Gothic range – there’s ghosts, and skeletons, and ugly bat-monsters. For a NES game, Dracula’s castle still holds a remarkable atmosphere, which is helped along by a soundtrack that is about as haunting as could be hoped for in an 8-bit game. Though Belmont’s movement is sluggish compared to the athleticism of, say, Mario, there will be a point where the whole game clicks into place and the action becomes very comfortable.
So Castlevania plays nicely, even today. It’s just let down from a couple of nasty relics of yesteryear that I am personally glad have been purged from game development.
The difficulty is very uneven, for a start. For a good half of Castlevania I feel that character death is a genuine consequence of my own poor decisions. That’s fine – that much of the game is difficult, but fairly so.
But then comes a section where my character is balanced on a tiny platform and there’s a wobbling, flying enemy coming at me quickly. It’s difficult to avoid, but if it hits me, regardless of how much health the character has, it’s life over as he’s thrown back into a bottomless pit. This kind of difficulty, that has so plagued games like Ninja Gaiden, is unfair. The need for trial-and-error until you learn the pixel-perfect manner to avoid the enemies is antiquated for good reason. Especially when there’s only a limited number of lives and no save points.
With the 3DS version you can of course use the save state feature and reload as needed to avoid losing lives, and that feature means that the less dedicated gamers are able to finish the game without sacrificing their lives for a days, but it’s still a frustrating relic of yesteryear game design.
With many NES game ports to the 3DS Virtual Console, the tiny screen size of the 3DS (compared to a TV), results in a game that is difficult to see. The good news is that while the screen is a little small for my liking, Castlevania shrinks down better than most.
With a full-fledged new Castlevania game hitting the 3DS shortly (and from early impressions, it’s a good one), it’s a little hard to get excited about an antique of a game. Castlevania is still good fun, it just hasn’t aged all that well.
– Matt S
Find me on Twitter: @digitallydownld
And also on MiiVerse: WaltzIT
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