Friday 2 January 2015

Castlevania (NES review)

Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Released: 1986

Castlevania is an action platformer and the inaugral title in Konami's long running series.

The game consists of six levels and your primary weapon is a whip which can be upgraded twice to extend its reach. However, you can also pick up special weapons such as a Watch (freezes enemies) and a Fire Bomb (incinerates anything in its path). To use these you'll need to collect hearts that are found in candles or from downed enemies; each time you use a special weapon it uses up some of your heart count so you must use them sparingly. It's best to save them for the boss fights anyway as these get incredibly difficult the more you progress. Speaking of which, this game is hard! The action happens thick and fast and you rarely get a second to think before a pack of enemies surround you. The bosses can be downright brutal, especially if you don't have a special weapon to use, and the stiff jumping mechanics don't help as you can't adjust in mid-air. The level design is great though and there's a real mixture to the stages including various distinctive castle rooms, outdoor areas and underground tunnels. What I love most is that there's tons of strategy to each level and different ways to beat them - the game encourages you to experiment and come up with the best method for getting past a particular section and you'll get a great deal of satisfaction once you master it. There's some smooth scrolling and the graphics have excellent detail for an early NES title. The music is outstanding and perfectly captures the creepy environments while being highly memorable.

Castlevania is an early NES classic and it nailed a number of elements that define the series to this day. There's probably too much reliance on special weapons to proceed but the game is so much fun that you'll keep playing until you come up with the best strategy to get you just that little bit further.

Random trivia: An arcade version of Castlevania was also released for Nintendo's VS. System. It had a number of changes including an increased difficulty level and a slightly different colour palette due to the video monitors supporting RGB output.

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