Tuesday 24 February 2015

Super Castlevania IV (SNES review)

Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Released: 1991

Super Castlevania IV was the first game in the series to hit the SNES and the plot is basically a re-imagining of the 1986 original.

Unlike the NES games it's a breeze to climb stairs and control your character in mid-air, and you can also use your whip in eight directions. The latter is a fantastic addition as you can take out enemies on higher / lower platforms with ease. Your secondary weapon is now mapped to the R button and it makes a huge difference as you don't have to come to a complete standstill to use it. Konami made great use of the systems' Mode 7 capabilities with rotating levels, shifting backgrounds and sprite scaling. There's tons of neat touches in the game including skull backdrops, parallax scrolling and lights that come on one-by-one as you walk towards the final battle with Dracula. Unfortunately there is some slowdown when things get too hectic and it does result in the controls becoming 'sticky' and occasionally unresponsive. Some people criticise Super Castlevania IV for being too easy; while it is more forgiving than previous games and the bosses generally require little strategy, it can still get really tough in later stages due to instant death traps, tricky platforming and the reliance on using your whip to grab onto moving targets. Luckily you have unlimited continues and a password feature that acts as a stage select. The audio is a real highlight and the tracks perfectly capture the mood of each stage. I particularly love the contrast between the sparse, atmospheric music and the up-tempo, energetic songs, and things are taken to a whole other level when the remixed classic tracks appear towards the end of the game!

Super Castlevania IV is a huge leap forward for the series; it fixed a number of problems that plagued the NES games and added some new gameplay elements that fit in perfectly. The control scheme is spot-on and I really wish Konami would have stuck with them for future 16-bit Castlevania titles.

Random trivia: For those that do find the game too easy there's a password you can enter to unlock a higher difficulty.

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