Thursday, July 31, 2014

Nerdicus NES Review #120: Castlevania

Title : Castlevania

Publisher : Konami

Developer : Konami

Genre : Action Platformer

Players : 1 Player

Release Date : 1986

Estimated Value (as of today's date) : $15-$20

Okay, I admit it. I was the type of kid that could be scared quite easily. I was a victim of many ruthless pranks from my sister when I was growing up, most involving some freaky ripped off jaw mask that she used to wake me up in the middle of the night. Did I pee myself? Probably, but I like to think I kept those bed sheets dry.

There were even occasions where video games scared the crap out of me too. That's right, little pixelated monsters on 8-bit consoles frightened me. I'd like you to tell me right now that they didn't do the same to you, especially one particular game. Castlevania.

Just look at that box art, and tell me you just don't want to grab that game off the shelf and run home?  Enter at your own risk? You're damn right, enter at your own risk! For crying out loud, you're thrown into Dracula's caste. DRACULA. You know, the king of all vampires. The master of blood sucking. The lord of terror (oh wait, that's Diablo). When I begged my parents to buy me this game, they were pretty damn hesitant. When I picked it up I was only five, but for some reason enjoyed being scared. My dad could tell you how many stupid things scared me, but it was some sort of sick pleasure. Eventually, my folks gave in, and picked up the game for me. Thus began my many nights of continuous nightmares. Most of them, involving Medusa Heads.

Enough with the back story, I've been waiting since I started reviewing these games to finally get my hands on this again. I always make it a point to play through this game at least once a year, and hell, it still kicks my arse. Not this time though. Dracula, you're mine!

Onward, to the NES Classic and in my top 5 favorite NES games of all time : CASTLEVANIA!!!!

And Tom, if you're reading this...I know I gotta finish the damn Castlevania artwork. FORGIVE ME!!!!!

As soon as the game starts up, you know you're in for a rough ride. You've got the archaic font in the foreground, and that looming castle in the background. It's appeared again after 100 years, and it's up to you Simon Belmont of the famed Belmont family of vampire hunters to take out Dracula. To think you are pitting yourself against the denizens of hell to face off against the king of all vampires....The the title screen sends that bat out to hover right next to the start key. The damn thing is taunting you! It sends chills down your spine! 

One thing I always liked, was the weird "film" look the title screen I had. I guess it was trying to do a bit of a shout out to the classic vampire films or Nosferatu. Maybe, that wasn't intended...but I like to imagine that ha.

Once you hit start, Simon Belmont appears at the gates to the castle and the music builds up in intensity. We all know that music. It's one of the greatest themes in NES history. I won't lie when I still think this game has one of the most phenomenal soundtracks (apart from Duck Tales) From there, it just gets better and better.

The game itself is pretty straight forward. You'll traverse through 6 areas, each with a different boss at the end of it, in which you must defeat in order to climb to the top of the castle in order to face Dracula. To aid you in your quest, is your trusty whip, which you learn to love from the second you first crack it.

Of course, whips aren't you're only means of destroying the skeletons, zombies, and medusa heads that will plague you on your quest. Whipping away candles will reveal hidden treasures and items that will assist you. Of course, you'll need to collect hearts to use them, but they are practically everywhere. Daggers, that throw straight ahead of you at a greater distance are great for ranged attacks. Holy water which damages and locks enemies in place (my favorite weapon probably). The Axe which you can lob into the air to attack enemies above you and out of reach. A boomerang cross..yes a boomerang cross. This one is highly entertaining to use and is a heavy damage dealer. Great against bosses (although holy water is pretty damn effective too). Finally there is the stop watch, which as you may have guessed, freezes enemies in place. Great against those pesky medusas.

Let's talk about the challenge level of this game. There's no denying it, this is one of the hardest platformer games you will ever play on the NES. Okay, it's no Ninja gaiden, because that is just relentless ,but this one will prove pretty damn difficult. Monsters are relentless, and you need to be patient, or you'll just find yourself dying over and over again. You need to take it one step, and one enemy at a time. The last thing you need to do in this game, is to get all the way to the end of a stage, only to be knocked off into a pit by a random skeleton bone or fireball.

Part of it is the fact that the platforming sections are never as easy as they seem. You may just have to jump from one ledge to another, but little do you know that there are monsters lying in wait to knock you off a majority of the time. And I know I mentioned them twice already, but those Medusa Heads are the biggest pain in the arse in every game. They make NO sense in the way they fly around and appear. It's gotta be RNG. There's no other way they can just confuse the hell out of you like that.

Scariest moment by the way is when you finally have to face the Giant Medusa head boss. That scared the CRAP out of me when I was a kid. I think that was one of the bosses I had to have my sister beat for me. Yes that's right. There were many instances where I forced my sister to beat certain areas of games because I felt like I was just going to lose, and die a horrible death. Pathetic, no?

What else is there to say about this game? Gameplay? Phenomenal. Soundtrack? Epic. Artwork / Graphics? Sets the mood perfectly. Fear Factor? Scared the crap out of me! If you are ever searching for a game that will bring you back to a time where retro games were at there peak, this is it. There's a reason that the name CASTLEVANIA lives in infamy. Not to mention, why this game has spawned so many sequels....of course not all of them were game comes to mind..

You are living a horror movie in this game. From Medusa, to the Mummy, to Frankenstein's Monster, and of course the epic face off with Dracula. This game has got it all. The atmosphere is alive with every element created to scare you in 8-bit terror.

Still, if you have yet to play this game, I don't know what you are waiting for. This is platforming at its finest, remains one of my favorite NES games, if not one of my favorite games to come from any console.

CASTLEVANIA - you complete me.

Final Score (out of 5) :

Until next time. Keep on gaming!



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