Monday, August 4, 2014

Nerdicus NES Review #121: Castlevania II: Simon's Quest

Title : Castlevania II: Simon's Quest

Publisher : Konami

Developer : Konami

Genre : Action Platformer

Players : 1 Player

Release Date : 1987

Estimated Value (as of today's date) : $12-$15

Moving on to the next installment of the Castlevania series, we have the controversial CASTLEVANIA II: SIMON'S QUEST. Now, why do I say controversial? For a few reasons. First off, there's a lot of hatred for this game. This little guy here is definitely not as entertaining as the first, and is downright frustrating at some points. I can't say I didn't enjoy it when I was a kid, because I did, just not as much as the first one, nor the third one. Konami tried to add a few "tweaks" to the game, that really didn't work out for them. I'll explain in the review...

Secondly, this game also brought forth one of the most controversial Nintendo Power covers in existence. I have been a subscriber to Nintendo Power since day one, and I remember getting this particular Castlevania II issue in the mail and thinking to myslef..."HOLY...SHI*T - THIS IS AWESOME!!!" Just picture little 6 year old me saying that. 

Because I did. 
Not a joke either, it was one of the first times I uttered a curse under my parents roof. Needless to say I was fleeing from my mom for the rest of the day, clinging on to my fabled Nintendo Power magazine. Now, in case you don't know, the reason why this Nintendo Power issue was so controversial was because apparently the cover was giving children's nightmares. Parents flooded the Nintendo Power customer service phone lines to complain. What was the issue you ask? Well, only the decapitated head of Dracula.

Meh - that's not that bad. I've seen worse stuff on TV when I was that age. After all, you're doing pretty much the same thing in the game. Just all pixelated.

Anyway, enough Nintendo Power, and on to the game. Night falls....What a horrible night to have a curse. Wouldn't you agree?

The story of Simon's Quest takes place an unspecified amount of time after the first adventure. Dracula was slaughtered, but he also left Simon Belmont with a nasty little curse that will most likely kill him if he doesn't get the cure. And in order to get the cure, guess what...he's gotta kill Dracula again. But his body parts have been spread out all over the place, and you have to go back around and collect them, and put all the pieces back together to make a Franken-dracula....JOY!

Unlike the first game, Simon's Quest introduces a few new elements into the mix. They don't really work out so well, but it was sort of like a precursor to the Castlemetroid / Metroidvania games that came out in the future (Symphony of the that game).

There's a map that allows you to visit areas out of order, instead of being the linear styled game that Castlevania I was. Of course, certain areas are a lot harder than others as well as certain types of items being somewhat required to move on. I actually liked the introduction of the map, as it does give the game a more in depth feel. Either that, or I'm just a sucker for maps in games.

The game introduces a central town which you will use as your base of operations. Here, townsfolk will provide You know, basically RIDDLES that make no sense in this game. The clues won't help you, so don't bother talking to anyone. It's just pointless NPC rambling. I heard that someone actually made an updated version of the game that changes the texts of the NPC's to make their dialogue actually matter. I'll need to check it out.

You'll also be able to buy some upgraded weapons and items from merchants in the town, instead of having to find them by killing enemies and chopping down candles. But, you still need a crap load of hearts in order to pay for them. 

Now that we get those little additions out of the way, let's go on to some more, let's say, mediocre tweaks.

Another RPG element added is the experience system. Kill more enemies, gain more experience, level up, and gain more health. The game actually forces you to go on monster killing sprees in order to collect hearts and gain experience, otherwise you're going to have a hard time moving on in the game. It's the grinding element, that kind of annoys me. It's not bad, but didn't like the way it was executed. It was only mastered I feel when they did it in SoTN.

As if fighting enemies during the day wasn't enough, the game introduces a day night system. After a certain period of time, a message will pop up (see above) and the screen will change colors and the monsters will appear stronger than ever! This is your opportunity to grind away and gain hearts and experience as you'll obviously be getting more. Unfortunately, the local townsfolk also turn into zombies, so you can forget having a safe haven.

During your journeys, you'll discover familiar items from previous games such as holy water, but the game also introduces some new magical weapons in the form of Dracula's body parts. You need to collect those anyway in order to beat the game, but each body part offers a different magical ability which will help you along your quest. For example, using Dracula's Rib will shield you from projectiles, while you need the heart to get past certain areas. Find all the body parts, along with the MAGIC CROSS, and you'll face off against Dracula again in a duel to the death.

Dracula...who for some reason, is the Grim Reaper...

So, why don't I like this game as much as the first one? Let's go back to the puzzles this game forces you to solve. If you didn't have some form of guide, a friend telling you what to do, or some extreme luck in figuring out these puzzles, you would never be able to beat this game. As I said earlier, the towns folk are supposed to give you hints, but thanks to the horrible translation job, none of them make sense. Good luck....summon a tornado in a graveyard...HOW ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO KNOW THAT YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO SUMMON A TORNADO IN A GRAVEYARD!?!?

I suggest watching the AVGN episode on it, because it explains it a lot better than I can. His frustration is genuine.

Look at the picture above...that's supposed to be Dracula....that's not Dracula. Case closed.

The RPG elements were interesting, but just weren't fleshed out enough to add any substance to the game. Good attempt, poor execution.

Still, despite its flaws, Castlevania II is just that..a Castlevania game, and a decent one at that. Once again, a great NES game, but just doesn't live up to its predecessor. The same can't be said for the next one however, which I'll review later this week.

Final Score (out of 5) :

Until next time. Keep on gaming!