Castlevania

aCastlevania USA Rev A 188x2661 Castlevania NES Nintendo Review ScreenshotDeveloper: Konami
Publisher: Konami

Released: May 1987
US Cartridge ID: NES-CV-USA

Players: 1
Genre: Action Platform
Supported Peripherals: Controller

ROM Size: 1 megabit
Mapper: UNROM (128k PRG)

Requires Flash10

The first of a legendary series, Konami’s Castlevania was one of the first games to truly prove the worth of third-party developers to Nintendo. As an extraordinarily well polished first offering in what would become one of the most prolific series of all time, Castlevania stands as a testament to the skill and sheer willpower of the crew at Konami; not only is Castlevania USA Rev A 002 256x224 Castlevania NES Nintendo Review Screenshotthe game aesthetically light years beyond most of its contemporaries, the gameplay introduces a number of innovations that would later be emulated ad nauseam for years to come.

Simon Belmondo, controlled by the player, is on a holy quest to destroy Dracula, the prince of darkness. Dracula has been waiting a century for the arrival of the famed vampire slayer, and with an upgradable whip and several magical accoutrements, Simon is ready to take on the challenge.

Fighting through six levels (further divided into eighteen stages), Simon traverses a map outlining his journey to Dracula’s chambers. These levels require battle through the keep’s entry hall, a tower, the caves, and a morgue – all to earn the right to challenge the grand master himself. Though the gameplay never really evolves over the course of the game, staying nearly identical between stages, the player is constantly presented with new challenges that will try the tactics of even the most advanced of players.

Simon is granted several boons not typically seen in an NES game. Castlevania allows
Simon to pick up several defensive and offensive items (always activated by pressing the Castlevania USA Rev A 009 256x224 Castlevania NES Nintendo Review ScreenshotB button while holding up on the directional pad) that may be used at a predetermined cost of “hearts,” which can be collected from defeated enemies and candlesticks hanging on the walls. These items include the stop watch (which freezes every foe on the screen temporarily), the cross (a holy projectile that will hit the enemy multiple times), the dagger (a standard, fairly weak projectile weapon), and more.

Considering its release date, Castlevania‘s graphics and sound are first rate. Despite noticeable tiling in the background at certain points (particularly the outdoors scenes), the graphics manage to convincingly convey the gothic atmosphere that the game shoots for. The enemies are creative in their design, and the bosses are impressively large and detailed compared to other games of the time. The sound design is impeccable;  the sound effects are suiting, and the music is perfectly fitted to the onscreen action, always Castlevania USA Rev A 143 256x224 Castlevania NES Nintendo Review Screenshotproviding an complimentary ominous yet melodic backdrop to the action.

The controls are stiff and awkward, though they are sufficiently responsive once the player becomes familiar with their nuances. Jumping is particularly uncomfortable, since the direction of the jump must be pressed before the jump button, creating something that feels unintuitive until the player has become sufficiently accustomed to the control scheme. The game is quite difficult, owing to some clever enemy placement and seemingly unbeatable bosses. Compounding the game’s difficulty is the problem that Simon is thrown backward every time he makes contact with an enemy (oftentimes placed conveniently so that Simon, if hit, will fall to his death in a bottomless pit), but with some practice and memorization, this can be avoided. Of interesting note, the JapaneseCastlevania USA Rev A 223 256x2241 Castlevania NES Nintendo Review Screenshot
conversion from disk to cartridge eliminates this issue (since Simon will freeze in place, rather than being knocked back), making the game significantly easier.

Castlevania is a must-play for any NES fan. Not only does the game mark the beginning of the critically acclaimed series, but it does so with impressive style and flair.

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