Castlevania

Castlevania
- Konami, 1987 -


[REVIEW|+ VS. -|IF YOU LIKE...|SECRETS & TIPS|FINAL SCORE|BREAKDOWN|MISCELLANEA]

A Classic In Horror Immortalized

"GOOD EEEEVENING!" bids your royal host. But, unlike so many early games on the Nintendo Entertainment System, these words aren't uttered from the lips of a princess. And no — she is not in this castle, either.

Rather, this castle is inhabited by a different type of aristocrat. One who is not so arresting, but instead, much more menacing. This count has ruled over evil and has cast his spell over generations in fictional folklore.



Dracula - the famed book written in 1897 by Irish writer, Bram Stoker.Irish author, Bram Stoker, pictured with his most famous work: Dracula (1897).

Dracula was borne out of the nightmares of Irish writer, Bram Stoker, back in 1897. Due to the success of the book, the undead antagonist and namesake of said novel found extended life by swishing his cape to creep out of the pages and onto the stages of the big screen. Now, he is reborn yet again in the classic video game by Konami: Castlevania.

First released as Akumajô Dorakyura (or Demon Castle Dracula) in Japan in 1986, the title reached the shores of North America the following year as Castlevania — a tamer portmanteau for American audiences: Castle + [Transyl]vania.

Vlad Tepes or Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia, better known as Vlad The Impaler.
Vlad Tepes or Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia, better known as Vlad The Impaler... real-life inspiration for Dracula.

From its opening, film sprocket holes crank across the screen foreshadowing the source material that the game sank its fangs into: those creepy creatures that headlined the marquees of early theatres, beginning in the 1920's and seeing their heyday slow into the 1970's.

Like the unshakable spell that Dracula cast upon his unwitting victims, campy, horror classics from America's Universal Studios (often referred to as "Universal Horror" or "Universal Monsters") and Britian's Hammer Films (delivering its own brand from the 1950's through 1970's) left their tight grip on Castlevania's creators, guiding their hands through the project.

Such bogeymen as the Mummy and Dr. Frankenstein's creation have been revived from the silver screen and assembled in live, 8-Bit color to bring chills and thrills to the Nintendo generation. Of course, they serve as mere scary, stepping stones to the tower that houses the vilest villain of them all: the Victorian-era vampire of all vices — Count Dracula!

In Stoker's novel, the primary protagonist is Professor Abraham Van Helsing. He summons assistance from a tight group of characters (Jonathan Harker, Mina Murray and others) to depose the blood-crazed Count. In Konami's version of the tale, the sole hero, Simon Belmont (or Simon Belmondo), only has you to call upon.


Opening scene of Simon Belmont walking to entrance gate of Castlevania - Simon Belmont approaches the entranceway to the Count's haunts - Castlevania.  Maybe he should have reconsidered and come back under the safety of blazing daylight?Simon Belmont approaches the entranceway to the Count's haunts — Castlevania. Maybe he should have reconsidered and come back under the safety of blazing daylight?

The numbers may not tip in Simon's favor, but still and all, he is a strapping warrior of the night, traveling the countryside by foot. Unfortunately, all of that walking may have taken something from our hero's abilities to combat the creatures of the evening.

Heavy-footed, yet moderate in step, what he lacks in speed and agility, he makes up for with high leaps (either up or diagonally); low crouches to escape in tight jams; and fast wrist flicks of his Magic Whip, a uniquely-new entry into the realm of slaying the undead.

Whereas Van Helsing and scores of other vampire hunters carried holy water, sacramental wafers, garlic, wood stakes and crucifixes close to the vest, Belmont prefers to do his fighting from a safer distance. He cracks his legendary whip to stay well out of fang's length from Castlevania's creepy crew. By collecting the Morning Star power-up twice, the Magic Whip can reach across three blocks on the screen!

That's not to say that other sub-weapons aren't for the taking. A fierce fistful of fighting items can be found in the most peculiar places in Dracula's Gothic abode. Thrashing candles, stone walls and ledges can and will reveal a potpourri of potent protection that would make the good Professor Van Helsing reexamine his techniques.

Axes and Daggers are a carry-over from Capcom's Ghosts 'N Goblins. But, Konami introduces the cruciform Boomerang that flies true and returns for extra insurance. And the flaming Fire Bomb singes enemies to their last undying breaths.


Opening scene of Simon Belmont walking to entrance gate of Castlevania - Perched high above in his castle's keep, the climb will be long and hard as Simon Belmont will have to topple movie monster after movie monster....Perched high above in his castle's keep, the climb will be long and hard as Simon Belmont will have to topple movie monster after movie monster before confronting the Count.

Not to be limited by the laws of nature and science, Simon Belmont can even stop time with the Watch or vanish away from sight by finding the golden decanter of Invisibility Potion. (Perhaps, this is a way that the creators of Castlevania pay homage to the Invisible Man, another popular persona of the Universal Horror scene and a surprise exclusion from this title.)

And finally, in the toughest spots, if a Cross is picked up, the surrounding servants of Dracula disappear in a blinding flash!

These mighty sub-weapons aren't unlimited; they do come at a cost — after all, Castlevania is no vacation destination for the squeamish or lightweight gamer.

As was previously-stated, there are no stakes to be found near these castle grounds, but there are hearts aplenty to go around. Small and large Hearts that are left behind by defeated enemies can be collected to power-up the special items. Simon can even earn Double Shot and Triple Shot capability to keep the castle's passageways clear. [Click here to learn how to get these.]

Money Bags and hidden treasures (like crowns and treasure chests) literally bring good fortune. They reward Simon with bonus points and additional lives. (Simon earns his first 1UP at 20,000 points, then at every additional 30,000 thereafter.) The cherished gift of lives brings him a little closer to the Count's everlasting status, but never quite close enough. [Click here to learn where some of these are.]

And when Simon is feeling famished, there's nothing more lip-smacking than discovering a hot platter of turkey (referred to, quite humorously, in the game's manual as a Pork Chop) tucked away, behind the dank, crumbling stones of Castlevania's walls! [Click here to learn where to find these.]


The Double Shot (pictured here) can give Simon two times the attacking power for his sub-weapons, while the Triple Shot triples the fun.The Double Shot (pictured here) can give Simon two times the attacking power for his sub-weapons, while the Triple Shot triples the fun.

Stylistically, Castlevania carries the NES' gaming torch of terror through the darkness where Capcom's Ghosts 'N Goblins mishandled and fumbled it. [Click here to check out our Scary — But For All Of The Wrong Reasons! Ghosts 'N Goblins NES review.]

Holding onto some of Ghosts 'N Goblins' finer selling points (like the Axe and Dagger; its cast of fearsome characters and its Map Screen), while lightening the load on other deadweight (poorly-designed platform play and level design; bad hit detection; repetitive soundtrack; etc.), Konami illuminated the way with a new dawn (much to the dismay of Dracula) in gaming concept and execution.

Through the magic of movies and some talented programmers and designers, Simon gets to face down an all-star cast of monstrosities, all played-out within the somber set of this Gothic playground of pain. Most of the legends are here, and if Simon can find the strength to keep completing stages, he'll encounter them all, starting with the Vampire Bat.

Belmont's epic battle for humankind, quite innocuously, starts by crossing the Count's courtyard and trespassing upon the profaned grounds within. From there, he learns his basic moves by moonlight, polishing his controls, getting his timing down and feeling out the style of play. Exercises in easy jumps, climbing staircases, foraging for hidden goodies (a personally-gratifying aspect of the game) by busting open the candles that seemingly provide glow every few feet/meters and upending the unwelcoming party that awaits his invasion warms the gamer up for the heat of battle to come.


Movies, like the one pictured above, <i>House Of Frankenstein</i> (1944), probably fed the imaginations of the future <i>Castlevania</i> developers.
Movies, like the one pictured above (↑), House Of Frankenstein (1944), probably fed the imaginations of the future Castlevania developers.

The Vampire Bat that rests at the end of Level 1 - Stage 3 readies Simon for tougher battles at later junctures. Simon learns to recognize patterns, develop strategies quickly and how to bring the ideal weapon to the fight — these early drills will serve him more than he knows for the fateful fights ahead.

After each main boss is crossed off, an aged map on time-worn parchment pans across the screen, letting Simon ponder his pace forward. There are six Levels, each segmented into three Stages (for a total of 18 sites to fight through). When a stage is completed, Simon passes through a doorway. Bat sprites denote where each iconic beast boss awaits.

As he takes the castle's territory, the scares come with more risks and challenge. Level 2 intensifies with real hazards. Now, Belmont must strike down Black Knights who block the stony stairwells. Levitating platforms lurch back and forth to ledges too far away to leap. Medusa heads fly in sine wave patterns directly at you. Spiked ceiling mechanisms that try to skewer Belmont make for more calculated movement.

Beyond these tests, Queen Medusa, who rests in a cathedral-like chamber of stained glass, represents for the under-represented female fiend in the 8-Bit era. She petrifies more with the snakes she sends Simon's way than from her gasping gaze.

The third leg of Simon's trials have him continuing his treacherous tour across a bridge where whole chunks of the deck are gone and where stairwells lead nowhere. Dragon Skull Cannons and Ravens attempt to push Simon from the path and send him airborne. Beware of the pair of imposing Mummies that close in on you. Their hurled strips of wrapping will try to seal Belmont's fate, long before his time.

After a terrible tumble to the watery caverns far below (See our handy table that shows other Similarities and Comparisons between the NES' Ninja Gaiden and Castlevania), Simon has to negotiate sliding scaffolds, jagged stalactites and Vampire Bats and Fish Men (that look very similar to Universal's The Creature From The Black Lagoon) flinging themselves from the still waters for the first third of Level 4. Again, beware: the deep pools here are as deadly to Belmont as splashes of holy water are to the vampire class.

Once back on dry land, creatures from the sky show their unwanted company the same manners that their water-dwelling compatriots showed below. Large Eagles let loose Hunch Backs that hop about helter-skelter hindering Simon's progress. They are a precursor to Stage 12's final foe.

Standing in a tall room of grandiose columns, the equally-imposing Frankenstein stomps forward with a surprise accomplice — the nimble Igor, supposed leader of the Hunch Backs. This is the ultimate test, as the two compete for Simon's attention, splitting his efforts against an equally-lethal slow and swift attack.

Level 5 is made up of four floors of dungeon and laboratory space. Manacles dangling from walls and rusted, steel-trap grates that criss-cross these stages intensify the dire, imprisoned feel, while hanging sets and piles of bones from poor souls serve as reminders of the cruel Count's misdeeds. Hulking Axe-Men, restless Skeletons and other disagreeable deterrents wander the stories of this curiously-wicked area, trying their best to add Simon's fossilized remains to this desecrated ossuary.


What's a bigger metaphor in life than fighting and defeating Death in the form of the Grim Reaper? For Belmont, not even overcoming death guarantees life, especially when he has to still battle the undying Dracula!
What's a bigger metaphor in life than fighting and defeating Death in the form of the Grim Reaper? For Belmont, not even overcoming death guarantees life, especially when he has to still battle the undying Dracula!

Of course, the not-so-subtle collection of coffins, skeletons and bones point to one thing: Belmont's impending collision with death, or in this instance, the personification of Death in the form of the Grim Reaper.

Sickles slice through the room, as Simon does his best to elude these instruments of death. Well-placed Boomerangs and whiplashes will tear away at Death's tattered form until there is no more. Pallor-blue stones form a makeshift stage with large, sweeping, red curtains drawn aside to present this battle with a theatrical tone.

It seems very ironic to defeat Death, yet still have to face someone or something that is undying. But, that is just the improbable task that our mortal hero must face. The final Level and its stages symbolically-challenge Simon to the very end.

Stage 16's delapidated bridge seems to show the decay that Dracula's touch leaves upon everything it touches. The inner tower of Stage 17 resembles an epic clocktower, with its gears grinding on... time is important, urgent and its countdown cannot be ignored. And finally the iconic climb to Count Dracula's chamber... the moon, splashing the stonework of the ancient structure with light, shining the way... not a full moon with the terror that The Legend Of Zelda - Majora's Mask implied, but the insinuated idea that its waxing crescent will bring a new moon and a new day of darkness soon, if Dracula isn't dealt with immediately.

The Count awaits you: will Simon's holy war on the greatest evil be won or will the Count rule on indefinitely? It's up to you to guide Belmont to victory!


Who knows what awaits Simon Belmont as he climbs his last flight of stairs to duel by moonlight?
Who knows what awaits Simon Belmont as he climbs his last flight of stairs to duel by moonlight?

Konami approached a burgeoning genre and artfully-injected fun elements of horror to add a fresh thematic take on platforming. Its influence was immediately-impactful — other classic titles, like the NES' version of Ninja Gaiden are veritable replicas of Castlevania. [Click here to check out our Delights... Cameras... ACTION! Ninja Gaiden review.]

From the programming side of things, Castlevania's framework for a satisfying action game is still a strong reference point. Simon Belmont's very human attributes of slow running and climbing would normally not hold up during gameplay in an enemy-intense environment like this. However, the designers and developers were able to avoid so many of the missteps that ruined its closest rival in comparison — the frustratingly-flawed thriller, Ghosts 'N Goblins.

Realistic expectations with fair controls, manageable enemy speed, good hit-box work, reasonable time limits and the incentive to find hidden power-ups and bonuses on the stages just go to prove how Castlevania's team earnestly pre-tested and perfected their classic — probably learning a lot along the way from the buggy aggravations that Ghosts 'N Goblins are still remembered for.

With the game's mechanics clicking in time and place, the art department added its sheen and shellac to the project, preserving its legacy by filling in minute details with the sprites of the game's monsters (see Frankenstein's visage or the wrappings around the Mummy Men or the skull that is shaded beneath the Grim Reaper's hood).

In a limited choice of colors, they were able to paint in pixels that added an overall, delightful gloom to the environment/stages (see the statuary and the broken Venus de Milo-like statues of Level 8 or the smooth movements of the pouncing Black Leopards on Stage 1). The logo and title screen are superbly-crafted: a mahogany plaque, ornamentally-carved with glaring green script floating above — a prominent "C", reminiscent of the turrets of a great castle and the "v" - a jagged stake of a letter piercing through.

The game's aural experience was not to be outdone by the visuals. The sound personnel and composers were collectively remembered as James Banana in the game's ingenious ending that drew the curtains down on the movie monster metaphor with flair. [Click here to check out Castlevania's famous ending credits.] The real-life James Banana (James Bernard) would have been proud of the wonderful audio experience presented.

The breaking of glass vials (Fire Bombs) and door slam sound effects are convincing sounds that the audio team were able to fabricate to good effect. And the music really helped to push other game companies to seek out talented composers and programmers who could transcribe rich compositions into warm, fuzzy chiptunes that resonate still.

In Castlevania, memorable, miniature masterpieces done in minor keys amplify the atmosphere of each level. And what is a hero without a theme song? In this case, the growing legend of Simon Belmont is equaled by the grand "Vampire Killer", a tune that roars his triumphant arrival, not only in Transylvania, but across the gaming sphere.

After Castlevania, it was not enough to just fill your game's stages with meaningless blips or long-playing single tracks that looped from stage to stage. The gamer expected more from the music department — a tracklist of songs that heightened the gaming experience by emotionally-connecting that game to its visuals, play and design, and with the player's heart and mind.

The other contributors to Castlevania did their parts to ensure that they would not be embarrassed either. The writers of the manual injected the wry humor that fans of Konami and its games' instruction booklets have come to love and expect. Not many companies of the 8-Bit and 16-Bit days consistently-upheld such a witty, tongue-in-cheek style.

All of this collective effort helped cement the overarching success of Castlevania, and guaranteed that it would be the forerunner in one of gaming's premier franchises. Its sublime soundtrack, ingenious level and boss design, hidden rewards and bug-free play have helped the game to live on in the hearts of many fans throughout the years.

And unlike its dreaded main foe, Dracula, Castlevania will live on in revered immortality!

b. jones © Halloween 2017

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+'s vs. -'s

PROS:
  • wonderful theme of movie monsters carried out through entirety of game
  • hidden items to help foster interest and hope along journey
  • unlimited continues mitigate the difficulty level somewhat
  • great soundtrack and sound effects
CONS:
  • bounce-back response when Simon and enemies collide
  • (Nitpick: Simon Belmont cannot swim and dies upon touching water.)

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If you like Castlevania, perhaps you would like these titles:

  • Ghosts 'N Goblins [NES] (a spiritual predecessor that helped inspire Castlevania)
  • Ninja Gaiden, Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword Of Chaos and Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship Of Doom [NES] (a masterful series that was heavily-influenced by Castlevania)
  • Metroid [NES] (whose supreme design and gameplay owes a little to the similar theme; also, its style combined with Castlevania's would merge to form a whole sub-genre — Metroidvania)
  • The Goonies II [NES] (a sister project from Konami that, although feels incomplete, is somewhat similar in aspects)
  • 8 Eyes [NES] (whose theme, design and gameplay are somewhat similar)
  • Castlevania II: Simon's Quest [NES], Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse [NES] and all sequels, extended games in the franchise, etc. [various] (direct descendants and continuation of overall story and family tree)

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Secrets & Tips for Castlevania

GENERATE POINTS AND DOUBLE AND TRIPLE SHOTS QUICKLY

Castlevania's creepy crawlers come after Simon Belmont relentlessly. Fortunately, the game's creators have given you — the player — a special trick that, if performed correctly, can exponentially multiply your points, while increasing your abilities to collect the Double and Triple Shot items.

To achieve this, Simon will need one of the following special weapons — the Axe or more ideally, the Boomerang or the Fire Bomb — and an area where multiple enemies spawn rather frequently. Once you find a nice location, lure out a number of foes to chase you, then try to hit many of them with one usage of your special weapon. (See illustrations below ↓.)

A well-aimed launch of an Axe (harder to accomplish), Boomerang or Fire Bomb that clears a path of enemies will score high points. The points aren't the only plus; Double and Triple Shots are dropped when 10 consecutive enemy hits and/or Candles are struck with a special sub-weapon.



Line up several foes when Simon has, preferably, the Boomerang or Fire Bomb. Make sure you have hearts to use the special weapons.
Line up several foes when Simon has, preferably, the Boomerang or Fire Bomb. Make sure you have hearts to use the special weapons.
When they are within striking range, let off a shot.
When they are within striking range, let off a shot.
When they are hit, the points will double into the thousands, getting Simon closer to the next 1UP. The Fire Bomb, which burns for a time, and the Boomerang that flies to one edge of the screen and back, have ample time to inflict multiple defeats.
When they are hit, the points will double into the thousands, getting Simon closer to the next 1UP. The Fire Bomb, which burns for a time, and the Boomerang that flies to one edge of the screen and back, have ample time to inflict multiple defeats.


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MULTIPLE HIDDEN BONUS POINTS

Over the centuries, the Count has amassed a fortune — some of which has been lost in the walls and floors of Castlevania. Along Simon's exploration of the decaying estate, he can uncover some of the treasure and use it as bonus points in his quest. Check out the areas below to see where and how to find some of these flashing treasures (NOTE: There are other hidden Money Bags [and even, Double and Triple Shots], but we have decided to only show these flashing items because they are worth the most. Also, a special sound effect will let you know when you have correctly done each trick.):

(Level 1) Stage 1 (Money Bag):

(Leap over the entrance doorway to make the Money Bag appear. Be sure to leap back over the entrance when retrieving it, or else Simon will be forced through the door without the money.)



This Money Bag can be found in Stage 1 of Castlevania. Be sure to jump over the entranceway or else it will not appear, and Simon will be forced into Stage 2.


(Level 1) Stage 2 (Money Bag):

(Run all the way to the right and fall down to the platform below. Face left and break the far right block (the blacked out square in this illustration), fall down to the lowest platform and kneel down to make the bag appear.)



This Money Bag can be found in Stage 2 of Castlevania. Run all the way to the right and fall down to the platform below. Face left and break the far right block (the blacked out square in this illustration), fall down to the lowest platform and kneel down to make the bag appear.


(Level 2) Stage 4 (Crown):

(Climb the stairs and break the two blocks in the right wall. Walk within the gap to make the Crown appear.)



This Crown can be found in Stage 4 of Castlevania. Climb the stairs and break the two blocks in the right wall. Walk within the gap to make the Crown appear.


(Level 2) Stage 5 (Treasure Chest):

(Jump onto the raised platform, turn around and face right and remain still for a few seconds. The Treasure Chest will appear.)



This Treasure Chest can be found in Stage 5 of Castlevania. Jump onto the raised platform, turn around and face right and remain still for a few seconds. The Treasure Chest will appear.


(Level 2) Stage 6 (Money Bag):

(Stand still for a few seconds between the 4th and 5th pillars in the 4th archway. If you have to dodge the Medusa Heads, try to simply jump straight up over them.)



This Money Bag can be found in Stage 6 of Castlevania. Stand still in the 4th archway to make the Money Bag appear in the 5th archway.


(Level 3) Stage 7 (Money Bag):

(Kneel down for a few seconds at the end of the right platform to make the Money Bag appear.)



This Money Bag can be found in Stage 7 of Castlevania. Kneel down for a few seconds at the end of the right platform to make the Money Bag appear.


(Level 3) Stage 8 (Money Bag):

(Face left and kneel down for a few seconds above the left block of the lower platform to make the Money Bag appear.)



This Money Bag can be found in Stage 8 of Castlevania. Face left and kneel down for a few seconds above the left block of the lower platform to make the Money Bag appear.


(Level 2 - After the game has been defeated) Stage 24 (Moai Statue):

(This is the extremely rare Moai Statue, which can only be found after the game is defeated and played through again to Stage 24. Jumping onto the moving platform will cause it to appear.)



This is the extremely rare Moai Statue, which can only be found after the game is defeated and played through again to Stage 24. Jumping onto the moving platform will cause it to appear.


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MULTIPLE HIDDEN PORK CHOPS

The Count isn't the only one who has a hunger in Castlevania; after all, Simon Belmont works up quite the appetite. Lucky for him, those turkey, ummm... Pork Chops hit the spot. Use Simon's Magic Whip on the blocks in the areas below to see where each Pork Chop can be found:

(Level 1) Stage 2:

This Pork Chop can be found in Stage 2 of Castlevania.


(Level 2) Stage 5:

This Pork Chop can be found in Stage 5 of Castlevania.


(Level 2) Stage 6:

This Pork Chop can be found in Stage 6 of Castlevania.


(Level 3) Stage 7:

This Pork Chop can be found in Stage 7 of Castlevania.


(Level 3) Stage 9:

This Pork Chop can be found in the Mummy Men room of Stage 9 of Castlevania.


(Level 4) Stage 12:

This Pork Chop can be found in Stage 12 of Castlevania.


(Level 5) Stage 13:

This Pork Chop can be found in Stage 13 of Castlevania.


(Level 6) Stage 17:

This Pork Chop can be found in Stage 17 of Castlevania.


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SECRET 1UP

Usually, the number 13 gets the unfair reputation of being unlucky. In the case of Stage 13 of Castlevania, however, Simon Belmont can find the rare 1UP, if he walks against the wall shown below (↓):

(Level 5) Stage 13:

This 1UP can be found in Stage 13 of Castlevania.


(NOTE: Once it appears, be sure to climb down the stairs immediately or else it will disappear before Simon can grab it.)



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SHORTCUT ON STAGE 5

By Level 2, the Count makes it much more obvious that he is pulling back the welcome mat. Deadly drops with moving platforms appear for the first time and with them, the boss of this level, Queen Medusa, makes her presence felt by dispatching the dreaded Medusa Heads.

These flying projectiles try to fly into Simon to push him backwards and into the abyss below. However, there is one spot where Simon can use this bounce back against the Medusa Heads and actually expedite his exit from the stage.

At the specified area in Stage 5, if Simon times his jump correctly and leaps straight up, right as the Medusa Head bumps him, he may be bounced to the floor above. This tiny sacrifice of energy can save Simon a number of players, as well as a lot of frustration. However, it does take some practice to perfect. See the illustrations below.

On Stage 5 of Level 2, a perfectly-timed jump and bump by the Medusa Head can create a shortcut in Castlevania.


On Stage 5 of Level 2, a perfectly-timed jump and bump by the Medusa Head can create a shortcut in Castlevania.


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FLASHING MONEY BAG GLITCH

There is a flashing Money Bag, just outside of the Mummy Men room in Stage 9. The unusual thing is that this item appears in mid-air in an area that is impossible to reach.

(Level 3) Stage 9 (Money Bag):

(Walk against the ledge pictured below for a few seconds to make the Money Bag appear.)



This Money Bag can be found in Stage 9 of Castlevania. Walk against the second ledge down in the Mummy Men room to make the elusive Money Bag appear.


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NO MUSIC ON LEVEL 1

If you turn on the game and let it cycle through three demo screens, then press

START
at the title screen, you can play through all three stages of Level 1 (or until you die on one of them) without music. (NOTE: The sound effects will still play, however.)



If you want to play Castlevania without music on Level 1, simply watch all three demo screens, then start a game.


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1UP Ratings Scale for
Castlevania

Presentation: 8    1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania

The cover and box art are poster-worthy material, Simon's warrior-like physique and whip, mid-swing curling into the viewer's space, as well as the fiendish, fanged smile of Dracula looming over his castle, excites the senses and raises the player's anticipation; the beveled logo feels like part of some medieval coat-of-arms, while the stylized font invokes a castle's towers and even a stake; the film reel elements and movie metaphors were brilliant touches to the title screen and ending; the manual provided clear instructions and was thorough, with its information and illustrations well-organized; the materials seemed to be proofread very well. Konami's trademark tongue-in-cheek humor is present in the writing, while its standard silver box shines.

There are some discrepancies between actual gameplay and claims stated in manual: The booklet says to "watch for secret doors", of which there are none; however, performing specific tasks at secret locations will cause some special power-ups and items to appear.

Originality: 7   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania

Being beat to the party by Capcom's Ghosts 'N Goblins, it would be hard for a horror action game not to have some ideas transferred over (like Axes and Daggers [and even the Fire Bomb, which is a burning weapon, like the Torch]; Money Bags; hidden power-ups; the scrolling Map Screen; some similar enemies, like Zombies and Bats; etc.).

However, Castlevania strayed from the loose, fairy-tale land feel of Ghosts 'N Goblins and moved towards a movie monster mash-up that lined up a set of bosses from Hollywood (like the Mummy Men and Frankenstein, as opposed to the more fantastical take that Ghosts 'N Goblins explored [Who can forget its strange stretch for a Unicorn — that was actually more Cyclops than horse (???)]). Konami chose Dracula's castle as a more focused setting. Using the Count as the main enemy fulfilled their lofty goal.

Creativity: 10   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   

Building on the metaphor of movie monsters, the designers were able to run free and embellish on all of the inspirations that they enjoyed in the movie theatres, growing up. Their ghoulish game pieces played across a backdrop of Dracula's creepy castle to full effect. And adding the little touches, like skeletons dangling from torturous restraints, or spider webs resting in the Mummy Men's undisturbed chamber or the film reel animation or the ending's Cast of fictitious names, based off of their real-life portrayers that immortalized the monsters on the big screen or et cetera... all excellent details to include!

Programming/Debugging: 9   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   

Quality control shone with Castlevania's creation. The bothersome bugginess that afflicted so many games of this era and even later are all, but absent in this game. The level design and platforming layout are strong and hold up well still. The developers seem as though they ran the game through some rigorous testing, as there seems to be well-paced stages, plenty of time, enough power-ups to keep the action moving, sound physics, steady hit-detection and consistency throughout.

If anything can be said, it is that there are no save points or passwords (easily said in retrospect, being that Castlevania was like so many action titles that could be defeated in one sitting and thus, didn't really need those elements) and that there are only a few noticeable glitches, like the Money Bag glitch of Stage 9 in the Mummy Men room.

Challenge/Fairness: 9   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   

Castlevania is, inherently, a difficult title to complete. However, the thorough efforts of the game's developers and debuggers resulted in a game that is hard, yet fair. It is rare when the player is actually overwhelmed in a manner that cannot be overcome by timely attacks of the Magic Whip and/or special weapon or better-timed jumping. Occasionally, Medusa Heads (and especially, the Vampire Bats of Level 16) will dip and dive out-of-sync, though. The existence of enemy life meters makes boss battles much more easy, while the stunned, temporary condition of invincibility that Simon endures after a hit is a lucky break. The bounced effect that harms Simon may be the most difficult blow that gets in the way for the gamer.

Replayability: 10   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   

This title retains a high replayability to this day because of its superior design. The total length of the game and reasonably-timed stages makes for an enjoyable and manageable slice of time out of one's busy schedule (between 20 minutes and an hour, typically to beat). The level design keeps the player engaged with constant targets to attack and items to discover. The melodic music fortifies the pleasurable experience and doesn't let ear fatigue set in. The challenge is there, but the grand design alleviates many "cheap" deaths that spoil other similar action games. And, if one learns to master the game the first go-round, the game restarts at a faster, harder pace and even has some new items added and hidden in the mix. Also, the score feature gives those arcade-conditioned players another excuse to replay the title.

Controls: 8   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   

The movements of our vampire slayer are pretty fluid. He has versatility because he can protect himself well - his Magic Whip can strike down deadly projectiles, like Mummy Man bandages and fire balls; his leaps can hurdle enemies in full stride (Note that once, Simon jumps his forward trajectory cannot be altered... a realistic touch that can add difficulty.); and he can lower himself down on one knee to duck under flying shots.

The use of sub-weapons is intuitive and easy to pick up.

Simon climbs stairs at a slow rate, but if he is struck mid-ascent, he will not be knocked from them. The knock-back effect isn't so harmless when Belmont isn't safely planted on stairwells, though. Flying Medusa heads, Ravens and Bats can be especially upsetting over pits, but unlike games like Ninja Gaiden, there is plenty of time to memorize patterns before the random foe materializes incessantly during mid-jump. Overall, the controls are quite responsive and with good timing, most aggressors can be neutralized.

Graphics: 7   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   

Konami's artists got a lot out of the 8-Bit canvas presented to them. By using colors that evoke certain feelings in the gamer's mind, Simon Belmont's features swimming in warm, earthy tones of brown and orange thrive within the cold, deathly pallor of blues and purples, and shadowy, sterile grays that dominate Castlevania's halls and evil residents. Pixelated highlights include many of the bosses and the moonlit portraits that show the castle from varying angles throughout the game. Glowing sprites of hidden treasures excite the senses.

Music/Sound FX: 8   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   

James Banana's compositions bore into the auditory canal. This game sets the precedence for the sensational soundtracks to follow, not only in Castlevania's progeny, but in Konami's later projects. Konami's musical corp and sound department stretches the sound chip's capacity and the listener's imagination simultaneously with whip cracks, shattering vials of Fire Bombs, heavy doors grating open to a booming crash, subtle white-noise splashes of water and more.

Ending: 10   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   1UP from Castlevania   

Castlevania's ending went above and beyond most endings of the time. The crumbling castle with its moving music was solid; sprinkle in the humorous odes/nods to the men and women (some that still have people trying to unmask the true identities to this day) that inspired Castlevania's creation based on the movie monsters that inhabited the big screen and you have a satisfying recipe.

FINAL SCORE:

86 1UP from Castlevania's out of a possible 100


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Castlevania

© 2017 (mmxvii) b. jones




 

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Castlevania