Castlevania II: Simon's Quest
- Konami, 1988 -
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What A Horrible Night To Have A Curse!
After Simon Belmont's fateful confrontation with the Count in the first Castlevania, he was afflicted with a deadly curse. To cure it, Simon's Quest picks up the action in this RPG-influenced adventure where exploration and solving riddles are introduced. Konami chose to take a radical departure from the original—like so many other NES sequels—but was this choice a blessing or a curse?
"AFTER CASTLEVANIA I WARNED YOU NOT TO RETURN."
What a telling statement! Only a year earlier, Simon Belmont purged the land of the contemptible Count and purportedly set the countryside free from bloodthirsty tyranny and horror.
Now our valiant hero returns for a whole new foray into the realm of Nintendo era sequels... one in which the revisitation of a number of beloved titles dared to be so different from their predecessors (e.g. Zelda II: The Adventure Of Link or Super Mario Bros. 2) — this one included. [To learn more about one of these funkier follow-ups, click here to read our A Curious Tale Of Two Sequels - Super Mario Bros. 2 NES review.]
And in the case of Castlevania, one in which the formerly-invisible inhabitants of Transylvania now interact with Belmont directly... not many of whom seem too overly-friendly or grateful for his past good deeds (as witnessed in the dialogue box above ↑ — depending upon the actual tone of this particular villager). [Click here to get some background information on the original and the series as a whole by reading our A Classic In Horror Immortalized - Castlevania NES review.]
Run the projector! Castlevania
's film and movie monster motifs are carried over to this sequel — Castlevania II: Simon's Quest
. The Prologue above describes the plot at hand.
Because of the supernatural lore surrounding vampires and Count Dracula, the idea of a Castlevania sequel or saga does, arguably, have somewhat of a raison d'être.
Whereas in the first tellings of The Legend Of Zelda and Super Mario Bros., the main antagonists — Ganon/Gannon (alternate spellings depending upon the game's manual and in-game credits) and Bowser, respectively — were presumably defeated, thus setting the stage for growth in new directions. [To learn more, click here to read our Miyamoto's Magic And Imagination - The Legend Of Zelda NES review.]
But, in the example of the first Castlevania, Simon Belmont — believing that he dispatched the Count — actually left some unfinished business — at least, if one strictly adheres to the tenets set forth by the literal interpretation of the literary source material provided by author, Bram Stoker, in Dracula from 1897.
In this novel, the practice of using a wooden stake — usually in differing combinations with other tools, weapons and techniques — was employed to rid the threat of the brood of vampires preying on England and abroad... once and for all. (In actuality, this traditional remedy existed nearly a quarter century earlier — showing up in Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu's novella, Carmilla, which laid the ground rules that continue to dictate the dogma of most vampire storytelling, even today.)
Herein lies the problem: Belmont failed to impale the cruel Count with said stake at the end of Castlevania, choosing instead, to unleash a barrage of either Fire Bombs (or Holy Water... More about this later.) or Boomerangs and lashes from his Morning Star-powered, Magic Whip.
In vampire lore, the Oak Stake is a formidable weapon. Had Belmont used it in the original Castlevania
, there may have never been a need for Simon's Quest
. However, the Oak Stake is very useful this go-round.
As a result, "...the victory proved painful, as the wounds inflicted during the duel slowly gnawed at your [Simon Belmont's] soul". This, according to the manual for Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, was the cause for the mortal injury. It is further expounded upon here:
"One day, though, a beautiful maiden appeared. With a soft voice she warned that you [Simon Belmont] were possessed by the Count's curse. She said your only hope of destroying the curse and healing your scars was to find the five body parts of Count Dracula and burn them in his castle, ending forever the reign of the Prince of Darkness."
In developing this idea, Konami was able to wrangle its loose interpretations of Stoker's novel into a practical reason for Simon's return. And while at it, further stretch its poetic license to "ret-con" (retroactive continuity) some of the character and item names and other minor details from before.
(Just a few revisionism examples included: Simon Belmondo now becoming Simon Belmont; The Count officially being acknowledged as Count Dracula; Transylvania being explicitly named as the actual location; and even the Fire Bombs finally being properly called Holy Water, for starters.)
Konami effectively reset the setting and provided a compelling and clever directive for Belmont to follow.
First things first, the outer walls of the Count's Castlevania homestead were toppled to expand the story outward across the spread of the fictionalized, Transylvanian landscape.
Five mansions — Berkeley, Bodley, Brahm, Laruba and Rover — rest across the lay of the land; each concealing one of those collectible, yet unsettling, "body parts of Count Dracula" — namely, the Rib, Heart, Eyeball, Nail and Ring (?!? ...not a true body part, but who's counting?).
And to make gameplay more engaging, instead of simply playing the Mansions straight-away as regular stages in a linear fashion, they are interspersed across — what the instruction manual calls — the game's "Six Haunting Scenes". This presents an open-world feel to the game — a series' first and a new guiding force for future titles in this historic family — thus giving Belmont a vibrant Transylvania to exist, interact and connect in.
The Ferryman can show Simon the way — well, two
ways — when crossing the river, depending upon what Belmont may be currently holding.
The "Six Haunting Scenes" comprise the following:
- The Mansions
- the stone fortifications used for the safekeeping of the remains of Dracula;
- The Forest Primevil
- the forested regions of the game actually have different names in different areas;
- some of these include the Veros, Sadam, Aljiba, Dora, Denis and Jova Woods;
- Bridge Over The River Die (a pun on the book by French novelist, Pierre Boulle, that was adapted into the award-winning film, The Bridge Over The River Kwai — a comic staple of the Konami manual writers, this play-on-words seems misplaced here, though, as many other similar war- and/or soldier-related puns appeared in Konami's more combat-driven titles of the day)
- an actual "Dead River" is revealed through conversation in the game and is directly connected to the next "scene" below ↓;
- The Ferryman
- The Graveyard
- The Church
Sometimes, it feels as though Simon can get overwhelmed by the villagers in town (and their confounding conversations!).
Sometimes, it feels as though it may be easier to face the fiends that lurk the streets at night.
And it is in these Towns, where much of the mystique of what makes Castlevania II so unique to its forerunner is introduced.
Here is where the series sways heavily under the pull of the adventure and role-playing game (RPG) genres.
Here is where the series bursts out of its stifling, walled-in, multistoried castle and spills out into the untouched territories and open-world expansion of limitless possibilities.
And here, too, is where Simon's Quest begins in earnest, both literally and figuratively.
♥ ♥ ♥
The game opens with our now accursed and aging hero standing in what looks to be a medieval town of towering, bricked edifices.
Belmont's appearance differs from his first adventure; he is now nattily-attired in a smart, new cuirass, detailed in burgundy and sable, offset by ivory boots and gloves.
As the action begins, his new story officially starts at high noon on day one. (It is important to note that time plays a major role in this title. More about this later.)
Directly before him, what appears to be an elderly man with staff in hand, quickly approaches. (In this new adventure, is this character an enemy or friend??? Belmont had never encountered an ally up to this point.)
The stranger closes in... then, speaks: (Pressing B when standing near a person or a wooden signpost will display a conversation or a message.)
Just imagine Simon's shock!
...Especially when you recall that during his first venture into Castlevania, there was no dialogue nor anyone to even speak to. Belmont never got the opportunity to step outside of the gates of the Count's Castle to see if there were any towns for villagers to even dwell in. And there were no places or shops to purchase anything from, even though he had amassed riches from the hidden money bags and treasures he plundered from within the weakened and time-worn stonework and suspended candleholders.
In this one simple, yet profound statement, Castlevania would never be the same. These words would rock the foundation of the Count's Castlevania and shift that previous form of linear, platforming action (Not that that was a bad thing!) toward a whole new Castlevania paradigm or reality.
Let's continue forward, to learn how...
A few footsteps further — past a number of stone-lined facades, shuttered doors and aged, faded banners — and Belmont's next direct, personal encounter offers:
In front of the Church, no less.
Taking this person's words at face value, Simon may be taken aback. And herein lies one of the core conceits that lies at the crux of why so many players have complained about this game since its release: the game's confusing, confounding and, oftentimes, contradictory conversations and clues. (Much more about this later.)
This won't be the first time that Belmont is faced with dilemmas about trusting the townsfolk (or even with believing what he reads from the Hidden Books scattered throughout Transylvania that supposedly reveal "clues").
So, with mixed messages clouding his conscience, which of these gentlemen is actually telling the truth??? On the one hand, Simon is told to purchase a White Crystal and in the very next breath, he is warned about a crooked trader. Who should he trust? What are the consequences, if the "wrong" choice is taken?
Thankfully, one advantage that you — the player — has, that Simon doesn't have access to is the game's manual. In this case, the instructions reveal some insight on the matter:
"Secrets to this adventure can be found as you wander around friendly Transylvania. Stop and talk to the villagers, because these helpful strangers will give you clues. Some are also merchants who'll sell you weapons and other mystical items. Your purchasing power depends on how many hearts you've collected during your confrontations with evil.
Another warning from the spirit [the same beautiful, maiden spirit from earlier]: a few friendly villagers are town pranksters, and their clues are false. Of course, you'll never know until you take the chance."
Although the most useful tips for this particular situation aren't provided, the instructional packet does goad the gamer to "take the chance". Since it speaks directly about merchants, perhaps Simon should try to "buy a White Crystal".
Now... where is this White Crystal?
♥ ♥ ♥
Simon continues his quest. After shuffling past the Church, a large, stone staircase slopes down to a lower landing, where a mysterious figure, nervously- and suspiciously-paces in front of a darkened archway that leads indoors.
Approaching this robed and hooded stranger with caution, Simon's courage is paid off with:
Belmont learns a new valuable lesson for being successful under the rules that govern Simon's Quest: he learns that Hearts — not to be confused with Dracula's body part — are the precious currency that drives Transylvania's markets.
It will take all 50 Hearts that Simon begins the game with to purchase this mysterious item.
(He will later discover that this rather dubious and devious device of exchange has doubly-good results — while gathering Hearts, Simon's spending power will increase, as will his Experience Rating. The addition of an Experience Rating — a prominent tool borrowed from the RPG genre — was a tell-tale sign that Konami was evolving the complexity and richness of its series.)
(One additional note: the "CROOKED TRADER" alluded to earlier in the second villager's dialogue, implies that trades for upgraded or improved items are possible... this is another sign — and common RPG trope — pointing to Konami's eagerness to steer Simon's gameplay more into the role-playing realm.)
reveals the complexity of gameplay in Castlevania II: Simon's Quest
. It displays the current and total time of play (in 24 hour format, led off by total number of days) (T–)
, the Experience Rating (E–)
, Player Level (L–)
, the number of Hearts, the current Whip, which of Dracula's Body Parts you possess and the vast collection of magical items and weapons you have collected.
♥ ♥ ♥
Cha-ching! Now with White Crystal in hand, that open doorway still beckons.
Once he steps inside the unlabeled shop and talks to its equally-mysterious merchant, Belmont is offered Holy Water to purchase.
(Formerly known as the Fire Bomb (???) and only available by defeating monsters or freeing it from hanging candles back in Castlevania, this version of the powerful weapon is for sale and provides an unlimited supply — without costing Hearts to use. The Dagger, likewise, will make its return later, and similarly will be free to use repeatedly this time around. However, it is important to note that other newer weapons — such as the Silver Knife, the Gold Knife, the Sacred Flame and the Diamond — will consume Hearts.)
After realizing that his wallet is empty, Simon leaves and resumes his investigation of the town. (To stockpile more Hearts at any time, Belmont will have to exit the village he is currently in... unless it is nighttime. More about this later.)
After taking a walking tour of the town and interviewing the townsfolk, a recurring nuisance from the original Castlevania comes back to haunt Belmont again.
Simon has returned with the same slow footwork that afflicted him in the first title. It almost feels as though his sustained wounds have made him even slower! (Perhaps a mule, horse, cart or carriage could have brought great relief for his aching bones this time around?)
He is so slow, in fact, that by the time Simon makes his exit from town (and sometimes, while still in town), the game reveals one of its innovations — the introduction of the element of time. Yes, this game actually transitions from daytime to nighttime (and back) and is centered around an internal clock that recognizes and ticks down the time in the background.
At 18:00 (or 6:00 PM), "WHAT A HORRIBLE NIGHT TO HAVE A CURSE." The towns close down to keep the Zombies out and foes become stronger across the land.
At 6:00 AM, "THE MORNING SUN HAS VANQUISHED THE HORRIBLE NIGHT." Villagers are out and about in towns and enemies are weaker.
This presents a whole new dimension of gameplay and actually plays a major role in strategizing. Although there is no time limit to rush gameplay along, there are unique circumstances that alter play under both the sunlight and moonlight.
The shrewd gamer learns to monitor the internal clock. By periodically pressing START to check out the Multi-Screen, the current time is displayed, along with a plethora of vital information, like what items and body parts have been collected.
The total amount of time played can be seen, also. This actually does have a bearing on gameplay, as it does affect the game's ending. [Click here to learn more about this in the TRIVIA/LITTLE KNOWN FACTS section.]
Knowing the precise time helps the player to maximize her/his opportunities accordingly — timing when to visit open towns in the daytime to talk, shop, trade and restore health in the Church.
Or when to venture out into the wild to build up Simon's Hearts and Experience Rating (increased at nighttime, when the Towns are closed), as well as to discover magical items and weapons, Hidden Books and new areas to explore.
[One interesting note to add here about time: time actually stands still indoors — within shops, churches and open buildings in town; within Mansions and even within the last area of the game.]
While the Towns are locked down for the night, Simon discovers that this is the prime time for him to explore the haunted countryside to find those five Mansions that contain Dracula's body parts.
Under the Carpathian Mountains or Transylvanian Alps, Belmont will travel across the beautifully-rendered, Romanian countryside — through its thick forests, marshes and dark caverns; over (and under [?!?]) deep-blue lakes and rivers; and bravely about the barren landscapes and cemeteries, in hopes of stumbling upon these structures.
This time around — free from the enclosed walls and heavy, wooden doors of Castlevania — these Mansions will prove to be the closest things to actual stages, or levels, that Simon's Quest offers.
Inside these somber abodes are examples of unwelcoming, bare-bones architecture: invisible platforms; missing staircases that force tense, difficult jumps; false walls and floors that give way to deadly spikes and persistent foes below; water hazards that are quick to drown our hydrophobic hero; dead ends skewered with sharp stakes; moving walls that close-in to push Belmont to his watery grave... and more.
What Castlevania II: Simon's Quest
lacks in stages or levels, it makes up for in Mansions. Here — as in much of the game — tough jumps ramp up the challenge.
And if all of these engineered entrapments aren't enough, there are always a lot of — what the instruction booklet calls — "Count Dracula's Best Buddies" to contend with.
Armored guards, pesky pursuers and swift-shifting assailants attempt to frustrate the recovery and thwart the search. But, in all honesty, most players will find that the most challenging aspect of the Mansions is actually finding the Oak Stake and body part from within their maze-like interiors.
♥ ♥ ♥
If the goal is to find each of the body parts, what does Simon do when he comes upon one?
In each Mansion, there is one secretive salesman hidden away (...and sometimes, a few other strangers who may actually provide assistance).
This merchant is anxious to sell Belmont an Oak Stake for 50 Hearts, so that when Simon does eventually find that dismembered part, he will do what he should have done at the close of Castlevania: drive an Oak Stake through the target to depose of the danger, once and for all.
Ironically, with each new recovered piece, Simon discovers a new power that each prosses... er, possesses, taking him that much closer to ridding himself of Dracula's dreaded hex. For instance, Dracula's Rib forms into a handy shield that deflects enemy shots, while the Eyeball grants an x-ray-like ability for Simon to spot the Hidden Books (and other secrets) that sometimes, yield valuable hints.
With such potent items just lying away in wait, one would assume that major bosses would put up a strong fight against Simon from simply charging in and snatching the bagged body parts away. One would be mistaken.
Further proof that Konami was actively injecting RPG elements into Simon's Quest
: slimes. Slimes could be found in most RPGs at the time. They, along with dialogue with villagers; visiting shops; trading and upgrading items; and building up experience gave Konami's franchise a role-playing-lite feel.
Although the motley mob of monsters in Simon's Quest has grown in numbers and diversity since Castlevania (with everything from the Two-Headed Creature, Man-Eating Plant and Gargoyle to the Flame Thrower, Pirate Skeleton and Slimes even), not all guard the Mansions.
And the few, remaining members of the starring cast of major enemies from the first Castlevania have been downgraded to minor roles this time out, save one: the Grim Reaper. But sadly enough, his entry is effete, stripped of much of the challenge from the first Castlevania. He is so insignificant, in fact, that he can be passed up altogether!
It is important to point out that there are only three, major boss encounters in the entire game — and of those, just two — that actually stand between Belmont and any of the body parts!
The only other boss of any consequence — aside from the Grim Reaper and the final fiend — comes in the form of Vampira (or Camilla). Appearing as a large, shadowy-gray mask that levitates about a room, shedding tears (bloody tears, perhaps... More about this later.), this deadly debutante is a mild competitor... almost in all certainty, Camilla/Vampira would have been the easiest main enemy had she appeared in the first Castlevania. [Click here to learn background information and more about this new character in the Castlevania universe in the TRIVIA/LITTLE KNOWN FACTS section.]
All of this begs the questions: If these body parts of Dracula are so prized, why is it that these Mansions have such alarming security breaches? Why are there only two bosses to safeguard two of the five body parts???
Maybe it goes along with the overall change in philosophy and style of play for this game from the previous one.
Castlevania II feels as though it has been consciously-redirected from action-based combat across a span of stages to an open world of investigation, scavenger-hunting and puzzle-solving.
Even if every ghastly hand was called upon to protect the Mansions, this game would still suffer from little, in the way of true combative challenge.
In Castlevania II: Simon's Quest
, what's more disturbing? The gruesome display of hanging skeletons/corpses, the collecting of dismembered body parts or the butchered language and grammar?
Part of this diluted display of resistance may be attributed to the type of weaponry and collection of magical items Belmont gets to use this time out.
Previously in Castlevania, it took two Morning Star whip upgrades to charge Simon's Magic Whip up to its maximum strength. This go-round, with the advent of shops and merchants, his pedestrian, yet practical, Leather Whip can be replaced by three, pricier, yet deadlier, permanent varieties: the Thorn Whip, Chain Whip and Morning Star (!!!). And the Morning Star can even be augmented further by "a man living in darkness".
Castlevania's heavier-hitting hardware of Axes and Boomerangs has been replaced with mystical materiel — Diamonds that are valued more for ricocheting about the screen; Sacred Flames that torch their targets in a tall blaze; colored Crystals that invoke broad strokes of mind-boggling and unexpected magic across the field of play.
This time out, although Simon is inflicted with a deadly curse, his expanding Player Level (life meter) elastically stretches from a meager 12 bars (at start) to a robust number of 24, as he tears through Dracula's stylized beasts and increases his Experience Rating component, all the while, topping off his Heart supply.
And as if that is not enough, with the addition of Garlic and Laurels, Simon can literally create an impassable path for foes to cross or take off in an impenetrable flash of temporary speed.
♥ ♥ ♥
Here is where Simon's Quest differs, again, vastly from Castlevania: its reliance on magic and slower, RPG-driven plot development versus the might, tight action and solid level design of the first title.
The focus and challenge in this game comes more from figuring out where to go and what to do next; it tries to be more cerebral than arcade or action-oriented.
In doing so, Castlevania II feels like it was made to coddle the tortured souls who couldn't put the Count down from the first Castlevania. In eschewing those complex enemy patterns and brutally-hard, boss battles, Konami slackened the strain of Castlevania II, easing it with lighter action and more methodical pacing.
There is nothing wrong with experimenting with this refreshing change of direction for the series... EXCEPT that, unfortunately, the creators at Konami seemed to be learning as they went. Maybe they should have devoted more time to quality-control and proofreading overall.
The developers should be applauded for their attempts at imposing riddles and intelligent puzzles, but perhaps their lack of experience or lack of cohesive communication and unified effort to stay on the same page — between translators and locales of release — was too much to overcome.
The biggest problem that arose was that, too often, it felt as though the real enemy and challenge in this game came from the city dwellers and deciphering their cryptic babbling. It is unfortunate that the game was more aggravating than it needed to be and felt unfairly-difficult, at times. [Click here to get spoiler-free help with some of these confusing clues in the SECRETS & TIPS section.]
In Castlevania II: Simon's Quest
, sometimes you will hit dead ends, baffled by strange clues. At these times, maybe it is best to just kneel and pray for help.
When there are so few obvious or clear hints or nudges to be found anywhere for demystifying some of the more abstruse or obtuse mysteries — either internally from within the actual course of gameplay (through conversation and books) or from inside the game's manual — a fun quest can quickly become derailed.
And when nonsensical mistranslations (either from misspellings, poor grammar, incoherence and/or just plain laziness or oversight) and intentional deception (from a random mixture of misleading townsfolk) are introduced into the conversations, that derailment can screech to a full-on stoppage in play.
(Looking back, it's too bad that Simon Belmont and this adventure didn't take place in the 20th century — sometime after 1921 — because he could have carried a polygraph, or lie detector, instead of his whip... it would have proven much more effective!)
(Thankfully, when all hope seems dashed, one of the game's saving graces [literally!] — its new password system — saves the gamer's progress (and sanity!) by allowing for a much-needed break and some mental relaxation from the draining tasks of deciphering the seemingly indecipherable.)
After gathering so much fragmentary evidence in what feels like a broken game, one can understand the despondency and level of letdown for players. A gamer, who has invested so much time, effort and interest, can feel real dejection. [Without giving away any spoilers, dead-end walls have cut short the quest of Simon for many bewildered and flustered players throughout the years.]
It is uncertain as to whether a full-fledged effort to proofread and polish the scripted conversations, text in Hidden Books and game's signage in Simon's Quest — for the native tongue of each respective locale of release — was actually performed or not. The simple addition of a few more signposts, pointing out specific, key locations in Transylvania (like Deborah Cliff, for instance) and a few clues clarifying how to overcome a specific dead end would have gone far in solidifying Castlevania II's legacy to some.
At least, the consistent quality that gamers had become accustomed to from Konami in the era still glistened in other ways — primarily with its beautiful graphics and exquisite soundtrack providing some enjoyment to help distract away from the faltered riddles that bogged the game down.
Konami's artistic detail in the depictions of Transylvania and its scary inhabitants is a highlight in Castlevania II: Simon's Quest
, as is its marvelous, musical compositions.
Speaking of the exquisite soundtrack, there are nine, featured songs that masterfully jibe with the sinister and grisly mission at hand. (It is interesting to note that the titles for these songs, predominately, come from the names of remixes that appeared in later games in the series.)
There's no better example than the game's opening GAME START/PASSWORD screen... the eerie, rising-and-falling waves, punctuated by synthesized snare, cradled by droning bottoms, capped off at the refrain by the tense, taut screech of strings that echoes in and out delivers a strong "Message Of Darkness" — this particular tune's official name. This song sets the brooding mood immediately.
And our wounded hero may have had his theme song — "Vampire Killer" — retired to his glory days in the first Castlevania, but for this story, the uncredited musician(s) has/have orchestrated a dueling duet of primary themes — played outside of the villages — to remind the gamer of the role and urgency that the passage of time plays on our condemned Belmont.
The moonlit hours attract "Count Dracula's Best Baddies" to frolic about, as "Monster Dance" plays on. Its call-and-response opening seems to invite the enemies, as the driving stomp-like feel carries the melody with an air of urgency and danger for Simon's return to Transylvania.
And when "THE MORNING SUN HAS VANQUISHED THE HORRIBLE NIGHT", "Bloody Tears" plays on as a splendid replacement theme. The title of this song pays direct homage to the game's newest villainess, Vampira or Camilla.
Its opening bars — a hint of rapid, creepy, toccata-like runs — set up the main melody. This sun-warmed piece moves to full swing with the stretched-out notes of the passage, flowing forward at a lively tempo, carried forth by rocking snares.
This particular beloved track is so favored that it has been resurrected and remixed in a number of later Castlevania installments — just like Simon Belmont's leitmotif, "Vampire Killer", from the first Castlevania. [Click here to learn more about this impactful song in the Castlevania library in the TRIVIA/LITTLE KNOWN FACTS section.]
♥ ♥ ♥
Speaking of that first Castlevania again, we are reminded of that suspicious message from the villager that opened this review/essay: "AFTER CASTLEVANIA I WARNED YOU NOT TO RETURN."
In retrospect, his words were more of a self-indictment than anything. Much of the blame for the cause of a tainted return and flawed sequel can be turned inward toward he and his fellow villagers. For if these villagers would have been more truthful and clear with their messages and less "town prankster" (like their rascally creators from Konami), many of the qualms that critics had with this game would never have existed. And this game would have made for a smoother, more enjoyable romp of discovery, conversations and riddle-solving, unimpeded by the broken logic and guesswork that artificially spiked its difficulty.
In saying that, though, it would be regrettable to simply dismiss this game and all of the unconventional ideas it brought to, not only the Castlevania series, but to gaming, in general.
The title introduced so many new and innovative ideas and options to expand upon — like the addition of the duality element of time (day/night cycles) that affected play; a solid, password system to save the gamer's progress; multiple endings; new appreciation and dependence on the idea of magical powers and items for the series; an expansion of roster of monsters to fight, neutral characters to interact with and weapons and mystical items to acquire; etc.
If all of that was not enough, it is, arguably, the legitimate progenitor and inspiration from the Castlevania side of the Metroidvania genre family tree.
And its novel approach and the spirit of many of its bold, new ideas would go on to become incorporated and fully-realized to near-gaming perfection, nearly a decade later with the release of Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night in 1997.
As time moves on, it seems that Castlevania II: Simon's Quest (as well as the formerly much-maligned, Zelda II - The Adventure Of Link (1988)) is now being received more warmly with a rosier-tinged nostalgia that is more accepting of its innovations, as well as its awkward shortcomings. Just like its wounded hero, Simon Belmont: damaged, but resilient enough to shake off and destroy its cursed fate and reputation, and to shine on in the end.
b. jones © 2020
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