Does It Hold Up: Castlevania

Friday, October 26th, 2012

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Games are never what we remember them to be… unless we never played them to begin with.  When comparing a retro classic to a modern game, we need to stop and ask ourselves “Does it hold up?”  We continue our series into the past with the Belmont clan in the NES game…

CASTLEVANIA

Castlevania Castlevania

It doesn’t matter what generation it is.  One thing always seems constant with entertainment: vampires sell (even if they sparkle).  And the King of all vampires, hands down, is Dracula.  Dracula has been a villain in different mediums since the Bram Stoker days, going from books to TV to the countless Dracula themed movies throughout history.

And then there is the Castlevania series.  Though we do get a bit of a difference in protagonists with the Belmont clan instead of the Van Helsings, it is essentially the same story: kill Dracula.

But it doesn’t stop with Dracula, or even the giant bat at the end of the first level.  You have to go through a slew of horror’s finest.  For bosses in the first game you had Medusa, mummies, Frankenstein’s monster and Igor, and even the Grim Reaper.  And you had a little bit of everything else attacking you as you made your way up to Dracula.

Awesome premise but we’re not here to just look at premise.

THE GOOD

Castlevania

Where do I even begin?  The music?  The atmosphere?  All the monsters that appear?

Let’s start with the monsters, easily one of my favorite parts of the game.  There is easily a great variety of monsters in this game.  Most will first appear within the first three levels but they will get tougher and more plentiful as the game progresses.

There’s also a pattern for most of the monsters in later levels.  If you can exploit the pattern, you’ll be able to breeze past certain sections.  For instance, the notoriously difficult hall before the Grim Reaper can become surprisingly easy once you figure out the flight path for the Medusa Heads and the tendencies of the Axe Knights.

The atmosphere is awesome for an old school game.  Dark, dreary shades of colors with monsters coming at you from all angles and intense music underneath it all.  Kudos to the old guys at Konami for this brilliance.

Speaking of music, the soundtrack is arguably one of the best on the system.  Despite having an orchestral implementation of early NES games, I’d willing to put these compositions against any from the NES era.  The only issue I had with it was during Level 4.  When you climb the steps at the end of Stage 10 and move to Stage 11, the music changes.  In my opinion, the song on Stage 10 is one of the better songs and deserved to keep going during the level.

But still, excellent music.

THE BAD

Where do I begin?  Control?  Graphics?  The Monsters?

Okay, not the monsters.

Graphically, the game is flat; very little depth of field.  Yes, this game was made in 1986.  But we’re not judging based on how it was based in 1986.  We’re judging based on how it is today.

CastlevaniaThere is also an issue of monsters flickering across the screen.  I’m not talking about when they get hit but just moving across the screen.  This happened primarily during the first level with the Zombies.  They come at you, colored gray while in front of a gray background, flickering in and out.  Again, it mostly happens in the first level but it’s annoying.

Control feels stiff and sluggish.  Not enough to keep you from completing the game (that’s for sure) but enough to annoy.  One of the most annoying is the knock back after getting hit.  It is too bad most of the time.  But it becomes a bit of an issue in the later levels when gaps in the floor are more frequent.

THE CONUNDRUM

Castlevania

Before I get to my deciding factor, I must make a mention of Super Castlevania IV.  If you’ve never heard of it, it’s basically a remake of the original Castlevania.  But they added a lot more to the game, with incredible depth of graphics, excellent control, and a memorable score.  From what I’ve seen, Super Castlevania IV is still worth the price of admission.

But it would be unfair to the original to judge it based on the newer version.

Take Tetris for example.  There are hundreds of versions of Tetris, but my personal favorite is still the Game Boy version – and yes, a lot of that is nostalgia from playing (or should I say beating) my brother, cousins, and uncle.  I like Tetris Axis, with all the different game modes (I still need to try the AR version of the game), but there’s something to say about simplicity in the Game Boy version.  Heck, it’s still a go-to game of mine when I only have a few minutes to play something.

THE KICKER

CastlevaniaThere’s something to be said about a game that gets your blood rushing throughout the gameplay.  How it can beat you over and over again and still get you to come back and find patterns for the enemies.  And how ten minutes after beating the game, you’re still shaking over how awesome the experience was.  For a $5 game, it’s definitely something to note.

OVERALL

Castlevania

This game is flawed.  But it is also fun.  And it is still well put together.  And it is one of the hardest games you’ll ever want to play over and over again.

Castlevania was developed by Konami and jointly published by Konami and Nintendo.  It is available for the Wii’s Virtual Console for 500 Wii Points.

About Jeff Neuenschwander

Jeff has been a supporter of the website and campaign since the beginning. Joining in for E3 2012, he worked his way up the ranks quickly, making it to the Editing Manager post at the beginning of 2013. Jeff has a wide variety of tastes when it comes to gaming and pretty much likes anything that is quirky, although his favorite genres are Action, Platforming, and RPG. Outside of gaming, Jeff is a musician, being trained as a trombonist for Jazz and Classical music, and holds a degree in Sound Recording.




  • I’ve never played a Castlevania game.  I’ve heard they’re pretty good.

  • There was an arcade version of this game that I played, way back in the day when I was a kid.  The only place that had it in town, as far as I know, was this local pizza chain that my parents used to go to.  I hated the pizza, but I was able to play Castlevania.

  • Bakuryukun

    No depth of field? The games colour scheme is specifically made to GIVE depth of field, they use contrasting colours to differentiate between foreground and background. When I play this game I always have a good idea of where I can and cannot go, I don’t understand how you possibly can’t see depth of field in this game.

  • ZigTheHunter

    The sluggish controls are intentional and work in the game’s favor, to increase atmosphere, and in the case of the whip, its delay make other weapons more useful where as 4 made the whip outclass all the other weapons in most situations, here your sub weapon matters a lot more.

  • The Castlevania series has some of the best music in any game series ever produced.  Ironically, some of the best interpretations of classic Castlevania themes are in one of the worst games in the series:

     http://youtu.be/f-nkQvJJ3PI

  • Castlevania games are in my opinion, a series that has stood the test of time. It tried to utilize every platform it was released on to its full potential. It has undoubtedly delivered every single time.