By Josh Speer / November 8th, 2017
|Title||Cursed Castilla EX|
|Developer||Abylight Studios, Locomalito|
|Release Date||November 9th, 2017|
|Platform||PC, 3DS, PS4, Xbox One, Vita|
|Age Rating||T for Teen – Fantasy Violence, Blood and Gore, Partial Nudity|
One of the downsides to being an older gamer is that many of the games I grew up with and which shaped me as the gamer I am today were ridiculously difficult. Take for example such NES games as Ninja Gaiden, Mega Man 2, and Contra. The ethos of those early games was to make players earn their victory with blood, sweat, and tears. As a result, many older gamers, myself included, got pretty good at withstanding abuse and taking it in stride as a necessary evil. One of the biggest series to put this ethos to the test was Ghosts n’ Goblins. More specifically, Super Ghouls n Ghosts, the third game and one I have yet to fully beat. It featured pixel-perfect platforming, utter precision, and maddeningly difficult boss battles. Despite that, I have a fondness for that game, so when I see others that are inspired by it, I get fixated on them. While it’s true Cursed Castilla has been around for a while now, it just hit the Vita. Since I’m a big proponent of portable gaming, I decided to finally try it out. How did this knight errant fare?
Starting out, one thing which struck me about Cursed Castilla EX was the larger focus on story. Whereas Super Ghouls n’ Ghosts has a barebones plot at best, the story in Cursed Castilla EX had a bit of nuance to it. The tragic love story which starts the madness involves a young woman named Moura whose misery is manipulated into dark magic, which opens up the world to assault by demonic forces. Your King sends you, Don Ramiro, as well as Quesada, Mendoza, and Diego off, to fight the encroaching evil and save the day. Though you can only control Ramiro, you’ll be seeing those other knights, generally when horrible fates befall them. Nevertheless, I like the concept of a band of brothers fighting against evil forces. It never made much sense having only Arthur go and fight hordes of foes to save the day, and I like how Castilla quietly lends a does of reality to the premise.
Having said that, don’t expect too much reality in the game. Thankfully, Castilla is firmly rooted in fantasy, with tons of diverse and crazy monsters to slay, ranging from shambling zombies to winged culebras to dancing explosive skeletons and much, much more. I really appreciated the wide range of creatures in the game, especially given that each has a unique pattern of attack. This goes double for the intense boss battles, which only get progressively more challenging the farther you get. Some of my favorites included Nuberu, a bastard wizard who assaults you with tornadoes and lightning; the mischevious Bu; the armored Crazy Quixote (of the famous novel) and the serpentine witch Moura. There’s a lot more than that, and each and every boss can easily kill you if you’re not careful.
The gameplay in Cursed Castilla EX is old school with a bit of new school convention thrown in. You can jump, walk and attack. Finding powerups will lend you new weapons, such as the multi-hit daggers and boomerang-like sickle. You are also able to find secondary items, such as the orbiting blue fairy or the double jump boots. While you only have three lives, there are checkpoints in levels and you have access to an endless supply of continues, with a catch. While you’re more than welcome to use as many continues as you want, using too many will lock you out of getting the best endings. I found that out the hard way after getting my second ending in the Realm of Pain, only to have a trumpet bearing angel blow all 23 of my continues back at me as lost souls, murdering Ramiro in the process. Luckily, you can get more lives by playing well and earning enough points. More importantly, the more you play the game, the easier it is to memorize all the levels and boss patterns, which makes it possible (though not easy) to beat the game much more efficiently. It takes effort and a lot of deaths, but it never felt totally unfair or unbalanced.
Although Cursed Castilla EX isn’t that long of a game, each successful playthrough took me about 2 hours. There are several levels, and each one features at least a couple main areas and one boss each. After beating Moura and getting that diabolical ending the first time around, I was highly motivated to try again, find all the hidden Moura Tears, and get a better ending. While I did manage that, I am still working on beating the true boss without using too many continues. So even though I only spent about 4 hours playing the game, I feel you get more than your money’s worth. That’s because the game is chock full of secrets, including 15 truly epic achievements. To those who have gotten a Platinum for Cursed Castilla EX, you have my deepest respect. I’m going to keep trying to 100% the game, even though that is a steep hurdle.
Visually, the game could easily be another entry in the Ghosts n’ Goblins series, and that’s a compliment. The graphics are dark, violent and yet somehow cartoony. I very much appreciated how there are no color swapped enemies or other laziness to be found, each and every creature is an original. That resulted in me never getting bored playing the game. Also of special note is the bestiary that can be found on the start screen, which gives each monster a special description, accompanied by an old timey portrait. On the musical side of things, I was pretty happy as well. While I don’t feel the soundtrack ever quite reached the heights of Super Ghouls n’ Ghosts, there are some catchy tunes. I especially enjoyed the sound of horse hooves clip-clopping during levels. The boss music was also dire and menacing, which helped keep me pumped as I fought each foe.
Overall, I rather enjoyed my time with Cursed Castilla EX. It’s old school hard, but not quite as difficult as Super Ghouls n’ Ghosts. It plays very well on my Vita (though I wish that the graphical options didn’t only stretch the game, making it look fuzzy and unappealing). For $11.99, you really can’t go wrong. If you like the NES hard games of yore and want a more modern, portable successor, this is the game for you.
Review Copy Provided by Developer
Abylight StudiosCursed Castilla EXLocomalitoMaldita CastillaPSNVita