Castlevania II: Simon's Quest (NES) Review

By Gabriel Jones 05.12.2016

Review for Castlevania II: Simon

Shortly after the events of Castlevania, with his dying words, Dracula inflicted a curse upon Simon Belmont. Now the Vampire Killer has been marked for death. Transylvania has become Hell. The townspeople shun him, the monsters assail him, and text boxes appear from the void to stall his progress. Only by collecting all of Dracula's body parts can Simon destroy the vampire lord once and for all. This is the tale of Castlevania II: Simon's Quest.

This game is very much unlike its arcade action and "Metroidvania" brethren. It's still side-scrolling, there are RPG elements, such as items to purchase and level-ups, but the structure is entirely different. Simon has to wander the countryside, seek clues, and eventually discover Dracula's five body parts. What makes the game stand out is that there's no real threat. Granted, there are three different endings, and they get steadily worse depending on how long Simon takes to complete his quest. Still, that's not something that most gamers are going to concern themselves with.

The first Castlevania did a fantastic job establishing all of the ways in which the denizens of Dracula's castle could ruin the player's day. Everyone is all too familiar with medusa heads and their annoying movement pattern. There's the fleamen, who hop around raising havoc. Axe armours, fishmen, skeletons, and the other memorable adversaries that have ingrained themselves in the souls of gamers everywhere. Remember the last stretch of stage 5? It's amazing that something as simple as combining medusa heads with axe armours could cause people to lose their ever-loving minds.

It's amazing how the sequel compares in this regard. Nothing about it is threatening. The monsters just wander around, never really caring too much for ruining Simon's life (and the gamers controlling him). The fairly decent monster variety means little when nearly all of them merely walk back and forth, hoping that someone will mistakenly bump into them. Simon has a massive health meter that increases in length every couple level-ups. Deaths and even game overs are nothing to fret over, considering that Simon respawns at about the same spot he died. The few bosses are embarrassingly easy. Altogether, this lack of challenge makes the game rather serene.

Screenshot for Castlevania II: Simon's Quest on NES

Where this game falters in terms of difficulty, one would expect the adventuring portions to more than make up the difference. Well… Konami gets points for trying, but their execution is severely lacking. As mentioned earlier, Simon's quest is to gather Dracula's five body parts. They're located in five mansions, each involving some traveling or a little puzzle solving to reach. Clues to solve these puzzles are located throughout Transylvania. Some are discovered via idle conversation, while others are hidden in stone. One of the cleverer aspects is that quite a few villagers will lie, or say something completely meaningless. It adds flavour to the adventure.

Where it falls apart is that the most important clue in the game is also the hardest to find. Somewhere in a random forest and buried under non-descript rock is an old text. It reads "To replenish earth, kneel by the lake with the blue crystal". This refers to a seemingly dead end lake that's actually a passage to Dracula's heart. The importance of this clue can't be understated. Without knowing about the lake's secret, the game can't be finished. There's no evidence for anyone to assume that the crystals did anything besides show hidden platforms.

It's amusing that Dracula's eye, which can be used to see hidden clues, is found in the mansion that requires Dracula's heart. Konami had the good sense to include a note that says "Wait for a soul with a red crystal on Deborah Cliff" in the location where the eye is found. It's one of those clues players are liable to stumble over, since more than likely they have the eye equipped at the time. However, they can't get to the heart if they don't know about the lake's secret. This is a conundrum that could've easily been alleviated if the location of Dracula's rib and eye switched places.

Screenshot for Castlevania II: Simon's Quest on NES

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 3 out of 10


Nowadays, everyone knows what to do at the lake and the cliff, which leaves a game with no worthwhile mysteries or other compelling attributes. Castlevania II: Simon's Quest is more a curiosity than anything. It experiments with neat ideas, but leaves gamers in the dark regarding essential information. Dying is merely an inconvenience, so the only purpose the monsters serve is to drop money. The boring overworld and mansions are yet more reasons why nobody should stick with the game for very long. Still, this is an interesting piece of NES history, and that might be reason enough to give it a peek.






2D Platformer



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  3/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10 (1 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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