Castlevania (NES) Review

By Renan Fontes 28.12.2016

Review for Castlevania on NES

The Castlevania series has gone through many different iterations since its inception back in 1986. What first arrived as a precision-based platformer became a Metroid style action RPG in 1997, and then a God of War-esque hack n' slash in 2010. Despite the genre shifts and new coats of paint, the franchise has never strayed away from its core goal: the never-ending battle against Count Dracula. Creatively homaging to different horror movie monsters and sporting more than enough challenge for even the most skilled veterans, Castlevania on the NES led to one of Konami's biggest IPs; but does it still hold up three decades later?

Compared to other platformer and side-scroller protagonists of the era, Simon Belmont is surprisingly non-agile. Lacking in speed and utterly vertically challenged, Simon can't quite compare to the acrobatics of Mario, Samus, and Kirby—but Konami makes sure he never has to.

An acrobatic main character for a platformer makes some sense considering all the running and jumping that's needed to traverse the average stage, but Castlevania is designed with a slower pace in mind.

Patience is a big aspect in the level design featured in Count Dracula's castle. Simon is locked to a slow walk, meaning he can't just run away from enemies. In fact, jumping over an enemy and trying to get away usually means they'll just turn around and run after him.

Castlevania challenges reflexes far more than perhaps any platformer in the NES' library. Simon has to react by jumping or crouching to whip enemies all without ever stopping, ideally. A lull in movement can mean sure death in certain rooms, but just charging on ahead can be just as dangerous.

It's at times frustrating getting caught off guard by new enemy patterns or getting hit at the end of a particularly lengthy jumping section only to fall off the flooring and plummet into the abyss, but analysing a situation and understanding when to move and when to stop is a legitimate and expected strategy to getting through Dracula's castle alive.

Screenshot for Castlevania on NES

Simon isn't totally without any extra help, as his arsenal of weapons including a throwing axe, a knife, and a boomerang-like cross that flies across the screen. Every enemy can be reliably killed with the whip, but the extra ammunition definitely helps in a pinch.

As fun as the early game is, the brilliance of the level design doesn't come out until the second half, where the difficulty is ramped up to an extreme degree. Simon never gets any new abilities, which effectively means that the first half of the castle is used to learn the controls and how to fight, and find out which sub-weapons work best against which enemies, so that the second half isn't just an onslaught of horror movie baddies slaughtering Simon to shreds.

A nice blend of reflex-based platforming and heavy whip-based action in the second half leads to some of the more intense moments in Castlevania, as Simon fights his way through room after room of gothic carnage. By the end point, Simon's slow, deliberate controls don't feel any different than Mario's natural speed and high jump, or Kirby's limited flight. His abilities become natural and the level design makes sure that they never feel anything but.

It says a lot when the boss fights, as fun as they are, simply aren't as enjoyable as the levels leading up to them. In a generation where games were hard in order to make the game feel longer, Castlevania stands out as a particularly great example of challenge for fun's sake.

Screenshot for Castlevania on NES

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

While certainly frustrating at times, Castlevania has impressively managed to stand the test of time, offering just as much fun in 2016 as it did in 1986. Simon's slow stride and heavy jump take time to get used to, but all aspects of his control are so well integrated into the level design of Dracula's castle that controlling him never feels like a chore. The Castlevania series has had its high points and low points through the years, but one thing remains clear: Castlevania was, and is, one of the franchise's highest points.






2D Platformer



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

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