+ The first Castlevania adventure
+ Great Soundtrack
+ First ever battle with Dracula
- Simon is an awful jumper
- Only Six stages
- Getting knocked back when hit
On May 7th, 1987, Konami released Castlevania for the NES in the United States. This was the beginning of a gaming dynasty. Throughout the years and on almost every system, Castlevania has been a title that has transcended time as well as gameplay styles. Why has this title been so successful? Simple, the story of vampire hunter versus Dracula never gets old. In this retelling of the tale, Castlevania introduces us to the Belmonts. A family who has been bestowed upon them the duty to vanquish the lord of the undead. This is the story of Simon Belmont’s chance to rid the world of Lord Dracula.
Castlevania is your typical side-scrolling platformer released for the NES. Common to this time were platformers which were now implementing more action into the genre. Traversing Dracula’s keep requires more than simple jumping, Simon must also battle his way through legions of the undead and Boss monsters as well. The enemies consist of all types of monsters: skeletons, bats, zombies, and the infamous flea men to name a few. After getting through these baddies, Simon must face their leaders. Each of Castlevania’s six stages end with a boss battle. These bosses are from classic horror tales. Frankenstein’s Monster, mummies, Medusa, and even Death are here to stop Simon from completing his quest.
To defeat these enemies and destroy Dracula forever, Simon is equipped with a magical whip. The whip is your main weapon in Castlevania. It begins as a leather whip and can be powered up twice to first change into a chain whip, then once more into a longer chain whip. Each stage having greater power than the previous one. When you lose a life Simon restarts with the whip back at its original state. Along side the whip Simon also has sub-weapons. These are weapons that can be used by pressing up on the D-pad and the attack button. Simon can acquire knives, axes, boomerangs, and even a stop watch, which freezes time for his enemies. These weapons must be used sparingly since they require hearts to be used.
Hearts and other items, such as whip power ups and money bags are found throughout the game inside of candles. Candles and candlelabras are strewn everywhere within the castle. Destroying these and collecting there contents is a huge part of the game. Not only do they hold all the weapons and power ups, the candles also can contain one of two rare items. The rosary which destroys all enemies onscreen and the invisibility jar, which grants Simon temporary invincibility. By breaking certain walls with the whip, the player can also uncover items. These items are usually meat (which gives Simon back health) and the Roman numeral II or III. These Roman numeral upgrades allows Simon to throw two or three sub-weapons at a time.
Outiside of all these great gameplay features, Konami really hit the mark with the music of Castlevania. From the first stage when entering the castle, to the final battle with Dracula, the score fits the tone and pacing of the game perfectly. Throughout Castlevania’s lifetime, each game to follow since its onset, will always be recognized for its music. It really is what sets the Castlevania series apart from the others. So check out the video below to see the beginning of the Belmont’s legacy.
Castlevania brought some great action to the platforming genre. Konami went with a more battle heavy than jumping style platformer here. This was a great idea in two ways: 1) We got the framework for a great franchise, 2) Simon jumps like a lead weight. Simon’s jumping ability is the only real downfall to the game, he really has none. As I mentioned earlier though, the score is what really sets this game aside. I’m glad Konami stuck with this, always paying serious attention to the music in this series. Castlevania is a good game which transformed into great games years later. Castlevania on the NES to this day is still one which I pick up and play. A solid start to what was to become gaming royalty.