Archive for July, 2008

Castlevania Retrospective Part 4

Posted in video games with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 4, 2008 by themongomania

With the NES on its way out, Konami put one more great effort to give NES fans a game that is still highly regarded to this day. In 1990, a year before the SNES would come to US shores, we got Konami’s final NES effort, Castlevania 3: Dracula’s Curse. This game returned the series to its roots with sidescrolling action reminiscent of the original Castlevania.

The story itself is supposed to take place way before Castlevania 1. In fact, the game’s protagonist, Trevor Belmont, is supposed to be Simon Belmont’s ancestor. Yet again this game pits the whip ready Belmont against their clan’s eternal opposition: Dracula.

Something very different from the structure of the first NES game and this ones is the stage layout. The game abandoned the linear paths of the first game and let the gamer make choices about which levels they wanted to go to at certain points. This greatly increases the replay value of the game because you will want to see the other levels that you missed. This multiple level design will be revisited in a later entry; Rondo of Blood.

Along with choosing your paths, depending on what route you take you will be aided by 1 of 3 different characters. They are Alucard, Grant, and Sypha. Instead of using Trevor the entire game, you can freely switch the character you chose in and out at any time. Each one of these characters has their pros and cons.

If you choose Alucard (yes, the Alucard from other Castlevania games) you will be playing as Dracula’s son. He has the same 3 way fireball that his father has, as well as the ability to turn into a bat. This is very useful because it allows you to completely avoid otherwise annoying battles with certain enemies. Using his bat form, however, uses hearts, so you have to keep an eye on how you use this ability. The biggest con about Alucard is that his jumping is truly awful. It’s almost like he isn’t even trying. If you choose him, get ready to switch to Trevor for all your platforming needs.

The next character you can use is Grant. Grant is interesting because playing as him is completely unorthodox in comparison to the other heroes you will play as in the series. Grant can climb walls and even climb onto the ceiling. He is also the first Castlevania hero that is able to change his jump in midair. The main problem with Grant is that for gaining all this maneuverability, you are losing an offensive and defensive force. His offense/defense is completely underpowered in comparison to any other character you can use in this game.

Finally, we have Slypha. Slypha is the first magical character in the series. Her magic attacks are among the strongest the game has to offer and will decimate bosses easier than any of your other attack options. Again, like Grant, everything else but her magic is sacrificed in order for her magic attacks to do this much damage. She lacks offense, defense, and agility- she is however, very fun to play as because of how much damage her magic attacks use.

Trevor is your default hero and controls very much like every other Belmont on the NES. If you’ve played one NES Castlevania, you know how he’s gonna feel. He has free reign of subweapons like previous Belmonts and his whip deals out the most melee damage out of the four.

When you choose a character to have alongside Trevor, that might not be the end of the road. During the game you will have opportunities to switch characters, but if you do that you can’t be the original character you recruited until you start a new game again.

Finally, with enough luck, skill, and hope you will reach Dracula himself. You will fight him in 3 phases. The first phase is a nod to the 1st Castlevania’s boss fight with him. He will throw 3 fireballs at you and you have to jump over them while avoiding pillars of fire trying to destroy you.

After that, the battle takes a strange turn where you are fighting a floating ball of heads. (Yes, I just said that) The heads will float around trying to drop what looks like blood all over you. It’s a pretty easy to defeat this part

Then it’s on to the last phase of the battle. Dracula somewhat looks like a vulture and throws lasers at you while you desperately try to climb onto a floating platform to attack him and defeat him once and for all!

Once the battle is over, sit back, and watch the credits roll. Dracula is dead – For Now!

Now for the review:

Castlevania 3: Dracula’s Curse –

Controls: 7.5/10 – Same old NES controls, just like you’d expect them to be.

Level Design: 9/10 – This game’s levels are just great. Add in great music, multiple paths, multiple characters, you’ll be playing this game over and over just to do different levels with different characters. Lots of replay to be had here.

Overall Difficulty: 8.5/10 – This game is hard. It just is. If this is your first Castlevania outing then prepare for some frustration. The learning curve on this game might be a bit steep, but there is a password system. You can try again and again, unlike Castlevania 1. Once you get the hang of it, it gets easier.

Overall Enjoyment: 9.5/10 – This is my favorite NES Castlevania. It just has it all. Great levels, fun characters to play as, and gives you a strong sense of accomplishment because of the difficultly. Some NES games don’t stand the test of time, but Castlevania 3 is every bit as charming, challenging, and fun as it was 18 years ago.

In our next installment, we’ll be jumping into the 16-bit era of the Super Nintendo and one of the first games out for the system, Super Castlevania 4. I hope you look forward to it.

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Castlevania Retrospective Part 3

Posted in video games with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 1, 2008 by themongomania

Today I’m reluctantly looking back at Castlevania: The Adventure for the original gameboy. I do not have many good things to say about this game. This was the series’ first entry into the portable market in the fall of 1989. It is also notable because it is the first game in the series to not star Simon Belmont as the protagonist. Instead, for this adventure we get Christopher Belmont, whip ready in hand to do what the Belmonts do best.

The first thing you’re going to notice playing this game is that Christopher moves so sluggish that it’s not even funny. You will scratch your head wondering why this did not happen in other nes to gameboy transitions. When Mario jumped into the world of portable gaming he never got this treatment, he still moved at a good clip. The speed problem was eventually corrected though, it only took till the year 2000 in Konami’s GB Collection Vol 1 released in Europe. Christopher is colorized and moving at the speed he originally should have been moving.

After you get over the speed of the game and really start getting into it, all you will find is more problems unfortunately. The level designs leave a lot to be desired. The main problem with the levels is that there is no variety. You will see the same type of levels throughout the entire game, which isn’t very long. Your adventure sees you through 4 levels each with their own boss, the last boss of course being the man of the hour, Dracula himself.

Sub Weapons have gone on the wayside in this game, instead the game lets you shoot a fireball out of your whip if you get 2 whip upgrades. However, if you get hit then your whip gets degraded and you no longer have the fireball until you get the whip upgrade again. Something else added to this version was a timer that told you how much longer you had in each level. Most of the time you beat each level with more than enough time, so it’s never something you should worry about.

Something different that works out pretty well in all of the original gameboy Castlevania’s is the use of ropes. Instead of stairs as you were previously used to in all the other Castlevania games, the gameboy decided to throw all that out and make you climb ropes. The feel of the game is changed by this little thing, because you will have to switch ropes and watch out for enemies while climbing the ropes to reach your destination. It reminds me a bit of Super Mario Bros 2’s vines.

If you are good at this game, you can beat it in about an hour. I do not regret playing it, but it will be an incredible long time before I play this again.

Alright, now it’s review time:

Castlevania: The Adventure –

Controls: 1/10 – this game’s controls make Haunted Castle’s look like a godsend.
Level Design: 2/10 – Did I mention that the level design is repetitive?
Overall Difficulty: 3.5/10 – Not very difficult at all really, just slow moving
Overall Enjoyment: 1.5/10 – Sad to say, but this is not Castlevania’s brightest star.

Final Thoughts:

Every series that goes on as long as the Castlevania series has gone on for hits a few snags here and there. It is a game that might have been rushed to market given that it came out late fall, trying to meet the Christmas season buying rush. I hope that isn’t true, but you never know. I will say that the next entry in the retrospective is a game that is held in higher regard. It is arguably the greatest achievement the series achieved on the NES, Castlevania 3: Dracula’s Curse.