Last time I covered the first entries into the Castlevania series: Vampire Killer on the japanese MSX2 and Castlevania on the NES. Most of this post will be dedicated to the game that most of you know as the sequel on the NES called Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest. However, I must briefly touch on a game that some of you might not know even exists. There was an arcade version of Castlevania that came out in 1988, the same year Simon’s Quest hit the NES. That game is called Haunted Castle.
Haunted Castle the 3rd retelling of the same story we have seen thus far. It is just another version of the original Castlevania story we already know. Simon Belmont is going to Dracula’s castle to kill him. My problem with this game is that it is just bad; I’m serious, it’s terrible.
The first thing you notice when you start playing Haunted Castle is that the controls are some of the clunkiest controls you have ever had the misfortune of playing with. Also, Simon is now a steroid induced bodybuilder and looks more like the Incredible Hulk than Simon Belmont.
The level design is what you would think of a sidescrolling arcade game from 1988, no multiple paths, very linear, but this game is unforgiving. If you manage to make it to level 6, be prepared to never look back. If you second guess yourself and want to go back to collect something or take down an enemy, you will regret it. This time Dracula has sent every creature imaginable to stop you from making it to his lair and if you stop moving and take your eye off the prize, YOU WILL DIE!
The game is something that I hope Konami wants to forget about and apparently has. This game has never been included in any kind of compilation of any kind, and I hope that it stays that way.
Alright, let’s get back to the main game I wanted to talk about. Simon’s Quest came out for the NES in 1988. It was dramatically different from the 1st NES Castlevania. Instead of simply going from point A to point B, they added a town system, merchants, puzzle solving, and a day/night system that took gamers by surprise.
I’m not exactly sure what was going on in 1988, but it was the year of unusual sequels to popular franchises. Super Mario Bros 2 and Zelda 2: Adventures of Link also came out the same year, which if you’ve played either you know how different they are from the 1st game in both series. (Yes, I know that Mario 2 is really a Japanese game with Mario chars slapped on and given to America and that the real Mario 2 is the Lost Levels.)
The story of Simon’s Quest is that after Simon defeated Dracula in the original Castlevania he now has Dracula’s curse. The only way to destroy the curse is to gather all of Dracula’s body parts and burn them in his Castle. My only problem with this plot is that why if Simon defeated Dracula in his castle are his body parts no longer there?
At the start of the game, Simon starts out in a town and this is where things get different. Simon’s Quest now has an open environment and can go anywhere. Simon also has an inventory where you can change sub weapons and use different items to solve puzzles. Some puzzles aren’t very intuitive, such as where you have to kneel down facing a cliff. Not only do you need to kneel facing a cliff for a few seconds, but you need to also have the blue crystal equipped. When I was a kid, I couldn’t figure this out by myself at all.
I have no bad things to say about the controls, in fact I feel that they are identical to the controls in the NES version of the 1st game. One thing I wish the game improved on is clues given by townspeople. My problem is that they really don’t help you with your quest.
Something that is weird about the game is as you fight your way through castles to collect parts of Dracula’s body, is that not every castle has a boss fight. In a few instances you just collect the body part and go back to your adventure. I’m not exactly sure why they went with this, but it bothers me that you don’t always have to defeat a boss to collect an item. It just doesn’t feel right getting an item needed to beat the game without earning it.
In the game you will quickly notice the day/night system that is implemented. Once day turns to night the enemies become harder and take more hits. Most of the time, if possible, I tend to stay in the town and fight off enemies in a safe place. The game actually has an internal timer and counts the number of times day turns to night. The ending you get is based off this information, reminiscent of Metroid.
The game really isn’t that hard, especially in comparison to the 1st title. The game utilized a password system which made completing it easier than its predecessor. The game, while having a large fanbase, is still seen as the black sheep of the series. Some love it, some hate it (AVGN), but it is undeniable that this game influenced the series as a whole. It was not until what is considered the pinnacle of the series, Symphony of the Night, that a free roaming environment was reinstated.
Ok now for the reviews:
Haunted Castle –
Level Design: 2/10
Overall Difficulty: 9/10 All I have to say is that this game is unforgiving.
Overall Enjoyment: 1/10 I completely dislike this game and try to forget is is part of the Castlevania series. If you haven’t played this game, do yourself a favor and stay away. If you must play it because you must play every Castlevania game that ever existed, well good luck.
Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest –
Level Design: 5/10
Overall Difficulty: 3/10 Most of the difficulty comes from figuring out what you need to do next.
Overall Enjoyment: 6/10 The game is a change of pace. I feel that Konami was trying to try something different and make their version of Metroid or Rygar. I feel that they were mostly successful. I think that the game is pretty fun, but not my favorite Castlevania.
My next entry into the ongoing Castlevania Retrospective will be the series 1st venture into the handheld market. Castlevania Adventure on the Gameboy.