Yes, I could have saved this for Halloween. But I have something a bit more relevant and modern for that. Plus I have since playing IV played a bunch of the classic Castlevanias thanks to Konamia finally seeing reason and releasing a bunch of collections. So now let’s start with the first game in the franchise Castlevania.
We have talked about this franchise before, with the Netflix series and the SNES game Super Castlevania 4. As mentioned there it was a remake of this game so you already know the plot bla bla bla Dracula bla bla bla Simon Belmont, bla bla bla whip.
Released in 1986 for the Famicom disc system in Japan under the name Akumajō Dracula it was brought over to the west a year later for the NES under the new name Castlevania.
The game has you play as Simon Belmont, whose controls are considerably stiffer than in IV (one of the reasons 4 is considered one of the best in the franchise). He has 3 main abilities, using his whip, jumping and using a special item. The whip can only be used in one direction directly forward and there is a slight delay in using it, however it can be upgraded twice increasing its length and power as well as having the ability to destroy small projectiles like fire balls (THIS IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT). So yeah unlike 4 he can’t do all the fancy whip stuff. Fortunately the game isn’t designed with that in mind.
Sub weapons are mostly unchanged from what they will become in 4. Useless daggers, weaponized Christianity crosses that work like boomerangs, axes that are thrown in arcs to get at pesky higher up enemies and the most important weapon in the game for cheesing bosses, holy water (it stuns them and does damage, so use it at the right rate and watch them die without being able to react).
As with almost all Castlevania games you go through Gothic horror inspired levels (one of the games I’ve played since decided to shake things up) 6 in total this time each with a boss at the end. Despite this being the first game I can’t really say it had any truly bad enemy placement or platforming frustrating (no that’s saved for the third game). Despite stairs being called the real enemy of early Castlevania, here I didn’t find them too frustrating. If I had difficulty with a section it meant I wasn’t approaching it correctly or needed to make better use of a sub weapon.
The only exception for this was the last level, first up you’re crossing a partially destroyed bridge while multiple copies of the first boss attack (found it was best to just avoid those) then the clock tower part had enemies spawning on from all over (and no they weren’t the medusa heads, didn’t have issue with those) meaning by the time I reached Dracula I was on low health and no heath pickups to be found (they are hidden in breakable walls as always).
Dracula was the only boss I had difficulty with as It was hard to get the timing right on hitting him while destroying the fire balls combined with my low health. I could have used sub weapons namely the crosserang but I was saving my holy water to cheese phase 2. Once the annoying phase 1 was done, out comes monster form and out comes my holy water and dead Dracula.
Oddly I would recommend Castlevania one. The levels are designed around the stiffer controls and the more egregious trappings the early franchise is known for like being knocked back into pits and monsters attacking on stairs seem to be in later entries (probably 3). The game needs you to take a slightly slower pace than more modern entries (not too slow, this is still when they had timers remember) but aside from the final level nothing comes off as cheap or frustrating, then again I did cheese most of the later bosses thanks to holy water.