Castlevania is a masterful action side-scroller. Its six levels immerse you within Transylvania’s most evil castle. Rather than adhere to a strict vampire mythology, the game is a love letter to creatures of all stripes: mummies, medusa heads, large bats, heck, even Frankenstein’s monster decides to throw down. Beautiful atmospheric graphics, tight controls, and some of the greatest musical compositions in gaming. For 1987, this was high-quality gaming that only the NES (or, if you were in Japan, the Famicom Disk System) could provide.
Some complaints: When enemies hit you, Belmont’s body flings backwards. Since there are a lot of flying enemies and a lot of precarious jumps to make, simple hits often lead to instant deaths. If you’re a fan, you’ve already accepted the fact that backwards strikes are part of Castlevania‘s makeup. But if this is your first time through Dracula’s castle? Get ready for pain.
One can appreciate Castlevania more by putting it in context with the NES releases thus far. Simply put, in 1987, there was nothing like Castlevania on the console. Not just the gothic tone (which was far grimmer than the more lighthearted Ghouls ‘N Ghosts), but also in the size and scope of the adventure. Most of the console’s 1985 and ’86 releases were arcade ports, and short ones at that. This was to be expected. The console format had just revitalized and no developers knew what NES owners would want. In a way, Castlevania‘s release was a risk: a completely new adventure that had no arcade precedent. The gamble paid off. Castlevania was one of the NES’s earliest third-party successes and proved to developers that console gamers desired richer adventures than the arcade could offer.
But even if all that crap wasn’t true, Castlevania is still a beautiful piece of software. The inaugural entry perfected the series formula from the start: captivating environments, solid controls, ancient weapons, transcendent score, ridiculous challenge, and monsters galore. Decades later, the game remains a true whip-slinging classic.
PUBLISHER/DEVELOPER: Konami GENRE: Action
RELEASE DATE: 05/1987 – (US), 12/19/88 – (EU), 02/05/93 – (JP)
ALSO AVAILABLE ON: Amiga, ARC, C64, FDS, GBA, Mobile, MSX, NS, PC, VC (Wii, 3DS, Wii U)