Retro Gaming Bytes: Castlevania (NES) Review
A Review by Jesse Baker
Released in the United States in 1987, Konami’s “Castlevania” would be part of a second wave of Nintendo games for the NES game system and arguably the crown jewel of Konami’s initial offerings to the video game system. The game would launch a massive franchise of over a dozen games as well as providing the definitive video game version of the public domain villain known as Dracula. And the character of Simon Belmont would go on to become one of the most iconic video game heroes of the 8-Bit era.
Castlevania takes the legend of Dracula and spins upon it, a world of horror monsters and vampire killers who wield whips to slay the monsters they fight. From a visual standpoint, Castlevania is a major turning point for visuals as Konami creates a haunting, horrific world in the form of the titular “Castlevania”; the in-universe home and seat of power for the monstrous lord of the vampires. Though not a traditional “cinematic game”, the lush visuals push the boundaries graphically of the NES and immerses players into the setting with it’s highly detailed backgrounds and villain sprites.
The plot for “Castlevania” is simple, but direct. Simon Belmont, a legendary vampire hunter, storms Dracula’s sprawling castle to kill Dracula and free Transylvania from his evil tyranny. Six stages await the player, as Simon must fight from the entrance gate of the castle to Dracula’s clock tower inner sanctum.
Along the way, Simon will fight a “who’s who” of monsters: zombies, bats, giant vampire bats, hunchbacks, skeletons, flying medusa heads small and large, armored ax wielding armored knights, Frankenstein’s Monster, two giant sized mummies, and the Grim Reaper himself.
To help Simon in his quest, the game gives the hero multiple weapons to compliment his whip in battle: a stopwatch that can stop time, a battle ax, a cross shaped boomerang, holy water, and a dagger.
Though the first couple of levels can be seen as easy, the second half of the game ups the difficulty considerably. With sixteen health bars, villains in the second half of the game can deal four hits of damage per attack; meaning that a character can die in four blows. Furthermore, the later difficulty of the bosses are among the most notorious of all Nintendo games of the era: in particular, the battle with the Grim Reaper is considered by many to be one if not THE most difficult battles in NES history. And while Castlevania gives you unlimited continues, the game has no password feature; meaning it must be beaten in a single setting.
Castlevania would be a huge hit for Konami and spawning one of their very first gaming franchises.