Well, how do you do? It’s after hours on the Train; it’s been a pain getting passengers, no thanks to those dog forbid ghouls roaming around and the blood red glow of a full moon. Indeed, Halloween has come again! If you’ve met me in the real world before you will know that I’m not much of a gamer, well… at all really. But that doesn’t mean my relationship with video games is completely nonexistent; case in point, the Castlevania series. It is able to crawl into my conscious fervently because it’s such a brilliant concept for a game like this. So, let’s get this show on the road as we go over why I hold a special appreciation for Castlevania.
The first venture into Castlevania to slay the infamous Dracula was released originally in 1986 by Konami, before being adapted for the Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES, a year after. You play as Simon Belmont, a member of his family’s buisness of keeping vampires and the supernatural in check. The plot henceforth is arguably quite basic, to roam around the castle’s catacombs and wings hunting Dracula, fighting off many monsters as you go along. Now, before reaching the big boss, there are various other minor bosses you must defeat in order to continue, and some of them are just awesome as the vampire himself! The team take a bit of Greek mythology and implements a Medusa head a la Clash of the Titans, a Frankenstein inspired directly from the iconic James Whale films; the Grim Reaper makes a worthy opponent as well! That was an unique touch I always loved, that even Death himself heeds Dracula’s bidding.
Along my thoughts on this game, I cannot help but agree with the general consensus. The score and graphics are stunning, especially for an early NES addition. It was so fun and, again, creative for its time. Also, the cartridge artwork is marvelous. I mean, what a way to sell the game! But what does bother me to no end is the end credits. Just… here watch for yourselves.
Imagine you worked hard on this groundbreaking game, putting in all the sweat, tears, and strength you could gather. And then, in the credits, your name has been twisted into a spectacularly stupid pun. Oh Konami, you and your terrible sense of humor. I mean, Vran Stoker? Christopher Bee and James Banana and Trans Fisher? These are supposed to be nice little homages to horror icons, such as Belo Lugosi and Terrence Fisher, but c’mon Konami! I wake up in a fright just thinking about it… Eugh, ‘Trans Fisher’.
Don’t go anywhere, we’re watching….
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Following the success of the original Castlevania, a sequel called Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest came suit a few years later from the same people. Even though the gameplay is miraculously flawed, Simon’s Quest still has a lot of repeatability and retains that Castlevania charm. The visuals and music once again are on par with the first, but as we get in deeper through the tunnels, its true issues take center stage.
Although it left it’s stamp on video game history, major problems litter the experience. Before that though, the premise is similar in that Simon Belmont must yield Dracula’s wrath. Since you’ve slayed Dracula in the original, his five body parts have spread out across different mansions, and you have to collect them all. More Pokemon then Castlevania, really. The main issue is the text, which constantly interrupts the game. From legitimate spelling errors to flat out lies, they serve little to no purpose, besides annoying you that is. I appreciate the newly added role-playing format and elements that Konami integrated, but in those games clues were rather valuable. In Simon’s Quest, they’re just too cryptic for a kid to even figure out.
This can be easily considered a Nintendo Power game, as it is so challenging to decipher. Nintendo Power was a magazine that promoted and provided tips and codes for, you guessed it, NES cartridges. As mentioned, there are a cyclone of additional problems such as the day-and-night cycle, hearts being currency, and the weak bosses. However, those are all things I prefer not to go to in depth into because we still have a whole installment to wrap things up with, Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse!
Released in 1989, Dracula’s Curse returned the series back to its roots. It instead focuses on Trevor Belmont, a relative of the one and only Simon Belmont, who is on journey to once more kill the vampire lord. In fact, that makes this entry a prequel! Yes, Castlevania III goes back to the basics of the first adventure, but what fresh ingredients are tossed in here? The first notable deviation is the crossroads every so often where Trevor may choose which path to take. The second is a first for Castlevania; the option to play as a side protagonist, each with a special ability. Accompanying Belmont in his goal to defeat Dracula are Sypha, who has sorceress powers, Grant, a pirate who can climb across walls and the ceiling, and lastly Alucard, Dracula’s son whom can fly about as a bat. Fun fact of tonight; Alucard is surprisingly “Dracula” backwards, and the character first originated from the 1943 film Son of Dracula directed by Robert Siodmak, 3 years before his breakthrough on The Killers.
Text? Gone. Lame Boss Battles? Not a trace. Day-to-Night? Nadda. Many folks, including Castlevania’s sole creator and myself, consider Dracula’s Curse as the masterpiece of the series. It both balances remaining loyal to the classic, as well as mix in excellent new features that elevate the gameplay. If you happen to own a retro NES or plan to, Dracula’s Curse is most certainly one to collect, pop in, and have a fun time. And with that, we conclude the Castlevania trilogy on the NES. Perhaps one day we can return to the series and cover the remaining games. Thank you for taking a ride on the Train and see you next week as we continue our Octerror marathon! Mwahahaha!
PASSENGERS WHO PUNCHED A TICKET
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OCTERROR WILL HAVE ITS REVENGE…