Every hundred years, the dark vampire known as Dracula resurrects and terrorizes the land. A vampire hunter named Simon Belmont bravely ventures into the Count's mansion in order to defeat him. Along the way he'll have to defeat skeletons, bats, fishmen, medusa heads and other evil creatures.
Castlevania is a side-scrolling platform action game. The player takes the role of Simon Belmont, who is able to jump and crack his whip directly in front of him. Power-ups can be obtained by defeating enemies or by whipping candles that appear in the castle. One such power-up increases the power and length of Simon's whip. Different weapons can be gathered which consume hearts when used, these hearts can also be collected from monsters and candles. Additionally, some walls will hide secrets such as the health-restorative turkey or the Double and Triple shot abilities for the weapons Simon has collected. At the end of each section of the castle is a boss, which must be defeated. Progression through the castle eventually leads to a confrontation with Count Dracula himself.
I must say that when applying to write the review I was somewhat bit curious about how would the game be like. I was not disappointed, but neither was I impressed. Let me explain...
I knew that Castlevania 1 was the only part of the popular Castlevania series that was released for PC computers (the series now consists of twenty-odd titles, if I am right, and the producers don't seem to be considering any slowdown).
First the graphics. Considering that they are in 16-color, not too bad. I've definitely seen worse. They are detailed enough to give a good idea on what are the items displayed too, which is good, but in some cases the colors are so much unnatural that it is ridiculous (see purple ghosts, for example; this however was a common practice back in the days...).
However, the music and sounds are simply horrible. Originally intended for PC speakers, the background theme consists of a multitude of beeps and buzzes, and when combined with the sounds generated when the player's character is hurt or collects an item, is is definitely unberarable as a whole. After 15 minutes of beeping torment, I had to disable the speaker emulation.
As a player, you control a vampire hunter (or at least it seems so), who ventures into some old castle to defeat the vampire who lives there, fighting various creepy enemies on the way.
Game consists of six levels, which in turn are separates into three "stages" each. Unfortunately, Konami were not too consequent while doing the split, and therefore in some cases a stage might be only one screen long, while in others it might be more like one... dozen. When you load the game, you are returned to the beginning of the last stage entered (at least most of the time - as with the length of the stages, also here Konami weren't too consequent, in some longer stages there is more then one "return point"), so be careful where you save!
Each level has its own unique style and "feel", completely different from the rest, and on several of them you will encounter unique traps, which altough not really demanding, need a bit of thought to get through.
Initial weapon is a whip, whose reach can be increased by finding certain powerups. These (and many others too) can be found by smashing the candles littering the castle here and there, as well as some of the blocks. Later you find additional items (not all of which are weapons in the normal sort of way) - holy water (acts like grenades), time-warp artifact (freezes all the monsters and moving blocks for a period), crucifix (old good bomb-style powerup that destroys every visible enemy) and several others. The fact that when you find another one, you pick it up and the old one is lost can be quite annoying sometimes. Other powerups include money bags (increase your score), hearts (provide "charges" to use special items) and food (easy - health powerup). Pretty much standard.
The enemies are weak at first, but later you will encounter more (and tougher) ones, and naturally on the end of each level there is a BBB (Big-Bad-Boss) waiting for you. Bosses also become subsequently harder, with each being completely unique from the rest, beginning with the giant bat on level one to DEATH INCARNATE (literally) on level five to the final boss, the vampire on level 6. If you somehow beaten Death and think he was hard, then wait till you get to vampire... the thing is nearly invincible (you CAN defeat it, I did, but it's really hard). There is a large variety of other foes on your way, but once more, nothing far from the platform genre standard here. There are some that fly, some that shoot, some that regenerate after being killed and so on.
Despite the initial impression of low difficulty, the game is in fact pretty hard, with levels sometimes taking a lot of time and attempts to complete. And it only gets harder on next levels.
The enemies can hurt you a lot, and health powerups are scarce, not to mention that they are hidden as well. Fortunately, the ubiquitous save-load technique helps somewhat.
The keyboard controls are awkward somewhat and might take time to get familiar with. Maybe joystick users will find it easier, but I cannot confirm that as in the ten years of my computer experience I never bothered to obtain one.
Altough it might seem from my review that the game has quite a few flaws, it is in fact highly addictive, keeping you stuck in front of the screen until you finish it (not an easy task, takes about 6 hours of constant gameplay). If you don't mind archaic graphics, give Castlevania a go and you won't be disappointed.
Overall pluses: -Good graphics (for 16 color palette, at least) -Variety of monsters and traps -Interesting bosses -Varied special items -Varied levels, each different from the others -Has this "something" that attracts the player
Overall minuses: -Horrible sounds -Controls take some time to get used to -High difficulty, sometimes bordering on insane
My rating: 3 The game has some positives and negatives. As both sides are pretty much equal, it is pretty impossible to increase or decrease it. Not a game of the year, but might still give you a lot of fun if you like platform genre.
People who downloaded Castlevania have also downloaded:
Castlevania Haunted Castle 3, Konami Collector's Series: Castlevania & Contra, Dracula's Shadow (a.k.a. Castlevania 2: Simon's Quest), Castlevania, Castle Wolfenstein, Contra, Aladdin, Blood 2: The Chosen
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