Sweet, sweet crimson nectar! The original Castlevania made vampire- and zombie-slaying a family event on the NES back in 1987. I remember at a young age slaying all that is evil for hours on end with whips and holy water, laughing as zombies died at my feet. Shortly after this, I began slamming my controller thanks, in part, to those bastard Medusa heads knocking me into every hole possible. Still, though, the difficulty of this game makes you strive to be a better gamer and really appreciate platform gaming. Plus, if not for this classic, we wouldn’t have been blessed with Symphony of the Night. Mmmmmm.
Castlevania has us leading our memorable hero, Simon Belmont, straight into Dracula’s castle in an attempt to stop a neverending war between Dracula and the Belmonts in 1691. Every 100 years, Dracula’s castle appears out of nowhere to bring the pain to lovely and poverty-ridden Transylvania, with the Belmont family tree answering their cries to smite the wicked. Armed with his trusty whip “Vampire Killer”, Simon must battle zombies, bats, sea creatures, suits of armor, and jittery skeletons, and he even comes face-to-face with Death himself.
During his adventure, Simon can also equip a variety of sub-weapons, such as holy water, boomerangs, axes, throwing knives, and a stopwatch that stops time for a few seconds. Each sub-weapon uses a certain number of hearts, which are collected by killing enemies, smashing walls, and breaking floating candlesticks, and Simon can restore his life by finding food in the same fashion. Nothing heals better than a dirty, cooked, 100-year-old turkey found behind some old bricks in Dracula’s castle! MMMMM!
The game follows the standard platforming rules of the ’80s, with a basic two-dimensional left-to-right concept, collecting objects and defeating enemies while jumping over neverending holes in the floor, only to reach the boss at the end and discover its fighting pattern. Controls were pretty basic at this point in gaming history, so nothing is too difficult. The D-pad controls Sir Belmontius from left to right, and allows him to crouch by hitting Down, while the B button attacks and the A button jumps. To use the sub-weapons, you simply have to hit the attack button and Up on the D-pad at the same time. See? Simple.
The soundtrack to Castlevania is, in my opinion, one of the most memorable works ever created. Everything from the introduction to the map screen to the first time you arrive at Dracula’s castle weasels its way into your gaming brain as if surgically implanted there by the government. You’ll be humming along while you slay the undead in no time!
Overall, the original Castlevania is a prime example of how to effectively create a platform game. It has a very balanced difficulty level, a slew of enemies to destroy, a sweet variety of sub-weapons, and an amazing soundtrack to guide you along. It also does a great job creating a silent protagonist that is very likable, albeit without any storyline being told throughout the game.
If you have a NES or a GBA, pick up the original Castlevania. It’ll piss you off to no end, but in the end, it feels totally rewarding. Also, if you could kick a couple of those Medusa heads’ asses for me, I’d appreciate it… I hate those things.