"I thoroughly enjoy this terrific franchise, and I look forward to each release with newfound excitement. When I first saw screenshots for The Adventure, I fought an urge to immediately conclude that the game would be a winner. It looked good, its lack of colour notwithstanding. And certainly sound and gameplay quality was never a problem for Konami's 2-D, whip-toting heroes of Gothic tradition. Until now. "
Meet a handicapped Belmont. You haven't met him before playing this game, I assure you. His name is Christopher. He moves extra slowly, languidly, as if weighed down by an enormous burden. The burden might perhaps be his role in spearheading the GameBoy's very first taste of Castlevania - certainly a hefty responsibility. But that's no excuse.
I thoroughly enjoy this terrific franchise, and I look forward to each release with newfound excitement. When I first saw screenshots for The Adventure, I fought an urge to immediately conclude that the game would be a winner. It looked good, its lack of colour notwithstanding. And certainly sound and gameplay quality was never a problem for Konami's 2-D, whip-toting heroes of Gothic tradition. Until now.
The Adventure features music and sound reminiscent of other games in the series, but they've only managed to sound the notes, while losing the music, as it were. The tunes are spookily depressing, but depressing to the point of draining much of the inspiration from the player.
What little inspiration remains is quickly sucked away like fat in a vacuum by the tedious, frustrating gameplay. Move your character from left to right - and occasionally leftward or upward - while wielding a whip that rends the darkness and denizens of the dark alike. Power it up, and it will fire balls of flame at your undead enemies. Though you won't find any auxiliary weapons (gasp! No Holy Water, Boomerangs, Stopwatches? Heresy.), most of the essential Castlevania staples are intact.
Now, to that tedium. As previously mentioned, Christopher moves much too slowly. He is surely a geriatric ward resident, called out of bed by Dracula's centennially arriving threat of doom and dark to all (as a descendent of the mighty Simon, he likely had no choice in the matter). Stairs are replaced by ropes in this edition, allowing for vertical navigation of the various platforms and screens. The rope climbing is an adequate fix to what is most likely a technical shortcoming of the GameBoy - it's no fault of the programmers. But it takes a bit more away from an already crumbling Castlevania experience.
The difficulty is very high, which is typical of the Dracula-killer games. But with only four (yes, four) levels to entertain(?) you, it is easily noticeable that the difficulty and replay value comes from the repetition-induced frustration. Die, time and time again, struggling to come to grips with a character who controls much, much slower than he should, and whose jumps are imprecise in the face of the need for precision. Programmers' Tip: if you're going to make a game hard, give the player a fighting chance.
Expect Castlevania: The Adventure to be a fairly competent side-scrolling game. Expect to be challenged with difficult (jumping, always jumping) sequences (like level 3's rising spikes room, and chasing spikes room). Expect some familiar faces, like Dracula of course, who performs his usual multiple personality act to round out the hair-tearing. A brilliant ending song and dance, decent music in parts, and sweating thumbs cap off the list of positives.
Konami's first frightening foray on the GameBoy will be an adventure alright: filled with cursing at the lack of levels, and the relentless difficulty, exacerbated by the poor control. It's not the adventure. Not by a long stretch.
Staff review by Marc Golding (December 10, 2003)
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