Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge (Game Boy) review
"Where Castlevania: The Adventure was slow and plodding, Belmontís Revenge is fast paced by Castlevania standards, and is as much fun to play as the best the series, and is about as good as the side-scrolling adventure genre has to offer. Castlevania III and Super Castlevania IV are often considered the best games in the series, and if they are representative of the best 8-bit and 16-bit offerings respectively, then Belmontís Revenge is easily the best portable title. "
This game may be the best sequel Iíve ever played. A strong assertion to make, I know, but when one compares the excellence of Belmontís Revenge with the sheer mediocrity of its predecessor, The Adventure, the gulf between them in terms of quality validates that statement.
Where Castlevania: The Adventure was slow and plodding, Belmontís Revenge is fast paced by Castlevania standards, and is as much fun to play as the best the series, and the side-scrolling adventure genre for that matter - has to offer. Castlevania III and Super Castlevania IV are often considered the best games in the series, and if they are representative of the best 8-bit and 16-bit offerings respectively, then Belmontís Revenge is easily the best portable title. The uninspired Legends, that follows it is a huge step down, though it does not reach the middling levels of The Adventure, which is, by most accounts, one of the weakest games of the entire series.
To the unchanging story then: every 100 years, Dracula returns from the dead. And he is never alone; he brings with him his army of the dead to wreak havoc on Earthís inhabitants. A legendary line of sturdy vampire hunters known as The Belmonts, must venture forth each time the Dark Prince resurrects himself, and they must lay waste to his army, his being, and his castle.
This time, you play Christopher Belmont, with whip in hand, on a quest to not only put down Dracula, but to rescue his son Solieyu, whom Dracula has captured in an attempt to harness his considerable powers. You must guide Christopher through four differently themed, instantly accessible castles; Plant, Cloud, Crystal and Rock Castle, before gaining admission to Draculaís lair and the final three levels that await you there. Itís a nice touch to be able to play any of the first four levels right from the get-go, as it allows for practice and variety when youíve just begun. Predictably, the enemies stay true to the themes of their levels. For instance, the Cloud Castle boss uses the power of lightning from the clouds to attack you. All of the other bosses are similarly suitable, and they are all challenging and fun to play against.
The game features the best difficulty curve in the series. Itís easy to get into (due in no small part to the selectable first four levels) and becomes gradually more and more difficult, but never unfair. There is always meat for health replenishment to uncover by breaking through walls, hidden rooms that can be discovered by climbing up ropes through ceilings, and unlike the first game for the Game Boy, Belmontís Revenge includes the auxiliary weapons, a Castlevania staple. Besides your trusty whip then - which can be upgraded to a morningstar and then to a flame whip - youíve got the axe and holy water weapons to hurl at your opponents. As always, these secondary weapons are powered by hearts, which you can uncover and collect by whipping candles. This is a major improvement over The Adventure, where these weapons were omitted completely. Another such advancement is the password feature. This game is about twice as long as the first, so being able to pick up more or less from where you left off is a welcome addition.
The graphics are much clearer and crisper than not only its predecessor, but most GameBoy games before the advent of colour. Everything is easy to see, and well shaded on the small screen, fully utilizing the systemís potential. The music is even more impressive, as the score is more memorable than those of some of its console counterparts. Konami really outdid itself in this department, creating an all new score, (no rehashes here!) that is instantly recognizable as Castlevania and as quality.
Castlevania II: Belmontís Revenge is a great platform adventure game, more than worthy of carrying the Castlevania mantle. You will be hard pressed to find a better adventure on the system. If there's a flaw, it might be that itís slightly easy. But itís an absolute blast to play, especially on long trips, and that alone, makes it an essential part of any portable playerís game library.
Staff review by Marc Golding (December 10, 2003)
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