Castlevania (NES) review
"The name is worth a lot and you know it because it means something to you. You played it when you still had your youth, when you still loved birthday parties and still thought girls were gross. You loved Castlevania and it is as old as your love for games. Castlevania was ahead of its time; you've watched the world and the world of videogames change, and you've seen that the power of Castlevania seems to transcend these changes. "
The name is worth a lot and you know it because it means something to you. You played it when you still had your youth, when you still loved birthday parties and still thought girls were gross. You loved Castlevania and it is as old as your love for games. Castlevania was ahead of its time; you've watched the world and the world of videogames change, and you've seen that the power of Castlevania seems to transcend these changes.
Castlevania was special because you got to see what could be done with the action/adventure genre, a genre that still lacked form when this game was released. Castlevania introduced to you a story and atmosphere that you would grow to be deeply involved in and fond of. It showed you the world of vampires and those cursed to hunt them; respectively, the characters of Dracula and the Belmonts. It was a scary game, haunting and intimidating you because nothing before was so monstrous or macabre. Castlevania drew the line between good and evil, between Belmont and Dracula, and made you scared you would lose, or scared you'd succeed, only to face more evil.
You were pulled into Castlevania from the outset, where a dark garden invited you into a castle of a deathly nature. You loved controlling Simon; his demon-slaying whip as accurate as mortally possible, and his ability to take secondary weapons such as boomerangs and axes vital for survival. You'd find that whipping candles would drop these weapons, or the hearts that you'd gather and horde to allow you to use them. You'd traverse the levels, saving the hearts for only the most important needs, for as frequent as they were, being stuck without them could spell death at the hands of the more capable enemies.
You were appalled at yourself for being tepid with the game; its moody being was heavy on your consciousness as you fought your way through it and hoped each new area of the game would be a little less morbid. Castlevania was never afraid to be very sinister and gothic, as much so as the NES would let it be, and you felt consumed by it, but timid in its presence. Its zombies and bats and lifeless knights and swooping ravens startled you and took you forever to surpass with any confidence. You played Castlevania a million times, but it was a long time and a lot of work for even part of it to be easy.
Even the first level was difficult for you when you first enveloped yourself in Castlevania. This trip through a haunted and ceaselessly overrun castle entrance was your break-in period, where you'd find yourself getting familiar with Castlevania's infamous, momentum-uninterruptable jumping, and where you'd test your mettle against the game's simplest boss, the giant bat. You pressed on, and you climbed higher in the castle. You battled the medusa heads, with their wicked, insane stares and problematic flights challenging you, only to confront Medusa herself. You conquered, and pressed on.
You fought your way to the top of the castle, past the suddenly frequent ravens and you challenged mummies. You won, and then you fell downward. You spent an eternity on this fourth level, painfully abusing the game's free continues as you struggled forever with the cavernous level. You remember how hard Castlevania was, and this level is why.
Castlevania was, and will forever be, extraordinarily difficult, for you and everyone you know. You hated being stuck at certain points, leaving the power to the NES on for hours on end as you cursed and threw your controller in vicarious agony. You watched Simon Belmont die over and over and you threw your controller again. You knew if you turned the bastard game off you'd have to start from the beginning again. There were no passwords to save you and there were no codes or Game Sharks or any other tomfoolery at your aid. Castlevania was hard, and took a piece of your sanity as penance for its excellence. Its worse bosses, Death and Dracula, were almost mocking in their persistent persecution. You would die if you reached them, and you would be forced to endure more torture to again have the same masochistic privilege.
Castlevania was an ugly game, but you didn't care. It sported typical 8-bit tile constructions with a drab color selection, but that wasn't the point. The point was that it was enough to make itself representative of its theme; you saw in it, despite its visual flaws, that the game was indeed gothic and ambient, with a lot of mood supported by its soundtrack.
You listened to and subconsciously grew very fond of Castlevania's groundbreaking audile score. You were unaware of the soundtrack's impact on future games in the series that would soon spawn from this single game. You hunted and thirsted for Dracula across his domain with melodic instrumentals like ''Vampire Killer'' and the evil intentions of ''Poison Mind.'' The music enhanced your experience invaluably, and paved roads for video game songs you would come to love in the future.
You know that Castlevania games got better, too. You loved the games as they improved and retracted elements and forged a continuity and series that you would really care about. You recognize that Castlevania is old, almost archaic in relative terms, but it doesn't matter to you in this special case. As the games got better, Castlevania refused to get worse. You still love Castlevania and the game still means something intangible to you; it has held its worth through the years and you still believe it plays almost agelessly.
Featured community review by sinner (March 14, 2004)
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