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Haunted Castle (Arcade) artwork

Haunted Castle (Arcade) review

"Donít hate Haunted Castle just because there arenít any candles to whip, the sub-weapons are totally lame, and Simon has blue hair. That would be silly. No, you should hate it because itís a sadistic monster that feeds off your suffering (and pocket change)."

Donít let the title fool you, this is really a Castlevania game. A long-lost Castlevania arcade game!

Well, sort of.

I mean it *is* part of the official timeline and the main character *is* a whip-toting vampire hunter who falls through the stairs. And itís true that back in 1988 the only other games besides the original were Simonís Quest and Vampire Killer; those three have so little in common that itís not like there was an established ďCastlevaniaĒ formula for it to deviate from. But however you look at it this one kind of sucks, and Iím not talking about your blood.

That said, donít hate Haunted Castle just because there arenít any candles to whip, the sub-weapons are totally lame, and Simon has blue hair. That would be silly. No, you should hate it because itís a sadistic monster that feeds off your suffering (and pocket change).

Not only is controlling Simon a typically clunky chore, but now thereís hordes of enemies that swarm all over you Ė and thatís if youíre not playing the hard version, where touching one of them means INSTANT DEATH. Hearts are far and few in between without the ubiquitous floating candles and instead of quickly finding power-ups for the whip, you might pick up a morning star and then a broadsword (sacrilege!) in the second and third stages respectively. Whatís worse, our hero walks and whips with painful slowness, something which is apparently foreign to his many adversaries since you might (mistakenly) think that hitting one would cause it to fall back or at least STOP MOVING. As if all that werenít enough, sometimes one of the countless skeletons that you slay will suddenly transform into a ghost that shoots towards our hero with virtually no time for you to react.

At least there arenít any of those impossible jumps where you leap into a previously unseen enemy and get knocked back into a pit; in this game getting hit causes you to shoot straight up into the air, which is ridiculous-looking but thankfully non-lethal. Then again those other games had the decency to give you unlimited continues; in this one you get one life per credit and a maximum of four credits per game. Even digital nightmares like Ghosts Ďn Goblins threw you a bone in that respect; here itís as if they actually want you to walk off in disgust instead of continuing to feed the beast! Oddly enough you can actually put a whole dollar in at once to give yourself a massive health bar at the beginning, but while youíll initially survive a lot longer you wonít get any health back at the end of a stage Ė and if you do fall down a pit youíll have to start All. Over. Again. Oh, and there just happens to be one spot late in the game with four descending platforms that requires you to leap as quickly as possible if you want to reach the ledge on the other side, because theyíre sure as hell not ascending again.

Now there are certainly some cool scenes in between all the dying, like when youíre in the forest battling creatures that reach out from the trees only to have the ground suddenly ignite, forcing you to hop from platform to platform above a raging inferno. But then there are the times when youíll be innocently walking down a castle hallway only to be suddenly transported to Ancient Greece, where you slay a few harpies before being just as suddenly transported back. WTF. At least developing for the arcades freed Konami from censorship, and as such youíll get to see rotting zombies that drip blood, a bare-chested medusa (uncovered reptilian women are hot), rivers of gore, and a sweet painting that sheds a long, sticky tear.

But while Simon and company are a lot larger than the 8-bit games, theyíre drawn nothing like Castlevania characters. In fact theyíre pretty silly looking for whatís supposed to be a horror game; SCIVís visuals didnít resemble the series proper either but at least managed to look creepy instead of campy. On top of that the backgrounds are awfully static, like the crypts lined with torches that donít even flicker. Come on, even the NES could handle flickering flames!

The bosses are similarly lifeless Ė youíve got a rotating lizard thing, a rock golem that pounds you with its fist, and a chained-up Frankenstein monster that causes bricks to fall from the ceiling. Apparently Death was too embarrassed to even show up, no doubt having been instructed to float around in a circle and occasionally lob a skull at you. After crossing the longest disintegrating bridge in history youíll subsequently come face to face with the Countís giant immobile head (it spits bats at you).

At least the soundtrack is Konamiís usual excellence and includes sweet tracks like ďBloody TearsĒ and ďCross Your Heart,Ē which canít be found in any other game. And speaking of music Ė while the prospect of a Castlevania arcade game may seem tantalizing, in reality this is quite possibly the dumbest thing to hit the series except maybe the Dracula rap album.


sho's avatar
Staff review by Sho (October 03, 2006)

Sho enjoys classic video games, black comedy, and poking people until they explode -- figuratively or otherwise. He also writes a bit.

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