Haunted Castle (Arcade) review
"When people think of terrible Castlevania games, the usual suspects are Castlevania: The Adventure for the GameBoy and Castlevania 64 for the Nintendo 64, but hidden deep in this mostly proud lineage is that drunken uncle who hasn't had a job in thirty years and shows up to family parties only to wreck them. Unlike Vs. Castlevania, which was just a minor tweak of the NES version, Konami's Haunted Castle is a completely original entry into the arcade, which, fortunately, has never turned up elsew..."
When people think of terrible Castlevania games, the usual suspects are Castlevania: The Adventure for the GameBoy and Castlevania 64 for the Nintendo 64, but hidden deep in this mostly proud lineage is that drunken uncle who hasn't had a job in thirty years and shows up to family parties only to wreck them. Unlike Vs. Castlevania, which was just a minor tweak of the NES version, Konami's Haunted Castle is a completely original entry into the arcade, which, fortunately, has never turned up elsewhere.
This time around, some Belmont, presumably Simon, has just tied the knot when that mischievous Dracula swoops down and steals his bride. I have no idea how this family is able to reproduce under these conditions. Maybe this explains Alucard.
Haunted Castle offers the same type of side scrolling adventure as the first entry on the NES but with a shotgun blast of improved graphics and sound. At first things seem great; taking advantage of state of the art arcade technology, Haunted Castle is the first Castlevania which successfully captures the Gothic mood for which the series is now so famous. The first stage has you walk through an ancient graveyard, replete with frightening skeletons and creepy zombies. Around you tombstones crumble and weather and daylight change. In the distance you'll see majestic mountains and regal structures. Next you'll enter a cave with beautiful waterfalls and hideous rock lizards. Future stages feature the now famous banquet room, clock tower, and crumbling bridge locales. Haunted Castle looks fantastic.
Additionally, Haunted Castle treats you to Konami's usual excellent soundtrack but this time through a superior audio processor, and digital effects abound. Belmont blurts out a painful grunt when hit, when attacking his whip makes a sharp cracking noise, zombies groan in anguish, and bats squeak.
Lost in the splendor, however, is the sanity of a great game. Belmont can take a mere two hits from most enemies and has only one life. Enemies have a tendency to spring up right where you are, and this Belmont is far too lethargic to get out of the way in time. His damage zone extends far beyond his person. This Belmont is soft, weak, and useless.
The challenges of Hunted Castle aren't even fair. All of the sudden, something jumps out of a tree and kills you. Hey, look, that tombstone suddenly crumbled and the debris fell on your foot, killing you. Whoops, the ground suddenly decided to break out in flames, killing you. What's this? The wall ahead spontaneously decided to break apart, but instead of falling down the bricks fly at your face. Killing you. It's comical until you realize you just spent two bucks on this nightmare and you haven't even reached the boss of the first stage. In addition to having only one quickly spent life, Konami gives you just three continues. There's nothing like blowing a dollar only to be kicked out to the title screen.
Mysteriously missing are the powerup yielding candles present in the NES adventure. Hearts for special weapon use can only be received from some enemies; unlike reaching the end of the stage with seventy hearts in reserve as per the NES adventure, you'll have a mere fifteen or so here. But that's okay because special weapons are even rarer than the hearts, and if you do get them you'll quickly discover they are useless since they are nothing like Castlevania's standard set. Boomerangs which don't return and bombs which fizzle out like fire crackers are the best the game can come up with, and making a return is that stop watch no one likes. I've heard rumors of whip upgrades and even a sword but have never seen any. It takes about four hits with the default leather whip to kill anything.
Strangely enough, all this is on ''normal'' mode. Included are ''harder'' and ''hardest'' difficulty and ''bigger'' and ''biggest'' damage. What sadistic programmer thought of this? At least there's an ''easy'' mode and ''small'' damage, but don't let the names fool you; they don't help matters much so don't bother bugging the arcade manager.
I think Konami got too many ideas from Capcom's Ghosts and Goblins. It's the same generic villain swooping down and stealing your damsel, the same starting in the graveyard deal, and the same two hits and you die business. Except Haunted Castle is frustratingly unplayable; at least Arthur could run significantly faster than his enemies and kill them from afar.
Some people are so ashamed of this game they try to claim it is not Castlevania based on the title. In Japan, Castlevania is known as Akumajo Dracula, which translates into something like Haunted Castle Dracula, so, ironically, Haunted Castle is the only one which gets it right.
Had Konami given you more lives, allowed you to take more hits, and set up more checkpoints so you don't have to backtrack so much, Haunted Castle would be an extremely enjoyable game, right on par with most other entries. Instead, Haunted Castle is depressingly terrible. It taunts you with its riches and stabs you in the face when you show to claim them. If you can actually find it, Haunted Castle is definitely worth a few quarters just to experience the only true Castlevania arcade experience, but don't feel like you're missing anything when you quickly become frustrated.
Community review by whelkman (May 26, 2008)
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