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Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse (NES) artwork

Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse (NES) review

"Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse is consistently great from start to finish. Each level begins with malevolent surroundings and devious music for a chilling atmosphere. It sends you through a gauntlet of challenging scenarios and against horrific creatures, building for a grand conclusion in a fearsome clash. Castlevania III is a fitting finale to a memorable trilogy, and easily the apex of the three."

After inserting Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse and hitting the power button, the hair on the back of my neck rose to a full stand. Triumphant music boomed from my television's speakers, the screen took on the appearance of celluloid, and Dracula's behemoth castle came into view. Lightning crashed, the title appeared, and the music built to epic proportions. I'm pretty sure I wet myself somewhere in the interim, but that didn't stop me from hitting the start button.

Amidst a pile of rubble sat a giant cross with a robed figure crouched beneath it, likely praying for protection and victory. More lightning crashed, the figure rose to his feet and cast his cape aside, and we see the face of the one of the original vampire killer Trevor C. Belmont. Never before did I feel more pumped to whip zombies to bits and crush evil than at this point. Castlevania III's intro didn't set you up for disappointment. It promises epic gameplay, and it delivers.

Surrounding Trevor are the classic candles that were absent in Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, still holding the essence of his survival. Lashing a candle nets you whip upgrades, increasing the whip's strength and length. Destroy more candles and you'll find subweapons--knives, axes, holy water--that add a strategic advantage to battle. Throwing an axe can take out hard to reach fiends as it hurdles in an upward arc, and tossing holy water will generate a small flame perfect for immolating evil ground troops. Using these handy devices isn't free, and will cost you disembodied hearts also found in candles.

Casltevania III wastes no time in turning up the challenge while providing the finest in dark scenery. The first stage, a Transylvanian town in shambles, is a breeze, but following stages thrust you into rough predicaments that require platforming skill and timing. Konami put forth a strong effort in crafting brilliant levels with inventive scenarios. They'll send you up a clock tower, leaping onto moving gears while floating medusa heads threaten to knock you back. Time your attacks just right and they won't be an issue, but lag on the lash and you'll find yourself descending back down the tower. You'll scour a ghostly galleon, battling headless undead pirates while minding the rotting floorboards beneath you. You'll ride rapids and battle evil spirits, timing your jumps precisely so you don't fall off the screen as the water pushes you forward.

However, Castlevania III differs from its older brothers in that it's far less frustrating. This isn't to say that there aren't cheap moments, like nasty crows hitting you backward and into pits or tricky platform jumps that require nanosecond precision. They're present, but they're far less frequent than before.

Overloading gamers with all fifteen levels would be overkill. Instead, Konami decided to provide alternate routes for you to explore and experiment with. Even if you finish Castlevania III, you still haven't completed the experience. Alternate routes will take you to temples infested with undead dragons, murky marshes inhabited by monstrous toads, and sinister caves with falling bricks. Along the way, you'll meet and recruit extra characters with different abilities. Join up with Grant DaNasty to climb walls, Sypha Belnades to cast powerful magic spells, or Dracula's son Alucard who sports projectile attacks and the ability to transform into a bat.

Each level, each scene paints a grisly picture not only with environments and backgrounds, but with a killer soundtrack. Every note of the background music fits the levels perfectly--from the mysterious and malevolent tones of the ghost ship stage to the panic- and desperation-inducing final stage's BGM. Even the victory fanfare that plays upon completing a stage will send a tremble down your spine, filling the air with a properly triumphant flair.

Levels end with a smashing finale--a boss battle against a member of Castlevania's horrific rogues gallery. It's always exciting to advance from one level to the next in a Castlevania title just to see fresh hideous faces and devils we know reimagined in newer and more horrifying ways. Classic beasties like Frankenstein's Monster, Medusa, and the twin mummies return. There's even an incredibly difficult two-part battle against Dracula's right-hand man Death, still nailing you with materializing, flying sickles. Hell's gates have also opened for some original fiends. If you want to recruit Sypha, you'll have to go toe-to-toe with a hammer-wielding cyclops. Cruise the entrance to Dracula's castle and you'll run afoul of two fire-breathing water serpents. Emerging from a massive coffin later on is a demonic winged titan named Leviathan, and he's every bit as nasty as he sounds.

Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse is consistently great from start to finish. Each level begins with malevolent surroundings and devious music for a chilling atmosphere. It sends you through a gauntlet of challenging scenarios and against horrific creatures, building for a grand conclusion in a fearsome clash. Castlevania III is a fitting finale to a memorable trilogy, and easily the apex of the three.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (October 23, 2011)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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SamildanachEmrys posted October 24, 2011:

Well reviewed. When you break it down like that, Castlevania 3 really does have very few weak points. Had I been reviewing it, I would have gone into some of the frustrations (fixed jumping, for instance) but you cover that by saying it's less frustrating than the previous games (I've barely played them so I wouldn't know, but I'll take your word for it). Not the way I'd have done it, but putting Dracula's Curse in the context of its series works.
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JoeTheDestroyer posted October 24, 2011:

Thank you, Sam. I've come to appreciate this game more over the years. I originally reviewed it at 8/10 at GameFAQs, but having played it recently I found I liked it that much more. It's one of the few games I would say aged better than expected. But yeah, it's definitely not a 10 for everyone.

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