Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Castlevania (1986)

With Halo: Reach just recently being released, one of my friends just called me crazy for wanting to play "some old game" when I could be playing one of the best games ever. I then went on to tell him that these older games, though they can be challenging and extremely frustrating some a lot of the time, also are a lot of fun. He called me crazy again and went back to Halo, but I know I'll be able to convince him one of these days.

So this "some old game" that you guys voted for me to play is Castlevania for the NES. I had heard a lot about Castlevania games before playing, but I have never actually played any of them. Before actually starting, I knew that your weapon of choice is a... whip. Why would anyone choose a whip? Anyways, you're using your whip to fight your way through levels of monsters until you get to the Count. After reading the manual, I was actually pretty excited to face all the classic horror monsters like Frankenstein and Medusa. I honestly was not expecting to get much further than Frankenstein based on the average difficulty of these games, yet strangely I didn't care ( probably because I just looked at Battletoads and I knew games could only get nicer to me from there).

I didn't even notice this was the first boss until I beat him

Game Commentary: At the beginning of the game, I must admit that I was a little surprised. The whip mechanics were really fun to play with, and the beginning of the game was easy enough for you to get the feel of the controls before doing anything seriously challenging. After I had beating the Phantom Bat, I was already loving this game.

But what seems to be a trend already, what I found myself thinking quickly turned on me and I found myself yelling in rage. This time it was not the enemies, not the unfairness of the game, but the jumping mechanics. It sort of baffles me that a game that focuses on platforming as much as Castlevania does, can have such awful jumping mechanics. It is designed so that you often have to jump at the last second to make it to the next platform, and when you make it you have a high chance of just geting knocked right off by incoming enemies (screw you floating Medusas!) I found myself falling down holes well over 50 times solely on the tunnel (10th stage).
Here I am just before being knocked to my death by a
floating Medusa head

On a tangent, this dying thing does bring up something that I really, really enjoyed in this game; when you die, there is an option to Continue. I was expecting to have to start the whole game over, but I was delightfully surprised when I found out that you only start the level over. You also never run out of continues, so it helps facilitate game progression and not make you memorize levels (that is, until later in the game). This is new to my gaming experience on the NES, and I certainly welcomed it.

So as I was going through this game, I was noticing that getting to the bosses became extremely difficult to do without losing most of my health (leaving me out of luck for the actual boss fights). I kept thinking to myself, these mummies are ridiculous, they can't make it a whole lot harder than these guys. Then I end up having to deal with Frankenstein and Igor and a controller was almost thrown. By the time I had gotten to the Grim Reaper, I couldn't bring myself to try and beat him.

I'm pretty sure this constitutes rape :(
What I Loved: I really enjoyed this game. I loved the setting, the story, the music, the atmosphere, the vast array of bad guys... all of it. I especially enjoyed the fighting mechanics, more specifically the incorporation of several "alternative weapons" and how that played into my strategies. There were only a couple that I felt were complete wastes of hearts. I would frequently find myself picking up different weapons solely to find out how to maximize their bad-guy-slaying abilities. The "Continue at the beginning of the level" part was very, very nice to have and is the only reason I made it anywhere near the Grim Reaper in the first place. The large variety of enemies was very nice as well, but the Medusas simply needed to be removed from the game.
These hunchbacks were almost as bad as the Medusas

What I Hated: The jumping mechanics of this game were terrible. When you find yourself on a moving platform, hope that you won't have to jump for some reason (ex. a bat flying at you like the beginning of stage 10) or else you'll end up in the holes. Also, I just hated the Medusa's with a passion. These floating heads were nearly impossible for me to hit, yet they always managed to hit me off the edge.

General Impression: This game was really entertaining. Though it had it's problems, and certainly ended up filling the requirements of "Nintendo Hard," it was a very enjoyable game to play. The best part I would say is the combat. I can see why the guys at Konami chose Castlevania as their main game series. With a nice combination of whipping monsters and using a wide variety of other weapons, it is something that would have definitely been on of my favorite childhood games had I been born 10 years earlier.


Tejas said...

Nice site on games.
Thanks i was waiting for something like this.
this is very interesting.
Welcome to Cofeeinpot!!

Billy Apathy said...

The first Castlevania was a staple of gaming for me growing up, but I played Castlevania 2 and 3 more. I'd recommend upgrading to those as it gets a lot more interesting and less "trying to get the jumps right". Castlevania 2 I believe has more searching and wandering mechanics rather than pure side scrolling.

Here's a list of games I'd recommend that I enjoyed as a kid growing up:

1. Megaman (This is the hardest game you will ever play, the further you go up in the series the easier it becomes and the more enjoyable. It's a must play)
2. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (This one is based off that Kevin Costner flick that you probably never saw, but it's a great NES game)
3. NARC (This is so friggin hard after awhile but it's so so so fun!)
4. Off-Road (This isn't too hard, just lots of fun)
5. Blades of Steel (Addicting hockey game. You can get into fights and everything. Totally sweet)
6. Duck Tales, Dark Wing Duck, Chip N'Dales (These three were like staples side scrolling cartoonish games of my childhood. Though they were also cartoons that I watched growing up so you might just think they are retarded)
7. Little Nemo: Dream Master (This is another incredibly difficult game. Or so I remember when I was a kid. It might be easy if I played it now. Not sure.)
8. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1-3 (They are all great, but the 2nd one stands out as one of the best.)

Okay, I've gotten carried away. And could go on forever.

This blog is awesome. Keep playing!

Ken Oh said...

Yeah, despite my griping on other posts, this review is spot on: the jumping in CV is frustrating.

Stanislav said...


-Freshman said...

great blog, following you

Joseph Luster said...

I grew up with Castlevania, but I actually didn't beat the game until earlier this year! It's definitely challenging, but man, it felt great to finally take down Dracula.

PROTIP: Holy water is your friend.

Thomas G. Bombadil said...

In order for me to play a game that was older than me, I had to really reach. Nethack. Nethack was/is a "roguelike" game. Essentially, roguelikes are dungeon crawler games with randomly (also called procedurally) generated levels. The goal of the game is to clear each level of the dungeon, picking up weapons, potions, food, scrolls, and pretty much anything else you can think of. Standing in your way are goblins, bats, rats, and countless other creatures. Not sure if you've already dabbled in that area yet, but once you get passed the ascii graphics, the game is VERY rewarding. I think I'm going to write up a blog regarding Nethack (maybe roguelikes in general). Anyways, hopefully this won't be taken as spam:

Frank Sands said...

This game has made such an impression on me that I still remember the music.

Road Trips from the dashboard of Erin and Sara said...

I would have to agree with Billy and say you should definitely go with Duck Tales and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!
~Keep Blogging

Orin said...

I like the site! I grew up playing many of these games and it is cool to read about your experiences with them.

Nay said...

I loved this game!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Jeremy said...

LOVE that you went with Castlevania. A great classic from the days of yore.

If I can comment on something I've seen a few times in the comments section - Mega Man 1 isn't as impossible as it's reputation. In my opinion, Castlevania, Ninja Gaiden, etc. are much harder, so don't be dissuaded from giving the Mega Man series a whirl in chronological order. Don't misunderstand, though - Mega Man 1 IS hard, just not ungodly difficult.

One other thing - thanks for having the courage to actually give these "fogie" games a chance, unlike most modern gamers. Keep up the good work.

Emmy said...

I'm going to have to check this game out now! It sounds really awesome :)

Melanie said...

My brother played this when I was a kid! Memories!~

HiTower92 said...


KinectYourXBox said...

Ahhh so many memories!

Nona said...

GREAT blog!!

I totally nostalgia'd

melinoe said...

I've seen my friends playing this, it looks fun. I suck at video games though :<

raj said...

this looks like one of the games that i played in my laptop while i was waiting to leave kuwait (stock for 2 weeks) for iraq.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in the golden age of video games, so I have an appreciation for this medium that new gamers simply lack. It is therefore refreshing to see a younger gamer check out older titles without saying spoiled things like: "Dude, the graphics suck!"

Please, by all means continue this blog! I also hope you will include a lot more games of the second (Atari, Colecovision, etc.) and fourth (PC Engine/Turbografx, Genesis, SNES) generations as well! A few 80s and 90s arcade classics would be cool, too!

DalaHorse said...

My kids had every Atari game known to man...then improved systems came out and the atari went into the basement. It finally made it's way to a charity donation shop. Back in the early 80"s if you had a high score(they determined) on some of the games you could photo the tv screen and send the picture in to the game maker and they'd mail you a patch...badge of honor.They were really nice embroidered patches.We had a binder with a bunch of might be in storage...not quite sure what happened to them. The one patch that stood out for sheer cuteness was from a game called Dolphin Quest. Just some trivia!

mike fox said...

love the blog! very fun. i'm a 31 year old who played through Castlevania with my 10 year old a couple years ago (when he was 7 or 8) with an emulator lol.

Omi T said...

Man this game was the greatest!!!! I remember when I first got it I was amazed it was like some top notch stuff back then

Martini said...

I just discovered this blog and I'm loving it! Just turned 33, but I'm reliving my grade school Nintendo days with your reviews.

Gotta say, the first Castlevania drove me crazy (largely because of jumping with those stupid flying heads), but 2 & 3 were big improvements... especially if you have a strategy guide for 2 because it has lots of hidden surprises you wouldn't know otherwise. Keep up the good work!

incognito said...

I never played the old Castlevania games but I have lately been playing the new ones on my DS and even those are pretty damn awesome.

Kelsey Lyn said...

I'm sorry if this is repeat, but this is my first time reading your blog and I opted out of reading every comment. Have you thought about write for BitMob or sharing what you've already written (on here) with that site. If you haven't heard of it, it's a site for gamers to write reviews or other articles related to gaming (ex. an essay on what you think qualifies a gamer as hardcore). You should check the sit out sometime if you haven't already.

David Davidson said...

As long as you don't play Castlevania 2, you'll be fine.

Redmaker said...

Once again a nice review.
Castlevania is still missing in my collection, I guess I'll have to see if I can get it somewhere, sound like fun.
Offtopic: Gladly most of my friends really love the modern games, but also have a good taste in the classics, just like me. A good game is a good game, no matter the age.

Venefican said...

awesome dude, im going to make a top 15 NES games soon so when i do you should check it out

lydia nuamah said...

Nice post on the game stuff, have a great day.

alice said...

When I was growing up there was a game that I'm sure was called
The L shaped room.
It was a really simple game with no graphics, just writing on the screen to tell you where you were in this big house. Try to find it and have a go. Does anyone know what I'm on about?

Great blog btw. I love the approach you've taken with each review

Patrick said...

Just found this blog and really like the concept. I'm not much older than you (born in 87) so I haven't played most of these games either.

I looked back and read a few of your other posts (Metroid, Zelda, Contra, Battletoads) and this seems like a really cool idea for a blog.

I'm a little older and I was also the youngest of 3 boys in my family so I had a little more exposure to these types of games (not a whole lot), so I look forward to seeing what other games you review.

One suggestion: Megaman.

Keep it up and I'll find myself reading this blog regularly.

Also, I don't know if anyone else had this problem, but the poll in the top right of the screen for which game you should do next, I had to highlight the text to read it as it is the same color as the background for me.

Patrick said...

I just looked this up to see if it was made before you were born: Toejam and Earl, release date: 1991.

Very different from the types of games you've been playing and one of my favorite games of all time.

Brent said...

Castlevania is an awesome series and the has to be one of the greatest games music wise. I have many castlevania music files on my computer and they just get better as you go along the series. On castlevania 3 if you choose to play it you will hear many familiar tunes from the original Great blog btw and I would suggest playing whatever you want next. Maybe super dodge ball or archon for something different^^

Anonymous said...

Castlevania was a beast when I was growing up (born in '82), and I could only make it to Grim Reaper, never beat him, w/o help, until I got older.

Castlevania 2 is quite different from the 1st one. It has some RPG-ish elements to it and part of the game will downright baffle you for how to progress unless you do one of the following: talk to EVERYONE in the game (for hints), check a guide, or ask someone who has already beaten the game.

Kapre said...

It's always really cool to see someone new get exposed to a classic like this and observe their reactions. You have a nice blog, sir! I look forward to reading more.

Chief Science Officer
Aural Weaponry Research and Development

Chola Lo said...

Some of my favs growing up (and I still have my old NES, Super NES and games on my WII and xbox) in no particular order

1. Popeye (lame story but I loved it)
2. Bad Dudes (I have the arcade header, my mom use to work for Data East)
3. Burger Time
5. Mario Brothers (the pipes one)
6. Super Mario Brothers (on 1 man, I can get to level 8-2)
7. Super Mario Brothers 2 (This one is hard and I still can't beat it)
8. Super Mario Brothers 3
9. Mario Kart
10. Super Mario Kart
11. Kid Niki (There are hidden secrets)
12. Donky Kong Jr.
13. Super
14. Ice Climber
15. Kung Fu (LOVE, LOVE this one)
16. Dig Dug
17. Donkey Kong 3
18. Double Dragon
19. Joust
20. Excitebike
21. Lode Runner
22. Paperboy (although now when i play, i can't understand what im doing)
24. Ring King
25. Side Pocket

of course
Contra (I love this game, up up down down etc)

nickk said...

omg i hated the freekin mudusa heads to they suck but yea castlevania is an awsome game lol :)

Jeremy said...

It's funny to read the comment suggesting that you can get through Castlevania II by talking to everyone in the game. Too bad all of the characters give such cryptic and Engrish clues that they are of no help. How could anyone without the aid of an old Nintendo Power figure out that you have to kneel at a cliff with a red crystal to get a tornado to appear?

It's a shame, really, because Castlevania II has some of the best music in the series and could have been great.

June said...

oooh likewise! i downloaded most of the ones you played and using NESTICLE played them on my pc a few years ago. I'd suggest you to try Gargoyle's Quest. Its awesome with a great story!

MUFC4LIFE said...

If you do pick up TMNT Donatello is your friend the jumping sucks harder than almost any game and if you get past the dam level more power to you. That being said the joy I had putting that game in the first time and being able to play as the characters I watched every day was overwhelming at the time. Ah to be young again

Exophase said...

I used to feel the same way about the jumping mechanics in this game. After becoming better at it and playing it more thoroughly I stopped thinking of the jumping as "bad" and more "conscientiously restricted."

What I mean is that this game lets you take your time and move carefully. The jumps are simple and deterministic - the point is that when you start one you know exactly what'll happen without having to press any further buttons, so the real meat of the game is being able to read the enemies. This especially applies to the Medusa heads and bats.

It's a matter of timing, and you have plenty of time; the level timer is more of a formality than anything and the enemies don't rush in from offscreen and respawn furiously like in Megaman games.

Another hint: almost all of the bosses (as in, in levels 2-5) are critically weak against holy water if you stand in the right spot and spam it. This seems like cheating, but of course the challenge turns into getting through the levels on one life. Of course, you still have to do Dracula for real.. although holy water can work well for this fight too.

If you really hate the jumping then I suggest going for Grant in CV3. Also, play the Japanese version; it's easier and has better music.

soccernews said...

yeah i played tht game too!
loved it when i was younger

fibonaccixp said...

Nice site! What about "Ghost and Goblins" ?

diam0ndz26 said...

this is cool I remember a lot of these games. Oh the good ol' days lol

AzL said...

Hey good job with this. Its pretty cool to see the original Castlevania and compare with the current ones

Laurel said...

Good idea for a blog! =) I was wondering though, how do you get nice screenshots like that?

King of New York Hacks said...

Don't know if you did it already , but Atari "Adventure" was one of my all time favs.

Money said...

kick ass game review, castlevania is a classic

Robert said...

I have spent many nights and days on this game. And the newer ones.

JeffScape said...

Somebody's probably mentioned it by now, but see if you can get a hold of "8 Eyes." It's Castlevania-esque, with the added bonus of a 2nd-player falcon.

I've been playing that game for damn-near 20 years. Never come close to beating it.

Paul said...

I played this as a teenager.

It was great

FREE nintendo

Nats said...

I played this for the first time a few weeks ago and felt the same way! I guess the series has lasted this long for a reason haha. Anyway, one game that I REALLY recommend you try is Secret of Evermore on SNES. It was Square America's first (and only) game they made, and Jeremy Soule's (the composer of Guild Wars, Elder Scrolls, and KOTOR) first sound track.

Haden Hughes said...

Wow... I was handed a Minecraft Upgrade Code and it redeemed! You get it completely free from

Fakhita Sousou said...

As always - your articles are astute and insightful
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Lete Tung said...

This game is really good, thank you for sharing
You can Download games pc torrent here

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