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Released in May of 1987 for the Nin­tendo Enter­tain­ment Sys­tem in North Amer­ica, Castl­e­va­nia was Konami’s addi­tion to the action plat­form­ing genre that took over the NES. Castl­e­va­nia starts the Belmont’s fam­ily tra­di­tion, a tra­di­tion that con­sists of killing the immor­tal Drac­ula every cou­ple gen­er­a­tions. You play as Simon Bel­mont — now a well known leg­endary Vam­pire killer. Your mis­sion is to storm Dracula’s cas­tle and put an end to his dark deeds. Dur­ing the 80’s — this was con­sid­ered a scary game.

The graph­ics in Castl­e­va­nia are well designed because their qual­ity is not exactly excep­tional — sounds odd, right? Hear me out. For exam­ple, the ene­mies ani­mate quite fran­ti­cally, and back­grounds can look messy some­times. While this does add to the spooky feel, and screams lim­i­ta­tions, it does give us a piece of the 8-bit 80’s flaws we love… or maybe I’m speak­ing for myself. Don’t get me wrong, the col­ors are bright and the game can look nice at times. My only issue with the graph­ics is that some­times ene­mies can blend with the back­ground and cause you to get hurt or get hurt and fall into a pit. Castlevania’s small graphic era is eas­ily for­got­ten when you take into account how great the music is. The music alone had me com­ing back to the game even as frus­trated as I was with it’s difficulty.

The game­play in Castl­e­va­nia is not exactly per­fect, Simon Belmont’s con­trols are any­thing but flex­i­ble. While con­trol­ling Simon, the first thing you’ll notice is how slow he walks and how clunky the attack­ing and jump­ing is in this game. This can pose lots of frus­tra­tion when try­ing to dodge ene­mies over pits such as fly­ing Medusa heads. (I can’t begin to explain how irri­tat­ing those ene­mies are in this game).

In many ways Castl­e­va­nia is a sim­ple game: no save func­tion, can be com­pleted in a sin­gle play through, and strict lin­ear stage pro­gres­sion make for a short game. This game has style — and that style is a wel­come refresh­ment from the con­stant hauls of Mario clones and fre­quently unin­spired plat­form­ers that make up a large seg­ment of the NES library. By keep­ing things sim­ple, Castl­e­va­nia man­ages to be a game that is fun to pick up and play and repeat­edly chal­lenge until you even­tu­ally become skilled enough to beat the entire game. It won’t pro­vide the length or depth that a mod­ern game is able to pro­vide, but what it does give is a heck of a lot of fun despite it’s imme­di­ate follow-ups greatly improv­ing upon the for­mula. The orig­i­nal Castl­e­va­nia remains a ter­rific game to play and cer­tainly one of the best action-platformers on the Nin­tendo Enter­tain­ment System.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to try to fin­ish the 5th level in Castl­e­va­nia that’s been mak­ing me pull my hair out of my head for a month.


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