News Article

Soapbox: A Case For The Defence: Castlevania 64

Posted by Kerry Brunskill

The only things that suck are the vampires

Castlevania 64, which is how we shall refer to the original Nintendo 64 vampire-killing game to avoid confusion with the other Castlevania, is a game that’s been unjustly left on the series' scrapheap for far too long, and I’m going to tell you why.

Now that doesn’t mean I’m here to excuse the game’s faults, pretend that having to restart from the nearest save point after missing another tricky jump (with medusa heads, and spikes, onto a moving platform) is the pinnacle of game design, or that the dreaded dynamite-carrying section wouldn’t have St Francis of Assisi hoofing kittens into next week, but these are the lowlights in an otherwise inventive and atmospheric game - you wouldn’t judge Mega Man entirely on the presence of its insta-kill spikes, would you?

Many games have a bit of fluff in the manual that tells you how bad Nasty Evil Person is and how incredibly dangerous your mission is, but they tend to forget it not long after the first cutscene and instead guide you through a series of carefully designed tutorial areas before eventually building up to a comfortable challenge for the last section. Not so with Castlevania 64. Much like hardcore favourite Dark Souls, this game is content to throw you in at the deep end and your continued survival is considered a personal act of defiance against Castlevania itself – and also like Dark Souls, this makes your hard-fought victories all the more dramatic and memorable.

Castlevania 64 is a game that delights in making you feel uncomfortable. We all know that games are built on a set of rules, and older games especially tend to adhere to the classic “stage-midboss-more stage-end level boss” routine. Yet within just two minutes of starting the first stage Castlevania 64 throws that out of the window, pitting Reinhardt and Carrie against a giant club-wielding skeleton and a horde of underlings. The rest of the game continues on this off-kilter note, leaving players unsure whether they’re going to face a gauntlet of enemies, some tough platforming or even a bit of light puzzling/exploration in the next area.

But not all of Castlevania 64’s worth comes from finding pleasure where perhaps most gamers would find pain – the game’s dripping with a foreboding atmosphere in a way that the series hasn’t matched since, and was only very lightly touched upon previously in Super Castlevania IV. Your quest is a difficult one, you’re pressed for time right from the start – and with vampires becoming stronger at night you’ve got a real reason to be afraid of the dark. Of course there’s nothing stopping you from stocking up on healing items from Renon, the mysterious merchant, but even that help can have unforeseen consequences…

If these gameplay quirks are a little too subtle to really instil any sense of fear or unpleasantness then perhaps statues crying blood, gelatinous cubes of bone and offal pumped onto some macabre production line, or enormous monstrosities suspended in fliud-filled glass tubes, will do the job instead. This is not a game that pulls its punches or spares its characters any heartache – Carrie's bad ending has her safely escape from Castlevania only to find herself unwittingly promise to become Dracula’s bride, while Reinhardt has to deal with kindly vampire Rosa’s attempted suicide no matter how well his progress goes.

Castlevania 64 is flawed. But it was an incredibly ambitious game no matter which other game in the series you put it up against. Even this vanilla version of the game features multiple characters with their own unique levels, bosses, and cutscenes, a day/night cycle that affects the gameplay as well as the ending, hidden extra costumes, an unlockable hard mode – there’s a lot in here that later games in the series would have benefited from copying, and it’s a real shame that we haven’t seen anything this brave or experimental since.

Subscribe to Nintendo Life on YouTube

From the web

User Comments (80)



Remisio said:

I've always actually wanted to play this game. No matter how much most people have bashed it I've always thought it looked fun, interesting and at the very least worth a play through.



EarthboundBenjy said:

I always thought this game was very cool, but it's just so...not very good. I like the game, but I'm not going to say that it's anything special. The awkwardness of the controls is the main problem, because I often found it next to impossible to dodge boss attacks. I'm thinking mostly of the bone dragons at the top of the castle in Stage 2, and the fight with Actrise on top of the clocktower. ... I actually prefer the jumping and exploration sections much more than any of the combat sections, because at least I don't feel completely helpless.



KeeperBvK said:

Thank you so much for this.
Castlevania 64 is a great game and I've been really fed up with all the unreasonable bashi g it gets on the internet.



belmont said:

Castlevania 64 is a good game but not as good as other games in the series. I fall in those bottomless pits countless times and I had to restart. For some strange reason you should have the Memory Pack to save a useless extra cost. Also the camera is not good.



unrandomsam said:

Rondo of Blood is still the best Castlevania. (The original PC Engine version).

I don't like Lords of Shadow or This.



Mystemo said:

Thank you! I've always thought that Castlevania 64 got way too much hate. I'm not going to pretend that it's as good as the 2D games (which are among the greatest games ever made) or even the PS2 3D games but it actually plays very well and has a great atmosphere and compared to the piece of garbage Lords of Shadow games it's a masterpiece.



FullbringIchigo said:

I liked Castlevania 64 when it came out and while I still have fond memories it hasn't aged well

but it was fun when I played it and wasn't as bad as everyone makes out



ECMIM said:

LOD improved on this game in every way, rendering it virtually obsolete, and is a great game, to boot.



edcomics said:

I remember being frustrated with the controls and disappointed by some of the graphics. Parts of the game were extremely hard for me, but overall I thought it was a good experience. I never did play the version of the game that featured a playable werewolf character, but I wouldn't mind giving it a try. An HD remake of this game would be pretty fantastic, I think.



retro_player_22 said:

This is a pretty cool game, cooler than all those Lord of Shadow games imo. Now if only they could remake it as a better game.



CaviarMeths said:

It's just disappointing that this game came out like a year or two after Ocarina of Time and yet failed so badly at transitioning to 3D camera and combat controls. That, and some game-design choices are pretty bad.

The atmosphere was fantastic though.



Kaze_Memaryu said:

I can't really agree. The atmosphere is killed by the boring enemy design, the controls don't respond reasonable in any situation (except for message boxes), and a gigantic pile of bugs, with nearly half of them reaching game-breaker status, make this the worst of all Castlevania games. The difficult parts would've been enjoyable if most of it didn't stem from terrible controls.

Defending it for good intentions is okay, since it had many of them, but defending it as a good game is not. Not with this lack of quality.



Kid_A said:

Great idea for a feature! This game is seeing a real resurgence these days in the speed running community.

I'd request a similar article on Sonic Lost World, which I think is easily the best 3D Sonic ever and the best platformer on Wii U that isn't 3D Land. Bizarrely dismissed game.

Also: Yoshi Story, which is the most charming game ever and screw anyone who disagrees.



bonham2 said:

I played and beat Castlevania 64 as a kid and I remember liking it. It was extremely difficult...I used a strategy guide (which I'm not proud of). It certainly had it's faults, but I don't think it deserves the backlash it got. The final fight with Dracula is one of the most memorable boss fights from the N64/PS1 era.



Shworange said:

I had the legacy version of the game where they changed a couple things and rereleased it like a year later. It really wasn't that bad. I remember enjoying it a lot. You could play through multiple times with different players that you could unlock. It was a large game and truly unique in its time. It was just limited by cartridge size.



Gerbwmu said:

We use to sit around playing this game swearing and passing the contiller around the room with each death.....pretty sure beer was envolved most nights as well



Gen0neD said:

I played this game, beat this game and (kinda) enjoyed it. It must've been pretty good, I went through it twice.



Dominicruz said:

I played this game a lot and the second part its a classic good memories.back in thoses day it was one of the best game .Give it a try .



sketchturner said:

This is one of the very few N64 games I have never played/owned. Every so often I get tempted to buy it and then I read reviews saying that Legacy of Darkness rendered CV64 obsolete. Then I look at prices for LoD and am not willing to shell out $30 for a game that looks so rough around the edges. Would it be worth buying the less "perfect" CV64 considering the major price difference?



blackknight77 said:

"the game’s dripping with a foreboding atmosphere in a way that the series hasn’t matched since, and was only very lightly touched upon previously in Super Castlevania IV."

I agree so much with this. I'm glad I did not listen to the haters because I bought this game about a year or so ago and I really like it. And it does have great atmosphere for Castlevania



AmyGrrl said:

I really liked this game as well and beat it many times. Would love to see a HD remake with better controls.



Marshi said:

@Kid_A I completely agree on sonic lost world. Its a stella game,whats confusing is most people bash the controls,but I think they are the best ever for a sonic game. The games tough,especially later on but when I died it was always my fault.
Like you say,a bizzarrely dismissed game



the_shpydar said:

Cool article. I'm actually in the middle of playing this for the first time right now (I'm up to the infamous dynamite/nitro part) and enjoying more than I expected. It certainly has its flaws, but I definitely agree that the atmosphere created by the game is great.



BakaKnight said:

Saw a speedrun of this not long ago and I have to admit I find it interesting.
For what I heard I was expecting a much more laughable and lame game, but instead it looked like an "acceptable" game, not a masterpiece since the many flaws, but neither it seemed that ultra terribly bad as it's often described.

I would probably give it a try if Konami will consider a release on VC ^^



Silent said:

This game was the first M-Rated game I ever played. I enjoyed this game so much when I was a kid and I thought this was the best castlevania ever. Ah, Good times.



SetupDisk said:

I liked the sequel. Once you got further in the game it really was a 3D castlevania. I beat both on rentals so they could not have been too hard.



Kriedler said:

Have to agree, I played the crap out of this. A friend had it, and when I asked to borrow it, he was like "really?"
So, he just never asked for it back, and I played it through at least 3 times



GunstarHero234 said:

Is some of you people insane this game is the worst 3D Castlevania game I've ever played compared to other Castlevania's during that time also the damn second one Legacy of Darkness was more mediocre than the first one and to do more insult to injury you want to pit this game with the Lords of Shadows series and say this crap is way better which is even more baffling to me lol well thanks for the laugh.



FireHorsePrime said:

To be fair I have to admit I didn't read your review completely, but I will. I just wanted to say I had this game when it was originally released and was sadly disappointed, particularly in the lack of music after such a fantastic score in Symphony of the Night, which brought the romanticism of vampire lore into the series magnificently. But that's not all. I thought the controls were terrible and I was not swept away by what should have been a rich and powerful gaming experience. Perhaps if I wasn't so ticked off, I would have given the game more of a chance, but I wrote it off fairly quickly and have no regrets. It's one thing to give props to an interactive experience based on what it is on it's own, and I can see your appreciation for this game is fairly strong. But it was not fair using the Castlevania universe up to that point to throw a curve ball at those of us who were in love with the side scrolling series. That's not to say I wasn't ready for a change. When I found out they were making it for the 64 I was elated, and ready for an epic 3D experience with fun monsters and great music. What I felt I got was a slap in the face by the publishers who seem to have the attitude..."We're going in this direction now, so if you don't like it, play one of the older games". Where I come from that's called "Bait and Switch" and nothing diminishes my loyalty more. I'm sorry to say I've been jaded ever since. I have not played another Castlevania game published after Symphony of the Night, and I really don't plan to.



MussakkuLaden said:

CV64 is one of the few (apprx. 5 or so) N64 games that are still on my buy-list, as it surely seems interesting to me. Too bad that it never made it to the VC, although Konami was a great supporter when it came to SNES games. I'm still hoping that this may change on the WiiU if the N64 ever gets going, but I know chances are incredibly small. It would be nice though, because a safe state feature could make the game way more enjoyable.



Morpheel said:

I loved [watching] this game when I was a kid.

The labyrinth with the monster of frankenstein-look alikes was so scary.



3MonthBeef said:

This was a good, fun game to play. The only thing truly wrong was the targeting and sloppy platforming but as the player you can still work around it into an make an enjoyable experience. The music is so underrated, some of the best compositions in the series exist within this game.

As far as fun goes I'd prefer this over Lords of Shadow, which of course has high production values but a game is not movie at the end of the day.



Asaki said:

I liked the game a lot, but then again, I like Simon's Quest, and I didn't like the two 3D games for the PS2.



McHaggis said:

I remember this, it was certainly tough. Me and my brother stayed up really late playing it into the night every night for ages. I'd definitely be interested in a sequel.

However, I want a classic Metroidvania‒style Castlevania game for the 3DS more. The DS got 3 classic Castlevania games but all we've had for the 3DS is Mirror of Fate (and there's no classic Metroid in sight).



ecco6t9 said:

Castlevania 64 is a good game, not great or timeless but it is worth playing at least once.



unrandomsam said:

@McHaggis The original style is the best where the only thing that improves is you as a player not your character due to finding powerups.



soma said:


If I remember correctly, it actually was released a month later. Zelda on December 1998 and Castlevani 64 on January 1999.



soma said:

About this game, I really loved it and actually played it just a few weeks ago. I have finished it countless of times. Once you get used to the controls it's a very enjoyable game imo.

I still remember the first time I finished the game I was a bit disappointed with the Dracula's battle. Then my brother finished it too, but he got a new cinema where Malus was Dracula! I was like OMG what did you do, how did you get that! O_O
Great times lol



BrightBeing said:

I had this game and it's brother back in the day. The only thing I can bash it on is it's sloppy control and very poor textures. But all N64 games had bad textures. It was my favorite Castlevania game since Super Castlevania IV and had the same scary, gritty atmosphere. I think it's been bashed more than it deserved and some of the elements in the game deserve a re-visit.



rbmoura85 said:

@Kaze_Memaryu Ive played a lot of this game when i was younger, like A LOT...and i dont remember all this bugs you say...this game was ugly but kinda adictive, especially because there wasnt many games like it for the helped scratch my survival horror itch, even though its not one



Rezalack said:

I played the heck out of this game and loved every bit of it. It was a great game. I was surprised to hear that so many people hated it.



WhiteTrashGuy said:

I loved this game back in '98. I was a Junior in high school and stayed up until 4 in the morning every night for a week until I beat it. I still have a copy tucked away. I need to play the sequel. This game was a solid 7.5, and the only reason I didn't give it an 8 is because of the motorcycle skeletons. That is unforgivable. But otherwise this is a solid N64 action/platformer. Reinhardt FTW!



kupo said:

@Remisio That's reason enough to check it out! There have been lots of games I've shunned due to a bad reputation, despite having an outward interest in them, and ended up regretting not playing them sooner.



Nomad said:

This brings back memories. I actually really liked Castlevania 64, thought it was a great adventure.



ihsman said:

Very atmospheric game. I admit this game has flawed controls and a below average camera. It is also a bit too foggy. BUT, it makes up for this with amazing atmosphere and amazing music. For these reasons it is my favourite Castlevania game ever. I would love a remake on the Wii U. I would buy it twice.



TromaDogg said:

I've always liked Castlevania 64 and bought both versions of it (the other being Castlevania: Legacy Of Darkness)...never really understood the hate for it. The camera's a little off at times but no more so than 90% of other games. It's also hugely atmospheric, the stages are well designed and it had good replay value with the multiple storyline threads.

Hope some more people check it out as a result of this article.



CaviarMeths said:

@soma Oops, you're right! For some reason I was under the impression that Ocarina was '97, not '98. Both games released in NA in Dec '98. Thanks for the correction.



Gashole said:

I remember seeing the very first screenshots, when Reinhardt was inside Dracula's castle, with the staircase and the candle stands. That made it almost as anticipating for me as Ocarina of Time.
The game, to me, gets a good 7/10, around the same kind of score as Simon's Quest, as both were experimental in their new approaches to the genre, but were also clunky and half-baked in their execution.
Still, very memorable, and a good try for the first 3D Castlevania game.



soma said:


No problem, and I just learnt it was also released in 1998, well December 31 to be precise. I always thought it was released in 1999, even the game has that date in the intro!



Cia said:

This is my favorite Castlevania ever. The music and atmosphere is just unbeatable (even though some people thought that the game lacked music altogether after failing to beat the first, more silent stage).



WWammy said:

Reviewers hated this game but it was a good 3D Castlevania game I'm glad it's getting some recognition finally



KeeperBvK said:

At the time of its release reviewers actually loved the game. It was only many years later that people suddenly started hating on it.



GunstarHero234 said:

"Nostalgia Glasses on: Man this game is amazing no 3D Castlevania cannot top this just because it's on N64 and the 3D look was amazing even though the controls was trash, the camera was wonky, and the gameplay and graphics was mediocre even though I talk about others for having no taste in quality in their titles but I have to say it's still "better" than that Lords of Shadows garbage" -_-

"Nostalgia Glasses off: And started to look at reality of how mediocre this crap really was and still ask myself nowadays every time I see this BS WTF I was thinking buying this crap full price oh right it's was a "Castlevania" title which I was a freaking fan of and after having a TON OF FUN with SOTN on PSX I wanted to play in 3D and the failure of disappointment just seep right though me. Sadly the only thing "Nostalgic" this game ever done to me was made me laugh all the way back to the store which I got my full money back"

Seriously though this game deserve it's BAD REPUTATION and you people can tell that this game was damn rushed and you want to give this crap the benefit of the doubt if that's the case give the Lords of Shadows series a chance then and the rest of the other titles that deserves praise that's isn't a Nintendo logo in front of the box and then we have a REAL soapbox going on.



Asaki said:

@ToxieDogg Yeah, I never understood why peoples' main gripe with the game was the camera. Every other over-the-shoulder N64 game was exactly the same, and you never hear people saying "Mario 64 was the worst game."
@SuperMarioBros3 I wouldn't say Simon's Quest was "half-baked in [its] execution", but the confusing translation of the US version certainly didn't do it any favors. There's an English re-translation out there (not Redaction) that's really awesome, and adds a few optional extras like a real-time day/night cycle (no pausing to read those famous quotes) and save slots.



Einherjar said:

The Castlevania fanbase is almost aas problematic as the Sonic fanbase. No matter what you do, you cant "beat the classics" and by that, most people mean any game thats not the one they are hating on because its cool.

The N64 titles are flawed, there no way around it. The camera has issues, the targeting system is iffy and the platforming can be a pain.
But honestly, tell me that the "classics" were perfect platformers, that stiff jumping, the recoil when youre hit and the restrictive attack animations are the pinacle of platforming goodnes.
Classicvanias are barely playable for anyone but hardcore players.
The things Castlevania 64 did right, it did really right: The atmosphere was excellent, the storyline was nice and had something other than (kill all the Hammer monsters" going on and it had the dracula incarnation, that was closest to its original source material.
Both, Castlevania 64 and its 1.5 sequel Legacy of Darknes were fun games if you dont compare them to games that dont exist: perfect Classicvanias.

Or look at Lords of Shadow. "It ruined the whole franchise" exactly ?
The gameplay ? Have you ever played Lament of Innocence ?
The storyline ? Have you ever played the Sorrow duology ? That storyline is ridiculous. And if you ask me, Lords of Shadow has one of the most excellent storys found this generation. And its a retelling of the classic story, it doesnt even mess with your "classics" or tries to be part of it.



TwilightV said:

I've always wanted to play this. I could listen to that beautiful title screen music for a long time... <3



vaino said:

Not perfect at all, mut still a good game. As many others have said, the atmosphere of Castlevania felt just right plus the ambient soundtrack. Controls work well with some training. A shame that Konami abandond Tomb Raider'ish approach for the series. It's noticable in some levels that CV64 was rushed to the markets.
I didn't own N64 at the time, but couple years ago I played this to the final boss, and liked it a lot.
The Legacy of Darkness was better with new characters and polished levels, also camera can be adjust with the D-pad freely.



jakysnakydx said:

@Einherjar Correct. Lords of Shadow was meant to be a strong deviation from the main series. I don't personally like them as much as the others but I will admit that the series was very overdue for a change which will allow a rejuvenation later on in life.



Einherjar said:

@jakysnakydx The funny thing is, people constantly cry about "this and that series needs some fresh air" and once it gets it "its not like the others, it sucks".
I have no idea whats wrong with Lords of Shadow to be honest. It looks amazing, even today, the story is fantastic, the characters are excellently written and the gameplay is your typical hack and slay, nothing special but definitly solid. I love the argument that its supposed to be a "God of War rip off". Well, if you see it from that angle, pretty much the whole genre is a God of War rip off, even games that predated God of War. Its just silly.
Castlevania went through so many changes and reimmaginations, the argument that "its not like the classics" is absolutely bogus. What classics are you talking about ? The original NES duology of 1 and 3 ? The semi RPG Castlevania 2 ? The overhauled controll schmemes of Castlevania 4 ? The Metroidvanias ? The N64 duology ? The two games on the PS2 ?
Its called castlevania because it features the same basic plot and the same characters, not because its a carbon copy of an existing castlevania.
See it as its own game, and its a very good one at that.



Squashy said:

As somebody who's never played a Castlevania game, and therefore has no expectation of what a Castlevania should be like, I really like the look of this from the screenshots and video here. I wish games weren't so afraid to be punishing now, we need to go back to the days when it felt rewarding to win!

@HouseofBees Good attitude, sometimes it seems like people play as if they're some sort of critic, and forget to just enjoy the game!

@Kid_A Glad to see I'm not the only one who feels that way about Yoshi's Story, when I was on holiday last year I took my N64 with me and drove my brother and sister mad because I kept leaving it on the adorable title screen with all the Yoshis singing haha!! It truly is the happiest game in the world!

Subscribe to Nintendo Life on YouTube



Mommar said:

I owned both C64 and the 1.5 sequel. The game definitely suffered because it was originally planned to be more open-world and the project faltered out so they had to quickly re-do alot. As a matter of fact I believe the original game had planned to have four playable characters but they ran out of time for more then two in C64 and they made up for it by fixing graphics, etc and adding back in one of the characters in the update they released a year later. The gameplay is definitely simplistic, and portions of the game were tedious, but I still think it was a decent effort. The 1.5 update a year later was especially helpful. Not fantastic but I enjoyed it more than the PS2 Devil May Cray knock offs. It got atmosphere right, but the system just couldn't handle the visuals. It didn't help it came off the heels of Symphony of the Night which did so many things correct, even if that was a 2D affair. 3D at the time would have never looked as good.



TySoN_F said:

I think It's expansion/sequel Legacy of Darkness is much better but that's me. I do believe Castlevania 64 is an ok game, especially for the time.



darklinkinfinite said:

Castlevania 64/Legacy of Darkness are some of my favorite games in the series. Oddly enough I never really felt it was terribly flawed and certainly not broken. Even when I was younger I never had any particular difficulty with the camera or the controls.

It certainly isn't as refined as SotN but I like it far more than that title since I'm not fond of the Metroidvania format in the first place (I'm not saying SotN is a bad game, I recognize that its a great game but its far from my favorite, personally).

What the 2 N64 games really did, which blew my mind at the time was how it surrounded you in these amazing locations. I simply would not enter the hedge maze at (the in-game) night because it absolutely terrified me. The Villa location was simply amazing. The Tower of Sorcery was beautiful. I loved the clocktower and the stairway to the castle keep isn't matched in any other Castlevania.

I also loved the story and the characters. Actrise and Rosa in particular help define the hero characters and this design for Death, aside from looking a little fat, is my favorite in the series. Renon is also one of the best damn shopkeepers in gaming, right up there with RE4's Merchant. I really loved the entire Cornell/Ortega arc and how Cornell's story ties into Reinhardt and Carrie's

Could the game be improved? Of course it could. But as a 3D Castlevania I think its the best interpretation of the classic 2D format (not the newer Metroidvania 2D format) the series has seen. Subsequent 3D attempts have been far more action oriented and frankly, in the case of Lament of Innocence and Curse of Darkness, offensively monotonous.

And really anyone saying the N64 games are the worst games in the series has not played Castlevania Judgement, which does everything wrong except the music.



ICHIkatakuri said:

@Remisio it is worth a look, especially the re-release with the extra characters. If you're a long time castlevania fan there's a lot to like. But like the article said, it's not perfect and some of the mechanics have aged very badly.



ICHIkatakuri said:

@darklinkinfinite Simons Quest is metroidvania and not a lot newer then the original. I agree with everything else you said, though I find I'm not so keen on SotN these days as I have played it too much and wow judgement was a special kind of bad!



darklinkinfinite said:

@ICHIkatakuri while Simon's Quest was a departure from the original, it was really SotN that established the template for subsequent 2D games (really aside from the layout and magic systems all subsequent Metroidvania games were basically the same thing). Simon's Quest does fulfill the basic requirements but I've always thought the additions were more adventure-like and that the game still maintained a lot of the feel and major mechanics of the original game and the free roaming aspects were more used to connect the levels(mansions) whereas SotN and later games changed the formula to the point where it did away with stages altogether and the game focused more on equipment and level-gaining than the platforming and simple-combat of earlier games.

At least that's how I've always looked at it.



Nintendboy14 said:

This n dark legacy are still the best castlevania games the direction its going now is too god of war only not as fun as gow would love to see both this n legacy on wii u virtual console



mamp said:

I liked this game back in the day I don't know why people consider it to be bad.

Leave A Comment

Hold on there, you need to login to post a comment...