(Game Boy)

Game Review

Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Damien McFerran

The second Game Boy Castlevania atones for the sins of its predecessor and ranks as one of the finest entries in the entire series

Before we plough headlong into this review, a short history lesson is probably in order. As the title denotes, Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge isn’t the first instalment of Konami’s vampire-slaying franchise to reach the monochrome Game Boy. Castlevania: The Adventure – launched alongside the machine in 1989 – was a largely forgettable affair with crude visuals, ropey music and jarring gameplay. The overwhelmingly average nature of this title didn’t do much to inspire confidence when Konami decided to release a sequel shortly after, but Belmont’s Revenge is a stratospheric improvement in absolutely every respect.

Firstly, the visuals are stunning for a Game Boy title. Whereas many games on Nintendo’s popular portable suffered from bland, featureless stage designs (a conscious move by designers to reduce the issue of screen blur), Belmont’s Revenge has locations that are positively bursting with detail, yet they manage to retain their beauty even when the on-screen action is hectic. The graphics are also as varied as they are impressive, with a wide range of different level themes running through the game.

Instead of following the traditional Castlevania blueprint of linear level-by-level progression, Belmont’s Revenge allows players to choose how they tackle the first four stages – a similar system to that employed in Capcom’s Mega Man games. The opening quartet of castles is a diverse bunch; for example, one is set in the clouds, another is situated in a swamp and yet another contains an interior that wouldn’t look out of place in a pyramid. Konami’s designers clearly let their imaginations run riot and had a blast creating this game, and it shows.

The core gameplay will be instantly familiar to anyone who has played any of the NES Castlevania titles. You control Christopher Belmont, who brandishes the traditional whip of his clan. The whip – which starts out as a short length of leather – can be upgraded by collecting magical orbs; three of these will fully enhance the weapon, at which point you can hurl fireballs from its tip. Those of you that have suffered through The Castlevania Adventure will be pleased to know that contact with an enemy no longer powers-down your whip.

As usual, whipping the many candles that dot the landscape will reveal other useful items. Sub-weapons such as Axes and Holy Water are present, and using these requires hearts which can also be collected from broken candles. Just like in the NES versions, you access your sub-weapon by pushing the attack button along with up on the D-pad.

While the gameplay might not be a radical change from the norm, the way Christopher Belmont reacts to your commands certainly is. Compared to the infuriatingly sluggish manner in which he responded in the first Game Boy title it feels like he’s had a shot of steroids in Belmont’s Revenge; split-second timing is needed to navigate some of the more tricky levels and thanks to the silky-smooth controls you only have yourself to blame when things go wrong.

Elsewhere, the game is packed with moments of surprising innovation. For example, there are sections where you must successfully move through rooms that are literally packed with moving objects; compared to often sedate nature of the NES versions, Belmont’s Revenge feels like an uncharacteristically busy game. In one of the castles, whipping the candles actually proves to be a negative thing as it plunges the room into darkness, thus allowing the previously immobile enemies to attack. There are several similar examples of startling originality here that are absent from later entries in the franchise.

All of this is underpinned by one of the finest Game Boy soundtracks in existence; the music to this game has to be heard to be believed. Quite how Konami’s sound engineers managed to coax such a gorgeous symphony from the Game Boy’s feeble speaker is a mystery. Needless to say, you’ll be playing this game with the volume dial jammed as high as it will go.

The only negative aspect of this otherwise exemplarity game is the challenge. Playing through in one sitting is pretty demanding but there’s a password option to make it a little more manageable. The only trouble is that this system reduces the game’s difficulty somewhat, but then there’s always the choice to ignore it, if your willpower is strong enough.

Conclusion

While it’s certainly true that many monochrome Game Boy titles haven’t aged particularly well, playing Belmont’s Revenge today is a humbling experience. Like so many games of the era, the gameplay is pure, unhindered by modern concerns such as plots, 3D visuals and other fripperies. With superb level design, tight controls, engaging gameplay and a soundtrack that is so good you’ll seriously consider obtaining it on CD, Belmont’s Revenge ranks as one of the utterly essential Game Boy games and is as enjoyable today as it was twenty years ago.

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User Comments (54)

pixelman

#1

pixelman said:

Wait, Corbie said last night he'd put up a Final Fantasy review today. Well, I guess this isn't the first time you guys surprised us...

This looks really cool. I'll have to (cough cough) check it out.

CorbsAdmin

#2

Corbs said:

We had a miscommunication on the proofing. LOL. So it's going to be Castlevania II today. Sorry.

Giggsy

#5

Giggsy said:

Nice review Damo. Only played a small part of this game, but it seemed to carry that certain Castlevania greatness.

ASDFGHJKL

#7

ASDFGHJKL said:

can you move your character in the air, and can you jump while on steps?
My two main gripes on Castlevania 3

Slapshot

#8

Slapshot said:

Im lovin these reviews already and this is the second one. My God my wife is gona kill me when I end up buyin half of these games that I already don't have. This is the next on my list as of right NOW. Great review Damien.

warioswoods

#9

warioswoods said:

One of the few Castlevania games I never got around to playing.

By the way, I'm very much in favor of using the "natural" yellowish Game Boy color for the screenshots. It just looks weird in true black-and-white, and nothing at all like the game actually played on the original system. It'd be like showing your Virtual Boy screenshots without the red; it doesn't make any sense for a retro review.

dsijared

#11

dsijared said:

linktothefuture

it's not gonna be called vc its virtural handheld or just vh come on guys get it right

Bahamut_ZERO

#13

Bahamut_ZERO said:

This is why I really wish the DSi would release a VC. There are so many GB games I've never had the chance to play, and probably will not since I would have to buy them individually off eBay. When I had my GB as a kid (first system ever) my schedule of gaming for the entire year went along the lines of:

Pokemon Blue, Pokemon Red, Super Mario Land, Pokemon Blue, Mega Man: Dr.Wily's Revenge, Pokemon Red, Pokemon Blue.

Yes, I was (and still am) I huge Pokemon fan. Even later on when I became a true gamer (with the N64 era) and started buying more games for the GB, there was so much I missed.

@theberrage: You have something against the greatest console ever made? Huh, do ya punk , do ya ;)

CorbsAdmin

#14

Corbs said:

There are many Game Boy games I'd take over anything we're seeing this generation, that's for sure. :D

pixelman

#15

pixelman said:

@Corbie: Do you have a GBA? If you do, how do the original GB games play on it? I'm thinking of buying a few for cheaps on Amazon.

pixelman

#17

pixelman said:

@Bahamut ZERO: I meant "do they play well on it". I know they go in the GBA slot, LOL.

Also, does the backlight look natural when playing them?

CorbsAdmin

#18

Corbs said:

The look really good on my GBA SP2. Nice and clear. But for these reviews, I'm going old school and playing them on the original Game Boy system.

pixelman

#19

pixelman said:

Sweet, thanks. My SP is still holding up after half a decade, so I think I may give some of the classics a go. Thanks again. :)

CorbsAdmin

#20

Corbs said:

Oh and yes, I used an emulator to snap the shots. No other way to do it really. And I think you'll enjoy going back and playing some of these classic GB titles. They're still great, even all these years later.

pixelman

#21

pixelman said:

Oh yeah, thanks. :) I used an emu to try out a few of the classics, which is what prompted my desire to buy them. See? Emulators aren't all bad. :D

CorbsAdmin

#22

Corbs said:

No emulators are not all bad, we just try to encourage people to play the real deal. But when it comes to snapping screenshots, there is no better way to grab a shot.

dsijared

#26

dsijared said:

what is mods and how do you get to be admin are you guy all friends who started something like the college guys who started facebook

Bahamut_ZERO

#28

Bahamut_ZERO said:

@Corbie: Did you say seven mods? Oh, you make it too easy Corbs, too easy :D

And uh, btw, emulators are illegal unless you're in Switzerland :P

CorbsAdmin

#29

Corbs said:

Emulators are not illegal. Roms are illegal. :D

And Daz and Damo started the VC-Reviews site and then spun off the WiiWare World site at which time I joined the fold. We then fused all of these sites into Nintendo Life and the monster was created. Now we're just trying to contain it all. And you get to be an admin by working your ass off day and night. :D

Bahamut_ZERO

#30

Bahamut_ZERO said:

@Corbie: I know, I was a lurker on Vc-Reviews from the start, but got an account when WWW started. But you owe me won, I resisted making a joke that time :P

And if ROMs are illegal, how did you get the pics without ROMs ;)

pixelman

#31

pixelman said:

@Bahamut ZERO: I don't see the problem with emulating games that aren't available anymore. If I do end up buying Super Mario Land (and I probably will after playing the rom) Nintendo won't make a dime off it, just some third party.

CorbsAdmin

#32

Corbs said:

I have a Rom Reader for my various Nintendo consoles. I can run the rom directly from the cartridge. That's how. :D

DamoAdmin

#33

Damo said:

For this review I dug out my old monochrome GB, my copy of Belmont's Revenge (which I will never part with for love nor money) and spent an evening in retro paradise. :D

CorbsAdmin

#34

Corbs said:

Brings back memories, doesn't it? Nothing like going blind all over again. :D

dsijared

#35

dsijared said:

that is so awesome ,corbie, is it fun playing video games all day and then making reviews ?

CorbsAdmin

#36

Corbs said:

that is so awesome ,corbie, is it fun playing video games all day and then making reviews ?

I don't know, I'll let you know if I ever get to do that. :D Most of our time is spent contacting PR firms, sorting through press releases, shooting and editing gameplay trailers, uploading them to YouTube, checking all the various sources for news, confirming the news, putting the news up, tracking down assets like screenshots and artwork, coming up with specials for the site, researching those special, proofing the news items that go up in draft form, moderating the forums and comments sections of the various posts, news items, and reviews, setting up interviews with developers, conducting those interviews, putting the interviews together and adding assets to them, to name a few. But yeah it's cool when we finally do get to play a game, at least those times when it's one we enjoy and not a clock or calculator. :P

dsijared

#38

dsijared said:

yea you just totally downed my hopes of having a fun job (i've been hopeing to be a video game reviewer since i was 7) Because my dad bought me a gameinformer maginzine

CorbsAdmin

#39

Corbs said:

Well I can say this, it might be a lot of work, but it's a very rewarding experience as well. If it's something you want to do, go for it!

DamoAdmin

#40

Damo said:

And here was me thinking those clock and calculator reviews were the highlights of your day, Corbie! ;)

Bahamut_ZERO

#42

Bahamut_ZERO said:

@pixelman: I think there might be a law in some countries that says it's legal to use a ROM if the game is 10 years old, not sure though.

ROMs are very controversial, and nobody knows for sure their legality.

Omega

#43

Omega said:

This is what Nintendo thinks about ROMs:

http://www.nintendo.com/corp/legal.jsp

Copyrights owned by corporations are valid for 75 years in the U.S., according to this text. And I'm afraid that even Rom Readers are not really legal, because all kinds of devices that allow copying video game software to computers seem not to be allowed.

However, I do not believe that anyone cares. ;-)

CanisWolfred

#44

CanisWolfred said:

Hm, for some reason I thought Castlevania Legends was the best out of GB Vanias, but that was just from what I'd heard. It's too bad that this one is the hardest to track down. Might have to get Legends instead, anyways.

CorbsAdmin

#45

Corbs said:

Legends is my favorite, but most fans prefer Belmont's Revenge.

@ Omega - I look at it like music CDs. I buy them so I can copy the songs to other CDs, my computer, etc. So I figure if I spend the money on the carts, I should have the same freedom as long as I don't share them or make them available to others, which I do not. :)

emiru69

#46

emiru69 said:

I found kind hypocritical saying that roms are illegal but also saying that "we don't have plans in the near future for a Virtual Console on the DSi". Well then I do not have a "legal option".

Darknyht

#49

Darknyht said:

I had the original for the original Gameboy, one of my first games. Never was able to finish the last stage.

Omega

#50

Omega said:

The last Boss, Dracula, is ridiculous hard. You'll have to memorize all his appearing positions and even then it's not easy to avoid the flying things that surround him. I would give the game 5/10 because I hate games that are too hard (for me) to beat. The difficulty is of course 9/10, if not 10/10. :-)

deggs

#52

deggs said:

of the few castlevanias i've played, this is still one of my favorites... it truly is amazing. i got it off of a friend a few years back and fell in love with the gameplay and the music. prob one of the best games on the original gameboy (along side gargoyle's quest, operation c, nemesis and gradius interstellar, metroid 2, wario land, link's awakening and the kid icarus game)...

deggs

#53

deggs said:

oh yeah, also throw megaman 5 on that list as well. that game is super amazing

Dr_Salvador

#54

Dr_Salvador said:

Does anyone know if this game will be available on the 3DS store at some point?
After reading this review I really want to try it out! ;o)

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