Castlevania (NES)

Game Review

Castlevania Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Marcel van Duyn

Drac attack

A while back we were "graced" with the arrival of Castlevania: The Adventure on 3DS Virtual Console, an overly simplistic attempt to bring the series to handhelds. Now the NES original has arrived on the service as well, but is it still worth going batty over?

If you've played almost any other "classic-style" Castlevania game, you'll be quickly reminded that the game that started it all is a lot clunkier than those that followed - Simon cannot yet change direction in mid-air while jumping, can not jump onto stairs or drop off them, meaning he must slowly traipse up or down them. Also, being hit not only knocks him back, but briefly stuns him as well.

On top of that, the enemies in Dracula's castle are ferocious, and you'll have to look out for things rushing at you and projectiles flying at you all the time. And we haven't even mentioned the bosses, which take quite a few hits and are almost impossible to dodge - your only hope at escaping most boss fights unharmed is finding the Holy Water sub-weapon - along with a Double or Triple shot power-up - and simply "stunlocking" them to death before they can get a single hit in.

Despite the difficulty, defeating Dracula is not an insurmountable task - if you get good enough and master the game's rigid mechanics, you can fly through each level with ease, outsmarting all the enemies and vanquishing the dreaded Count in about 15 minutes. It's all about practice, but actually getting to that level of proficiency can turn into the obsession of a lifetime - some Castlevania fans are still trying today!

Graphically and musically, the game still holds up by modern standards. Dracula's castle looks appropriately old and decrepit, from the entrance hall to the ramparts and all the way to Dracula's room. The soundtrack also features nothing but catchy tunes that have gone on to be remixed countless times in later games. Castlevania's reputation as a series with excellent music was set in motion by the tunes you're presented with here.


Although it's now over 25 years old, the original Castlevania is still a classic title everyone should try at least once. It'll take you a long time to beat if you're playing it for the first time, but the save state feature can help make life a little easier. Although subsequent entries in the lineage have improved on the formula, Simon Belmont's legendary debut remains an 8-bit classic and is well worth experiencing.

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User Comments (62)



Tasuki said:

You know I have never played this game. The first Castlevania game I played was the Third one and onward from there. Maybe this will be a good time to get back to the roots and see where it all started.



Ryno said:

This is truly one of the all time video game classics!

Really though, 15 minutes to beat this? That would be so amazing to be able to dot that.



Geonjaha said:

"Although subsequent entries in the lineage have improved on the formula"

Nope. Luckily Egoraptor will help explain this.
Why Castlevania 2 and many other subsequent games were worse:
Why Castlevania 4 was worse. :3



Spoony_Tech said:

I love this game as a kid. The problem was trying to convince my strict mom that I needed it. Yes needed. Not to mention it was the first game to cost 35$ at the time I believe. I still don't know how I ever got it but was glad I did! Good memories!!



ouroborous said:

If you played this one as a kid and are still obsessed with it then you might want to download it, if you are just curious about old Castlevania then steer clear and start with Castlevania 2 Simon's Quest if you really really want to play some 8-bit 'vania. If you know nothing about Castlevania and just want to skip to the definitive Castlevania experience, then play Castlevania Symphony of the Night. The best of the bunch, as evidenced by the fact that it's been the formula for Every 2D Castlevania since and the game itself has been re-released numerous times. Also the three CV games for DS are great as well.



GTWarrior77 said:

I am yet to try this for the first time. This is one of the classics that slipped through my fingers back in the NES days.



Darth_Pascal said:

I had it in the NES Classic series on my GBA. I loved it. I still play it. But it's too hard, even for a veteran like me.



blackknight77 said:

I think save states will make this classic even better. At least it will give you a fighting chance to see the end.



Azikira said:

bursts into song
(wrong entry I know, dont care )



Geonjaha said:

@Damo sigh It is worse...in terms of the formula as I stated. I'm also thrown back by how much you backed up your fandom with reasoning and logic - truly astounding.



Squashie said:

Doesn't look too bad. I'm not a huge fan of the Castlevania games, just because of how dark they are.



Urbanhispanic said:

I remember playing this game for the NES at a friend's house over 20 years ago and to this date, I STILL cannot beat it. I'm not sure if I'll get it for my 3DS as I have it for my Wii. Anyone who is looking for an "old school" challenge should pick this up. Also, Castlevania 3 was the BEST one for the NES in my opinion.



Clayfrd said:

It has been a long, long, long time since I posted a comment on this site, but I absolutely have to give a shout out to Castlevania for being the bomb. Everyone please buy this if you haven't (although I'd also probably recommend playing the VC Wii version if you've got a Wii because it's a game certainly fit for the big screen).

Also, @Geonjaha you just threw someone else's opinion at us. I don't consider Egoraptor's opinion worth a whole lot (although I hardly weigh anyone else's opinion when I decide how I feel about a game). You offered up a comedic analysis of the Castlevania series that should carry no more weight than that of this review's given that neither reviewer (ostensibly) has any educational background in video game design. The majority, actually, believes that Castlevania has greatly improved over the years (with the exception of Simon's Quest), and Symphony of the Night has been named the best Castlevania game time and time again (or, if not, Castlevania IV).



shredmeister said:

Oh yes, this is one of those 8-bit games that I mastered. When everyone else in school was talking about Zelda (which I hadn't owned yet), I was honing my skills on this less popular game. It took me two months to finally beat it. But after that, I had every enemy and death trap nailed...and yes, it only took 15 minutes. Castlevania is, still to this day, my favorite NES game ever.

Beating Dracula was pretty hard, but there is a methodical way of doing it. It was the Grim Reaper that scared me most. With him floating around and sickles flying at you from all directions, it was CHAOS!

My advice for the Grim Reaper? Try to have Holy Water and a 'III' when you get to him. Lob those Holy grenades at him when he is on the ground, the flames from the ground will keep him immobilized, while you continually whip him. It's not easy, but it was the easiest and quickest method I used against him.



Geonjaha said:

@Clayfrd - What I did was post a video of someone who manages to sum up the flaws of the games pretty well, that I agree with. I didn't throw someone else's opinion at you - I threw at you a video made by someone else that strongly emphasises flaws in the game. I could just post my own long essay about all of my specific feelings towards the game - but I do that enough, and this way people get an informative and funny video to watch. That's alright though - because all you did was just throw at me your opinion of someone else.

You also seem to contradict your own point. If one needs a degree in video game analysis to be correct about something, why does it matter how many people think Castlevania games have gotten better over time? If you actually wanted to you could maybe discuss or even try to debate these issues? Don't worry, I'll be there when you're ready for that.



Zemus-DJ said:

Did people really find CV2 to be bad? IMHO before SotN it was my fav. Either way I look forward to this is the others on my 3ds state side



OptometristLime said:

I totally care which Castlevania is "better" (no I don't).

Can we get some scientists in here, s*** is going down!



Urbanhispanic said:

@Zemus-DJ Like SMB2, Castlevania 2 was viewed by many as "radically" different from the first one and it was also hard well (well....back then in the 80's.) I wasn't too fond of it at first but i gave it a chance years later and it's really pretty good.



ogo79 said:

im proud to say i beat this the first time i tried it. i saved my game one day and the next day i beat it (wii vc)



Philip_J_Reed said:

If you actually wanted to you could maybe discuss or even try to debate these issues?

I don't think it's necessary to do either. It's perfectly within somebody's rights to disagree that one game is better than another and move on with their lives.

At least I hope it is, because that's certainly what I intend to do.



FluttershyGuy said:

Throwing my worthless two cents in, without any experience in video game reviewing, I'll say this: I think Super Castlevania IV is the purest representation of what Castlevania is. The wide array of classic horror film monsters (boss and non-boss), the creepy environments/atmosphere, a superb and fitting soundtrack, a more skilled Simon Belmont able to whip more than just left and right (who you can believe is capable of accomplishing the task before him). Everything is bigger and better than the NES Castlevanias. It's like the step up that A Link to the Past was from the original Zelda (ironic that in the case of both Zelda & Castlevania, the second installment is the "black sheep"). Being a "remake" of CV I, I imagine it may be the Castlevania that the development team would've made years before in the original, if not for the NES' limitations.

That's just the Castlevania aspect to it. Going on the video game aspects of it, I find it to be one of the greatest games of all time, and certainly in my personal top 10 (I've played too many games to assign solid numbers).

Finally, I'd like to point out that, as far as video game music is concerned, it is beyond amazing! If I pried open the SNES while playing it, I'd expect to find a tiny orchestra! Truly an amazing score, even by today's standards (actually, I haven't played anything lately that comes close to SCIV).

Thinking of Castlevania's former greatness makes me mourn for its current state. I the upcoming 3DS title restores some of its shine (though I don't have high hopes, being based on the reboot).



theblackdragon said:

@Geonjaha: i gotta say I feel you on the video thing — I run up against the same problem whenever I try to explain how truly terrible the original Konami TMNT NES game was. People have tried to say that I only hate it because the AVGN made a video and pointed out some of the same problems I had playing that game while I was growing up, but I honestly feel he was dead on with everything he had to say — up to and including the profanities D:

In the end, though, it's all one person's opinion versus another's. We're not arguing life-or-death issues here, just video games, guys. Lighten up! Don't like what someone said? Ignore 'em and play what you want! :3



JeanLuc_Vaycard said:

Someone seriously say IV was worse than the original? No effing way. They improved on just about everything. Especially that horrible jumping mechanic that the first one had.



kkslider5552000 said:

I actually only took those videos half-seriously at best but I played Super Castlevania IV I realized, everything Egoraptor said was completely correct.

It isn't necessarily worse than Castlevania, but the fact that I can't say it's better says a lot considering how much it should be better.



cheetahman91 said:

I watched the one about SCIV and the guy made a good argument about why it's not as good but there was one thing that I didn't like about it. All the times that he was complaining about the whip and stuff was only on the first three levels. Other than that one part where he showed the diagonal whipping for the treasure room level, it was just those levels. He's basically saying that the whole game is a breeze just because the first three levels are easy, which isn't true at all. The later castle levels are pretty tough, even with the whipping in all directions (I still have a lot of difficulty with the stupid clock tower level).

Speaking of the clock tower level, there's a good reason why you shouldn't put any of the whip gimmicks that he suggested involving hanging from it. That's the main reason why I have so much trouble with the clock tower level, and trying to dodge spikes while dangling from a moving whip hook just sounds like a frustrating chore. A couple of the ideas that he suggested with the whip sound like they would have been neat ideas though.

Also, I don't really see what's so bad about making the first three levels so easy. If anything it allows you to appreciate the music and atmosphere before the challenge sets in and you're too busy to care about that kind of stuff. You have eleven or twelve levels, so there's really no need in making the game challenging immediately, unlike Castlevania where the challenge needs to set in quickly since there's only six levels.

Anyways, that's how I feel about the video. Regarding SCIV itself @FluttershyGuy summed up my feelings prefectly.



Clayfrd said:

@Geonjaha "Don't worry, I'll be there when you're ready for that."

Don't think you could hear me from way up there on your high horse. Guess you win this internet fight. All I was arguing was that the authority with which you present your argument should not be any higher than anyone else's.



WaveGhoul said:

Suprisingly, I was actually introduced to the traditional Castlevania series on the Wii's VC. I honestly don't know how such an utterly Vamptastic series could escape my Retro-grasp(Aside from getting some brief play time with SCIV back in the day and remembering that classic Castlevania themed Nitnendo Power cover.)but it did... And i'm forever Belmont-bummed.lol It's been tradition now for me to fire up the original Castlevania, along with SCIV Friday the 13th, and a slew of other pixelated horror nasties on Halloween October.

Whenever i take on a Castlevania game i always play it in the dark with a set of candles lit. What can I say, It totaly sets the mood when i'm cruisin' through Drac's castle .lol But yup, the only traditional Vania i have yet to touch is The Adventure for the GB, which i just downloaded last night on my 3DS XL. I except nothing but epic mediocrity, at least going by the endless supplu of negative reviews. Better take it all in because I won't be seeing another 'classic' castlevania sequal I'm guessing for quite some time...

That new 3DS sequal looks like a 2D God of War clone with Metroidvania elements thrown in. sigh* Not overly excited for it. Darn you Knomai and your recent abuse of outsourcing and ruining your classic franchises.




The problem with KONAMI is that they are expanding castlevania JUST TOO MUCH, I love this series from castlevania 1 for the nes to castlevania circle of the moon on the gba, because to me circle of the moon was the last great one in the series. I simply don't effing know what konami wants for the series anymore, the metroidvania style has been used to death that now is simply repetitive and they also tried the shadow of the colossus/god of war ripoff combo that didn't pay well with the fiasco that was lords of shadow for the ps3 and x360. I just don't know why not make all the games like CASTLEVANIA THE ADVENTURE REBIRTH (by wayforward), it was awesome in terms of simplicity and it had awesome graphics, sound and bosses; that's what I loved about the older games: It was just you controlling your belmont, your whip and your sub-weapon, that´s it. I just want konami to hand the franchise over to wayforward, as they also did a spectacular combo with contra: CONTRA REBIRTH AND CONTRA 4.



WaveGhoul said:

Wayforward should get future rights to whip out the next 2D Castlevania. They're probably the only Western developer that could do it right, if Contra 4 is any indication.




@WaveBoy I don't know if you already downloaded them to your wii my friend, but if you loved CONTRA 4, you are gonna absolutely fall for CONTRA AND CASTLEVANIA REBIRTH by wayforward, it is just amazing what one developer can achieve simply by returning to the basics without all those fancy graphics, complicated controls and idiotic stories.



WaveGhoul said:

Woa, wait a second....Wayforward did Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth and Contra ReBirth?

I really enjoyed The Adventure ReBirth, it had a great arcadey' feel and semi-mega drive vibe going on and it easily had one of the best drac fights(3 forms!)the series has ever seen.

As for Contra ReBirth, I wasn't too crazy over that one at all. It felt half a**ed, the infinite continues destroyed the chance of mastering the earlier stages and ruined a large chunk of intensity because there was NO Game Over. And the final Boss....Really? THAT was it? for shame Wayforward...lol Contra 4 did it so much better!



ogo79 said:

castlevania the adventure rebirth was a cool game, it wasnt that hard to me, just dracula at the end. if you still dont have it you should give it a spin




@WaveBoy Contra rebirth was very short and yeah, I agree that contra 4 is superior but the final boss of contra rebirth (the weird thing with garbage) was very difficult to me because of the constant change of angle the camera had. Also, if you want another awesome castlevania experience just download the turbografx-16 cd game CASTLEVANIA RONDO OF BLOOD, the prequel to symphony of the night, I really enjoyed being able to choose your own path to dracula and also being able to play as a very different character to richter belmont; if you haven't downloaded it, I really recommend it to you.



WaveGhoul said:

Rondo was amazing...Well, aside from the cheesy generic anime cut scenes and that other playable character which made the experience feel like a different game all together), not quite as amazing as SCIV which i feel is the definitive traditional castlevania experience and captures what the series should look,feel and sound like plus it has that awesome dangly' whip. And as Ryno_Chozo pointed out in a much earlier thread, Rondo feels like you've just entered one of Dracula's rave parties.

I've beaten every single traditionalVania game aside from The Adventure on the GB. Yet I won't be bothering with the SNES version of Dracula X or the shotty looking & sounding Castlevania Chronicles for the PS1.

Oh I have it, and completed it on Normal mode. I'm suprised you have it oh mighty Lord Retro. I guess you made an exception outside the Wii's VC, good boy!lol because The Adventure: ReBirth is definitly worth the play time. Contra ReBirth, not so much. Although...The crazy colorful flying space cattapillar at the end of the first stage where you're falling down from the sky on space ship pieces was pretty surreal, and who wouldn't love those Lazer/eye shooting cammels?



luminalace said:

I had a decision to make today and chose Ninja Gaiden over Castlevania. As much as I loved the game as a kid, I much prefer the SNES Super Castlevania over any of the NES games.



Jero said:

I pretty much love all the Castlevania titles. The latter games' customization and design make them very suitable for speedruns and other challenging playthroughs. Music has been kickass from the beginning too. It'd be tough to pick a favorite, but I'm going for Castlevania IV, with Order of Ecclesia as a close second. A playthrough with Albus is just the most fun you can have.



Windy said:

I love the Sequelitis Videos. They are well thought and meant to be funny with some personal insight to the games themselves. Just because The guy in the Videos has an oppinion on the games doesn't make it a collective...Meaning the whole world agrees with it. Personally Ive played all of these and won't be buying them until they see a Classic 3d release which will probably never happen. They are great games and if you haven't experienced them before would be a good purchase




@WaveBoy The adventure gb is often criticized for the stiff controls and short length; 5 years ago I got the gb cartdridge in a swap meet and f-ck was it hard as hell. I consider it one of the ultimate challenges for a castlevania player, especially the level where you're in a platform and have to maneuver through ceilings and ceilings of spikes and christopher belmont moves like a slug. You're right about not bothering with dracula x for snes, I had the cartridge and it is a terrible port of rondo of blood, all the levels of the original being replaced with terrible levels badly designed; also, the battle with dracula is ridiculously hard, I only managed to beat him once. So, bottom line, don't bother.



Magrane said:

Loved all the Castlevanias I've played so far. The original and part IV are the best IMHO. I have yet to play Simon's Quest, but I'm not looking forward to bothering due to the bad things I hear about it. I did download Castlevania III on the Wii VC, and barely started it.

Guys, try this one out if you're a Castlevania fan. You can't go wrong with the original and you'll probably enjoy seeing the first appearances of the common enemies!

By the way, Castlevania Chronicles on the PS is a great version. I downloaded it off the PSN and it's a nice 16-bit version of the Commodore game. Also, I am very interested in playing Dracula X on the SNES..........once I beat Rondo of Blood of course



Magrane said:

Oh yeah, one more thing. I own this portable version on the GBA, which has gotten many hours, so I'm not exactly motivated to pick this version up. If I already own a cartridge portable version, why bother?



asusanto said:

A while back, I didn't buy this one due to unsure about its gameplay. Once I read this review, it's a go. I have only 1 Castlevania game in my library: Symphony of the Night (PS1).



Geonjaha said:

@Philip_J_Reed - Yeah, but not if you want to actually be taken seriously. If you don't, that's fine too. Seeing as no comment is ever 'necessary', we might as well all stop posting.



Blister said:

...its all a matter of personal taste, my heart rests with the Metroidvania titles. Especially Aria or Dawn of Sorrow...



jayblue said:

most nes games are a nightmare and this one is at the top along with ninja gaiden,be prepared to rip hair out with frustration.had it for months been stuck for months on vc on wii.

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