The Super NES is, for many, Nintendo's greatest console. It boasted a software library that was an envy of competitors and had more than enough power to stave off unfavourable comparisons to arcade games of its age. Unlike many of Nintendo's more recent home consoles, the SNES is remembered just as much for its third-party offerings as it is for Mario, Zelda and Metroid. Among those third-party classics, Super Castlevania IV stands tall.
In recent years, the phrase "Metroidvania" has taken root to describe the similarities between the two series, but this is in reality only true of Castlevania titles that came after the 1997 PlayStation classic, Symphony of the Night. Before that entry, the NES and Super NES classic titles were much more straightforward affairs.
Super Castlevania IV is an evolution of the original NES titles. It features Simon Belmont and his trusty whip as he embarks on a quest to free Transylvania of Dracula's hold. To get through the quest you must execute well-timed jumps and attacks to stave off the ever-present threat of death. You have no items or inventory to speak of, though you can get sub-weapons like a throwing axe or a boomerang; aside from that you can find health and morning stars which will power up your whip, but that's about it.
The game is split up into nine numbered stages and two lettered ones, for a total of eleven. It's not a particularly long game; it can be beaten in an afternoon or in under an hour if you're a true master. It is, however, immensely challenging. The devilishly designed levels and enemy patterns will keep even the most seasoned platformer on their toes.
Like the older games in the series, Super Castlevania IV does not support any kind of saving. It does, however have a password system, similar to many NES titles. Fortunately for us, the Virtual Console enables save states, effectively allowing you to save it whenever you want. The fact that it's on the New 3DS also means you can just close the lid and pick the game back up when you're ready, which is a fantastic option.
Even at 25 years old, Super Castlevania IV is a visual and aural delight. The soundtrack is second to none on the SNES, and it looks just as good now as it did on a low-definition TV back in 1991. This is an example of old-school Konami at its finest.
Simply put, Super Castlevania IV is one of the best games on the SNES. It looks and sounds gorgeous, is challenging without being punishing and is a fitting upgrade to the NES classics many gamers grew up on. If you haven't yet played this title the New 3DS version is every bit as good as the original, and the Virtual Console's addition of save states is certainly welcome; that could help bridge the difficulty gap for less experienced players. This one is a must-own for all Castlevania and platformer fans.