(Game Boy)

Game Review

Castlevania: The Adventure Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Damien McFerran

Belmont's first portable adventure

When the Game Boy hit store shelves in 1989 it didn’t take long for a vast swathe of third-party publishers – many of which had grown fat on the profits generated by Nintendo’s astonishingly popular NES – to sign up to produce software for the device. Konami was one of the first to pledge its allegiance to the new portable format and naturally mindful of the potential sales that might be available, it picked one of its most famous franchises to lead the charge. Sadly, Castlevania’s first handheld entry is an aching disappointment – so much so that Treasure president and founder Masato Maegawa (who worked on the game) apparently wishes he'd never worked on it.

Castlevania: The Adventure focuses on Christopher Belmont’s quest to rid the world of Dracula’s army of darkness. As you might expect for an early instalment in the series, the plot holds little in the way of surprises but the execution will be jarringly unfamiliar to anyone who holds at candle for the three NES titles.

For starters, there are no staircases to ascend, which makes this feel very different from other ‘classic’ Castlevania titles. Instead, you have plenty of ropes to climb. Also missing are the sub-weapons (such as the throwing axe, holy water, etc., but to make up for this Christopher is able to upgrade his Vampire Killer whip so that it hurls projectiles from its tip. This is done by collecting special power-up items, but as soon as you take a hit the weapon drops a level in strength. Needless to say, it’s an incredibly annoying experience, especially on some of the later levels where the fully-power whip is almost a requirement for success.

This frustration is compounded by the fact that the game feels like it’s being played in slow-motion. Christopher moves with all the grace and speed of a sasquatch with sprained ankles and as a result guiding him through the unremittingly dull levels quickly becomes a chore. This sluggishness isn’t helped by the fact that the game suffers from crippling levels of slowdown whenever there are more than two sprites on-screen at once. Granted, this is a very early Game Boy release, but even so the game engine should really be able to handle three enemies attacking the player simultaneously.

The shoddy level design is also responsible for some truly face-slappingly terrible moments. For example, on the first level there are several sections where massive eyeballs roll towards you from a hole in the ceiling, which also happens to be the only way out of that particular room. Rather than make it possible to avoid this threat via skill and canny timing, the designers instead placed an invincibility power-up in the middle of the room. You simply grab the power-up and advance up the screen, acting as if the previously-deadly eyeballs aren’t even there. When you first experience this, it’s hard to believe that the programmers resorted to such shockingly poor level design, but then a few minutes later you enter a room that has the exact same layout and solution. It’s almost as if they couldn’t be bothered to create levels that would tax the player’s skill through challenge instead of cheap tactics.

However, elsewhere things are less straightforward. Later stages require near-perfect jumps to succeed, and these leaps of faith often have to be made whilst under sustained enemy attack. Make a mistake or hesitate for even a second and the usual outcome is that Christopher plummets into a bottomless pit and you have to start over. At least the 3DS Virtual Console's restore point feature makes it easier to overcome these frustrating moments, a luxury the original cart didn't have.

Visually Castlevania: The Adventure is one of the better-looking Game Boy launch titles, but that’s not saying much when you look at what was available at the time. Developers were clearly experimenting with the platform and in the early days they favoured simplistic graphics that wouldn’t blur into a horrible mess when everything was in motion. Konami should at least be praised for trying to create something with a little more detail, but in terms of aesthetics Adventure isn’t an outstanding game by any means. Passable is a more accurate description; some of the enemies are well-drawn and the backgrounds at least display some semblance of variety, but the overall presentation leaves you feeling a little underwhelmed. At least on the 3DS console's LCD screen it all appears clean and clear, though the crude way in which the clock timer, health bar and score are simply overlaid on the screen makes it look like an unfinished prototype.

The music fares better, though. The first level features a decent enough tune and while the musical standard doesn’t get better as you progress, these are some of the better tracks you’ll hear from any early Game Boy title. Sound effects are typically poor, with the usual scratches and beeps we’ve come to expect from the humble hardware.

Conclusion

Konami’s first stab at bringing the Castlevania legend to a portable console isn’t exactly pretty. Some fairly obvious design blunders have been perpetrated here, with atrocious level design, poor control and a crippling lack of attack options all combining to create a pretty hateful piece of software. Konami atoned for its sins with the sublime Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge – which rectified pretty much every issue and is easily one of the best Game Boy games in existence – so the obvious advice is to leave this well alone and wait for the far superior sequel to arrive on the 3DS Virtual Console instead.

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User Comments (49)

RVN

#1

RVN said:

I remember this on GBC
never went farther than the first section of the second stage

Bass_X0

#5

Bass_X0 said:

There are worse games on the GB. This isn't as good or fun as NES Castlevania but it's still somewhat playable.

Mok

#7

Mok said:

I think I bought this on the original GameBoy and I don't have any memories from playing it so I suppose I wasn't too fond of it. Think I'll stay away from it for the time being.

Geonjaha

#8

Geonjaha said:

I know it's a bad game, but come on - it's not that bad. You can still give credit where credit is due instead of trying to point everything out as horrible for the sake of it. Losing whip strength when being hit is just like in the original mario games, losing your powerups (just like SML on the GB actually). SML also suffered slowdown when seeing more than 3 enemies on screen (they were both early GB games). Graphics we're good for the time as you stated, yet somehow you try and use this against the game. The overlaid health bar, score and time are also seen in Link's Awakening and Super Mario Land - and no one is saying those looked bad. At least in this game they cut out unnecessary extra blocks of space and only put what was necessary around the health bar/timer etc to prevent cutting off viewing space.
You also failed to mention the bosses at all in the game. It's easy to jump on the bandwagon of "Everything about this game is terrible" and "worst game ever" but dont just criticise everything for the sake of it..

Overall - yes, it's not a good game, but for an early game - it's alright. Disregarding the other Castlevania games and focusing on what GB games were available at the time (and even now - just on the eShop) it's still a possibility for purchase, especially for the lower price point.

ajcismo

#11

ajcismo said:

Got this for Christmas in 1989 when I was 15 and promptly beat it sometime over the holiday break from school. Probably haven't played it since.
I can remember the game itself being a watered-down version of the Castlevania series, with Belmont's movements sluggish, like he was walking through mud while wearing snowpants and Link's Iron Boots. The power-up whip thing didn't bother me so much since that was the norm back in the day. I'd say several games up to that point had you lose your power-ups when touched. I can remember being disappointed in Konami as a teenager, expecting Simon's Quest but getting Belmont's Slow Waltz instead.
It wasn't the worst game out during the early days of the Gameboy, but it certainly wasn't a must buy either. So a "3" seems a bit on the harsh side. Its still got some nostalgia factor, and if you're a massive 'Vania fan it might be worth something just to have the first handheld adventure of the Belmonts. I'd say a "4" at worst, and a "5" if you're really into the series.

rezyac

#12

rezyac said:

goes to show you should not trust what other people think, i love this, and i have played it more than kid ic, and that got 10 stars or something, and i cant play it its so boring, id rather ow saved the money seeing as i play a £2.70 game more than the £30 game

Spoony_Tech

#13

Spoony_Tech said:

Yep that's about right. The game was slow and methodical then and had no interest in this what so ever. People will buy it for name alone!

rosebud

#14

rosebud said:

@ajcismo: I agree with your assessment of the game. I got the game when I was 12 and had a similar experience. I would give it a 4 or 5.

Yasume

#21

Yasume said:

I really doubt that it's that bad. I saw JonTron's review and it didn't look like a bad game to me at all. It just has flaws. I might download it to check it out.

Bass_X0

#22

Bass_X0 said:

Yeah, a 3/10 puts it on par with Alleyway and Side Pocket according to NintendoLife. I've played all three and Castlevania, despite its flaws, its still more fun and playable than those two. I'd even say it was more fun than Balloon Kid which got 4/10.

WaveBoy

#23

WaveBoy said:

I bet I'll have more fun with this than that dissapointing & overrated Kid icarus: Of Myths and monsters sequal. I'm Itching to get my Dr. Wily mits on this one whenever it sees the light of belmont-day in the US regardless if it ranges from bad to mediocre, i just have to play it considering it 'is' a traditionalVania entry in the franchise...Leaving me with Just Bloodlines afterwards and 'maybe' Dracula X even though I've finished the superior Rondo already.

For those like me that have played and finished The Adventure:'ReBirth' are also probably interested to see where it all started, even if it's less than stellar. B-)

Bass_X0

#25

Bass_X0 said:

I would expect no less from a hardcore Castlevania fan. But as a Game Boy game, when compared to other Game Boy games, it's under-rated at 3/10. Its below par.

TheGreenSpiny

#26

TheGreenSpiny said:

I remember buying this game back in the day and it was huge disappointment. It was pretty painful to play back then. Not surprised at the score at all. I wonder when Operation C is going to hit the VC?

player310

#29

player310 said:

I had this game back in the day, and I really feel this Castlevania game is broken... I don't think it's even possible to beat...

StuffyStuff

#32

StuffyStuff said:

This game was ok until the third level, and then it becomes impossible. Incredibly slow paced too.

Philip_J_ReedStaff

#34

Philip_J_Reed said:

My purchase of this game will mainly be to entice Konami to release its sequel. :) Great review Damo.

Monsti

#35

Monsti said:

Played this game a lot as a kid. Still think it's frustrating at some points but definitly not a bad game.

NeoShinobi

#37

NeoShinobi said:

I think the score's about right. The only thing I really liked about this game was the music.

Grustein

#38

Grustein said:

I have promised myself to eventually play all castlevania games, and luckily this one is cheap and probably short, so the pain won't hurt for long or my wallet.

Olaf-symbiote

#39

Olaf-symbiote said:

Gonna download this game when I have enough funds on my eShop account. I think people are far too critical with Adventure.

Kisame83

#44

Kisame83 said:

I agree with a 3, this game's horrid. I had this game when it was NEW. I played it in that kind of stockholm syndrome mentality of "portable Castlevania" until I could get back to my TV and have ACTUAL fun. The sequels were MUCH better. Why do some of you think the review needs to mentally transplant to the days when the game was fresh? It wasn't great then, just a novelty that...hey...'vania in your pocket! Like so many iOS games now that wouldn't pass muster except for the "OMG its on my PHONE" factor. But in the modern sense, maybe someone wants a Castlevania game. Maybe they have a PSP or Vita, and enough to buy Dracula X Chronicles. Or just Symphony of the Night. Maybe a local store (or Amazon) has cheap copies of Dawn of Sorrow, or the GBA Castlevanias. It is entirely relevant for them to know that this game will not likely scratch a series Castlevania itch, and more or less should only be bought by people who have nostalgia for the game (maybe, I do and...I'm not) or the curious.

Honestly, they remade this on Wii's shop, and it is FANTASTIC. If you want portable Castlevania on your 3DS, wait for II or Legends, or score a used copy of DoS, PoR, or OoE.

sillygostly

#45

sillygostly said:

Completed it yesterday in a single sitting (took me over 2 hours) with the assistance of many a restore point, and even then it was fiendishly difficult. I'd be surprised if anybody was able to complete this game back in the day without hurling their Gameboy out the window (or without the battery dying on them).

Good for a quick playthrough, but I probably wouldn't touch it again.

The NL score is fair all things considered.

mr_nihilism

#46

mr_nihilism said:

I remember having this when it originally came out. I never got very far and gave up on it real quick. It was just hard. Like NES Ghosts 'N Goblins hard.

Bucho

#48

Bucho said:

Everyone says it's so bad and that's making me want to buy it and try it myself

jayblue

#49

jayblue said:

I just bought it only played first level music good but for 2.69 come on great wee time filler,thank god you can save anytime for leaps of faith,bought kirby's pinball as well these are two games i haven't played before get both if you like old gb games i'm gong to fill my 3ds with loads.

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