The first NES Castlevania was like a breath of fresh air when it was first released. Capcom's spooky, but cartoon-like Ghost 'n' Goblins was the closest thing on the market, but Konami's game was a little more mature and serious. The gothic feel for which the series has become famous for is all present and correct, and the excellent music sets the scene perfectly. Some of the tunes featured here are still being reused and remixed several years down the line.
In Castlevania, Simon Belmont slays bats, Mermen, flying Medusa heads, dragons and other ghoulish manifestations. Initially armed with a leather whip, the weapon can be upgraded to a morning star, and subsequently an elongated morning star. Special items, upgrades and health reside in bricks and candlesticks. Such items include holy water that ignites the ground in front of enemies, a clock that stops enemies in their tracks and a cross that eliminates every baddy on the screen. The player will often implement every conceivable upgrade and item as there is an incessant onslaught of enemies hell-bent on Belmont meeting his demise.
Time has not been kind to the game on the whole. It's the first in the series so, as you might expect, it's pretty basic. There are annoying niggles, like not being able to jump off stairs, and only being able to whip in front of you also leads to problems. The game is incredibly difficult in places — the final boss will have you cursing and swearing, we can assure you of that!
Castlevania is one of our all-time favourite franchises and regardless of the faults, the first NES title still proves something of a classic and a welcome addition to Virtual Console. However we'd recommend that you download the superior SNES version (Super Castlevania IV, which is basically a re-telling of the first NES game) as it's a much more enjoyable experience.