Review: Castlevania (Wii U eShop / NES)

Just like Dracula, it keeps coming back to life...

Konami, admittedly following the lead of others such as Nintendo and Capcom, sure likes to remind us it was making awesome games way back in the 1980s. "Hey", it says, "remember how great Castlevania was on the NES?" We sure do, Konami and, oh look, now we can buy it again on the Wii U! It's one of many retro games that keeps giving, again and again (and again).

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 and cannot jump onto stairs or drop off them, meaning he must slowly traipse up or down. 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. 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 — the Wii U GamePad screen, as it does with various 8-bit games, can show the title in its best light. 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.

Conclusion

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 Virtual Console's 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 début remains an 8-bit classic and is well worth experiencing.