(Super Nintendo)

Super Castlevania IV (Super Nintendo)

Game Review

Super Castlevania IV Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Damien McFerran

Fangs for the memories

The Castlevania series is enjoying something of a renaissance at the moment, thanks largely to MercurySteam's commercially successful Lords of Shadow sub-series. However, as many hardcore Castlevania fans will repeatedly tell you until they are blue in the face and you are deeply, deeply bored, the God of War-style gameplay seen in these recent entries is a million miles away from the traditional Belmont-against-Dracula experience; Konami's vampire-slaying franchise began life as a 2D, side-scrolling action platformer and to its most ardent followers, that's how it should have stayed.

While the NES titles are firm favourites with Castlevania aficionados — with the possible exception of the unique but flawed Simon's Quest — it is the first entry on the SNES which is considered by many to be the benchmark against which all other instalments are judged. Super Castlevania IV is essentially a remake of the first title, and stars the irrepressible Simon Belmont in the lead role. Thematically it's very similar to the NES and MSX versions, but the level design and enemies are entirely different. The time and setting may be the same, but Simon is facing a fresh and unique challenge here.

Belmont's adventure takes him from the foreboding gatehouse of Dracula's Transylvanian fortress to its very heart, where he faces the Prince of Darkness himself in an epic final confrontation. Along the way our hero will wade through stinking swamps, navigate spinning tunnels, battle in a dusty library and explore Dracula's massive vault of gold and jewels. Super Castlevania IV has plenty of variety in its level designs, but ironically it starts off at quite a slow pace — in fact, at the time of release many reviewers criticised the plodding first and second levels. While it's true that the game doesn't really get started until you enter the confines of the castle proper, there's a feel to the early stages which is almost bewitching — something which is due in no small part to the superlative soundtrack.

The original Castlevania is held up by many old-school players as the perfect example of a challenging action platformer. In the 8-bit original Simon can only whip horizontally, and players were forced to adapt to this limitation in order to survive. In Super Castlevania IV, Belmont has gained some new tricks; not only can he whip in eight directions, he can also "tickle" enemies by flailing his whip in the air. This move looks odd and is actually quite weak, but comes in very useful when you want to deflect incoming projectiles.

In essence, what we have here is a much-improved control scheme, but some diehard fans have suggested that it renders the game too easy; without the almost unavoidable deaths triggered by Simon's limited moveset, this sequel is robbed of its punishing challenge. The fact that Konami would never again give a Castlevania protagonist the same whip-based repertoire seems to lend credence to this viewpoint, but it would be erroneous to label this SNES outing as "easy".

Granted, the game isn't as frustratingly difficult as the NES original — and the introduction of save states on the Wii U Virtual Console makes it less of a pain to play through in a single sitting — but Super Castlevania IV remains a challenging romp. The key distinction here is that unlike its 8-bit ancestor, it's never difficult to the point of being borderline unfair; there are segments which will test your reactions dearly — and may well cause a few annoying deaths — but once you've figured out what is required of you, there's an incredibly rewarding feeling to overcoming the odds. As before, Simon can pick up weapons such as daggers and axes to make things a little easier, and these are limited by the number of hearts you have in reserve — still inexplicably gained by whipping candles.

Visually, Castlevania IV showcases quite a restrained and subtle look, especially when compared with the anime-style direction Konami would later take with Dracula X: Rondo of Blood. While there's little colour being splashed about the screen, the visuals are detailed and effective, and are arguably much more in tune with the dark gothic subject matter than the bright graphics witnessed in future Castlevania outings. The aforementioned music — expertly composed by Masanori Adachi and Taro Kudo — adds immeasurably to the atmosphere, and ranks as one of the finest game soundtracks ever produced on any system. The almost painful beauty of the music included here is made all the more incredible by the fact that this game launched on a cartridge and not a CD. If you need any proof of just how aurally adept the SNES sound chip is, look — or listen — no further.

Conclusion

Super Castlevania IV is one of those games which clearly had a massive emotional impact on the players lucky enough to experience it first time around, but there's more than nostalgia at work here — Konami's gothic epic has engaging gameplay, plenty of challenge, inventive levels and a sumptuous soundtrack. Unlike many of the other 16-bit platformers of the era, the game has a mature and distinguished feel to it, neatly sidestepping the unintentionally humorous tone that was often struck by the NES original. It also makes excellent use of its host platform's technical skills, with Mode 7 being employed to dazzle on a visual level (you'll never forget that rotating tunnel section) as well as to enrich the gameplay.

Although Castlevania would be taken to a new level by Symphony of the Night, when you're talking about the traditional instalments — where good, old-fashioned platforming was the central focus — then it really doesn't get any better than this. Super Castlevania IV is a masterpiece of 16-bit programming and has lost none of its ability to enthrall and captivate two decades after its original launch.

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User Comments (63)

raith

#1

raith said:

Super Castlevania IV is my favorite Castlevania game, ever. The graphics, music, atmosphere, gameplay were just amazing. I really wish Konami made CV games in this fashion again.

unrandomsam

#3

unrandomsam said:

@Rawk_Hawk Cannot be 10/10 because it is miles too easy (Which makes it boring). It has loads of slowdown as well.

Rondo of Blood has neither of those problems.

JebbyDeringer

#4

JebbyDeringer said:

I didn't get into this game at all until a couple years ago. Strangely I never played it when I had a SNES and while playing most of the others this one never held my attention for more than 5 minutes. I gave it more of a chance a couple years back and enjoyed it quite a bit.

unrandomsam

#5

unrandomsam said:

I have never played God of War (Or have any desire to) but the 3DS Castlevania is awful. (Part of the fun of Castlevania for me is the character being loads less powerful than the enemies. They destroyed that from Symphony of the Night onwards).

unrandomsam

#6

unrandomsam said:

From what I have read the SNES version has terrible slowdown. (The Super Famicom version is better but still has some). It is not even mentioned in the review has it actually been fixed for this release ?

unrandomsam

#7

unrandomsam said:

This did have an emotional impact on me first time around. (Put me off the series completely until the Wii VC got Rondo of Blood so about 20 years).

WanderFan91

#8

WanderFan91 said:

@unrandomsam - since it's a direct adaptation from the SNES game with zero changes in it whatsoever, I'm going to say "no". I know that slowdown occurs when I play it on my Nintendo Wii, so I'm pretty sure the same would apply for the Wii U VC as well. But then, a lot of early SNES games had graphic slowdown (so that was understandable; it can offputting a few times but it's not so bad here), but it got better for the console as the years went by (for the most part: cough Brain Lord cough).

BrightBeing

#10

BrightBeing said:

This game is what made me a Castlevania fan. As a kid, I would make up stories about what the levels meant, why the enemies were the way they were, what they were before being ghost waltzers or zombie dogs... It was a masterpiece with detailed levels, background animation, mode 7, memorable bosses, fantastic music, gothic and dark themes, and some of the best controls for a platformer. If you've never played it, you should buy this as fast as you can get the eShop to load on your Wii U. 10/10

SCAR392

#12

SCAR392 said:

I upgraded my Wii VC version this morning. I recommend buying this if you haven't already. This was one one the key SNES games, and I consider it to be my most favorite of the series.

FYI, the 3DS game is actually the only other Castlevania I've liked, besides this one.

alrighthearthis

#13

alrighthearthis said:

I never played this game all the way through, just rentals back in the day, so I'll be picking this up today. Looking for some Dracula slaying fun.

WanderFan91

#14

WanderFan91 said:

Good review, Damo. :)

Honestly Super Castlevania IV is an 8 for me, but I still enjoy it whenever I play it. :) I definitely concur that the Mode 7 is amazing (especially the rotating tunnel section, I mean oh my God, that is very impressive for its time; even now), the music is really excellent, and the controls are good (they lessen the game's difficulty a bit but they're good). I personally find it very manageable and kinda/sorta medium-difficulty-based, but different strokes for different folks I guess. Where else can you fight off a giant bat comprised solely from Dracula's treasures? :) I also like it when Simon swings from bat rings and moves while crouching, as it adds some freshness to the gameplay.

The only downsides (for me that is) is that the second quest (after the first playthrough) is not as good as the first, the dancing spectres is a complete joke ("Oh look, a human vampire hunter in the castle; let us kill him by dancing and twirling all over him, and possibly use foils or some such weapons from time to time!" It's just embarrassing, that's all), spikes cause instant death (never mind that Konami wanted to add realism to the game by doing that, but as a game it's not exactly fair; if you want the spikes to do that, then have it happen in a way that you can't come back, like a deep pit), Dracula's final form is underwhelming, and unless you're standing on the stairs virtually any time an enemy makes contact with you Simon gets pushed back (which is something of a pet peeve I've always had with the game; it's especially problematic if you happen to stand a few steps from a ledge and you fall back to your death; personally it drives me bonkers).

Aside from those negatives I still like the game a lot, and I still think that it's good :) To each their own!

Falchion

#15

Falchion said:

Is this a good place to start in the series? Recently getting into retro gaming, i have wanted to try a castlevania but didnt know where to start

WanderFan91

#16

WanderFan91 said:

That depends. If you wanted to start from the very beginning, I'd suggest trying the original that started it all; but I don't see any harm in having this one (which is technically a remake of the first title, even though it's different structurally and design-wise) be the first game you play in the series, Falchion, as Super Castlevania IV is pretty good. :) That, or you could try Akumajou Dracula X: Chi no Rondo (which imo is superior), but it's all up to you. You can't go wrong with either choice!

Jazzer94

#17

Jazzer94 said:

Also awesome review apart from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night which I played over a decade ago when I was seven this is the only of Castlevania I've picked up and I'm enjoying what I've played so far.

unrandomsam

#18

unrandomsam said:

@Falchion The ones I liked are - Castlevania / Castlevania III / Castlevania : The Adventure Rebith and I liked Rondo of Blood the best. (I think I would have enjoyed Castlevania : The Adventure Rebirth more if I played it before Rondo of Blood but the bosses go back to get as close as you can and hammer the whip button. What is so good about Rondo of Blood is that never works no matter how many hearts you have and what weapon).

player310

#19

player310 said:

While 'Rondo of Blood' tends to be a crowd/sentimental favorite, I think this SNES entry is superior in the way of the Belmont's move-set and gameplay...
Graphics seem better too...

sketchturner

#20

sketchturner said:

Definitely my favorite Castlevania game. I think it's ridiculous that people accuse it of being too easy. I find it quite a satisfying challenge due to some tricky platforming. My top CV's are:
1. Super Castlevania IV
2. Symphony of the Night
3. Rondo of Blood
4. Castlevania Rebirth

Bakajin

#21

Bakajin said:

I love this game. I still have an old notebook from back in the day with all my SCIV passwords, and when I get home tonight I just might download this and punch in the password for level 1. (All my passwords are for the second playthrough so this will let me actually have a little bit of challenge from the start.) My old cart still works fine but my SNES, not so much; I can justify this download.

KnightRider666

#22

KnightRider666 said:

@Rawk_Hawk: Symphony of the Night is a 10/10, not this game. I think a 9 is generous. I never really got into this game believe it or not, but to each their own I guess.

Play_It_Loud

#23

Play_It_Loud said:

This IMO is the best of all the Castlevanias, and one of my all time favourite games. Treasure really knocked it out of the park with this one.

Ryno

#25

Ryno said:

Yuck Metroidvania's,... Don't even talk about those abominations when discussing the classic Castlevania games. Though I think Super Castlevania is on the tad easy side, it is my favorite classic Castlevania. Games don't have to be difficult to be great. The music is simply amazing and I have the entire soundtrack on my phone and listen to it from time to time.

unrandomsam

#27

unrandomsam said:

6 Playthroughs each one becoming more difficult sounds perfect.

X68000 would be good on VC it has the best versions of loads of Jap stuff. (Capcom / Konami etc).

unrandomsam

#28

unrandomsam said:

@Ryno They don't have to be difficult but the attack patterns are really dull in this. (Made even worse by the 8 way whip). For me there is an elegance about being in the right position and anticipating where the enemies are going to go. The others are relaxing for me to play this isn't because you can succeed without ever needing to practice. (The 8 way whip means I rarely get hit but its more hectic than controlled).

Haxonberik

#30

Haxonberik said:

I have to play this and Mega man 2/3 soon, but I'm just drowning in games yet to be played.

snoox

#32

snoox said:

I have not taken any joy out of a single retro title, not even Earthbound..... so, I'm gonna stop going off of hype & saving my money from now on... I guess I'm just a modern games only kinda guy, it's just waaay not for me :/

luminalace

#34

luminalace said:

I love this game and it never gets old for me! I actually owned a import copy before I owned the SNES!

Nomad

#35

Nomad said:

I remember when this came out here in Australia they had a 'Super Nintendo Championship' contest, with the idea that whoever scored the highest within 2 minutes would win an entertainment set - up with an SNES. I owned the game and practiced and ended up placing 10th nationwide and scored a Super Castlevania IV hat, shirt and certificate. I really wish I had kept it all.

AJWolfTill

#36

AJWolfTill said:

Never really played this series but this sounds like the best place to start from your review. If it's ever on special offer I'll definately pick it up.

LDXD

#37

LDXD said:

Yeah awesome classic I'd personally give it a 9 also.
Probably my 3rd favorite castlevania game, I pretty much love all the castlevania games except the newer god of war clone garbage. @unrandomsam if you think this one is easy you should try the Los games lol what a joke probably can be beaten blindfolded

SetupDisk

#38

SetupDisk said:

I was excited about Rondo of blood with all the hype about it when it came out on the VC, then I played it, what a letdown. Super Castlevania is my favorite of the old style games and maybe my favorite overall.

speedyboris

#39

speedyboris said:

Rondo of Blood is overrated. There, I said it.

Don't get me wrong, it's a great game. But Super Castlevania IV is superior.

WanderFan91

#41

WanderFan91 said:

I don't mind if there are people who like Super Castlevania IV better than Akumajou Dracula X: Chi no Rondo, or vice versa. To each their own. We'll agree to disagree!

ICHIkatakuri

#42

ICHIkatakuri said:

@unrandomsam YEEEEEEEEEAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH! Rondo is the best, wish that would be released on Wii U VC. I may actually get to the end of it with the save states employed.

Guitardude7

#43

Guitardude7 said:

ONE NIGHT YEA ONE MORE TIME. FANGS FOR THE MEMORIES EVEN IF THEY WERENT SO GREAT. YOUR BLOOD TASTES LIKE YOU ONLY SWEETEEEEEEEEEEEER.

LDXD

#44

LDXD said:

I'll end this now castlevania lll beats them all there I said it :p

AyeHaley

#45

AyeHaley said:

Hmm I hope we'll also get Dracula X. Though I am very pleased with SCIV! Wanted that game for a while now.

CanisWolfred

#46

CanisWolfred said:

I always preferred most other Castlevanias over this. It's not bad, but I dunno, it just doesn't feel like Castlevania to me.

PinkSpider

#48

PinkSpider said:

This game needs to be patched or something, stage 3's slowdown when you hit the rock enemies is horrendous. It doesn't do that on the Snes or orginal Wii VC. Fix it Nintendo

soma

#53

soma said:

As a kid I wasn't a huge fan of this game, the graphics were great and the intro music was amazing, but at the time I thought other musics were boring and I lost interest in it. The only Castlevania game I had played before was Simon's Quest, which I loved.

When it appeared on the Wii VC I gave it another try and boy was I wrong! This game is amazing, the music and controls are perfect and some special effects still hold very well today. The only negative thing for me are the boss battles, there's really no strategy involved in most of them, just whip as fast as you can.

Of course then I downloaded Rondo of Blood and although it improved some things (jump in stairs, back-flip, special attack) I enjoyed more Super Castlevania IV for the amazing atmosphere it has. Both are great games though, highly recommended.

Midnight3DS

#55

Midnight3DS said:

@snoox

I feel the same way in many instances. Fond memories aside, as well as bah humbing any and everything 'new', games have come a long way, and for the better in many areas. Some 'classics' could benefit from modern touch-ups here and there.

Eddsnake

#56

Eddsnake said:

Great review, got this for Christmas in 1994 and have been in love with it ever since. Great control (swinging from ledge to ledge with the whip is still so much fun), brilliant levels, beautiful graphics and an absolutely stunning soundtrack that still haunts me like no other game has before or since. A 10 for me! (Oh and it's much better than Rondo of Blood, 100%-ed Rondo on the Wii VC and was quite disappointed with it).

shigulicious

#57

shigulicious said:

My favorite castlevanias not including the DS ones. Castlevania 3, SOTN, Rebirth, Rondo, then Castlevania 4.

KnightRider666

#58

KnightRider666 said:

@unrandomsam: Sorry, I disagree. Your option for different armors and weapons were nearly endless, the music was unsurpassed, and there was a whole new inverted quest. No Castlevania will ever touch SOTN, ever.

SparkOfSpirit

#60

SparkOfSpirit said:

This game is excellent. Classic Castlevania at its best with Rondo, III, and Adventure ReBirth. I hope Konami gets these back on the Wii U VC ASAP.

SwerdMurd

#61

SwerdMurd said:

oh it's not PERFECT. 9/10 is quite accurate - amazing CV game to be sure - but certain things were done differently / worked better in Dracula's Curse, CV 68k, and Rondo. A few issues, such as the overpowerd 8-directional whipping (and levels that weren't quite designed to restrict its power properly), greatly-neutered difficulty, and overreliance on effects the SNES can't quite keep up a strong framerate with knock it down a touch for me. Personally I still have yet to play a 10/10 Castlevania, even though I love them so. In the TroidVania series, closest is probably OoE (9+/10)

Dpishere

#62

Dpishere said:

I have never played a Castlevania game before, maybe this would be a great start?

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