With the upcoming release of the Nintendo Entertainment System: NES Classic Edition (NA) / Nintendo Classic Mini: Nintendo Entertainment System (EU), we're going to provide short profiles of all 30 games included on the system. This series has already looked at Castlevania, so not it's only fitting that we move our gaze to its successor - Castlevania II: Simon's Quest.
It may seem like a strange statement now, but the NES was a technical marvel when it arrived, at least compared to other home gaming systems. It had a bit of a free run after the so-called 'video game crash', admittedly, but it delivered games that seemed beyond anything young gamers had seen before. Super Mario Bros. blew minds, and third-parties didn't take long to produce exciting, eye-popping games - Konami's Castlevania certainly hit the mark way back in 1987 (NA) / 1988 (EU).
The technology and sizeable audience (for the Famicom and its Disk System in Japan, NES in the West) also excited developers, and we saw some ambitious ideas committed to cartridges. Simon's Quest most certainly qualifies for that category, taking the movement and combat mechanics of the original and putting them within a sizeable, obtuse and challenging RPG adventure.
Unlike the A to B level traversal of Castlevania (and indeed Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse), what we have is a large map and some flexibility in approach. The plot puts this down to Simon being cursed at the end of the first game, and to remove it he needs to gather Dracula's body parts from five different places, take them to the castle and then destroy him once again. It's gory stuff.
Doing this requires exploration, and a whole load of mechanics that put the 'RPG' into the experience. You gather currency by defeating enemies, you level up, you buy items and improved equipment, and you talk to villagers that are often baffling or downright deceptive. If you die you can continue but lose your upgraded levels and currency, so the fear is definitely there - if you perish, it's a long way back. Infamously, it also regularly transitions from day to night, with the latter period changing the atmosphere in villages while enemies in the outside world become more powerful. The transition is frequent and perhaps overlong, an annoyance that helped launch the career of the James Rolfe, aka The Angry Nintendo / Video Game Nerd.
Now, it's tempting to bash Simon's Quest, but we're going to try and defend it while acknowledging that, in terms of the Mini NES, it's more of a curiosity than a must-play game.
For one thing, this writer has been playing a lot of Dark Souls III and Bloodborne over the past few months, and it's humorous to think that ideas seen in Simon's Quest are praised when part of modern games that have the means to deliver upon a vision. Level ups? Check. Weapon upgrades and purchases? Check. Danger of losing significant progress and 'currency' (Souls, Blood Echoes)? Check? NPCs that speak in riddles and make little sense without research? BIG CHECK. Strange rituals and obscure requirements to access some areas? Yep, another check. Not to mention the fact you travel around a large world collecting materials (which you do by slaying bosses in DSIII / Bloodborne) as objectives.
We're not arguing that Simon's Quest is a great game or in the same league as modern From Software classics, but we're highlighting the fact that good ideas don't always convert well on certain technology. Simon's Quest had the same Director (Hitoshi Akamatsu) as the original, and it's evident that the team wanted to push the franchise in an ambitious new direction.
Two other things worth noting in this defence of Simon's Quest. It actually reviewed rather well at the time, despite some translation problems producing text that's truly cringeworthy (though apparently NPCs are supposed to be liars in the game). Another is that titles like this had a life of their own through magazine guides and playground chatter - what some would call 'a Nintendo Power game'. Word of mouth and guides were a part of the gaming culture, and this title, with its obscure riddles and tricky ideas, was perfect for that side of NES gaming.
Despite our defence of it, let's be clear that this game has its problems. Our most recent review said as much, and this article by Jeremy Parish is an excellent write-up on the game's eccentricities and shortcomings. A bold concept and set of ideas struggles to knit together into a cohesive whole, leaving a flawed experience behind. Yet it's oddly enticing because of its weirdness, and can also be pretty atmospheric to boot. Oh, and it has great music.
So don't dismiss this on NES Mini. Prepare for flaws (and 'Prepare to Die') and get a walkthrough handy on a tablet or phone next to you; you may be surprised by it.
I know this is not the most loved but it was my favorite! However then again I liked Mario 2 and Zelda 2 as well.
There is nothing "challenging" about Simon's Quest, other than instructions for progress being beyond cryptic. The dungeon and overworld layouts are repetitive and easy to traverse, there's two bosses in total which take zero brainpower to beat (one of which being entirely skippable, too), Castlevania is absolutely empty and Dracula's an even bigger joke than Ghosts'n Goblins' Astaroth.
Terribly unbalanced game. It hasn't been even a week since I beat it, mind you, so there's no blurred memories bias to speak of here.
@Spoony_Tech I love Adventure of Link myself, but I believe SQ's backlash at the time to be far more on point.
I rather enjoyed this game, myself. Yeah, it's far from perfect, but it's very much an enjoyable experience. No guides necessary either. Although most villagers lie, you can pick up on the truths if you can understand what and where they're talking about.
I rate Simon's Quest more highly that Zelda 2.
@Spoony_Tech Mario 2 is actually my favourite, too. I often enjoy quirky sequels that stray from the originals.
It's shocking that the system still isn't available for pre-order in North America. When the system was announced in July, my social media pages were flooded with images and posts about the Classic Mini. Even people I have never seen/heard speak of games were like "Yup, Day 1". I wonder if the momentum has been lost by 3 months passing with no pre-orders. I also fear this could be a resellers paradise and an eBay special. Nintendo, why are you terrible with stock? =(
Loving this reviews. I would love if regular reviews for modern games follow a similar structure. Honest and on point.
When I first got Simon's Quest, I 'll admit I was disappointed. I remember spending hours trying to get to Dracula in the original, getting there and spending more hours trying to beat the final bosses.
So, when I started playing SQ I felt lost. I felt like I was going no where or in circles. That was because I didn't understand the format when I played. I was expecting a platform. A straight up action adventure.
In Simon's Quest, you may spend as much time exploring as you do fighting. You must travel around the world in search of the five mansions where Dracula's body parts are kept. Along the way you will pass through several towns where you can buy new weapons or items, and get clues from the villagers. This was standard RPG stuff, but when I first played the game I didn't know what a RPG was; and it was a side scroller. The only thing that saved me was it kind of reminded me of The Adventure of Link. Once I realized that I sailed through the game in one weekend. Which was ok because I traded it to a super nerd for Ultima: Exodus. A whooper of an RPG.
Simon's Quest was an experimental game by Konami. It is fun and frustrating. I recommend playing this game. It is my least favorite in the NES era, but that is not to say it is not good.
So which Simon is worse: Castlevania 2 or Captain N?
I like to think of Simon's Quest as a game too ambitious for its own good, for the reasons mentioned in the article. I'd love to see a ReBirth version of it, if only to correct the shortcomings of the original.
Good read. Now I need to go crouch near a rock wall while holding a specific item to summon the whirlwind.
I think Nintendo is conservative with initial stock, to put it nicely. I expect there will be plenty of units eventually. No reason to cave to resellers. Of course, I'm willing to miss out. From this article, I learned that Dark Souls and Bloodborne are not for me, but they're also not sprite based or in glorious 240p, so I wasn't likely to play those anyway. Castlevania 2 was an interesting experiment, but I don't think it worked. The fact they didn't stick with it probably means it wasn't well received overall. I think it's overly cryptic and a bad pick for the NES mini. I think Symphony of the Night is a much better fusion of action and RPG.
This is my favorite Castlevania game. As one who lived through the original release of this game the review is fair. The culture of the time made it so much fun to play. Toughest part? Having the crystal and kneeling at the edge of the screen until it lets you advance. Then being able to show your friends how to move on and have them marvel over your newfound knowledge was fun. I used to have the password memorized that gives you everything to face Dracula!
I get it that it is not everyone's cup of tea.
I read that it had some great music, clicked the video and heard "Come and get your loooove". Good stuff.
(it was just a google ad)
Ah, the "odd" one. Japan won't be getting it, but I am glad we are. I have learned to enjoy it's strange quirks in time.
I simply cannot play this one.
It's pretty long since I played this, the game is highly flawed but at least the soundtrack to this game is awesome, Bloody Tears obviously is a classic, but the mansion theme is another one of my favorites and I'm really sad it never got any official remixes or arrangements.
Thinking back 27 or so years, I can remember completing Super Mario 2, Mega Man 2, and Simon's Quest.
I wonder why I completed all the sequels but not the originals?
My brother from another mother. I love Simons Quest, Zelda II and SMB 2! Simon's Quest will always be an all time classic in my eyes and considering how often it's re-released, many seem to agree!
I replay it every few years and it never disappoints. I'd also venture that it's Nintendo Power Cover is one of the all time greats.
This is my favorite of the NES Castlevanias. Dracula's Curse is awesome and all, but I love everything about this one. The music, the towns, the atmosphere and the gameplay.
I love Simon's Quest, but I don't know if I could still play the game without this patch: meow...
This is my favorite CastleVania game for the NES, but I prefer IV, COTM, and POR over II.
My favorite thing was how Konami "Borrowed" The box art from the Dungeon and Dragon Ravenloft module.
I love this game, although when I get to play it again we'll see how much of that is nostalgia. What I think would be awesome is a remake that kept the essence but wrapped it in three decades of improved game design.
Among all the other games included on the NES Mini, Simon's Quest is definitely a must-play. This wouldn't be necessarily true in the days before battery-backed save files due to its difficulty and length, yet that issue doesn't exist in this format, thanks to artificial save files within the system's menu. One of the best "Classicvanias", this is a fantastic experience that should not be missed!
What a terrible night to have a curse!
@PigmaskFan The nighttime elements actually added a lot to the experience, in my opinion.
@Agent721 I think you're 100% spot on. Professional reviewers and journalists (and clickbait YouTube personalities) have been descrating the names of Kid Icarus, Zelda II, SMB 2 (USA), Simon's Quest, and so many other innovative and entertaining classics, yet most of them are continually re-released and fondly remembered by the common player. It is always very nice to hear an opinion like yours that hasn't continually been recycled through a haughty echo chamber.
"This game sucks" - the Angry Video Game Nerd.
@Spoony_Tech I liked Mario 2.
One of my favorite games. Most early zelda games had obscure puzzles too. I'm not big into zelda since I didn't have zelda on Nintendo when I was young. This was my zelda.
It has its flaws but does a lot right. Nice graphics and classic music. The day night cycle was unique and gave it more of a horror atmosphere at night. The castles were exciting and tough. Upgrades were a lot of fun and really felt earned. Figuring out a puzzle without a guide and getting to a new area felt awesome.
But, many puzzles are practically impossible without a guide and boss fights are mostly nothing special. Some travel felt tedious and having to use passwords was annoying.
It has its flaws but for me its strengths outweigh its weaknesses. A modern remake would be awesome.
Thanks, I'm happy to see someone loves this game as much as I do! As many here say, a modern remake would be awesome, but this classic will always be special to me.
I never owned this game, but my family rented it plenty of times. I think we got the first two or three pieces of Dracula before getting lost and giving up.
I do like the style the game is trying to go for.
I like Simon's Quest. I legitmately do. It's quite different from the games of its era, and it's a alpha for Metroidvania. It didn't have all the RPG elements, sure, but it's a guilty pleasure to me.
Simon's Quest: The precursor to Metroidvania. Too advanced for it's time, too hampered by it's own flaws in it's time. I think overall I love the ambition of SQ more than the final product itself. It's similar, but not exact, to how I feel about Zelda II.
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