Castlevania II - Simon's Quest by Konami for NES, released in 1988 in the US. Okay, this one really takes me back...
Obviously, what we have here is the sequel to Konami's very popular title Castlevania, an epic title which set a trend for several generations of gamers. The first one was quite well-received, and there was little doubt that the follow-up would be anything less than at least noteworthy. When I personally got wind that this game would be on store shelves, I started calling many of them "do you have it in yet? Is it in yet?" I remember being put on hold by Toys R Us long enough that I fell asleep and woke up to a dial tone. I wanted this game!
I finally did get my paws on it. The game looked incredible in screenshots, and in that sense I was not disappointed. Audiovisuals in the title definitely delivered (Konami were masters of the "chiptune scene" back then!) But as for the gameplay, that was a different story. The first title was all action, quiet linear, and brutally difficult. I don't think I made it too much past the halfway point in that game before giving up. This game - where the purpose is to collect all of Dracula's body parts (macabre!) and use them as power-ups (rib cage shield??? Really?) was more in an RPG-vein (pun intended!). You had a whole world to traverse, use power-ups in appropriate locations, dispatch a couple of bosses, then it's game over. A very different layout than the original. Ultimately, not as satisfying - the action segments were a cakewalk compared to part one, the all of the bosses sort of.. stood there while you attacked them, it wasn't very engaging.
This game is famous for having some very cryptic clues about how to proceed. I was one of those (and we were many!) who reached a certain plateau in the game before absolutely having no clue how to proceed, and shelving the game. Eventually I got it out of one of my middle-school buddies (thanks Scott!) that I was supposed to equip a crystal, kneel by a ledge, and wait for a hurricane to whisk me away to the next level. Nowhere in the game was this told to me!
Overall, the game was a disappointment. For all the hype, Casltevania II was a tremendous letdown and sort of a sully on the name of the first. No, it wasn't a bad game per se, just sort of an experiment which failed to satisfy, but managed to cruise by on aesthetics and theme (somewhat) alone. As a result of the game I was not really too terribly excited for the next installment in the series (number III, where Konami totally redeemed themselves and produced what's probably the ultimate Castlevania game I have ever seen!) But, we'll have to leave that one for another day-
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