Thursday, August 6, 2009

Retro Game of the Day! Castlevania

Retro Game of the Day! Castlevania

Ah yes, Konami's vintage wine Castlevania - a visit down the Hallowed Halls of videogamedom, this was the first entry in a long series which knows now satiety - much like Dracula's own thirst for blood, appropriately. Released in 1987, two teams developed an arcade cabinet and a home cartridge, apparently independently of one another. The arcade came and went (Haunted Castle, if you must know) but we all know the long and lasting legacy of the home version. Today we'll investigate the uber-classic NES entry.

It's been said before - titles like this were exactly what gave Nintendo the edge over their competitors, head and shoulders above anything else they could do. Can you imagine how different the world would be today, if the likes of Konami, Square, and Capcom had been staunch supporters of Sega's 8-Bit system? As it was, no other system got such strong software support with titles to this degree of quality and innovation (yeah, there were weaker versions of such things, including this exact game, on MSX, but they never released that machine domestically).

Like Super Mario Bros., Castlevania was an early prototypical action/platformer. Walk to the right, jump, go up and down stairs, collect powerups, kill things. Wrap-up before the timer runs out, battle bosses, and advance rounds until the final level, then do the boss in and you're calling it a day. After a game like (the original) Super Mario, Castlevania would seem like a serious upgrade as those original gameplay elements were really polished and extrapolated upon in this title.

With Castlevania, Konami took a very simple premise and outfitted it with (relatively) complex level design, difficult but addictive gameplay, rock-solid control, beautifully styled graphics, and a moody and wonderful soundtrack. Games like this really hit all the marks back in the day - in fact they absolutely set the standard for the genre, and stand out (still) as shining examples of a complete package. Alright, so at this point I am pretty much kissing Castlevania's ass pretty hardcore here - and why shouldn't I? It is still a very good looking game that's a lot of fun to play, for anyone.

Like it's contemporary Ghosts 'n Goblins - the two games shared many concepts and gameplay ideas - Castlevania was no walk in the park, in fact I still haven't beat this (or the third one.. actually, I think the only one I actually finished was the criminally easy Simon's Quest!). Yeah this game could be a little but punishing at parts, it's far from impossible but it will require some patience, creativity, and tight reflexes to see this title through. Absolutely, any gamer worth his salt (from ANY generation) should give Castlevania a try and see how far they can get through this beast! If they were giving out Game of the Year awards in 1987, this would have easily placed..

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