Friday, October 16, 2009

Retro Game of the Day! Castlevania:The Adventure

Retro Game of the Day! Castlevania:The Adventure

Castlevania:The Adventure by Konami for GameBoy, released in 1989. Oh wait - or is it "The Castlevania Adventure?" This is frustrating me.. would anyone be too offended if I just simply referred to this as Castlevania GB?

Name confusion aside, the game we are looking at today was the next iteration of one of Konami's most popular go-to franchises, which (at this point) they wisely decided to launch shortly after every new Nintendo platform showed up.

The game is very basic - walk around, whip your foes, power up your whip, find an end boss, search for secret areas in each level. Yes, simple platforming, but this developer had this format of game development down well - the designs were all rock solid. Graphically, the game looked remarkable as well - in the screenshots the game looked unbelievable for a first generation handheld title, even in spite of the lack of color. So what is the elephant in the room, then?

The issue was this - Nintendo developed the GameBoy system themselves, so obviously they had a head start on dealing with the (painfully apparent) limitations of the hardware. The original GameBoy was not backlit, it relied on an external lightsource - and worse still, it didn't display detailed scrolling graphics all that elegantly, it was more designed for static images and limited sprite animations. Nintendo's original Mario offering got around this issue by displaying rather spartan backgrounds in their flagship scrolling platformer - Konami made the decision to layer out their backgrounds with details, and as a result things would blur/smear all over the place when the character moved. Not good! What was the quick fix to alleviate the problem? Simple, we'll just crank the hero character's walking speed down to a snail's pace.

And that is why Castlevania: The Adventure is a subpar effort which doesn't do justice to it's brand. The typical Castlevania games of the day were already something of a "lumber-fest," but this was a new low. It simply became a drag to play, no matter how good the graphics looked or how nicely the levels were laid out. The game was far from a failure - it enjoyed almost no competition when it released, and lots of people certainly picked it up because Hey!! It was Castlevania on the Go! Konami learned their lesson (briefly) and released a much-improved sequel, but in the eyes of some, it was too little, too late..

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