Although it was released in 1995, Nosferatu had been in development for years prior and was originally scheduled to be released much earlier. It can best be described as Prince of Persia meets a mix of Castlevania and Splatterhouse. There weren’t a great deal of dark games on the Super Nintendo. So as a fan of the macabre, this was one game I definitely had my eye on back in the day. The lovely magazine previews made it seem like a can’t miss affair. Did it live up to the hype I created inside my gaming heart all those years ago? Sadly, especially considering the lengthy delays, the answer is an emphatic NO. But that doesn’t mean it’s not without some merit. Since we’re in the middle of Halloween season, I can’t think of a better time than now to take a closer look at what SHOULD have been one of the Super Nintendo’s unsung treasures.
WHY SO LONG?
Man, do I remember the magazine previews for this game. I would just stare at the previews in awe, thinking to myself back in the early-mid ’90s, “All these cute and colorful SNES games are nice and all but where are the darker, more mature titles at?” One glance at this game and it was like Seta had read my mind. But Nosferatu remained in developmental hell year after year. You began to wonder if it would ever see the light of day. After years of delay, Seta finally released it in October of 1995. Better late than never, right…
I wanted so badly to play Nosferatu back in the day but I somehow never did. My brother and I bought an issue of SWAT Pro Magazine once and it featured an amazing eight page breakdown of Nosferatu. I must have read those eight pages over 100 times. From the macabre visuals to the maze maneuvering, it looked like a game tailored made for my monster and adventure loving heart. Sadly, as I said, I never got around to playing Nosferatu as a kid. It came out pretty late in the Super Nintendo’s lifespan — by the fall of 1995 I was more concerned with navigating the murky waters of junior high than keeping tabs with the latest SNES releases. I eventually donated my SNES to my cousin David in ’98 or ’99. But things came full circle when I repurchased the system on January 17, 2006. Nosferatu was one of the earlier games I bought (February 8, 2006). At long last, it was time to quell a childhood curiosity that had stood for over 10 years.
Cool looking monsters, right? Sadly, you don’t see any of these huge beasts in the game. And see how our hero looks like he’s firing some sort of voodoo projectile at the two-headed behemoth there? Looks pretty rad, right? But nowhere in the actual game is it found! Who knows why, but seeing these early shots bring a tear to my eye knowing what could have been…
THE STORY GOES…
Nosferatu features a very basic power-up system. Kyle’s fighting prowess increases as you collect crystals found via treasure chests or slain beasts. Sadly, the gems are rather scarce and it’s far too easy to lose them, especially when facing Frankenstein or those damn floating eye balls.
Collect these items as you go along to aid you in your quest. Be sure to explore everywhere. The green gem is highly valuable since it adds new bars to your life. You’ll need every last one!
The first stage is simple, introducing you to the game mechanics by putting you at ease and setting the somber mood proper. Later stages, however, have branching paths to wade through.
Hmmm, shall I take the brightly lit stairs leading up or the dark stairs leading down filled with beastly growls? [For you, take the dark stairs leading down… -Ed.]
Animation is pretty top-notch stuff. I love the detail of the prisoner reaching out there…
Pocket the treasure and quickly high tail it! Something is definitely not right here…
Attention to detail is surely impressive. You gotta love the female begging there. Dare enter the dark room there?
Better time this correctly or else!
Kyle’s got bigger problems to worry about than falling… such as Frankie’s fists!
Ah, out of the decrepit hell hole and you find yourself on the outskirts of the forest on a cool chilly night. If you guess this is the prelude to the first boss battle, then you my friend are correct.
This guy is super annoying. You can only jump kick him to death. Not bad until you factor in it’s hard to do that. If you are carrying gems, you’ll lose a few when he knocks you down. Cheap as hell…
I couldn’t get away!
Reached out a hand to touch your face.
You’re slowly disappearing from my view.
Disappearing from my view.
And I ran.
I ran so far away.
I just ran.
I ran all night and day.
I couldn’t get away!
These little moments where the action speeds up and the sense of urgency increases is where the game delivers most.
Puzzles aren’t very taxing. Push a block to activate the switch which opens the door there. Nonetheless, it adds some flavor instead of being your typical platformer.
Nosferatu has some nice cutscenes. I love how we catch a very brief glimpse of the vampire himself, watching and stalking Kyle from his tower…
See that little opening there up top? This is a pretty cool spot where you need to stop and ponder first before jumping and going at it all gung-ho. It’s hard to explain but it’s moments like this that I love navigating.
WAYS TO DIE
Inch your way by walking instead of running. This allows you to see things and obstacles to come.
This handy cheat saves this game somewhat. It allows you to sample the later levels which the programmers at Seta made damn difficult to reach naturally. Levels 4-6 are INSANELY brutal. Even on Easy, it ain’t. Far from it! Part of it is due to the stiff control. Here are some other great cheats:
- Maximize Health: Do spinning kick, pause, Up, X, right, A, down, B, left, Y
- Maximize Power Crystals: Pause, Up, X, right, A, down, B, left, Y
- [GAME GENIE] Don’t Lose Crystals When Hit: C265-3DBD
- [GAME GENIE] Almost Infinite Energy: C9BA-1F04
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
To nobody’s surprise, GameFan once again went semi-gaga over a game that both EGM and Super Play were both less forgiving and a bit harsher toward. That is the case 9 times out of 10. Expect GameFan to dole out the more generous scores while EGM and especially Super Play were harder to impress. EGM scored it 6.5, 6.5, 7.0 and 7.0. GameFan gave it ratings of 80, 85 and 88%. Super Play rated it 75%. Nosferatu is a mixed bag among SNES fans. Most tend to dig its macabre and ghoulish atmosphere, but it’s hampered by stiff gameplay and an absurdly high level of (cheap) difficulty.
I vividly remember drooling at all of the Nosferatu previews and screenshots back in the day, thinking to myself what a cool and awesome game it must be. It looked like an enticing hybrid of such beloved games like Prince of Persia, Castlevania and Splatterhouse. “How could this game be anything but fantastic!?” I thought. Fast forward nearly 15 years later to the year 2009. I finally quelled my Nosferatu curiosity and I’m sad to say it fell way short of my expectations. Although I try my best to play a game for the very first time with a blank canvas in mind, admittedly I do enter select video games with certain hopes. I thought to myself that Nosferatu would surely be a “hidden gem.” I came into it believing it would play like a game that deserves no less than a strong 8 out of 10 score. Sometimes a game will meet my expectations. Other times it may even exceed. And then sadly, there are times where the game falls below par and you shake your head at what a missed opportunity. I wish I could tell you Nosferatu belongs somewhere in the first two categories but it plops itself into the tragic, heartbreaking third category. That’s not to say Nosferatu isn’t without its good points. The graphics are pretty cool and although the scenery appears somewhat repetitive, the visuals really give this game a unique and somber mood that fits in perfectly with this time of the year (Halloween season). The music suits it well and adds to the atmosphere. And unlike other similar games on the SNES, Nosferatu scrolls rather than flicking between screens. When fighting the monsters, the third and final right cross from Kyle results in a semi-slow motion cinematic blow, which only adds to the Hammer Horror B-Movie feel.
It’s a shame then that the controls aren’t nearly as responsive as one would hope. The rotoscope animation is lovely but controlling Kyle is a bit of a pain. To run you double tap but it’s way harder than it oughta be. Why not make “R” run? In the later levels there are tough traps and cruel enemy placements galore that, combined with the less-than-stellar control, makes the game far harder than it should be. The sick looking demons and set pieces are top-notch for the most part but you just wish the game plays as well as it looks. The gameplay isn’t innovative — it borrows heavily from past games in the genre and the puzzles aren’t that taxing. But the lack of control and insane difficulty really puts a damper on things. I wanted to like Nosferatu so much. On the surface, it looks like it has all the makings to be a great obscure gem that somehow fell through the cracks. But then you play it and you realize why nobody ever really talks about it (outside of Halloween season). I still like it and it’s certainly a game I’ll pull off the shelf every October for a go or two… well, at least for the first two levels, anyhow. But there will always be a part of me that can’t help but think, “Oh what could have been.” Especially given all the delays. Oh well, you can’t win them all. While Nosferatu has its moments, I’m sad to say that all things considered it’s probably my most disappointing Super Nintendo game of all time.
It’s late in the evening; she’s wondering what clothes to wear.
She puts on her make-up and brushes her long blonde hair.
And then she asks me, “Do I look all right?”
And I say, “Yes, you look wonderful tonight.”
We go to a party and everyone turns to see
This beautiful lady that’s walking around with me.
And then she asks me, “Do you feel all right?”
And I say, “Yes, I feel wonderful tonight.”
I feel wonderful because I see
The love light in your eyes.
And the wonder of it all
Is that you just don’t realize how much I love you.
It’s time to go home now and I’ve got an aching head,
So I give her the car keys and she helps me to bed.
And then I tell her, as I turn out the light,
I say, “My darling, you were wonderful tonight.
Oh my darling, you were wonderful tonight.”