CASTLEVANIA. The mere mention instantly conjures many warm memories for gamers of all ages. Hell, the name is nearly synonymous with the NES and classic gaming itself. Play through any of the pre-N64 renditions and it’s easy to see why this beloved franchise has been lionized by so many fans throughout the years. The epic NES series naturally transitioned to the SNES with the epochal Super Castlevania IV in 1991. Dracula X was the final 16-bit Castlevania game as we know it. Being that it’s Halloween season, let’s grab our magical Belmont whip and take a closer look…
A GOLDEN AGE
When I got back into all things Super Nintendo in early 2006 (January 17 to be precise), I was lucky to be at the right place at the right time. Early 2006 was a great time to be buying SNES games by the truckload. Many didn’t cost more than $10 shipped, and a ton literally went for as cheap as $5 shipped. Titles were not only cheap but they were plentiful as well. However, even back in 2006 there were a few key titles that commanded $40+ even cart only. Castlevania: Dracula X was one of those games, but I was fortunate enough to nab a copy for exactly $40. I beat the rush and nostalgia train by several years, and boy was I thankful about that. These games now command a small fortune and I would never have assembled my collection if I got back into the SNES scene post-2012 or so. Timing is everything.
LOST IN THE SHADOWS
Nearly 26 years ago today, Super Castlevania IV arrived on the Super Famicom and made its mark as one of the all time Super Nintendo greats. Japan received it on Halloween 1991 (how fitting) while North American audiences got it in time for Christmas ’91. Konami showcased the raw power of the brand new SNES and it left a lasting impression to say the very least.
I reviewed Super Castlevania IV back in October of 2008, nearly 10 years ago. Man, time flies! This was a massive effort that took many hours piecing together, and it’s one of my personal favorites. The liberal plot re-imagining used shots from Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers. It really fitted in well! That whole review has a crazy Halloween vibe to it. I think it stands as one of the best reviews I’ve ever created and I’m super proud of how it all came together almost a decade ago now.
Growing up, Halloween was one of my favorite film franchises. I still recall watching the first one in 1989 as a wee six year old thinking that Halloween was a movie about kids trick-or-treating. Later that night, I had a lucid nightmare that Michael Myers was stalking me in my bedroom! I became a fan for life — go figure! Every Halloween I try to watch at least one of the Halloween films as well as play games like Super Castlevania IV.
These images, which I splattered throughout my Super Castlevania IV review nearly 10 years ago, really evoke the spooky and atmospheric pulse of the Halloween season. It’s a fond trip down memory lane for me. I hope you enjoyed the Halloween 4 Simon Belmont intro as much as I had fun making it. After all, Halloween isn’t complete without a little Dr. Loomis and Michael Myers action! [That sounds like a fan fic someone already wrote -Ed.]
My initial impressions with Dracula X were certainly not too favorable. Here’s what I wrote in my gaming journal: Super Castlevania IV this ain’t. Hey where’s my up and diagonal whip? Where’s my rotating whip? Why is the attack shorter on time? Why does Richter walk up stairs like he just crapped in his pants, eh?
So, yeah, not too good first thoughts. But don’t judge a book by its cover right? After some help and motivation from various gaming pals, I marched on determined to see if the game would get better. After all, it’s not how one starts but how one ends. Let’s delve deeper into Dracula X…
THE STORY GOES…
The moon hovered ominously over the village… something afoul was brewing…
An evil DARKNESS had befallen the land, giving rise to sinister vampire legends. Until now the people of Transylvania had grown accustomed to their nice peaceful existence, secure in the knowledge that their famed hero, Simon Belmont, had sealed the fate of one, Count Dracula, several hundred years prior.
But as we all know, peace doesn’t last forever. People became complacent in their security over time. Then late one night at the witching hour, wicked townsfolk possessed by the darkness gathered in secret holding demonic séances in an attempt to bring back the Prince of Darkness… Sir Dracula!
Night after night they chanted relentlessly, calling out to revive Count Dracula. While everyone else had already retired for the evening, these heathens scurried out from their dark holes to convene in an ancient abandoned abbey.
Thunder rumbled across the night sky as lightning cracked the abbey. From the dead rose the Prince of Darkness!
Dracula plotted to exact revenge upon Richter Belmont, the descendant of the family that destroyed him. The Prince of Evil viciously attacked the town with his unholy legion. In a single night, lives young and old were wiped out. This time Dracula brought some brand new toys. True abominations, towering monsters of destruction and nightmares ravaged the village. The townsfolk never stood a chance — it was a blood bath.
Dracula was more ruthless than ever before. He kidnapped Richter’s girlfriend, Annet, as well as her little sister, Maria. Imprisoning them in his vile castle, he awaits Richter’s inevitable arrival.
Richter, burdened by his destiny, left for Dracula’s castle with his legendary ancestral whip in hand. Not only that but the stout determination to save his loved ones and the resolve to send Dracula to eternal damnation once and for all.
As the full moon casts an eerie glow overhead, Richter Belmont gazes at Dracula’s castle ominously looming in the distance. He knows once inside that there’s a chance he might not make it out alive. But he’ll boldly risk life and limb in order to save his girlfriend Annet and her sister Maria. The chilly night air sends tingles up and down his body as if someone took electrical wires and brushed them against the back of his neck. There is much terror and pain before him, but this is the life of a Belmont… the destiny of Richter Belmont!
Richter Belmont’s less than athletic control can be a bit off putting at first but thankfully, having a sub-weapon like the axe certainly evens the odds up a bit.
And what would a Castlevania game be without bloody annoying bats that fly and swoop at ‘cha? This is definitely where you’ll miss the incredibly versatile whipping skills of Simon Belmont. Without question this makes Dracula X harder.
The skeletons in Dracula X are a bit more nimble than the ones we saw in Super Castlevania IV. The ones here tend to leap around like Mexican jumping beans.
I’ve heard many complaints over the SNES version of Dracula X, but here is one major win. Remember how frustrating it was to lose your favorite sub-weapon by accidentally touching another one? Dracula X gives you a few seconds to pick up your previous weapon should you grab (accidentally or not) another weapon. Brilliant.
Believe it or not, this guy ain’t a boss! In fact, you can’t even kill it. All you can do is walk as briskly as you can (‘coz you know, Belmont boys just don’t run). This is a neat twist on forced scrolling. Of course, you’ll be required to make some pixel-perfect jumps, which if successful, will land Richter right on the edge of the platform. Get used to it.
Level two opens with a bang as your ears are suddenly treated to a familiar tune. If this doesn’t get you feeling all tingly inside, you are without pulse.
Murderous merman and bridges that break — all classic staples of the famed Castlevania franchise!
The drawbridge lowers as you reach the end… it’s another nod to Super Castlevania IV fans!
I love this barrel chucking enemy. In general I just love when games add a wrinkle or two to their bad guys. Little touches here and there helps to spice a game up.
And of course, what would a Castlevania game be without a haunted castle hallway?
Their shields are no match for your knives. I like how you can pick this fool off safely from this perch.
A new feature in Dracula X is the Weapon Crash. This allows Richter to launch an all-out assault of his sub-weapon. It inflicts more damage but eats up more hearts, too. Each Weapon Crash is different and has its own strengths and shortcomings.
The Spear Men are a true menace. It could easily be Game Over if you find yourself surrounded by a couple of these purple bastards.
In true Castlevania fashion, certain blocks can be destroyed. This may unlock hidden goodies such as meat. So swing your whip around — you never know when you might find a breakable block.
This gigantic vampire bat is the second boss you’ll face. He looks rather nasty but his bark is bigger than his bite. Whack him down to size. Literally.
Although Richter doesn’t control as well as Simon did, he does have at least two moves on Simon: backflipping and the moonwalk. Both come in handy at various points, as you can imagine. F’rinstance, moonwalking does wonders here.
How I loathe those bloody annoying Medusa Heads. Use the Pillar Bones to give yourself a boost.
ARRGGHHH! The Spear Men are almost as annoying as the Medusa Heads. By the way, it’s amazing how they can poke a spear through that thick block but I digress.
You gotta love moments like this. You know the programmers had some fun here. I’ve always preferred the cross AKA boomerang but Holy Water has its uses as well
Super Castlevania IV features 11 stages while Dracula X has nine, but you can only trek through seven at a time. Levels four and five have two different levels you can take, depending on what you do (or don’t do). And this will also change the outcome of the game. Yes, there are three possible endings: best, OK and bad. Nice!
You’ll secure the best ending only if you can save both Annet and Maria as well as slay Dracula. It’s a tall task. If you lose a life, the key is lost for all eternity!
Unintentional humor abounds when Richter’s arm goes straight through the door. Oops!
Remember how Super Castlevania IV grants you a brief moment of invincibility after taking damage? Not so here. Like I said, everything is harder in this game by a considerable amount.
Sweet background. I’m a sucker for anything ancient ruins. This is the alternative level five by the way.
This huge pile of Bone Pillars, while intimidating, is no match for Richter Belmont. The final showdown is almost at hand. But before you can take on Dracula, you must first contend with an old friend named DEATH. They don’t call him that for nothing, believe you me. It might be Richter’s fate as well as your controller’s as well, if you get my drift.
To say that Dracula X is a difficult game is a gross understatement. It will test your will, possibly breaking it too. At times I was cursing like a sailor. It’s not really my style but the pixel-perfect required jumps, swooping bats, Medusa Heads, and Richter’s somewhat stiff mobility led to many moments of frustration.
After beating Super Castlevania IV for the first time ever back on April 29, 2006, I decided to fire up Dracula X the very next day. I was enjoying it somewhat at first until I made it to the boss of level four. He’s got two forms. Frustrated, I vented on a gaming board and it was there that an old internet pal urged me to stick it out with Dracula X.
He defended it, saying it’s got a stilted gameplay system that forces you to be absolutely perfect if there is any hope of win. Somehow, the sentence stuck with me. I decided to stick with Dracula X, and that fateful night finally defeated the Cloak boss.
I would go on to face DEATH who absolutely destroyed me more times than I dare count, but then I got locked into the proverbial zone. I ended up perfecting his ass and went on to defeat Dracula for the very first time. I don’t think I could ever accomplish that again. It was exhilarating.
By the way, a special shout out to this bad guy. He’s not a boss but he’s one of my favorites. It’s a shame that he only appears once. He’s sort of like the Abobo or Andore of Dracula X.
Many claim the Dracula showdown in this game to be among the toughest in the franchise. Initially, I would agree. But not so if you know where to position yourself properly…
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Almost everyone adores Super Castlevania IV, but the same can’t be said for the SNES version of Dracula X. It’s been knocked over the years and its reception is a mixed bag. When compared to the superior PC-Engine original, the SNES version falls short. You’ll find just as much criticism as you’d find praise for this game.
However, Dracula X fared slightly better with most gaming publications. EGM gave it scores of 6.5, 6.5, 7 and 7. GameFan gave it ratings of 82, 84and 93%. Super Play rated it 80%. So while it didn’t quite live up to the lofty Castlevania standards set before it, it still earned fairly respectable marks.
Not having played the PC-Engine import, I’m unable to compare the SNES version. This is perhaps a blessing in disguise. However, coming off the heels of playing through Super Castlevania IV, I had to put that aside and judge Dracula X on its own merits. The game grew on me before I knew it. Do I wish we got a proper Castlevania sequel with 1995 SNES trimmings instead? Of course. But so many times I feel we can focus too much on what wasn’t instead of enjoying what is. And Dracula X is, in my opinion, a fine action adventure. Once I adjusted to the difficulty level and the stilted control of Richter Belmont, I found myself inching closer to Dracula step by step as I disposed of his cronies one at a time. Most importantly, I found myself having a pretty good time.
Being that it’s Halloween time, I’ve been replaying the two Super Nintendo Castlevania games all month long. I’ll always love the first game and I’ve come to appreciate the second one over the years. Taken for what it is and judged on its own merits, there’s plenty to like. While not the Konami swan song we were all hoping for in their final Super Nintendo Castlevania offering, it’s still a pretty good game at its core. One that is worthy enough to be in any Super Nintendo library and deserving to be played every Halloween season or so. If you’re looking for a challenging action game with awesome music and a wickedly macabre atmosphere, then you’ve found a pretty good candidate here. Stick with it and you might find you’re glad that you did. Finally, two tips to help enhance your Dracula X experience: 1). Turn off all the lights and 2). Tell yourself it’s not the PC-Engine original or a sequel to Super Castlevania IV. Happy demon slaying and happy Halloween!
In the early days of the Super Nintendo, games like Super Mario World, F-Zero, ActRaiser, Final Fantasy II and Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts help set the foundation for what would be one epic gaming library. Such a list would be incomplete without citing Super Castlevania IV. Its intensely atmospheric levels, striking music and satisfying gameplay etched an indelible mark on all those who have played it. Nearly 25 years since its release, it still resonates with gamers all over the world to this very day. That speaks volumes to the game’s greatness.
And now, with Halloween nearly upon us, let’s look back at the game that was, is and forever will be one of the cornerstones of the SNES library.
YOU’RE SO VAIN-IA! [OH LORD -ED.]
Confession time: I never played this game back in the day sans a quick go or two at a friend’s house. Yup. The ghoulish feel definitely did appeal to me, but my tastes back then were quite different (I enjoyed playing mostly the ‘underdog’ titles) and of course, my bro pretty much made all the buying decisions as well as 90% of the renting choices. He was an RPG buff and 2-player guy, so with this being 1-player, we never bothered to rent it. As I returned to my old SNES roots in January of 2006, this game was right at the top of my list to buy and beat. What a sweet opportunity at gaming redemption it was. I got my copy on April 8, 2006. Driving home on the freeway, windows rolled down, the radio blaring, I couldn’t wait to finally right a 15 year wrong. Later that night I began my journey to slay Dracula and his minions of the night. At long last I had quelled my 15 year long folly. And it was bloody sweet.
IN THE BEGINNING
My brother Kevin and I, as children born of the early ’80s, grew up on a steadfast diet of good ol’ hearty 8-bit Nintendo adventures. When our esteemed fun-loving uncle moved in with us in the mid-late ’80s, life couldn’t have been more swell. My parents rarely bought us Nintendo video games. Rather it was our benevolent Uncle Jimmy who helped us procure much of our 18-game collection, over a 5+ year span of 1986-1991.
Castlevania was a game I’d seen in Nintendo Power Magazine, and one we rented. There was something about the cover art that captivated my imagination. Being a fan of monsters and such, Dracula’s vile mug immediately intrigued me. I wanted badly to be that barbaric chap there on the box, armed with my trusty magical whip and broad sword, thwarting the evils of Dracula and his cronies. Our childhood friend Tommy had a huge NES collection — I’m talking around 100! Nowadays such a collection is not as impressive, but back in ’89 it was mind-blowing (with carts going $50+ a pop). Lucky rich bastard. Anyway, I vividly remember seeing Castlevania in his collection. We’d play it here and there. Never got too far but I enjoyed the atmospheric music and concept very much. As the series grew and evolved, it become a juggernaut of a franchise beloved by countless gamers who are still talking about it and playing its various games to this very day. No doubt Konami hit the jackpot with this one!
With the Super Nintendo lying in the wings, it was only inevitable to see a souped up 16-bit version. And sure enough, on Halloween 1991, Dracula was once more unleashed. The game came out stateside a little over a month later. Did it live up to expectations? Only the individual can discern that, but the consensus answer is a RESOUNDING YES.
By the way, did you know that Super Castlevania IV is actually a remake of the original? It still centers around one, Simon Belmont and the year 1691, just one year prior to the infamous Salem Witch Trials. And now, kick your feet up and make yourself comfortable. Let’s usher in Super Castlevania IV with severed, blood dripping arms…
THE STORY GOES…
“Come on, old-timer! Let’s go!”
“Anything for a fellow pilgrim. We’re all on a quest. Sometimes we need help getting where we want to be.”
“Reverend Jackson P. Sayer of Dumont County. Pleased to make your acquaintance.”
“God’s country… Promise Land. Where are you heading, Mr. uh?”
“… Loomis. Haddonfield.”
It’s always got a face and a name.”
“I’ve been hunting the bastard for 30 years, give or take. Come close a time or two.”
“You can’t kill damnation, mister. IT DON’T DIE LIKE A MAN DIES.”
“I know that, Mr. Sayer.”
“OH you’re a pilgrim all right! Yeah, I saw it on your face back there in the dust. I saw it clear as breasts and blue suede shoes.”
“You’re sharp, Reverend.”
“Speaking of which, let me tell you a story about a fellow pilgrim of ours; one that my great grandfather used to tell me….
… his name was Simon Belmont…”
Note: Click on the video below as it goes along with the text to follow. However, if you’re reading this on your smart phone, it doesn’t work as clicking on the link takes you to the source.
“Those fools should have never revived the dark demon! But they did JUST THAT on one foul and malicious night — the night HE CAME HOME!
It doesn’t matter where you go, Mr. Loomis. It can be Dumont County or Haddonfield; evil’s all the same — always got a face and a name. In Transylvania, a small peaceful country out in medieval Europe, there lies a legend that says once every 100 years, when the power of Christ wanes, the forces of evil revive through the prayers of those with wicked hearts. That corrupted evil manifests itself in the form of the one and only, Count DRACULA.
And with each revival, his dark power grows stronger. His goal is to turn all humanity into creatures of darkness, to be ruled under his iron fist. He has appeared in this world many times, and there are many people who fear that in his next appearance, he may well be unstoppable.
There is one group that has always been around to see that Dracula is defeated: the Belmont family. For generations the Belmonts have passed along the secrets and skills of vampire-hunting to the eldest child of the family. While many of the Belmonts have lived peaceful lives without encountering the Duke of Darkness, they remain ever vigilant. There are occasional skirmishes with lesser monsters, but the Belmont clan would always emerge victorious.
100 years have passed since the last battle between Dracula and the Belmonts. Tensions mount as Transylvanians reported mysterious sightings of odd creatures appearing under the cover of darkness. Some folks believed it was an omen while many others were convinced it was nothing more than a mere bout of paranoia. Despite the divided ties, the good citizens remained united and a curfew was invoked for precautionary reasons. Children were encouraged to stay out no later than 5 PM.
With the curfew in full effect, weeks passed without incidence. Then tragedy struck when a farmer slept walked into town at the witching hour. The next morning, shrill screams of horror echoed across the land when only the farmer’s entrails were found lying on the cobbled road by the clock tower. But rather than fleeing, the people banded together in this time of great need. On the night of Easter, a grand carnival was held in town to celebrate the resurrection of Christ.
Meanwhile, on the outskirts of town inside an old abbey, a heathenistic group held a ceremony attempting to revive the Duke of Darkness. As they carried out their ritual, dark thunderclouds descended over the countryside. The sinister group stirred itself into a frenzy of mysterious chanting and pagan dancing when a single thunderbolt struck the abbey. The ground shook violently under their feet as the abbey walls shattered. Once more, the almighty Dracula LIVES!
The time has come for the young successor Simon Belmont to call forth the powers of good to aid him in his battle. Armed with his mystical whip, his courage and the centuries-old knowledge of Belmont family training, he sets forth on his mission. The mist clears… but the battle before Simon Belmont is only beginning…”
Remember the haunting howling of the wolves here? EPIC!
WHIP IT! WHIP IT GOOD!
Simon Belmont indeed knows how to whip it well. Never before have players enjoy this much whipping prowess, as Simon can direct his whip in eight directions. In addition, his new and improved whip can be swung in a circular motion. This whip wave isn’t as powerful as a straight strike, but has its uses and certainly is very pleasing to employ. Also the whip can latch onto anchors and be used as a swing to cross open spaces. Simon can jump better than ever as well. He can also squat and move at the same time allowing him to pass through low ledges. Now you can jump onto stairs by holding up, and jump off them by holding down + jump. These little touches go a long ways to making the game play like the kind of game we have always dreamed of.
The same 5 sub weapons (only one can be carried at a time) from the NES games return. But thanks to Simon’s newfound whip skills, these sub weapons aren’t nearly as critical as before. The stop watch serves its purpose of freezing annoying winged baddies from knocking you off into an abyss f’rinstance, and the boomerang remains a game changer.
Once inside, players must contend with savage skeletons and swooping bats. What a memorable romp this is, especially how in the beginning the iron gates rise from the depths of Hell! And of course, the classic Castlevania sound roaring.
Ah, Simon has never been better with the whip. Picking off enemies from a safe distance is utterly satisfying, and you gotta love how their bones go flying every which direction!
Letting the whip just hang at your side acts as a shield of sorts from such projectiles. Simply hold on to the attack button. As for the whip wave, move the D-Pad accordingly as you continue holding down the attack button. Works like a dream.
Once inside, you quickly realize this isn’t your average stable… beware the vicious nest of vipers clinging to the ceiling above you. They patiently lie in waiting for unsuspecting fools.
Told you this wasn’t your average stable! These wretched creatures, oddly dubbed Mr. Hed, float after you often in packs. Sure, we’ve all heard of the Headless Horseman, but this is nuts!
Those damn annoying Medusa Heads are back to wreck havoc and generally shorten your life expectancy, maybe in more ways than one. But thankfully they’re not too bad in this game. Watch out for those loose floorboards!
Your first boss encounter comes in the form of Rowdain and his “little” pet. I love pet and rider boss fights. You get to kill two for the price of one *evil grin*
Rowdain is a very easy boss fight, but an enjoyable one nonetheless. He’ll try to impale you with his evil lance. In many action games from this era, bosses flash white or red when damaged. Here they flash a weird green-red-ish color. He also twitches in pain with every whip shot. Keep your distance or he’ll lunge at you with his lance. It’s a very simple boss fight. Sure, the boss fights are short and of the whip-whip-whipuntilthey’re dead in 15 seconds sort. But it’s still a blast and doesn’t take anything away from the greatness of the game.
At the conclusion of each successful boss fight a Magic Crystal (sometimes called the Ball of Light) magically falls from the Heavens. Grab it to restore vitality to 100% and prepare for the next challenge.
Deep in this dark and twisted forest lies a haunted cemetery where its guests are just DYING for you to stay a while.
Whip as many candles as you can. They provide hearts (used to determine the amount you can utilize your sub weapon), replenishment, money, sub weapons and so on. Sure they make the place look festive, but a romantic dinner this ain’t. The only date you got here is the one Drac wishes to carve on your tombstone!
After the forest make your way through a swamp and this subterranean river.
Cross this creaky old bridge and you’ll soon come face to face with the one and only…
Boy, if looks could ki — [Don’t even try it mister -Ed.]
She’ll lob snakes at you. It’s another easy but cool little boss fight.
Cross this stream after defeating Medusa to pass level two. It’s kind of strange that beating Medusa doesn’t lead you straight into the next level, but I actually kind of like it.
Now Simon must venture through this cold, creepy cavern. They say that caves are the unknown wonders of the world. And some believe some caves weren’t meant for man to cross. Such as this one…
A flock of bloodthirsty bats come swooping after you as a giant golem meanders just ahead. The golem is easily my favorite regular bad guy — it’s so much fun to kill him. It never gets old to see him breaking down into smaller versions of himself.
You see!? He splits into many smaller versions as you whip him like a sorry government mule. It’s always the little things, eh?
Gotta love how this pillar of bones is oddly positioned here. I love when game programmers place baddies in the weirdest spots; it just kind of gives a game a certain pulse to it.
Keep an eye out for hidden rooms. Whip the blocks and wait in case a top one drops. It’s really cool how these blocks shatter when you whip them.
It’s one of gaming’s longest and greatest mysteries… why is food like burgers and fine pork chops just lying out in the wide open? Or, as in this case, buried deep within a cave behind some heavy rocks no less. But perhaps it’s just an answer mankind was never meant to know.
Their color change warns you of incoming fire, so get that whip ready.
Dracula’s domain includes many towers and castles. Level four takes travelers to the Outer Keep, a place of unspeakable horrors and wonders. Face multiple bosses and experience some of Super Nintendo’s most graphically brilliant moments!
Watch out for twisted Japanese horror movie-esque monsters popping inexplicably out of the castle walls. What malpractice!
The peculiarly named Puweyxil is your first test here. A giant skull with a long serpentine tongue filled with acid. Never before has the term “Crackin’ skulls!” been more appropriate.
Who could ever forget this rotating room of doom? Better hang on for dear life!
And then you have this spectacular spinning corridor. Ooooh, ahhhh. It still impresses to this day, and I could only imagine how TRULY mind-blowing it must have been to experience this back in December 1991.
Level 5 is a very short romp though one of Dracula’s courtyards. There is no boss to contend with here. It’s merely a race against the clock. Beware of the harpy.
I love this little scene. It just reminds me so much of the NES Castlevania games. While flashy colors and trippy Mode-7 can be great, this goes to show you how even the most basic colors can be effective to setting an atmospheric tone.
As you gaze up at the statues, you see some form of ill-play has plagued the region. Remaining ever vigilant, you push on ahead, ready for any and all challenges…
You now find yourself in the hallowed halls of one of Drac’s castles. Fine statues and chandeliers decorate the place, but you quickly discover your average hall this ain’t!
I dig the soft green tiles found within these hallowed halls. The cool thing about the graphics is that they don’t give you the reality of a castle, but rather the impression of one. Video games shouldn’t be about mimicking reality in my view. They’re a form of escapism. And Super Castlevania IV does a great job of that.
Cross spiked-filled gaps by quickly hopping from one narrow block to the next. To make matters more dire, these blocks crack if you stand on them for more than a split second. Make haste!
Ahh, one of the simple pleasures of this game: to take a dump while whip waving two lowly skeleton guards into a pile of scrap. If this ain’t fun [and relieving -Ed.] then quite frankly I don’t know what is.
Remember the annoying red resurrecting skeleton from the NES games? He’s baaack!
“Well Simon, which hand is the ball in? Come on, I ain’t got all day now. Well actually, I do. But still — come on now!”
If these ghostly dancing partners ever sign up for SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE, they’re a shoe-in for the title. Simply because they’ve been partners for eternity!
Making your way past the hallowed halls and into the library, Simon must deal with all sorts of unholy knights. They require multiple strikes to kill.
These winged-demons make crossing through this bit rather perilous. If you have the stopwatch sub weapon, now is a perfect time to use it.
Oversized floating books serve as your means of transportation in this slightly tricky bit, thanks mostly to the red resurrecting skeleton standing guard there.
A chill runs down your spine as you step foot into this ominous hallway. You feel as if you’re being watched, and that one wrong step could be your very last…
SURPRISE! The spooky woman in the portrait springs to life, holding you hostage in her iron grip. Meanwhile, a flock of ravenous bats come swooping for ya as an unholy knight heaves a bloody ax with your name written on it. Great stuff.
I love bizarre and creepy enemies like the old witch in the portrait there. These type of strange creatures really adds an extra bit of mystery and atmosphere to a game. It makes Super Castlevania IV the perfect game to play on a stormy night with the lights turned off.
YIKES! Check out the size of this sucker. What a nasty bugger.
The guardian of this level is Sir Grakul, a giant knight who was peacefully resting until you came along…
Sir Grakul attacks with a giant ax and sword. Though he’s a rather simplistic design and more akin to a level 1 or 2 boss, he’s still a blast to slay. Send him to an eternal slumber.
Tricky bit this is! Thank God for an energy bar and no one-hit wonders eh?
All whom have traveled to the Treasury have been driven mad by the endless gold pieces and treasure chests, as well as all the vengeful spirits that fill this place of unspeakable horrors.
Trespassers couldn’t believe the wealth of gold and jewelry that laid before them. Alas, Simon cares not for riches but only to thwart the evil plans of the Duke of Darkness.
Earn yourself a pork chop if you leap on one of these treasure chests 255 times. Weird but true.
At times Super Castlevania IV is about deliberate pacing, but other times you must high-tail it. This part is the latter, as the riches-filled platforms give way immediately following contact.
You’re so close to Dracula’s keep, but before you can meet up with the Duke of Darkness you must survive this clock tower jaunt.
Now is definitely not the time to linger! A massive buzz saw gives chase, and of course, the stairs fall off as soon as you touch them.
I bet you remember this cool part too. These stairs just fall off as you barely catch the next flight. Good stuff.
The evil bird-like Slogra is the first of three boss fights you must beat in order to face Dracula. This was the first boss to give me some trouble. He must have been pretty popular as Konami resurrected him for PlayStation’s Symphony of the Night.
THE DUKE OF DARKNESS
Ol’ Drac can be a tough customer. He has a deadly wave of purple projectiles and can even conjure the powers of lightning. I guess being the Duke of Darkness has its perks, eh? He’s not so tough though if you know about the infamous pre-battle trick… and I hope you know what I’m talking about. Because if you don’t, where the hell have you been living for the past 25 years?!
WHAT’S THE PASSWORD?
Konami sees to it that every gamer will find success with Super Castlevania IV. Included is a slightly cumbersome yet very handy password system.
SUPER CENSORVANIA IV
There are some slight differences between the US version and the Japanese version (Akumajō Dracula). F’rinstance, in stage 8 the pools are filled with blood, but in the US version that color was changed to be green, becoming an acid-filled pool. Blood also no longer drips from the ceilings. There are some other small changes. Overall, nothing worth crying about, but it just reminds us of how conscious Nintendo was about keeping things PG in the early days of SNES.
SYMPHONY OF THE NIGHT
Castlevania‘s debut on the PlayStation came in a BIG way in ’97 with Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. It’s considered by many as one of the finest action adventure games in not just 32-bit gaming history, but of all time. No longer was it about merely getting through 11 stages. It’s a massive backtracking adventure that helped form a new gaming phrase dubbed “Metroidvania.”
TIMELINE OF TERROR
Very few video game series stand the test of time, but Konami’s Castlevania series has managed to provide more than a few surprises over the years.
With Castlevania X: Symphony of the Night for the PlayStation and now Saturn, the series has reached a new generation of gamers. However, Castlevania didn’t earn its impressive reputation over night. Since 1986, when the first game appeared, the Castlevania series has earned a loyal following. Almost everyone who has played any game in the series loves it, and anyone who hates the series probably hasn’t played it at all!
One of the most enthralling aspects of Castlevania is its story. So far, each game has fit perfectly within a century-spanning storyline.
Originally, Castlevania was planned as a Star Wars style epic, with three games set in the past, three set in the present, and three set in the future. However, it now looks like that idea has been scrapped, as more games take place in the past (although CastlevaniaBloodlines was the most contemporary of the Castlevania titles, as it takes place in the early 1900s). To get SSM readers up to speed, here’s the complete Castlevania timeline to date with important characters and events included. Some of the entries don’t actually take place in a specific year, so we’ve used a bit of artistic license in the compilation of this trip through yesteryear…
1421: Elizabeth Bartley Count Dracula’s niece, Elizabeth Bartley, was put to death after she was found guilty of being a vampire
1431: Count Dracula Dracula was at the height of his power and fully terrorized the country of Transylvania
1450: Sonia Belmont
Sonia is the first female Belmont character in the Castlevania series. Sonia is also the main character in an upcoming Castlevania title for Game Boy. The game has no title yet, but apparently Alucard also makes an appearance. Sonia is 17 years old
Trevor is the originator of the Belmont “warrior chromosomes” and takes the center stage in Dracula’s Curse, the biggest and best of the 8-bit titles. Along his perilous journey to Dracula’s castle, one of three characters could join Trevor: Sypha Belnades, a sorcerer, Grant DaNasty, a thief, and Alucard, Dracula’s rebellious son (who appears again inSymphony of the Night). The Japanese version of Castlevania III was an easier game, and Sypha’s character was a woman
1592: Christopher Belmont The Castlevania Adventure(Game Boy, 1990)
Christopher Belmont was limited to just two Castlevania titles — both for the Game Boy
1607: Christopher Belmont Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge (Game Boy, 1992)
Christopher’s son, Soleiyu, is kidnapped by Dracula. Christopher takes on Dracula again in the hopes of finding his son alive
1692: Simon Belmont Castlevania (NES, 1987)
Super Castlevania IV (Super NES, 1991)
Simon Belmont took up the battle 100 years after Trevor defeated Count Dracula. Super Castlevania IV is actually a remake of the first 8-bit title and possibly one of the best games in the series
1699: Simon Belmont Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest (NES, 1988)
Simon Belmont discovers he was cursed by Dracula to die a slow and agonizing death. To lift the curse, he must revive Dracula and then destroy him
1792: Richter Belmont Dracula X (PC Engine, 1993)
Castlevania: Dracula X (Super NES, 1995)
Richter’s story is set long after Simon’s game. Dracula X introduced Maria, Richter’s sister-in-law. Although she is not of the Belmont vampire hunter bloodline, she has super powers nonetheless. Richter is 17 years old; Maria is 11
1798: Alucard Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PlayStation, 1997; Saturn, 1998)
Alucard awakens from his self-imposed eternal slumber only to sense that Dracula is going to be revived. Alucard sets off to Dracula’s castle in the hopes of stopping his father once and for all. Symphony of the Night’s ending opens up a potential relationship between Maria and Alucard, which will (hopefully) be explained in future titles
1892: Eric LeCarde is born in Segovia, Spain
1895: John Morris is born in Texas, USA
1897: Quincy Morris dies
The latest Belmont descendant. Quincy dies moments after defeating Dracula. Watching in the shadows are his son (John) and his best friend (Eric)
1917: Elizabeth Bartley is revived and rejuvenated Castlevania: Bloodlines (Megadrive, 1994)
Drolta Tzuentes, an amateur witch, accidentally brings Elizabeth Bartley back to life. Bartley immediately makes plans to revive Count Dracula. John Morris, Quincy’s son and latest vampire killer in the Belmont bloodline, joins his friend Eric LeCarde. LeCarde’s girlfriend, Gwendolyn, was turned into a vampire by Bartley
That’s where the Castlevania timeline ends… for now. However, with an N64 title looming on the horizon, as well as potential PlayStation and Dreamcast games, this chilling saga is thankfully far from over!
(Special thanks once again to SEGA SATURN MAGAZINE, issue #34, August 1998, for that Castlevania timeline of terror!)
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Super Castlevania IV was lavished with high praises and nearly everybody who played it fell in love with its ace soundtrack, visuals and gameplay. As you can see, the critics absolutely ate it up, as did the fans. It’s widely regarded as a top-tier Super Nintendo title, and rightfully so!
Super Castlevania IV lived up to the hype and then some. It’s got it all: incredible graphics, amazing sound and classic gameplay. Some might say it’s not nearly challenging enough and while I agree it leans on the easy side, I much rather have a game be slightly too easy than for it to be impossible. The last couple stages can be very grueling, but of course, your mileage may vary. Yes, the game does have some slowdown (see the boss fight with the Orphic Vipers) but honestly I didn’t find it nearly as bad as some were claiming. It didn’t take away much from the game at all. Speaking of the bosses, while they’re not Konami’s very best, they still are quite a treat to behold (and even more satisfying to slay).
I believe the very best video games are the ones that take you on a journey. Super Castlevania IV simply possesses an epic quest feel to it, and that’s what makes it special for me, nevermind the excellent graphics, sound and gameplay. You’re Simon Belmont with the sole goal of defeating Dracula. You trek through 11 wide-ranging and diverse stages ranging from haunted cemeteries, zombie-infested woods, creepy caverns and cursed castle halls to name but a few. It’s simple but so highly immersing. You latch onto the quest. It’s escapism at its best! Many of us play games to be swept away to a land of wonder, mystique and adventure — Super Castlevania IV certainly does that well. And it’s a shame there aren’t more epic games like this.
As mentioned earlier, the colors of the game give it a striking and surreal feel. It doesn’t give you the reality of a castle, but rather the impression of one. I don’t want my games to simulate life or be too realistic. I like digging into a fantasy adventure, get swept away and become totally enraptured with its atmosphere, action and world. From the very chilling moment you press start at the title screen and hear that wolf’s haunting howl, you knew you were in for a special treat. The kind that sadly, games all too often fail to achieve. Then, as you make your way across that introductory sequence, with that hulking skull looming in the distance, you pass through the massive drawbridge with the classic Castlevania music kicking in. Beautiful. The early stages may not impress much but the later levels really take it up a notch. I enjoyed the first couple levels but it wasn’t until stage 3 — the Creepy Caverns — that things suddenly clicked. From there, I never looked back.
While many prefer the newer style of play (the exploring, leveling up and backtracking), I still prefer this basic style. Just move forward, not worrying about having item X, conversing with side characters or any of that. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy that type of game too, but when a game is this good and doesn’t need all that extracurricular activity, I can’t help but love it even more. The bosses have their energy bars, I have mine, and soon, one of us won’t. Simple as that. And sometimes the simplest things are among the best things. Not just in life but also in video games. I look back to that Saturday night of April 8, 2006, when at last I had finally began my quest to slay Dracula and his minions of the night, and a devilish grin crosses my face. I was damn near 15 years late to the party, but it was worth the wait. I wished I’d experienced this back in the early ’90s, but that’s OK. I had the luxury of playing it as an older, wiser and more appreciative gamer. Dracula may indeed revive every 100 years but damnit, every Halloween or so, I’ll send him BACK to his bloody grave!
Super Castlevania IV is a stirring classic and a must-own for any Super Nintendo fan, period.