My Top-5 Castlevania Games
I’ve mentioned before that I really like Konami’s horror-action game series Castlevania. I’ve been playing Dracula’s Curse a lot recently on the Wii U and decided that it would be fun to list my favourite games from this series.
A few honourable mentions here include Castlevania: Bloodlines / The New Generation for the Sega MegaDrive and Castlevania: Circle of the Moon for the Game Boy Advance.
Let’s get on with the list…
I’ve given this game a hard time on several of my bottom-10 lists, but the truth is that I actually kinda like Simon’s Quest. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a horribly flawed instalment of the series. In their efforts to make the sequel to the NES original different and more expansive, Konami tried to turn the game in to an expansive action-adventure title. However, the game ended up becoming confusing and overly cryptic. Even if you have all the time in the world, some of the puzzles in the game are impossible to figure out on your own and the fact that the game-world is filled with lying NPCs doesn’t help much either.
However, I’d be the liar if I didn’t admit to actually digging the art-style and music. The locations are interesting and what I love is that you can go literally anywhere without anyone standing in your way. Plus, this was the first game where I saw a day and night cycle which was honestly a really cool element. The dungeons are admittedly frustrating and you can pass through each boss without fighting them, but still I somehow find the exploration element of this game fascinating.
And no-one can deny that this game has probably one of the best soundtracks of the series with tunes like Bloody Tears and Monster Dance becoming mainstays in future Castlevania soundtracks. So yeah, a flawed game it might be but I just love it a lot. It may be the sheer fact that it was the first game in the series which I played which is why I like it so much. I just find it really endearing.
Probably the most well-known remake of the original Castlevania, Super CV4 is literally just an expansion on Simon Belmont’s original quest to defeat Dracula. The dark atmospheric look and the cool soundtrack really make this one stand out. The iconic “Theme of Simon” originated from this game and all-around it provided a lot of cool variety.
The game can admittedly get mercilessly difficult, especially towards the end. However, I feel the game keeps the novelty factor high (which is quite impressive considering this is a remake). The outstanding feature which many point to about this game is Simon’s ability to whip in all eight directions. While this ability is cool and handy, I kinda hate how it makes all the special items in the game essentially redundant.
However, despite how polished the game may be, it has never really been my favourite Castlevania game. One positive thing about it is that it’s actually a lot more forgiving than its fellow titles in the series. Sure, the levels can be borderline grueling, but surprisingly the boss-fights are a lot easier than prior Castlevanias, often requiring you to simply find a safe spot to land your feet and then whipping like there’s no tomorrow.
Super Castlevania 4 is a fun title and I really recommend it for first time players of the series.
The last of the NES titles follows Simon’s ancestor, Trevor Belmont, on his quest to defeat Dracula. However, he doesn’t take off on his quest alone but is also joined by one of three potential partners. The sorceress Sypha using her magic abilities, the wall-climbing pirate Grant DaNasty or the dark lord’s son Alucard, who can transform into a bat.
It goes therefore without saying that Dracula’s Curse has some of the most impressive gameplay variety from the entire series. The normal Castlevania-style challenge is still there with some tricky platforming. However, I find the special abilities of Trevor’s companions particularly awesome as they allow you to occasionally even skip entire segments of a level.
Also, the soundtrack is fantastic, just the opening level theme alone (“The Beginning”) is excellent. The game also gives you choices of different paths to follow which is also nice and adds some genuine replay value. However, the game is at times frustratingly hard and there are way too many parts in the game where things fly at you in a way that makes it impossible to dodge them. However, this is still a truly stand-out title from the series.
The original has always been one of my favourite games for the NES. The level design, the monsters and, of course, that absolutely kickass soundtrack. Every single level theme in this game is excellent and gets you pumped up to take on the up-coming monsters and ghouls. Even though it’s a really straight-forward game, I still feel that it’s appropriately challenging.
The problem with Super Castlevania 4 in my view was that your special items were useless. In this game, you often have to travel through a level gathering ammo (hearts) for your weapon while always making sure that you don’t lose the weapons you need. This dependency, I’ll admit, makes certain parts of the game quite frustrating (i.e. the Grim Reaper) but at the same time, I like it that you have to use a bit of strategy and that you can’t rely entirely on just whipping really fast.
Over-all, there’s nothing much else I can say. I just love the crazy boss-fights against giant bats, mummies and even the Frankenstein’s monster. It’s a game that always puts me in a good mood.
When I finally got to experience this PC Engine/TurboGrafx-16 classic on the Wii, I was blown away. Starting from the anime-style cutscenes to the absolutely awesome music, Rondo of Blood immediately became one of my favourite games of all time. In Rondo, your goal is no more or less than to save your bride from Dracula. On the way, you can take many alternate path and face off against a wide variety of monsters. You can even save your bride-to-be’s little sister and play as her.
Rondo of Blood was also “semi-ported” to the SNES as Dracula X / Castlevania: Kiss of the Vampire, but I highly recommend trying out the original if you have the chance. The cool audio bits and Japanese voice-acting actually add quite a new level of coolness to the game.
However, don’t get me wrong, this game is frustratinly difficult. It’s really easy to get stuck on a few boss-fights and I really had to practice a long time to beat some of them. So much so, that I even posted a guide for the game on this blog. But beating the game was one of the coolest gaming experiences I’ve ever had and this immediately became my favourite Castlevania game because of it.
I feel Rondo of Blood was the perfect instalment of the classic 2D style Castlevanias before the advent of the MetroidVania. If you really want to see old school Castlevania at its finest, Rondo of Blood is your game.