Okay, let’s review. So far I have talked about the original Castlevania game, its RPG sequel, and the prequel/sequel. Now comes the first installment to come to the Super NES, Super Castlevania 4. Simon Belmont is back and so is Dracula, but this time things are different and I’m not talking about the task of every Castlevania game.
I have mentioned this game before on a couple of my top 10 lists. Now I intend to expand on why I think Castlevania 4 is such a masterpiece. Let’s start with the graphics. It has everything from eerie mist over the cemetery to creepy areas with several backgrounds. I know it doesn’t sound like much compared to today’s standards, but for its time, especially if you grew up playing the original Castlevania trilogy, you will definitely see it as a major improvement.
Speaking of improvements, one thing that has really improved is the game play control. Simon can use his whip in eight directions just by where you aim the directional pad and you don’t have to press “Up” to use a special weapon. I guess it’s because there are more buttons to spare on the Super NES controller than on the original NES controller. It’s also cool that you can swing the whip around while holding the button.
You can also swing on anchors to get to other platforms, which did take some getting used to once I figured out what they were and what they’re good for.
I’d also like to point out that you can actually jump onto the stairs and not have to be on the ground just to get onto them like before. You can also drop down from the stairs just as easily. It’s definitely an improvement, especially in Stage B-2 because the stairs are in midair and they give way. You also have to be quick while dodging a flying spiked wheel from below that kills you in one hit.
Many of the same enemies from earlier Castlevania games return, but are more graphical and feature a cool effect, especially the skeletons that explode when whipped. It never gets old. Oddly, in later stages the enemies are stronger, but at least they don’t kill you as quickly.
The bosses are even more graphical. Some of the common ones return, like Frankenstein’s monster and Medusa, but there are many new bosses also. I know Castlevania features classic horror monsters and creatures from Greek Mythology. The most common is Medusa, but this one also includes the Orphic Vipers that were based on the hydra.
The newer original bosses that are cool and graphical include the dancing specters, Koranot the rock monster, the Zapf Bat which is made out of deadly coins and jewels, and Puwexil the giant skull with a slithery tongue.
This is also the first Castlevania game to have voice acting. However, the only times that occurs is when Simon takes damage or falls into a pit. Some enemies have voices too, but are also limited in the same manner.
Then we have Dracula, but first you have to get past three bosses to get to him, Slogra the bird man, a gargoyle, and the Grim Reaper. You can’t have a Castlevania game without the Grim Reaper. Not to worry, there’s actually a separate password for each of the Stage B-3 bosses, so you can start at any of them. That’s another major improvement.
This is definitely one of the greatest Castlevania games I have ever played. It has excellent game play, cool horror theme levels, and an awesome soundtrack that uses upbeat and creepy music to set the mood. Believe it or not, I wouldn’t have even considered getting this game at all if it weren’t for that old Gamepro TV series that showed how to defeat Dracula and the password to get to him, not to mention that there’s an invisible platform near the stairway that instantly stocks you up. Even though Dracula was easier than on Castlevania 3, it was still very helpful.
There you have it, the original Castlevania games that were the start of a highly popular franchise. Many other Castlevania games came afterward, but like other classic franchises such as Super Mario Bros. and Legend of Zelda, it goes in many different directions, so there’s really no chance of a Castlevania 5 game, but that’s okay. These four will always be among the classic video games I grew up with as all time favorites. Happy Halloween!