Review: Castlevania: Simon’s Quest (1987 NES)

Oh man… It is time to review Castlevania: Simons Quest. This game who has always been so very controversial. Many of you have probably seen the angry video game nerd‘s video or other videos that completely slam this game to the ground but i still have something to say and add to that.

First of all I do not think it is a horrible game. The controls are basically the same as in Castlevania 1 so they still feel very solid but the main difference is that they added an RPG element to the game with power ups and a leveling system in an open world environment. On paper this sounds to me like a pretty solid idea, but the end results sadly leave much to be desired. Meaningless grinding for hearts, not knowing where to go and bosses that aren‘t even bosses.

I like exploring the world, I had a pretty good time even when I was grinding, I even kind of like the towns. In the towns you can get stronger whips and new items for the hearts you have collected and you can heal up in the church.
So the towns are OK, but the stupid stuff you have to do to move forward…. It is unbelievable how cryptic these „puzzles “are and there is almost no way to complete the game without a walkthrough. I’m not going to get into those details but believe me, it’s stuff that no one would ever think of despite some „clues“ given by the townspeople that just confuse you more than they help. This game is of course originally Japanese and while the clues make more sense in the original Japanese version they are still pretty cryptic. This might not sound like much but this difference can determine weather you get stuck or not.

Simon's Quest menu
Simon’s Quest menu

Anyways, the goal of the game is to find all the mansions. Those mansions all host Dracula‘s body parts, and Simon Belmont needs his body parts so he can revive Dracula just to kill him again in order rid himself and the surrounding area of Dracula´s curse. Finding the mansions is pretty fun, and the world is OK but the mansions are not. They are mainly about confusing you and making you go the wrong way so the difficulty in the game has nothing to do with the enemies or platforming, it is just time consuming. The gameplay itself is actually very easy with very easy, predictable enemy placement.

The start menu where you see your xp, lvl, items, hearts(money) and more
The start menu where you see your xp, lvl, items, hearts(money) and more

I guess Konami wanted to make a longer game since you technically can beat the first Castlevania in like 20-25 minutes but still, this is too much. When you finally find your way through the mansion you face a redundant boss that you can just walk past and not even fight. What game has bosses that you can just skip?! Even Death, who‘s boss fight in the first installment was so epic only shoots 1-2 scythes at you in Simon’s Quest(that will miss) before you just walk past him and beat the mansion. It is just a bit sad…
To give the game some benefit of the doubt i am willing to buy that the bosses (many who look the same as the bosses in the first game) might still be recovering from the events in Castlevania 1 where Simon Belmont whooped their asses. Maybe they are just using their absolute final sliver of strength to hide Dracula’s body parts safely. Maybe they are just trying maintain the curse and to prepare for Dracula’s revival, but… Who am i kidding? No way they would think that far, I’m overthinking this…. This just sucks.

Death in Simon's Quest is so sad....You can just walk through him without fighting
Death in Simon’s Quest is so sad….You can just walk through him without fighting

Despite all this, the gameplay is fun, and even leveling up, finding a stronger whip is fun. It is not like i had a horrible time, but i just can‘t help not to think that if these issues would have been fixed then this could have been such a great game and even a cult classic. I kind of feel the same way about The Adventure of Link which is a lot like Simon‘s Quest, but these two games shares many of the same flaws.
The game looks fine, the atmosphere is darker so colors don‘t stand out as much making Simon look a bit boring but it looks OK for the most part.

Gameplay can be fun
Gameplay can be fun

The best thing about this game is the music, it does not have a lot of tracks but all of them are soooo great! Bloody tears is a song everyone should know, it is so iconic and it may be the best Castlevania song ever made. It is definitely one of the best video game song ever made. The rest of the songs are also amazing, so amazing that this game might take the crown for best Castlevania soundtrack.
The soundtrack helps a lot in making this game a bearable experience, and it is one of the reasons grinding isn’t all bad all the time.

In the end this is a game I would play again. I know all the dumb secrets to the cryptic puzzles so it could be fun I guess. There are even 3 endings and you probably will not get the best ending in your first try so the game can last quite a bit if you actually happen to like it.
The music would help you through the redundant parts and the Castlevania atmosphere would keep me engaged most of the way but I have to emphasize on how much of a waste Simon’s Quest ended up the way it did. The developers must have been under strict time restrictions because an open world RPG Castlevania is an idea that sounds amazing and if done right it would have become a legendary game in history. You could even say that this game was supposed to be what Symphony of the Night became, or that Simon’s Quest served as a prototype for The Symphony of the Night.
Too bad it went like this since after all the GBA and DS game are more similar to Simon’s Quest in gameplay than the original one and that format later became the standard for the series.
If you are playing the game for the first time you will need a walkthrough, unless you happen to stumble upon these dumb secrets by accidents after hours of wandering. I would say the Japanese version is better because of the more understandable clues. Still, the American and European versions are the way they are and you should probably only play this game if you are a Castlevania fan or just want to see why it is so much talked about.
Play Castlevania 1 and 3 instead but try out Simon’s Quest if you become hooked and end up a Castlevania super fan like me.

It is available on the NES and Wii, Wii U virtual consoles and among other platforms

Gameplay: 5
Visuals: 6,5
Music: 9,5
Lasting appeal: 6,5
Is it fun? 6,5

Overall: 6,5 an ok game

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