Review: Castlevania III: Draculas Curse (NES 1989)

Unlike Simon’s Quest, Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse is not controversial at all. This is a plain action-platforming thriller that makes your heart beat. After the not so successful Simon’s Quest, Konami decided to go back to the gameplay of the very successful Castlevania 1. This time with a few awesome twists.

Draculas curse map
A useful map of the split paths from Nintendo Power – Click here for bigger version

In this one you play as Trevor Belmont, who’s era is actually before Simon’s making this game a prequel. His controls are just like Simon’s, and the goal is the same; get through the levels and finish off Dracula, but this time you get help. The game offers multiple paths so the companions you meet on the quest changes with the path you choose. These multiple paths bring so much life in the game and it makes you will want to play it more than once. You will want to see all the stages and explore all the stages.

Trevor starts his very difficult quest

You can have one companion with you at a time and you can switch between that companion and Trevor whenever in the game depending on you preference. First, take a little detour and you will find Grant. He can climb on walls and change his jump direction midair making him a good choice for some of the platforming action. Then depending on your route you can switch him out for either Alucard or Sypha.
Personally I find Alucard’s route to be more difficult but Alucard himself is pretty cool. His attacks are pretty weak but he can change himself into a bat anytime and fly over some of the most difficult parts of the game. This might sound kind of broken but the duration of his bat form depends on how many hearts you have collected. The bat form takes around 1 heart per second so you are going to want to use it only when necessary. His attacks also have plenty of reach and cover more area for some of those enemies Trevor might have trouble with in those tight spaces. Sypha can use some pretty bad ass magic. Her magic even can be stronger than Trevor’s attacks. Ice and fire are both very devastating and fun to use. For me she is probably the most fun to play of the 3 companions since Grant and Alucard are kind of weak and are less all-around and more situational. So if you have them with you, Trevor will do most of the fighting. But still maybe having Trevor fight, and Alucard just fly is a better combo. But believe me when I say Alucard’s route is difficult.

Pick a path

The difficulty in this game is among the highest among the Castlevania games, and that is something seeing as the series is already infamous for it’s difficulty. Stage 7 in the Alucard route is nightmarish (1:09:00 in the longplay below). I consider myself to be a good Castlevania player, but that stage took me probably around 30 tries, every time I died I jumped up and screamed out of tension(my wife was getting pretty mad at me at that point). After going through the hellish stage I died at the boss, in the next try I got through the boss only to find there was a 2nd boss, and after I finally got him I was greeted by a 3rd boss. You need such a perfect run to get though this stage, but the feeling of accomplishment when I finally got through it, holy moly that was a good feeling…
The stages after that one are also hellish, although I still think stage 7 is the most difficult. Dracula himself is no joke either. I thought maybe it was possible to avoid this route by taking the “devotee” route instead of the “masters” one but sadly the Alucard path means going through this level as well.
The gameplay is still as solid as in the first game and builds on it making this an ultimate retro gaming experience. When comparing this game to the original Castlevania it plays the same but just does everything bigger and better!

Meet Alucard

The game looks great, it has some amazing backgrounds and good sprite work and graphics that are improved from the first game, the stages all look different and take you to other places than just the castle.

Sypha in action

No Castlevania review would be complete without talking about the music. This soundtrack is THE BOMB! Seriously, I know I also said this in the last review but this might be the best Castlevania soundtrack. “The Beginning” (probably my favorite Castlevania tune), an insane remix of Vampire Killer and many more that stand out. I only wish that the tune in Alucard’s stage 7 would be more epic since it took me such a long time, but all the other are A+ tracks.
Play the Japanese Famicom version for added audio chips for an even more badass soundtrack.  Also note that the Japanese version is easier and Grant can throw his knives making him pretty overpowered.

Overall I think this is the most polished NES Castlevania game. The multiple paths, companions, level design, music are all top notch, and in this game they added a much needed password system so you won’t have to start from the beginning if you should give up. That password system for me justifies the hellish level of difficulty the game has. That being said this game is not for someone who considers himself a bad gamer. I would then refer him or her to the first Castlevania, since you should of course play first anyway since it is the first one.
But for us hardcore, never give up sadistic level of difficulty likers, Dracula’s Curse is the ultimate game. You will love it and play it more than once or twice or thrice for that matter. The difficulty and the satisfaction I got from beating this game makes it so important to me, it was truly a unique experience.

You can get the game on the Castlevania Collection on modern system and remember that the Japanese versions of the games are included!

Gameplay: 9,5
Visuals: 9
Music: 9,5
Lasting appeal: 9,5
Is it fun?: heck yeah! 9,5

Overall: 9.5 a masterpiece!

Here is a link to a password generator that works with all the versions of the game (not mine, beware of spam from mediafire):

Highest of the NES Castlevania games 😉

I also recommend the Japanese Famicom version of the game. It has amazing enhanced music and is not as difficult for various reasons. A fantastic pick-up if you can utilize the added sound chips of the Famicom games.

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