Review: Castlevania (NES 1986)

Castlevania is a game that should not need any introduction but I am going to give it one anyway.
The 1986 Konami game was only the beginning of what would become an immensely popular franchise. The game was released on the NES/Famicom which of course means a world of technical limitations but like so many other games on the NES it remains one of the most satisfying video game experience of my life.

Castlevania menu
Castlevania Menu

You begin the game as Simon Belmont by storming into the castle of Dracula himself armed only with courage and your trusty whip known as the Vampire Killer. There you encounter ghouls, ghosts, skeleton and many other horrifying creatures in a fighting platformer that tests your skills and patience to the fullest. And I mean that because this games is known for its extreme difficulty. The first levels should not cause you too much trouble but the game‘s difficulty spikes pretty quickly at around level 4. Thankfully you do have unlimited continues and plenty of checkpoints. Each level has 3 checkpoints and there are 7 levels. When you die you spawn at the last checkpoint but when you continue you spawn at the beginning of the level which seems just fair for me. Some parts of the game have so many enemies and traps coming at you at once that at first beating the game may seem impossible, but trust me if you keep going, learn the stages and enemy patterns and you will beat it.

So if you are patient you will eventually beat the game and trust me when I say that the game‘s difficulty only makes the feeling of beating it so much more rewarding are satisfying. For the very hardcore it may be desirable to have a limited number of continues but for that to be a fair option in the game it would probably need to be a bit more forgiving.
The controls do not help with the difficulty. The whip has a delay and when you jump you cannot change direction in mid-air like in games such as Mega Man. Also, when you get hit you are knocked back a few steps which might land you in a pit in some frustrating cases. However this is not an issue for me since the control limitations are an intentional part of the game. It is not supposed to easy, but it might cause a few frustrating moments. Besides from just whipping (B button) and jumping (A button) you get weapons you can use by pressing up+B. These weapons are a knife, axes, a boomerang, and holy water for example. These bonus weapons are vital for your quest so holding the right items at the right time is important.

Prepare to have a great horrifying time!
Prepare to have a great horrifying time!

All these controls feel good, responsive so the overall game-feel is very good. Complaining about these controls feels to me like complaining about the controls in the original Resident Evil games. The controls are limited for a reason, it sets the tone of a scary game that is supposed to make you feel limited and helpless and they both succeed greatly. I have to address this especially because i am tired of reading reviews from IGN or gamespot about how lousy the controls are and how difficult the game is and saying it like it is a bad thing. The difficulty of the game makes it last and makes beating it so much more rewarding. All the tense moments, beating Death or other bosses with one half point left. The feeling that makes your heart beat and scream when you die, or scream in happiness if you win. This feeling is too rare in video games today. Being careful about your every move, learning your enemy’s pattern, fine tune your own control of Simon and more about this game  just feels so right. Some enemy placements  can be frustrating and walking up stairs makes you pretty helpless but the jumping and whipping should feel so good that you will forgive the game for being sometimes a little… unforgiving.

The game’s visuals stand out. Colors that compliment each other and sprites that just look good. So many NES sprites in lesser games look kinda goofy and half-assed but Castlevania does a great job of both character/enemy sprites and backgrounds.


The music….oh maaan the music. This game has one of the most iconic soundtrack of all games. Everyone know Vampire Killer and most should know Wicked child. These and so many other great tunes help skyrocket the game feel to whole new levels. The music is such an important part of the game and setting the tone for the gothic theme of the game and it is just insane how much I have listened to these songs through the years. Absolute favorite.

Overall this game is soo very good, it has everything. But it is not 100% perfect. It could have had more levels, it could have more hit songs but still that is kinda unfair to say considering the time the game was made.

Here is a pretty cool longplay, this guy makes it look easy but believe me it is not. ***video contains spoilers***

This game is available for the NES, the Wii and Wii U’s virtual console and a lot more. Look it up and play it! This is one of the most iconic game in video game history so you should!


Gameplay 9
Visuals 9
Music and sound: 9
Lasting appeal: 8,5
Is it fun?: 9,5

Overall: 9 an awesome game

Thanks for reading 🙂

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