Monday, August 22, 2011

Castlevania part 1

When I look back on the Castlevania franchise from my childhood, I look back on the greatest puzzles, most challenging levels, greatest soundtracks, and mind blowing graphics of any game series ever released.  If you know me at all, you know that my fondest memories of the series are from the 8-bit/16-bit era where nearly every game released in the series was a perfect 10 out of 10.  While I do think that a great Castlevania game or two have been released since the SNES days(which we'll get into later) I will say the series has died down on my radar over the past 10 years.  Castlevania in 3D?  It's just ... not Castlevania man!
 I first experienced Castlevania in a Pizza Hut downtown.  The game had an eerie feel to it, and some of the most difficult evil monsters to overcome I had ever seen.  Then I saw that it was also a NES (Nintendo) game.  I was floored.  We must rent this!  My friends and I got Castlevania in our grubby little hands and played it till the wee hours of morning.  It caused nightmares.  It had tunes that I would never get out of my head.  And also, this was before every game had a save feature, and it had no password feature.  Meaning you had to play from the beginning every time you wanted to start playing.  It was unforgiving in later levels.  You mess up.  You die.  Period.  Level Start.  We rented it several times getting farther and farther into the game, when finally after at least the 5th time renting it we encountered Dracula!!  He was tough, he did double damage, and his routine was hard to predict (for the first outing!).  Time after time, we took part in the epic battle between Simon Belmont and Dracula, and time after time we died trying.  Until finally my friend Rob managed to take him down.  We watch the flames come up as Dracula had died, we cheered, only to start shrieking as A hideous beast appeared where Dracula laid!  The fight was NOT OVER!!  The beast jumped and shot fireballs, to an ominous boss music that to this day I still can hear!!  We did not manage to defeat the beast.  We brought Castlevania back to the Rental joint defeated.  We had had enough.  We moved on.  There were Zelda's and Mario's to play!!
Then my first issue of my first ever Nintendo Power Subscription came in the mail.  What is this on the cover!?  it was indeed Castlevania II!!  I quickly showed my friends, we studied the screen shots and strategy hints.  We biked to the rental place and sure enough the new release of the day was Castlevania II.  We brought it home, and while still having the Castlevania feel to it, it wound up being a completely different game.  You still had the whip, and it was still a battle against the armies of Dracula's undead.  But now we had a save feature. The game setting was open, you could go wherever you wanted.  You had an inventory.  There were towns to visit, places to purchase goods, people to save.  It was almost like a Castlevania RPG!!  We instantly fell in love!  Rob had liked the game so much he actually got it for Christmas that year!  I remember going over during the holidays and staying up all hours of the night.  There were fewer challenges in Castlevania II as opposed to the original, but was still a difficult game.  Having passwords helped.  We didn't have to start over every time we attempted to slay Dracula.  In Castlevania II we had to find assorted secret items that would 'bring out' Dracula.  Taking these items to Dracula's castle (which was oddly absent of any bad guys) walk through and fight Drac himself.  The battle Vs. Dracula in C2 was a bit of a let down.  It was super easy, but we knew better than to think that was it.  After Dracula became inflamed, we waited anxiously for the best monster to reappear and give us nightmares for the next two years.  But... that didn't happen.  Dracula started on fire and died, then the ending credits came up.  Castlevania II was conquered.  I quickly followed suit and at home later borrowed the game and beat the game.  While it was a great experience, and a memorable time, beating it felt a little empty.  I felt like something was missing.  We both knew what we had to do. 

We had to revisit the original and take down that bastard!!  How could we live with ourselves with beating Castlevania II but not the original?!?!  We couldn't.  Rob actually had asked for the original for a Birthday gift and received it.  ((If you're wondering about why Rob keeps getting all these games, its because at this time, I didn't own my own NES yet.  I would soon remedy this the next holiday season (1989))  I had grown up with a Tandy CoCo2, and had acquired a Colicovision from a rummage sale for $20, so my parents thought I had enough video games)  So we had finally gotten our hands on the original.  During this time, Rob spent a majority of the time playing through to Dracula, because I just couldn't get my act together (That's right, I wasn't as good a gamer as Rob was... sue me).  Rob had once again defeated Dracula and went on to fight the Monster that emerged from the flames.  I remember this time so well, that I actually started to play the boss music on a little play piano that I had, and I was getting pretty good at it!!  Finally Rob was able to defeat the bastard, and we were able to see the ending to one of the most difficult video games in existence.  It was bitter sweet, because the ending was good, but it paled in comparison to Castlevania II's ending(which actually had multiple endings by the way).

Next- Castlevania III and the idea of a 16-bit trilogy!!

You read it. You cannot un-read it.

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