After Castlevania 1 and 2 were behind us, we occasionally went back to them in passing, playing casually just to pass time. Get good at some of the harder parts, at one point I actually had memorized much of Castlevania II from beginning to end using one little code that allowed me to start with all the items needed to make Dracula appear, so I could just play through the game to Drac's castle and blow him away. It was a good romp! When we finally had moved on to other games, we really thought Castlevania opened us up to more challenges in the video game world. It was almost a gateway drug to some other games that most would say was too hard. We quickly started feeding into our addiction with series' like Ninja Gaiden, Batman, Metroid, Blaster Master, and even TMNT. While non of these games quite had the same addicting flavors that Castlevania offered(Batman came close, but that is for another blog article!), they were a great diversion until we saw the mighty 'coming soon' section in an early 1990 issue of Nintendo Power. Castlevania III was coming!!
Castlevania III pretty much made us crap our pants. Our little game group of two guys huddled in our bedrooms playing video games quickly escalated to about 5 kids staying up till the wee hours hanging on the edge of our seats conquering level after level of this epic game. Let me just say this first, well not first but before you read on: if you haven't played through this epic, or at least invested a great amount of time into Castlevania III, stop reading right now, and get the hell to your nearest NES or emulator get this game and get playing! It is absolutely EPIC! It's damn near the perfect game. i'm dead serious, it is the BEST 8-bit Castlevania and easily a top 3 NES game of all time. Ok with that said....
Simon's Quest gave us an open world to wonder and discover. The original Castlevania was linear and kept you going from stage 1 to stage 2 and so on. Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse was somewhere in between. While the gameplay shares a closer relationship with it's older brother the original Castlevania, it does give you options on which direction you can go in with different path choices. You can also find allies along the way that will actually join your party! Sypha a spell caster, Grant the Pirate, and the son of Dracula; Alucard! Finding these allies can also change the directions you can go in through levels and even changes the endings of the GAME!! It REALLY adds so much to the experience you just have to play it to understand. This adventure takes all of this and adds it to the style of gameplay seen in the original. It is truly the perfect culmination of all the working pieces of the series all wrapped in one.
I'd love to tell you we had some great epic tale of how we played through this game with nightmares and stories of how we battled Dracula and his many forms for months and months, but in all honesty we were able to play through to the ending of this game in about 2 weeks. Could be that we had so much 'experience' with the series, or that we were just getting a bit older and our 1337 skills were starting to show, or the fact that this game is just clearly the most polished 8-bit castlevania. It is even complete with a password system, a unique one at that with a grid and symbols that go along with the user name you played with. Changing names with the password? It won't work. The user name you used is yours for life, unless you start over. Pretty genius.
Don't let this fool you, Castlevania III is a hard game. Some of the later levels are the most frustrating I've ever seen. The thing is, with the passwords, you are able to continue on from where you left off each time. This saves on a TON of the replay of some of the earlier levels. Also having multiple ways to go adds loads to the replay value of this classic.
Over the coming months afterward we spent great amounts of time uncovering secret passageways, unlocking characters and seeing all the different endings the game had to offer. Over that time, news of the passing of the torch from 8-bit to 16-bit has started to circulate at a rapid pace. The TurboGrafx and the Sega Genesis were all the news in most video game magazines, and news of Nintendo's upgraded 16-bit powerhouse was all over the place! Our first thought was could we see a 16-bit Castlevania!?!? I remember seeing video and screen shots of 16-bit/ arcade games that reminded me of Castlevania (Legendary Axe) with the muscle of 16-bit and thinking... 'wow, what might Castlevania IV look like?'
Next time - Castlevania Vs. 16-bit
You read it. You cannot un-read it.