Super Castlevania IV
The Nerd: When the 1980s came to an end, the Castlevania trilogy was already edged into my mind as classic. It was the arcitype of both the action and horror genres and a masterpiece in side-scrolling gaming. Roughly at the turn of the decade came the 16-bit era. I had no idea that it could actually get better. In 1991, Castlevania made its transition to the new Super Nintendo. But this wasn't just Castlevania IV. Oh, no. This was Super Castlevania IV, and well worthy of that title. The graphics and sound just blew my fucking balls off. The haunting and chilling atmosphere of the old games was now like a walk through the park with the Care Bears. This time, I was really getting scared.
The Nerd: At the time, this must have been the greatest opening to any video game yet, the fog keeps rolling in until it envelopes the shattered gravestone and almost seems creeping into the room itself.
(the camera switches to the Nerd holding a blanket over his head as fog billows into the room)
The Nerd: And then, of course, we have the game.
(montage of "Super Castlevania IV" with music)
The Nerd: Oh, yeah. This is where it's at. The graphics give a supreme demonstration of what the Super Nintendo could do. There's not two levels that look alike, and the intention to detail is exquisite. The first time I played I didn't even noticed that skull in the background, if you look close enough you can see bats flying out.
The Nerd: There's a stage where the background spins giving you a 3-dimensional effect. Then there's the room that rotates 2-dimensionally and you have to hang onto your whip. It gives you a feeling of disorientation that I hadn't felt yet in the game. But the best advantage, the most important thing that they improved here, was the control.
The Nerd: The choppy stiffness of the earlier games, gone. Now it's fluent and perfect. You can whip straight up, down or in any direction, that 8 directions you can whip. If you hold down the button and fuck about with the D-pad you can do all kinds of tricks. It doesn't have much purpose, but it's pretty cool.
The Nerd: Being able to whip any way you want makes it easier to attack enemies while you're in mid-air. Not to mention when you jump you have more ability to control where you land. You can even move while crouching. The control is perfect, and that's the keyword here; "control." You feel like you're in control. It's almost like Simon Belmont can do anything, even moonwalk. (16-bit version of "Beat It" by Michael Jackson plays as Simon moonwalks.) It's as if you are Simon Belmont and fully immersed in the game. That means that the difficulty isn't all about stiff controls and cheap deaths, but this time in genuine fair challenge. For the most part.
The Nerd: As far as the story goes, it's more less a remake of the first game. Some fans might have been a little disappointed that there's no other playable characters and it goes back to the linear style. But that's how I like it best; straight forward and simple. The replay value is high for me and I'd pop this fucker in any day.
The Nerd: In its final stages, it plays the music from all 3 of the NES games. It's like nostalgic memories of an Nintendo game within another Nintendo game. (The Super NES version of "Bloody Tears" plays)
The Nerd: That's it, the perfect Castlevania game. But what would come next? We had a sequel, a prequel and a remake. Which direction could the series go after this? At this point, my expectation was soaring in the heavens, and I couldn't wait for Castlevania V. This is where the disappointment began, and forever kept rolling downhill, like a ball of dog dookie down a muddy slope.
Castlevania: Dracula X
The Nerd: I opened up the pages of Nintendo Power, and there it was; Castlevania: Dracula X. I said it out loud to myself... "Castlevania: Dracula X." I wondered, "Why not just call it Castlevania V?". Well, that's what I thought back then, but if only I knew the original Japanese title, Devil's Castle Dracula X: Rondo of Blood. Just rolls right off your tongue.
The Nerd: The original version on the PC-Engine would be unknown in North America for years to come until it was eventually released on the PSP. The Super Nintendo version is often seen as a butchered port, but I think it's a decent edition to the series.
(montage of "Castlevania: Dracula X" with music)
The Nerd: In this game, you take control of a new Belmont named Richter. He's not quite as skilled with the whip. Once again, you're restricted to only whipping in a horizontal manor, a major downfall from the previous game.
The Nerd: Throwing specials items on the stairs, once again, it's a little tricky, because you have to use the D-pad. Unlike the last game which conveniently used the R button, this time, you're back to the NES control of using up plus the attack button. However, you do have a back-flip, which can come in handy sometimes. But for the most part, you're ill-equipped to deal with the unfair challenges. The distances you're expected to jump are stretched so far, that the only way to make them is if you jump from the absolute edge, as close as you can possibly get, without falling off.
The Nerd: The frustration in this game is back, full fucking force. Every level is an endurance and you'll be begging for a pork chop all the time.
The Nerd: The final battle with Dracula is impossible. Im-fucking-possible. Is it bad enough Dracula turns into a devil wearing a speedo? And on top of that, you have to hop across platforms? Anywhere you stand, one hit will knock you off and kill you.
The Nerd: Dracula X was a decent game, but not a worthy successor to the masterpiece Castlevania IV, so the search was still on.
The Nerd: Now, let me explain something for a minute. I couldn't afford more than one game system at a time plus a library of games to support it. So I passed on PlayStation, and favored the next Nintendo console. I was sure that the same way the Super Nintendo impressed me so much, the Nintendo 64 would come along and do the same: Delivering the next best Castlevania. I was ready to have my balls blown off by awesomeness once again.
The Nerd: There were two games, one simply titled Castlevania and the other, Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness. They were both released the same year, and share the same style of gameplay. Like Mario and Zelda, Castlevania was making a leap to the 3rd dimension. The graphics are good, for Nintendo 64 standards, but I find them unappealing, because it's the beginning of the 3D age, and they haven't perfected it yet. It's that awkward period between the old and the new.
The Nerd: Now because both of these games are so similar I'm only gonna talk about this one. If I talk about every game, I'll be doing this 'til next year. After all, this is the last Castlevania game I played when it was new, closing my personal recollection of how I experienced the series.
The Nerd: You get a choice between two characters: Reinhardt and Carrie. Reinhardt uses the whip. The control is awkward, I don't know what it is, but it just seems like Castlevania was made to be in 2D. I don't know, just for some reason Ocarina of Time worked out so much better. So, I'm going with Carrie, because at least she has a projectile giving you a longer range. But now, I'm playing as like a schoolgirl? It doesn't look anything like Castlevania anymore.
The Nerd: In this stage, you have to pull levers to open gates, so when you get to a lever, it says "Operate the mechanism? Yes or No?" Why does it bother asking me this? Obviously, I wanna pull the lever. What's my other option, to just stare at the fucking background?
The Nerd: The enemies are a complete joke. A Frankenstein monster wielding a chainsaw? What? Skeletons on motorcycles? And this game takes place in 1852. Was there fucking motorcycles back then?
The Nerd: The music sucks, it just sucks. Think it sucks? Listen. (no music plays) It sucks, there's no fucking music. The control is what kills it. You grab onto these steps, and when you try to climb up, you just move back and forth.
The Nerd: You want to know what your worst enemy is in this game? Medusa Heads? No. Stairs? No. Water? No. This time, it's the camera itself. You can never situate the camera at the right angle to see what the Hell you're doing, it just points whenever it wants! (The Nerd grunts and groans while trying to jump over a gap and Carrie dies 4 times)
The Nerd: OK, so now, I'm at a part where I'm supposed to destroy a cracked wall using two separate items. So, I gotta find these two items and combine them together so they make some kind of explosive chemical. One's called a Mandragora, and the other is Nitro. I got the Mandragora first, but now when I try pick up the Nitro it's telling me I can't carry them together because they'll explode. So, OK, I guess I gotta carry them one at a time. No problem, right?
The Nerd: Well, I carried the Mandragora over this cracked wall and guess what? I just realized I have no clue how to put this thing down. There's no drop, or throw away option, nothing. I tried putting it in these garbage chutes, on the wall, but still no luck. Then I found these statues that talk to you.
The Nerd: At first, I thought there were giving you hints letting you know what to do with the Nitro and Mandragora. But since I can't seem to place the stuff on the ground, I figure I have to talk to these statues in order to even use the items at all! Even though that makes no sense, that's like talking to a fire hydrant so that you can use dynamite to demolish a building.
The Nerd: But anyway, talking to the statues doesn't work either. Turns out I was supposed to get the Nitro first. But now that I'm stuck holding the Mandragora, there's nothing I can do. The game's over. What a fatal flaw! Just because you miss some object, it won't let you continue! I don't what else to do! So the only other thing I can think of is to start the entire game over. And this time make sure to get the Nitro first.
The Nerd: Well, I did just that. I started all the way back from the beginning, made it all the way back to the Castle Center, so here we are I got the Nitro first. Now, I'm heading over to the cracked wall again. Oh, shit! It's explosive! That means you have to walk really slow and be careful not to touch anything. You're not even allowed to jump! Shit! (Carrie gets killed by the Nitro) (Exclaims) Ooh! Damn! And every time it happens, you go back to the save spot. Oh my God, this takes forever. Come on. Come on! (Groans) This is so boring! Well, finally after about a half hour of walking incredibly slow, I made to the cracked wall. Well, at least I have the Nitro this time. Right? (the screen still says it can't be used.) What the fuck? I still can't use the item? I don't know what I'm supposed to do!
(not knowing what to do, the Nerd decides to commit suicide)
The Nerd: Life sucks.
To be concluded...