The Nerd: Life fucking sucks and so does this game. After Castlevania on Nintendo 64, I've given up hope for the next great game in the series. Several years later I realized I've been looking in the wrong place.
The Nerd: Like I said before, I stuck with the Nintendo consoles, and I missed out on the other Castlevania games: Like Castlevania: Bloodlines on the Sega Genesis.
(montage of "Castlevania: Bloodlines" with music)
The Nerd: That's what you call Castlevania. Traditional side-scrolling action. Familiar, yet fresh. It takes place all over Europe rather than just strictly in Transylvania. You get a choice of two characters; John Morris and Eric Lecarde. I wonder what happened to the Belmonts? Who are these people? Well, supposedly, John Morris is the son of Quincy Morris from Dracula, the Bram Stoker novel. That just blew my mind, it's like now we're bringing the novel into it? So the whole canon of the games is now with the canon of the book, and i-it's like taking two cannons and putting them together.
The Nerd: Anyway, this is a great game for the Sega Genesis library, but it's still not on par with Castlevania IV. Whipping in 8 directions, the moonwalking, all that's gone. The graphics, the sound, the gameplay, it's all really good, but it's not as good.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
The Nerd: Then I turned to the PlayStation, the console which I underestimated so much. There I found Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Holy hot damn, this is fucking good.
(montage of "Castlevania: Symphony of the Night" with music)
The Nerd: The graphics and sound are superb, but there is some pretty cheesy voice acting.
Richter Belmont: Die, monster. You don't belong in this world!
Dracula: What is a man? A miserable little pile of secrets. But enough talk... Have at you!
The Nerd: The game's a sequel to Dracula X. In the opening scene, you play as Richter Belmont battling Dracula. The rest of the game you play as Alucard, who's powerful as fuck. Anything that stands in your way no matter how big, one hit and it just fucking explodes. That is until you meet Death who takes all your weapons away, now Alucard sucks. All you get is this dinky sword and every enemy takes 9 million hits to kill.
The Nerd: As you go through the game, you gain powerups and upgrade your weapons, which is like many games, but to start you off the good weapons and then take them away is just fucking teasing you. Alucard has his backward dash, but I've never found a reason to use it, other than to go slightly faster. And what are these? Skeletons shooting lasers out their cocks?
The Nerd: The one thing I truly hate about this game is that whenever you die, you go back to the main menu. In the other games you get a continue screen. That's all you need, right? But here, you gotta wait for the screen to melt... (screen melts) then you gotta stare at the Game Over screen.
Dracula: Game... Over!
The Nerd: (groans) Come on.
(Dracula laughs evilly and the Nerd drinks a bottle of Rolling Rock in anger)
The Nerd: (annoyed) This takes forever.
The Nerd: And then, it's back to the title screen. Hit start...then select the file...wait for the screen load...and then pick your saved game. Analbag, that's me. Then you gotta wait for the game to load. (impatiently) Come on! (game resumes) And finally you continue from your last save point. That is fucking atrocious.
The Nerd: The boss battles are epic. In the end you have to fight a dark priest named Shaft. What's up with the name? Seriously, Shaft?
Female Chorus: Shaft!
John Shaft: Damn right!
The Nerd: And after that, you fight Dracula and, just, uh, wow, holy shit.
The Nerd: The last and most important thing I have to address with this game is its gameplay style. It's the major breakthrough what sets it apart from the previous games in the series. Instead of the simple linear style, it goes for a Metroid-style with endless forks in the road, save points, and a map system. It's exactly like Metroid, and that's why many fans refer to it as Metroidvania.
The Nerd: It also has some RPG elements. By fighting monsters, you earn experience points, and when you get enough experience points, you level up your power. There's all kinds of potions, and items, and armor, weapons, and sub-weapons and this is a huge game. It takes hours to get through the castle. Does Dracula need such a big place to live? And if that's not enough, you have to go through the whole castle all over again, upside down.
The Nerd: Anyway, this Metroid style of Castlevania would become the dominant style of Castlevania for the rest of time. Sure, there is a 3D game every now and then, and it pretty much took on every style imaginable. But never again was there another classic linear Castlevania. The console versions continued to expiriment, while the portable versions followed Symphony of the Night as the example. Pretty much the whole game takes place inside the castle. I missed all that old spooky scenery, the old games had cemeteries and forests. I mean, since when did the whole game have to take place inside the castle? Since Symphony of the Night, that's when. This is when Castlevania seemed to become more distant from the classic games, and gravitate away from what I originally loved about it. There's so much text, and the storylines were getting ridiculous. In Dawn of Sorrow, Dracula's castle emerges from a solar eclipse in Japan. I thought that Japan had enough trouble with Godzilla stomping around, now they have Dracula too? By the way, that's a nice cover, isn't it? It's like a game within a game.
- The solar eclipse was in Aria of Sorrow, not Dawn.
The Nerd: Anyway, Symphony of the Night is often considered to be the best of the whole series. While I think it's an amazing game, my favorite is still Castlevania IV. The control was so satisfying in that game, Alucard's sword is not as much fun as Simon Belmont's whip. Sure, there is way to unlock Richter Belmont, but this is only after you've already beaten the game. You can't whip in all directions, but you can do that little twirly thing and Richter has some neat special moves.
(Richter Belmont is shown doing special moves.)
The Nerd: But I still prefer the feel of Castlevania IV and being in total control of my whip. But for the most part, I think the challenge is better. In Symphony of the Night, whenever you come to a hard part, there always seems to be an easier way around it. You can turn into a bat and fly over, or sometimes you need to get more experience points, or there might be some weapon you need to equip, or an item that improves your stamina, or resists fire, or makes you immune to some certain magic spells, there's so many variables here!
The Nerd: In Castlevania IV, all you had was your own wit. You don't rely on tricks: It's just you and the game, and the only way to beat it is to beat it with your mind and your reflexes. And that, to me, is what Castlevania is all about.
The Nerd: And once you've beaten the game in the wee hours of the morning, and watch the castle crumble, you reflect from all that time you just spent. The credit sequence shows little replays from each level: It's like watching old memories. And that's what the Castlevania games are for me; memories that will last forever.
(montage of "Castlevania" series with "Super Castlevania IV" ending theme. In the end, the castle crumbles as an ending text says "You played the greatest role in this story. Thank you for watching." Episode ends.)
- The Nerd made a mistake saying you can't whip in 8 directions in Castlevania: Bloodlines for the Sega Genesis. He was half-right, and half-wrong. In that game, you can actually whip in 5 directions.
- The Nerd also said whipping in all 8 directions was not possible in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Though he was right about twirling your whip and Richter having special moves, he was wrong about not whipping in all 8 directions.