-by Dylan DiBona
One day when I’m elderly I’d like to sit down in a chair and know I’ve tried most (if not all) of gamings biggest series and games. I still have some pretty huge gaps until I get even close to halfway there, and one of those glaring holes was Castlevania. With an animated Netflix show coming June 7th, I thought what better time to try and jump into the series?
Can I just say before I start, I absolutely love the imagery of Castlevania. The dark and dreary Gothic architecture, ominous vibes and sense of necessity all make the series feel so epic (cliche word, I know). The original Castlevania was so close to being my favorite NES game of all time, but I find that it suffered in its latter half due to needlessly painful enemy placement and overall difficulty. With a little surfing of the web I discovered that Super Castlevania IV is somewhat of a remake of the original game, and with my love of the Super Nintendo I decided that it would be my second shot at an entry point.
It’s never been officially stated by Konami if Super Castlevania IV was a remake of the original, but let’s go that route for the sake of this review.
SCIV places you in the role of Simon Belmont. Every 100 years the forces of good inevitably weaken and a once dead Dracula comes back to life, seeking to reign evil across all living things. The Belmont family (or clan) has taken the duty of slaying Dracula and all creatures of the night for hundreds of years, this time it so happens to be Simon’s turn.
I absolutely love this concept, knowing exactly who the final boss will be and having a familial line of protagonists gives each game a sense of connection. The Belmont’s remind me of the different Link’s from The Legend of Zelda, or each unique Jojo in Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure; connected but unique.
The presentation jumps full force with this story in mind; the title screen is a decaying brick wall with creepy crawlies running around. The 16-bit music imitates organs you’d hear in a church while mixing it with that classic Super Nintendo sound; not every song is memorable genius, but most are catchy and fit the tone. The sound effects all work well but I felt like the whip could’ve used more “oomph”, it sounded like a cat hissing every time I swung it.
The gameplay is responsive and improved from the original NES adventure. Players get eight directions to swing the whip instead of two, and can even jiggle their whip around for some reason. Definitely the best improvement is being able to control your jump in mid-air. I do miss the simplicity of a two direction whip, but I understand why SCIV decided to go all out- what better way to spell out “enhanced remake” then by upgrading the main way of attacking? Items are back and serve the same purpose but to a lesser extent. In the older Castlevania games, items were great for taking down hard hitting enemies and bosses. You’d want to save a specific item like the Clock or Cross for a certain boss, however Super Castlevania IV is generally a bit easier and practically any item will be useful for every boss. Back when Egoraptor used to make insightful videos on gaming, he made one on this very topic. It’s worth the watch.
The first four levels were great, they were slightly challenging but no so much where the player couldn’t learn and get better with time. Unfortunately Super Castlvania IV suffers from the same issues as its original counterpart: latter half difficulty. I won’t lie, some enemies from the original like Bone Pillars and Axe Knights are incredibly easy now, but by the time Stage 6 rolls in enemies are everywhere and move around much faster than Simon; obstacles get crazier like falling gears in a clock tower or giant mechanical buzz-saws. It becomes total mayhem at points and without my cheap use of save states, I wouldn’t have beaten the game. I give credit to SCIV for making a lot of aspects easier, but some things like intense knockback is just plain obnoxious and when four or five enemies are flying around the screen, I felt hopeless.
The amount of damage enemies do is brutal too. Let’s again use the example of five enemies flying around the screen. Simon has sixteen rectangles of health and each enemy does two points of damage. If you mess up once or twice you could be looking at very low health or death. And this is Castlevania, not Zelda; you don’t get health for killing enemies, but for finding chicken hidden in candles or the walls. I think even the developers knew they messed up with scaling enemy damage because in the final boss battle with Dracula, one of his moves actually gives you chicken to heal up. Why would a developer make a boss heal you unless he did far too much damage?
Super Castlevania IV did a really good job at impressing me with its monster vibe. It made me feel like I was in the mid 1990’s where I could go to a video rental store and pick up a werewolf or zombie VHS. It feels classic and in many ways, it is. I believed the game to be possible without my use of save states until the end when it just kept serving up bosses and intense obstacles; I know people can do it without save states, but even bosses like Death require cheap exploits like staying hidden in a corner. I really do believe the Castlevania series would have been better off ditching the concept of over the top challenges.
Super Castlevania IV is a fine game.
I’ll gladly return to it one day in hopes of being better. I’m genuinely happy it was the first Castlevania game I’ve beaten, here’s hoping to many more.
Any Castlevania fans here? What do you think of this entry in the series? Do you agree or disagree with my comments? Let me know down below and I’ll try to reply! As always, thanks for reading.
Confused on my review score? Click here for an explanation!