Friday, 20 May 2016

Super Castlevania IV - Nintendo SNES - 1991


Judging by the sheer number of entries on my shortlist, the Castlevania series certainly has something going for it.  For the NES I've played the first three titles and a spoof called Akumajo Special: Boku Dracula-Kun, plus Vampire Killer for the MSX.  So far none of these has managed to float my boat.  At first glance Super Castlevania IV seemed like nothing special - just more of the same with enhanced sound and graphics.  Unless I'm certain I won't like a game, I give each one a fair crack of the whip (pun intended) and after a while Castlevania IV began to grow on me.

The manual says that every 100 years the powers of evil grow stronger and the forces of good become weak.  During these times Dracula is revived, intent on turning humanity into creatures of darkness.  Over the centuries the Belmont family has passed down the secrets of vampire slaying to their eldest son, successfully keeping Dracula in check.  

Now an evil group has performed a ritual in a ruined abbey allowing Dracula to rise once more.  Armed only with a mystical whip, it is up to Simon Belmont to face the Prince of Darkness....

The game is basically an action platformer in which you guide Simon through a generous eleven levels.  Each level ends with a boss fight.  The ultimate aim is to defeat Dracula himself. 
Koranot - one of the many bosses

In Super Castlevania IV, as with previous Castlevania games, the protagonists primary weapon is a whip.  It can be used to attack enemies in eight directions.  It can also be used to latch on to hoops to swing across gaps that are too large to jump.
Hanging on to a conveniently placed hoop while the whole level turns through 90 degrees.

Secondary weapons and whip upgrades can be collected by destroying candles.  Only one secondary weapon may be carried at a time and include a watch (freezes enemies), an axe (powerful but difficult to accurately aim), fire bomb (which I found basically useless), a 'boomerang' (causes damage when thrown and when returning) and a dagger (easy to aim but doesn’t cause much damage).  These secondary weapons are powered by hearts which are by far the most numerous objects dropped by candles.  A small heart allows one use of a weapon and a large heart gives five uses.
Where's the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch when you need it?

If Simon gets hit by an enemy his life bar decreases.  The life bar can be replenished to a certain degree by picking up food that occasionally drops from the candles.  If it expires he loses one of his three lives He can be instantly killed by falling off the bottom of the screen or if the time limit runs out.  Once all lives are lost you are presented with a password, allowing you to restart at the beginning of the same level without power ups or secondary weapons. 

Super Castlevania IV certainly is a great game, although some may find it repetitive.  There is a soundtrack playing throughout which, while not really memorable, is pretty good and matches the mood of the game.  Likewise the sound effects do not really stand out but are more than adequate.  The graphics, however, are excellent.  The artwork is superb and there are several layers of parallax scrolling on some levels.  Mode 7 is put to effective use at various points.  My only gripe is a small one and that is the animation of the main character himself.  If lowly 8-bit computers can manage it in Dun Darach, and Prince of Persia does it with many more frames of animation, why can't Konami make Simon Belmont walk realistically instead of looking like he is ice skating?  It doesn't detract from the action at all but is a personal annoyance I have with animation in many video games.
Mode 7 is put to good use in this rotating corridor

Example gameplay....
 

2 comments:

  1. It's games like this that made the SNES feel like a leap in quality and capability from the NES.

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  2. I always thought of Super Castlevania as a hell of a platformer.
    Great atmosphere provided by awesome graphics, effects and music.

    Bloodlines on the MD is good too, but not in the same league as this one.

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