Tense gameplay, especially during later, platform-filled stages
Poor level design; lowdown even with small number of sprites; slow movement
Castlevania: The Adventure, released twenty-three years ago this December, is probably one of the more difficult games available for Virtual Console. In fact, even with Ghosts’n Goblins out this week, Castlevania: The Adventure still holds a pretty terrifying grip over its players. If this were all because of its gameplay, that would be fine. Unfortunately, in this black sheep of Castlevania games, protagonist Christopher Belmont dies more often to slowdown and sluggishness than to Dracula himself.
Like many platformers of the time, Castlevania: The Adventure stars a protagonist who must fight through waves upon waves of enemies, armed with what seems to be a woefully inept weapon. All Christopher Belmont has is the legendary Vampire Killer whip, and though it’s certainly a powerful weapon when upgraded with power crystals that enemies drop every now and then, it usually isn’t in that state. The fundamental truth of all Castlevania games is that players will be hit at least once when standing on tiny platforms, whether it’s by floating Medusa heads or hovering eyeballs. However, in Castlevania: The Adventure, not only does Christopher Belmont lose his whip power-up if he is hit– which, by the way, is par for the course in 1989, so that’s not a problem– he also takes recoil that is often just enough for him to fall off a platform and for players to scream in dismay. (Come to think of it, that might be why Castlevania: The Adventure came out the week before Halloween.) Without potions, crosses, or any other type of traditional vampire-killing tool (irony intended), Christopher Belmont’s got his work cut out indeed.
Think you can make that jump? Think again. You can’t jump for beans.
Now, old-school players might think, “Well, scary stuff happens all the time in Mega Man 2.” This is mostly true, except in Mega Man 2, you didn’t have whole floors composed of platforms that required literally pixel-perfect jumps, with neither the benefits of momentum nor agility. Christopher Belmont walks (he never runs– what a gentleman), jumps, and falls like a sack of bricks with semi-palpable sentience. His whip always shoots straight forward, crouching or standing, and enemies often charge at you in that awkward space that Christopher’s whip just can’t seen to go. This causes lots of attempts to jump over enemies, except that your jumping abilities are worse than even the Flea Men in 1993′s Castlevania: Rondo of Blood. (Apparently it took that long for the Belmonts to develop adequate jumping ability.) To top it all off, when there’s multiple enemies on screen, some soul-shattering slowdown invades the game. This essentially makes it very confusing as to how Christopher Belmont ever defeated Dracula before Simon, and very difficult for you to help him do it.
That all said, playing Castlevania: The Adventure is actually entertaining, if not entirely so. There’s a lot of hullaballoo– not entirely undeserved, either– about recent Castlevania titles drawing more inspiration from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night‘s “Metroidvania” subgenre, and less from the original Castlevania games for NES and SNES. Playing Castlevania: The Adventure, with its nigh-impossible jumps and three lives till level replay, is definitely more of the latter, with its difficulty possibly owing more to culture shock than to anything else. But maybe that’s an apology for the slowdown and poor level design, and an attempt at justifying a game that was already average in 1989. Suffice to say that Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth, the WiiWare remake of this game, is probably the better buy for this Halloween.
Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.