Review: Cursed Castilla EX (Switch)

More of a blessing than a curse.

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 05/29/2019 08:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
1-Up Mushroom for...
Authentic retro visuals and music; great challenge; smart spin on the Ghosts 'N Goblins formula; speedrunners will find a lot to love
Poison Mushroom for...
Despite being able to replay levels at the cost of the current high score, some players might be overwhelmed by the game's challenge

Spanish programmer Juan Antonio Becerra (who develops under the name Locomalito) has quietly been building up a very respectable catalogue of games over the years. Most recently, Nintendo fans were able to enjoy his work on the shooter Super Hydorah, a title which harkened back to the classic shmups of the 80s and 90s but with a modern spin. Locomalito’s capacity for creating a fresh take on tried and true video game styles of play is a real feather in his cap, and it’s something that he’s continued to do with Cursed Castilla EX.

Cursed Castilla EX is an interpretation of Capcom’s beloved (and perhaps equally reviled) Ghosts ‘N Goblins formula. Don Ramiro stands in for Sir Arthur of that series, while the backdrop of this game is rooted in the Spanish romance Amadís de Gaula, a piece of prose whose roots can be traced back to the 14th and 13th centuries. In the land of Tolemero, Ramiro must vanquish hordes of monsters and restore peace. Locomalito brings along a variety of Spanish myths and tales to Cursed Castilla EX’s narrative to make it a very unique exploration of this particular sub-genre within the industry.

Initially, Cursed Castilla EX tilts much more towards the original Ghosts ‘N Goblins. Players can hurl blades in four different directions all while bounding over hordes of hostile foes. As the game progresses, however, Ramiro’s attacks and movement are all capable of being upgraded, making him much more powerful and resilient as a result. The upgrades to Ramiro’s weapons aren’t just for show, either. Some attacks fair better against one type of enemy over another, meaning players have to be strategic about which weapons to use and when. There are also buffs that can be activated, like a shield to help save hearts and a fairy to bolster attack power. Combined, it provides the player with a good deal of customization in terms of how one approaches each level.

Speaking of levels, there are quite a few to comb through. Locomalito has stuffed in a litany of stages (eight in total) with 19 bosses and dozens of enemy types to encounter. That point about the variety of enemies is especially integral to how Cursed Castilla EX manages to feel so inspired throughout its campaign; enemies attack and move in a range of different ways, taxing the player to be mindful of their movements as they make her way around Tolemero. The same can be said of the bosses, all of whom will have even the most seasoned of players on the edge of their seats. Balancing the difficulty is a progression system which allows players to sacrifice their high score for another go at a level, which is a brilliant way of appeasing people with rookie and longtime skill levels, alike.

Rounding out the package here is Locomalito’s penchant for retro-inspired graphics. Cursed Castilla EX wouldn’t appear out of place running on an NES. The pixel art is grand, with enough detail to elevate it just above what would have been possible in the 80s or 90s on Nintendo’s original home console while also showing enough restraint to keep its inspiration recognizable. Cursed Castilla EX might look familiar to 3DS owners since it launched on that handheld in 2017. There isn’t much to differentiate this version from that one, other than the lack of stereoscopic glasses-free 3D. The bump to HD is a fair tradeoff, though, and some would argue an upgrade over that omitted feature; throw in four different screen filters/styles and graphically this is arguably the superior version of Cursed Castilla EX.

Back on soundtrack duties is Javier Garcia, better known by the pseudonym Gryzor87. His exceptional chiptune composition is a joy, blending blithely with Ramiro’s frenzied adventure. Gryzor87’s work on Super Hydorah and here should put him on the radar of anyone who’s an enthusiast of old-school video game music. Cursed Castilla EX’s soundtrack is impressive, creative work that showcases just how much life remains in the classic sound cards of years past. As ever, Locomalito has worked tirelessly on a presentation that’s as stunning as it is authentic.

There’s a lot to love about Cursed Castilla EX. From its innovative use of classic source material for its narrative to the bold, intricate pixel art that makes up its visuals, Cursed Castilla EX hits all the right notes. Innovation can be difficult with the sorts of games that have existed from the days of NES to now, but in the hands of creative developers like Locomalito and his companion Gryzor87, it’s clear that there’s plenty left to mine when a project is handled with care. Absolutely consider giving Cursed Castilla EX a look the next time you’re perusing the Switch (or 3DS!) eShop.

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.

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