Anatomy of a Simon’s Quest: VII

This whole “let’s dissect Castlevania games” obsession began by accident after I started writing about Simon Belmont’s sprite, so it only seems fitting to look at Simon as he exists in the sequel.

Well… color palette aside (he’s traded his barbarian leathers for what appears to be armor and mail), Simon isn’t terribly different in Simon’s Quest. He walks (hobbles?), jumps in a fixed arc, whips dudes, and uses sub-weapons. He commands more sub-weapons this time around, but oddly enough seems to have a more limited range of skills: He has multiple daggers, several weapons derived from holy water, and nothing equivalent to the axe, boomerang, or stopwatch. The one genuinely new addition to his arsenal is the diamond, which bounces around walls and inflicts light damage on enemies. Frankly, subweapons are generally crap in Simon’s Quest: Enemies scale in defensive strength as you advance, as does the whip… but not the subweapons. So in the end you’re fighting enemy grunts who take like 32 hits with the dagger to kill.

So Simon is more or less the same, if a bit more limited… but what about those other dudes up there? Yeah, those are the spear-carrying guards who first appeared in Stage 04 of Castlevania. Except here they don’t just wander aimlessly and wait for you to kill them; the put their spears into the offensive position and dart erratically back and forth. This makes for a pretty interesting new spin on familiar elements from the previous game… and it went into Rondo of Blood, too, as the Spear Knights in that game combined the behavior of the guards from both Castlevania and Simon’s Quest. Iteration!

The mummies who served as the Stage 09 bosses in Castlevania have been demoted to mere mooks. They no longer fling wrappings, instead lumbering slowly until Simon comes into their line of sight, at which point they make a mad dash for him. The flower things are totally new and spit fireballs; these looks remarkably similar to the Stone Roses from Rondo and Symphony of the Night. Which, given those games’ predilections for fan service, probably isn’t coincidental.

Skeletons take on many forms in Simon’s Quest, including this dude to the upper left, who uses the same sprite as Castlevania‘s skeletons but simply walks back and forth in a lame, pointless way that Castlevania‘s skeletons never stooped to. On the other hand, some skeletons pick up shields and armor and jump around chucking bones in classic style. The Bone Dragons have been tragically neutered, rooted into place and to a set height… which makes them more akin to Bone Pillars, but even less dangerous, since they only have one skull to burp flames at you.

And then there are the harpies, which defy all known concepts of anatomy and logic to land and turn into what appear to be winged bear-men. Where does all that body mass fold up into while they’re airborne? It is a mystery.

But man, nothing symbolizes how gently Simon’s Quest‘s difficulty level went gently into that good night than the Medusa heads. You know the famous parabola Medusa’s path normally describes? How they’re one of the most infuriating video game foes ever designed? How they appear at just the wrong places to make your hands break into an angry, anxious sweat? Well, there’s none of that here. Medusa heads behave exactly like the eyeballs you fight earlier in the game, making a sluggish beeline for Simon and lining themselves up naturally for a whip-crack to the face. Heartbreaking.

OK, but not as heartbreaking as the bosses. Simon’s Quest pits you against three bosses, which are pretty much the easiest in the entire series. Death, a maddening opponent in Castlevania and for many people the crippling breaking point to progress, floats lazily at Simon and chucks a sickle here and there, most of which are easily ducked. You can stand in place, squatting every few seconds to evade a spinning blade, and take him out before he reaches the edge of the screen. If you really want, you can drop a clove of garlic and stand around for a few minutes while he dies slowly, stunlocked in place as his health ticks away one point at a time. Pitiful.

The other bosses fare no better. Carmilla can be dispatched with ease by tossing the golden knife at her — it erupts into flame on contact, trapping her with a shorter-lived aerial stunlock. Her only attack is to weep tears of blood that explode into fragments upon striking the ground. These might be somewhat dangerous if not for the fact that Dracula’s rib turns into a shield that blocks them harmlessly. And the third boss… well, we’ll get to that.

14 thoughts on “Anatomy of a Simon’s Quest: VII

  1. The enemies are definitely a disappointment, which is all the sadder given the variety on display in their visual designs. Two-headed lizard men, grabbing hands, floating eyeballs, those harpy and plant things, two different kinds of bog monsters…Heck, there’s a monster called Freddy in the manual who’s a green humanoid with features obscured by shadows who attacks by groping you.

    As for the tools, there’s definitely a lack of variety in your attack options, but for what it’s worth, Simon’s Quest has the best throwing knife of any Castlevania: The Golden Dagger. It’s overpowered to the point that it’s like the designers are none too subtly saying “Will you just beat the game already?”

  2. I am really enjoying these articles. How far into the series are you going to go? I know it’s technically just a remake of the first game, but I would love a write-up of Super Castlevania IV.

  3. @R. R. Bigman I will need to spend some serious time with other games in the series in order to write about them. CVI and II were some that I played to death back in the day. If I do more of these, my next projects would probably be The Legend of Zelda, The Goonies II, Bionic Commando, or something. Or maybe a game on a different system entirely!?

  4. @jparish I know I’d definitely be interested in a Bionic Commando analysis. I had a blast replaying the game recently.

  5. I always thought that the sprites in Simon’s Quest were bigger than those in Castlevania and Castlevania III. But now that I look at them, I think they’re the same size. I’m not sure where I got that impression from.

  6. What would be really cool is an entire breakdown of the series, in this style… future GSJ, maybe? (Don’t know if it’ll be as cool as Jeremy’s writing, though!)

    I’m loving these, at any rate!

  7. Not ’cause I’m dissing on anyone else’s writing, of course. Just… keep me away from it for the time being, I’m not sure I have the writing chops to make it as entertaining as this series of articles has been.

  8. @LBD I love Simon’s Quest! But I am not blind to its flaws.

    @Kupek Simon’s Quest sprites have more presence. They have, I dunno, confidence.

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