GSQ5: Drinking your blood like cherry pop

Castlevania II is actually the game that got me into the series. Sight unseen, in fact! I saw an ad for a bunch of upcoming Konami games, and one of them was Simon’s Quest. Something about the sleek silver box art and the tiny yet detailed screen shot hooked me in a way that none of the other games advertised did, and I became determined to track down the first game.

When I finally got my hands on the game, I actually wasn’t disappointed. It probably helped — a lot — that Nintendo Power explained the most opaque elements of the game, but mostly I just loved the sensation that I was actually exploring all of Transylvania. Even if Transylvania all looked the same. Whatever! It was awesome. Meh, maybe you had to be there.

Also, grabbing screens for this made me realize that I still really love the linear gradient bars Konami used the sky — one of my favorite NES graphical techniques, yet such a simple thing.

28 thoughts on “GSQ5: Drinking your blood like cherry pop

  1. Do you still plan on picking up Lords of Shadow when it hits the discount section? I’m not too far into it but it’s really good and is taking some bold risks with the series, something you championed Final Fantasy XIII for doing with it’s unorthodox design.

  2. This was my first Castlevania, too. My friend and I were too cheap to buy the crystal early on, so we thought you could only get anywhere in the first palace by rhythmically jumping up invisible airjets. It always took us fifteen tries or so to luck our way onto the invisible platform. In retrospect, we weren’t the smartest players.

    Also, Silence of Daylight is still my favorite CV music ever.

  3. Lords of Shadow might not have that castlevania “rhythm” as I feel that it’s quite hard to replicate in 3D or might just simply make a worse game. Having a slow rumbling movement with a long weapon and a strict jumping mechanic works because you anticipate enemies and obstacles that are coming in from the scrolling screen. In 3D it might result into something like Demons Souls where you can most of the time see enemies that are far and then you decide to “attack” them. Though it definitely looks the part. Its also quite obtuse at times too but I’m enjoying it a lot. I also think that it does a better job of relating to it’s own franchise heritage than Ninja Gaiden does, probably cause Castlevania is the more visually unique franchise.

  4. Guys, I have the perfect idea for the 1999 Castlevania game; it could be a Metroidvania, but you start out of the castle, and it would incorporate more horror motifs like in Simon’s Quest…And you’d play as Julius Belmont, of course. :)

  5. Oh sorry about the ramble. Forgot there isn’t any edit button. Anyway, Castlevania II is probably the only games I haven’t played in the series (barring the 64 games) and I should play it a few years ago(with GameFAQs ofcourse). After playing my old copy of TMNT 1 and trying the original metroid (which came with Prime 1) I sort of generalized that non-linear platformers on the NES are hard as hell and really just more work than fun. Maybe I should give them another chance with this and Clash at Demonhead.

  6. Castlevania 2 is what got me into the series. I had played the original, but it was frustratingly difficult. 2 was much more forgiving.

    So the boss fights were laughably easy. So the townspeople gave incoherent and/or incorrect advice. It was still a pretty good exploration game.

    I was told that the reason Castlevania is empty at the end of Castlevania 2 is because the cart was filled with so much other stuff and the programing relatively primitive that they ran out of space. True story?

  7. I’ve always liked that sky effect too.

    Every time I have tried to play Castlevania II, I never got anywhere and didn’t really know what to do. Maybe I need to use a map or something like you did.

  8. i would love to see a modern open world style remake of castlevania 2, with less obtuse clues and more countryside exploration. till sotn, it was pretty much my favorite castlevania game, and kinda still is in some ways. I absolutely love the atmosphere, and the feeling that there is a larger world there.

    but that’s also what i love about D&D and stuff–i’m way more a fluff (setting flavor and atmosphere) guy than a crunch (system mechanics, play style) guy.

  9. Remember when Konami used to put out 10 games a year that were better than 85% of the other games released that year? And how for a while all their characters had tiny blank faces? and The soundtracks to their early SNES games? I used to spend hours a week trying to decide if I liked Capcom or Konami more.

  10. Those linear gradient bars ARE nice! And they sort of echo the design of the box art on Konami games, do they not? I just noticed that for the first time, but I’ve always thought both of those were cool graphical elements.

  11. The fact that Gabriel Belmont is dressed like Simon from Castlevania II is going a long way to mentally smoothing over Lords of Shadows rougher edges for me. (The fact that I’m also running around the Veros Woods right now doesn’t hurt, either.)

    Anyway, yeah, from an overall game-design perspective Castlevania II is a mess, but the series’ patented sense of creepy atmosphere combined with sprawling map and varied terrain really *did* make it feel like you were exploring all of Transylvania to collect those scattered bits of Dracula’s remains, which was a very cool feeling to get from a game at the time. Sense of place was a rare things in games back then, and Castlevania II had it in spades.

  12. I don’t think I can really add anything to what’s already been said, so I’ll simply reiterate that I love me some Simon’s Quest, and the flame whip is bad-ass. Thanks.

  13. Mudron> Same. For everything which may not feel very much like Castlevania to me in Lords of Shadow, seeing that outfit is a comforting feeling that is somehow reassuring.

    My first experience with Castlevania was when my parents rented the first, but Simon’s Quest is the first one we bought, and has long remained one of my favorites.

  14. I loved the color gradient as well. Not exactly unique in the days of low-color, but Konami sure did it with flair.

    Simon’s Quest was a bit of a disappointment for me, not simply because of the sudden followup difficulty crater factor (to be fair, the first could stand to have a less punishing damage structure, or at least an easy mode like the rare ’93 Famicom cart rerelease), but also because it lacked the polish found in Konami’s games, especially capping off an awesome year that included Contra, Life Force, and Metal Gear.

    I can totally see the merit in a spiritual successor with a less obtuse hint system and tight mechanics.

  15. I loved Castlevania II in it’s day. I haven’t played it since. Of course I also really loved Kid Icarus too, which is a game that everyone in retrospect (except me and that other guy) seems to hate. Against the glory of all that came in the late 8-bit era and the mostly amazing 16-bit era, these games may not stand the test of time, but they certainly were pretty damn good when they first hit the shelves. Anyone who feels differently should spend a few hours with Mach Rider.

  16. I still love this game. It’s one that I replay every now and then.

    It was the direction that home console games were going at the time. Less punishing action, more thoughtful world exploration. Those were perfect for me, especially because as a kid I did have time to beat my head on Deborah Cliff. But yeah, trying to play this without digging out the nintendo power (or downloading images of it) is a stupid, stupid thing to do.

  17. Just like Metroid II, Zelda II, Final Fantasy II, Super Mario Bros. II, and Mega Man 2, Castlevania II needs a remake (well, Mega Man 2/Super Mario Bros. 2 don’t need remakes, but it would be really awesome).

  18. I’ve always heard that the villagers in the Japanese version of the game were designed to outright lie to the player, whereas in the American version there was a limp-wristed effort to inject a bit of truth into the hints, but I guess that barely worked out.

    I would have probably been more frustrated with Simon’s Quest as a kid if I hadn’t already spent 2 years working my way through Raiders of the Lost Ark for the Atari 2600 without the instruction booklet, which is the standard-bearer for console gaming frustration in my eyes.

  19. Good on ya Mudron, did you ever find the hidden Yar? I still like Simon’s Quest quite a bit, warts and all. I am like Shivam (minus the dungeons and the drag-e-ons).

  20. Reason why there are no NPCs in all post SotN Castlevania games (according to IGA)- All of the villagers in Castlevania II were liars. :)

  21. @vaterite: Moreso than practically any modern day videogame though, it went too far in the non-punishing direction. Every single enemy was a candyass, and there were no consequences for getting game over, save fore losing all of your hearts.

  22. I have to be honest, Simon’s Quest was always my favorite NES game in the series, probably because it was the only one I could beat (with plenty of help from Nintendo Power, of course). The music is amazing, though I’ve always been a little upset that the mansion theme never gets any love. If they made a new game in this direction, be it a Rebirth or what I though OoE was going to be, I’d love it.

  23. This is still one of my favorite Castlevanias. I mean, if you can get past the awful, awful hints (NES Atlas is very much for the win there!) and some of the other flaws (like the fact that the game really only has three bosses, two of which you can skip entirely if you wish), it’s really a fantastic game.

    In a way, it’s something of a grand-daddy to the current crop of “Metroidvanias” since it introduced a lot of elements like the non-linear, singular world that is slowly unlocked via acquiring new items (even though they tend to stay in the castle nowadays), XP system, inventory, etc. It’s really a game that is begging for a remake – polish up the writing so the hints make sense, update the gameplay just a tiny bit with some of that Metroidvania goodness, add in actual bosses to each Mansion (and make Dracula an actual challenge – stupid flame pillar cheese makes him a joke)… it would be fantastic :D

  24. I see I’m not the only Scholastic reader on the internet. Holy cow, don’t forget the M&Ms, Timothy Bradley!

  25. You know what would be awesome for the remake? If they put the entire castle of Castlevania I inside Castlevania. :)

  26. Once I’d played Vampire Killer, I figured that after the success of Castlevania, Konami was trying to have another go at using some of the abandoned elements of the original game. Which didn’t work out, so they went back to the original Castlevania formula for future entries. Personally, I had no problem at all with Castlevania II, and enjoyed it, but it felt like it needed a vast amount more polish.

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