Name: Castlevania III - Dracula's Curse
Region Reviewed: NTSC
Year of Release: 1990
In any kind of business a franchise makes money, and video games are no exception. For decades, video game mascots and game series have equalled big bucks from Mario to Megaman. I guess Sonic too, if you're into that Sega stuff, cause it certainly wouldn't be Alex Kidd who stood the test of time. That's the secret really, the staying power of a franchise, and its ability to change and evolve to keep up with the times.
One such franchise that has survived and thrived since the 80's is Castlevania. A tough as nails action/"platformer" from 1986, Castlevania was the first game in a franchise that continues to this day, and while right now its biggest seller currently is in the Pachislot market; re-releases, ports, and remakes keep the interest in this franchise alive well into 2014. We're not here to talk about the modern games though, as I'm the NES guy so that would both stupid and counterproductive I think. We're not going back to the first game ever or the controversial sequel Simon's Quest. No, we're hitting this franchise up at the 3rd game of the original trilogy. The last Castlevania to come out on the NES. Join me as we follow Simon Belmont's ancestor in the depths of Dracula's Castle for Castlevania III Dracula's Curse.
Castlevania III Dracula's Curse or Akumajō Densetsu in Japan, was a prequel to the original story of Simon Belmont. In this game you would play as the awesome Trevor C. Belmont(the C stands for Cool as Ice), or if you were playing the Japanese version the much less cool Ralph C. Belmondo. Wouldn't you rather have your protagonist named Trevor? It's a strong name. An awesome name.
The story is very much stock at this point, but still cool none the less. Dracula's reign of terror has to come to an end, and a whip wielding son of a gun needs to take care of business, storm the castle, and bring Dracula down once and for all...or until the next time anyways. The poor people of Transylvania never think to move away. You'd figure that would be easier than death and bloodshed, but maybe the housing market of 1476 was just awful. Castlevania III would be a further evolution of the original game. Gone were the action adventure, role playing elements of Simon's Quest. The series would be going back to basics, but with innovation, good game play, and challenging design. If you were a fan of Zelda II, you might have liked Simon's Quest, but the changes from the first game were just too controversial for the time. They would make a comeback much later, but for the time being it was time to get strapped in and hyped from a side scrolling romp through the demonic and treacherous castle.
Trevor Belmont plays exactly like Simon for the most part. If you played the previous games, you would know exactly what to do. Whip the candles, grab the hearts, upgrade your whip, and re-kill some un-dead. Why whip candles seeming hanging off of literally anything for hearts that don't restore health? Well for ammo of course. What? You thought hearts replenish health? Not in Castlevania! That would just be logical. No, the hearts give you ammo for the other items that Trevor might find on his trip through the castle. You can get throwing weapons like daggers and axes, a bible(or a book about the lowercase t), a stop watch, a cross boomerang, and the awesome holy water. Basically, you kick ass for the Lord, with the tools of the trade. Some things would work better depending on the situation, and the variety helped in getting out of tight spots, but you could only hold one at a time, so if you had what you wanted you would have to avoid getting the other items.
A big innovation in this game was the addition of other characters. You get the option to save and recruit characters that can join you like Grant, the agile thief who could throw daggers, jump higher and hang onto walls and ceilings. Sypha, who is a girl, don't let the NES manual lie to you, could use powerful magic at the cost of speed and agility. Then we get to the fan favourite. The character Castlevania fans would rally behind years later in one of the best games in the franchise, Alucard. Now I don't want to be the one to spoil this, but I've got the inside information on this character, and it's going to blow your mind. Alucard is Dracula spelled backwards. I know this is the first time you've ever heard this, and remember you heard it here first. Yes, Alucard joins you to defeat his own father, using fireballs and the ability to turn into a bat to make the last half of the game that much easier. You get the new characters to choose from to switch out with Trevor, and you also get branching stages to determine if you even want to get them. It gives the game some non-linearity, while still keeping the flow and feel of the original. See? Back to basics, but with innovation. Konami knew what they were doing.
Hey, remember how I said Konami knew what they were doing? Well that's true for the MOST part, but something they never quite got down for the NES games were the controls. They are as stiff as year old bread. Earlier in the review I said Castlevania III was an action/"platformer". Notice how "platformer" is in quotes? It pays to pay attention. It's "platformer" in quotes, because I wouldn't necessarily say it is, even if it officially is. It's not a platformer, it's a survival simulator. The jumping in these games is atrocious. Between the jumping and the horrible stairs that can get you killed simply by approaching them wrong and falling to your death, this game becomes incredibly difficult. It would be so frustrating if it also wasn't so much fun to get through, and to know that you were able to overcome the obstacles. It gets a little easier with Grant and Alucard when it comes to moving around, so if it becomes a problem, I suggest recruiting one of them. Last time I played I used Grant for the first time, and I can't believe I ever got through the game without him. The extra characters are a huge asset.
The graphics and sound were amazing. You will be hard pressed to ever find a horrible Castlevania song. Now during my last play through I made the wonderful decision to try the Japanese version Akumajō Densetsu. Though the game was on a cartridge and not the disk system, it still boasted improved graphics and sound. It was amazing, and I would recommend trying both to see and hear the differences. The thing about it is that the game we got in the States is still amazing. It's so good that I couldn't believe that a better soundtrack existed, that's how good it is. No matter the version, it's a treat to listen to while playing an awesome game.
When it comes to difficult yet fun and satisfying games on the NES, you can go down multiple roads, but why do that when you can just play Castlevania III Dracula's Curse? It's awesome, and you get to eat pork chops that you whip out of the wall. How cool is that? The answer is very. It's very cool indeed.
Verdict:- This is one of my personal favourite games in the series that isn't a Metroidvania like the games in the future would become. As a huge fan of this franchise I would highly recommend just about any of them, but a great place to start is right here, and right now. Yes, I mean right now.
After you're done reading this and checking out all the other awesome features on this great site, you need to boot up your NES and play this game right now. Dracula's waiting to be killed, and wall chops are waiting to be consumed.
Just try to steer clear of the Medusa heads. You'll thank me later for that tip.
Second Opinion:- Transbot looked up the word awesome in the dictionary and after the picture of himself saw a screenshot of this game. #Really_Happened.
You see when a series hit's it's third outing some things can tail off or get stale but that's not the case here at all. Konami who sometimes get lost in their own innovation and make real messes of things (PS1 Contra spring's to mind) managed to change lots of things up here yet still kept the flow and playability of the franchise just right.
Kinda like that bowl of porridge on the table in that nursery story you humans love so much that Transbot see's no sense in. Humans are a real puzzle to this robot, great games however are not. This is one such great game, go play it... Or I'm not gonna let you have that porridge! I realise that may sound weird if you hate porridge but the fact remains this needs serious investigation by you all. Now please!
Transbot Scores:- 9 out of 10