The story begins in Transylvania in the year 1450, Sonia Belmont, who in the game (not the series timeline) is the first Belmont to confront Dracula. She also meets Alucard who seeks revenge against his father Dracula. After Dracula's defeat, he swears to Sonia that as long as there is evil in the world, he will be resurrected, and in response she swears her family will always defeat him. The game was also the first game in the series timeline until Castlevania: Lament of Innocence.
A player starts with three lives, after which the game is over, but a player may continue from the beginning of the last stage they were in. There is also a Hit score showing how many enemies have been defeated in each stage. Striking candles will often cause items to appear. The game does not make use of any sub-weapons, unlike most other Castlevania titles, and relies heavily on the use of magic, which is another unique feature. The magic system used relies on five "Soul Weapons", including Flame, Ice, Saint, Wind, and Magic. Hearts are used as currency to acquire weapons. Sonia can also enter a "Burning Mode", where she becomes invincible, moves faster, and has more powerful attacks, though this power can only be used once per life or level.