Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse review
The curse being that this is the best of the NES Castlevania trilogy
Castlevania 3... Ooh yeah, this was excellent. Not only was it a return to form, but it managed to overshadow the hell out of the last game, Simon’s Quest, which was an ambitious effort with terrible execution. It STILL has a couple of problems, but goddammit, this game is just that awesome, it doesn’t matter!
Story: Taking place well before the events of the first Castlevania game, Trevor Belmont, grandfather of Simon Belmont, has to go and slay Dracula. The Belmont clan was originally exiled from Europe, but due to Dracula terrorizing Europe, Trevor has been called to the stand to slay Dracula. Funny. Gotta love these kinds of plots where they rely on the exiled. It’s like “why did they exile them in the first place?” But I digress. Eventually, three companions join him on his quest – Sypha the witch, Grant DaNasty the wall climbing pirate, and the son of Dracula himself, Alucard. The story ends up feeling familiar, with the slaying of Dracula, but the actual scenes that play out, when there are some, are fairly well done, managing to move the story along. It’s quite a good story.
Gameplay: It plays like the first Castlevania game – you walk from Point A to Point B, and whip enemies to death. Power ups like whip extension, crosses, hand-axes and the like manage to become helpful against the undead and bosses, and hearts become a huge necessity in being able to use these items. Health restoration items are still a huge rarity. There’s still that huge pain in the ass large recoil when you take damage. The challenge is certainly still here; in fact, it’s even more challenging. This is one tricky, tricky game. If you want the full schematics, read my review of the first Castlevania game, because I don’t feel like copying and pasting it.
Not to worry, there are a number of changes. First of all, progression isn’t strictly linear. At the end of levels, you can choose what path to follow, which can change how you play the game each time if you go through different paths throughout different playthroughs. This enhances replayability
Next off, you aren’t limited to just Trevor. As I’ve pointed out in the story section, he’s aided by three companions. You meet them along your travels, and you can switch between them on the fly, though you can only bring one with you. It gives the game a huge degree of strategy – do you take the agile wall climber, the magic user, or the guy who can transform into a bat and fire three fireballs? It really depends on what you got in mind, plus how you play each level, and what just seems the most useful through levels. Of course, Trevor himself takes part, but the ally is the one that’ll have your back throughout the levels and the bosses. Unfortunately, both share the same life bar, so don’t think you can switch when one is low on health for the one big on health... And to actually have them ally with you, you need to kick out the one you had before... Yeah, choose carefully.
The final difference is the difficulty. This game is pretty damn hard. You thought the first game was tricky? Try going through this, then. There are a lot of tricky jumps, the bosses are very tough even if you do a certain trick involving holy water, and Dracula is a tosser. You’ll be having a bit of trouble going through this game without dying, and for the most part, you die because you buggered up. Of course, there’s the odd cheap death like THOSE *bleep*ING MEDUSA HEADS and the jumping controls being less than forgiving, coupled with the annoying and infamous recoil distance sending you into pits. Thankfully, it’s not a case of falling through visible blocks, unlike in Simon’s Quest...
Controls: As much as the gameplay has been fixed (or most of it, anyway), controls are still the same thing. Trevor controls exactly like Simon, meaning you have that ever so annoying rigid jump. Fortunately, the other characters control very well, mostly except for said rigid jump – and I say mostly, because Grant can move in the air. So yeah, Medusa Heads will, once again, be the bane of your existence while playing through this game.
Graphics: Still with the same choppy animations, but with everything else considered, like the color scheme, foreground objects and sprites, I guess there has to be some sort of graphical flaw in there somewhere. They’re about the same as the first game’s – managing to create atmosphere with what’s given on the NES, though it seems to have upgraded a considerate amount. The monster and boss designs especially stand out. They look pretty damn cool, yet a bit intimidating. Excellent graphics.
Audio: The music is just awesome. There may be some recycled tracks in the mix, but they’re redone to a tee for this very game. Each track manages to create a dark atmosphere, as well as being quite memorable and catchy, and this doesn’t just apply to the remixed tracks – this includes the new tracks, too. Damn, I love this series’ soundtracks!
Replay Value: There is a lot of replay value, with the ability to go through different paths, and depending on what ally you have tag along with you, you can change the path in its entirety. That’s pretty cool, playing through another version of a game because you chose to decline an ally you would’ve had tag with you. As well as access to different endings depending on which companion tagged along with you, there is a lot to come back to. That... and the game itself is just damn awesome.
Overall: Castlevania 3: Dracula’s Curse is a damn fine entry into the series, and much better than Simon’s Quest. It was the improvement that the series was waiting for. Definitely for those who were disappointed with Simon’s Quest and want a real, feel good challenge with a lot of replay value to top it off.
Replay Value: 10/10
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