castlevania box art nes konami simon belmont
8.5 Overall Score
Graphics: 8/10
Sound: 8/10
Controls: 7/10

Nice graphics for the time, fun soundtrack

Character can sometimes fall into a death trap because of controls, slowdowns when the screens get busy

Game Info

Game Name:   Castlevania

Developer(s):   Konami

Publisher(s):   Konami

Platform(s):   NES/PC

Genre(s):   Platformer/Action/Adventure

Release Date(s):   September 26, 1986 (Japan)/May 1, 1987 (US)

ESRB Rating:   Not Rated

castlevania gameplay screenshots vs grim reaper

The Grim Reaper of irritation….

It is 1691, and the Belmonts have always had a mortal enemy in Dracula.  Simon Belmont has vowed to rid the land of Dracula and destroy the evil plaguing the land once and for all.  Travelling to Dracula’s castle, Simon must face all of Dracula’s minions if he even hopes to reach the darkness lurking in the castle tower.  Armed with a whip and a collection of artifacts, Simon is in the battle of his life!

Castlevania (悪魔城ドラキュラ or Akumajô Dorakyura translated as Devil’s Castle Dracula) is a side scrolling action platformer.  Originally released for the Famicom in 1986, the game made its United States premiere on the NES in 1987.  It was released in tandem with Vampire Killer which took a playing style but changed the format of the game.  It received positive reviews and became one of the NES’s best-selling titles.

Castlevania was one of the games that sold me on the NES as a kid.  I played it before I had a NES, and knew that not only I needed a NES, but I had to Castlevania when I got one.  It was one of the first NES games I did get, and I played Castlevania into the ground.

castlevania gameplay screenshots hunchbacks

Oh, hunchbacks…how I loathe thee.

The story pretty much takes every haunted house and classic monster movie and shoves it into one game.  Your character makes his way through the castle and fights monster after monster.  This can sometimes be thrilling and even tense as fishmen pop up out of the water and threaten to knock you in (once again, a hero that cannot swim), but the game often gets to maddening stage when your timing gets off and creatures like Medusa heads and hunchbacks continuously get the better of you.

The gameplay is easy to pick up, but as mentioned above can almost get “jammed” at points when your character can’t get his footing before being hit again.  This and a system where you literally can have your feet hanging off ledges to get the maximum jump sometimes leads to unintended falling deaths and jumps that land you short of their goal.  You also are subject to a special weapon (powered by hearts you collect) that switches out when you pick up the next weapon.  This can be frustrated if you want to hold on to something (like the best weapons of the axe, holy water, or boomerang) and you are forced to pick up a dagger.

castlevania gameplay vs dracula ending screenshots

Mr. Dracula…you look rather unkempt

The graphics are rather typical of 8-bit graphics, but at the time that Castlevania was released, they were better than many of the Nintendo games out there.  The better graphics do come with a drawback in that the gameplay sometimes slows down when the screen is busy.  Still, you had fun creatures based on classic horror tropes and you got to battle it out in an all-out 8-bit bloodbath as the monsters keep coming…plus, it had a fun soundtrack.

Castlevania holds up pretty decently and has been emulated multiple times in multiple styles.  It is a fun hack-and-slash type game that is challenging (that last Dracula fight is a beast), but it is beatable.  The game kicked off a series of games and a franchise that still is going strong today (though many could argue it is long in the tooth).  The game has been ported to different versions as well including a PlayStation game called Castlevania Chronicles in 2001 and is available for download for many systems.  Castlevania was followed Castlevania II:  Simon’s Quest (Japan—1987; U.S.—1988) which changed the gameplay format.

Related Links:

Castlevania II:  Simon’s Quest

Castlevania—Season 1 Review and Complete Episode Guide

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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