Reviewed by Raymond Almeda
Let me first say that I wanted this game to be great. The first
Castlevania was one of the first games I played all the way
through (in one sitting, mind you) and that remains one of my
proudest video game accomplishments. I loved that game. It was
simply a classic. In that context, I wanted the N64 game by the
same title to be just as great. Although Castlevania doesn't quite
live up to my expectations, it is still a good game.
The story in Castlevania is, well, the mind-numbingly simple
Castlevania story. Every hundred years Dracula returns to Transylvania
to mess things up, and the local Belmont has to go kill him. At least
this year's Castlevania gives you two characters to choose from,
though. Oh, and the Belmont's last name is Schneider. How did that happen?
The team at Konami obviously did their homework before sitting
down to develop Castlevania. When you want to develop a great N64
title, which game do you emulate? Zelda 64, of course. Castlevania's
gameplay mechanics (they way characters move and the environments
in which they move) closely resemble those of Zelda 64. In fact, if
you took Zelda 64 and made it darker you would roughly have the
Castlevania universe. Unfortunately, Castlevania's actual gameplay
can't make the same claim.
Castlevania's gameplay is almost identical to the original NES
Castlevania, meaning that you walk five steps, kill a bunch of enemies,
make some jumps, and then repeat. It worked back in 1987, so why
change it? The problem is simply that few modern gamers have the
type of patience it takes to play this sort of game, especially in its
new 3D environment.
Let me say this right now, Castlevania is one of the most frustrating
games you will ever play. Just like its predecessor, this game will
cause fits of controller throwing rage. Missing the same jump three
or four times in a row in the first Castlevania was enough to drive
one insane! Add some less than optimal camera angles in this year's
incarnation, and you've got a downright asylum filler. Here's a little
compensation for you young tykes, though; the original game did not
have a save feature! At least in the 1999 Castlevania you can save
your progress - assuming of course that you have a free controller
pak (or DexDrive), that is. When will developers start using EEPROM?
Controls in Castlevania are slightly looser than those of Zelda, but
they are still more than adequate. After playing the N64's last
horror(ible) title, Nightmare Creatures, the controls in Castlevania
seem to be downright perfect. It won't take long for gamers to get
comfortable with the control scheme, and move their characters
deftly around Castlevania's spooky environments.
Castlevania has some of the most atmospheric environments ever
to grace the N64. Right from the start, the game immerses players
in unearthly surroundings. From the dead villagers that litter the
ground, to the infamous Clock Tower, to Castlevania itself, this
game provides some of the spookiest places to explore that N64 gamers
have ever seen. That is, assuming the game's camera will let you see them.
Castlevania's camera system, although generally not a problem,
goes dumb at the most inopportune times. Whenever players are
forced to go platform hopping, the camera resorts to a fixed view.
What was Konami thinking? I guess they wanted us to relive the
controller-throwing moments of the first Castlevania, but (for
Konami's information) controllers were a lot cheaper back in 1987!
Players will often find the faulty camera angles more deadly than
the marauding skeletons. To Konami's credit, however, the camera
in areas other than the platforms is very well done, and even
includes a camera straightening button ala the "Z" button in Zelda.
Hopefully Konami will straighten out (quite literally) the platform
camera before Castlevania's next venture onto the N64.
Castlevania's music sets the mood perfectly for this dark adventure,
although a few classic tracks would have been nice. Nevertheless,
Castlevania's audio is very well done, and fits into the Castlevania
universe perfectly. The game also uses quite a bit of speech, although
most players will skip this speech after the first time they listen to
it. The violin track that accompanies the game's title screen is a nice touch.
Castlevania's graphics are sort of a mixed bag. While the game's
animation is smooth, and there is generally a constant framerate,
the textures are sort of muddy. I'm not sure about the technicalities
of texture wrapping on the N64, but it seems Konami isn't quite sure
either. Generally, though, the graphics are acceptable, and at times
they are downright stunning.
Castlevania is a great throwback to a bygone era, an age when games
weren't meant to be easy, and beating a game was a proud accomplishment.
While Castlevania doesn't take as long to complete as its predecessor
(probably because the original didn't have a save feature) it is still
quite difficult. The addition of a second character, with a separate story
line, adds even more difficulty. Castlevania isn't perfect, but it is a good
game. Just make sure you have a straightjacket handy.
Overall 8.75 out of 10