I must say that when applying to write the review I was somewhat curious what the game would be like. I was not disappointed, but neither was I impressed. Let me explain:
I knew that the first Castlevania was the only part of the popular Castlevania series that was released for PC (the series now consists of twenty-odd titles, if I am right, and the producers don't seem to be slowing down).
Considering that the graphics are in 16-color, they are not too bad. I've definitely seen worse. They are detailed enough to give a good idea of what the items displayed are, too, which is good, but in some cases the colors are so unnatural it is ridiculous (like purple ghosts, for example; this however was common back in the days).
The music and sounds, however, are simply horrible. Originally intended for PC-speakers, the background theme consists of a multitude of beeps and buzzes, and in combination with the sounds generated when the player's character is hurt or collects an item, it is completely unbearable. After fifteen minutes of beeping torment, I had to disable the speaker emulation.
Fortunately, I remembered picking up some of the Castlevania music on one of my visits to the World of Game Mods (www.mirsoft.info, if you want to take a look yourself). A quick browse through the directory holding the MOD (and other old format) files provided me with the Vampire Killer Theme from Castlevania 3, which is pretty much the same melody, except it is in much higher quality and consequently less distracting. Back to the game. Better. Much better.
As a player, you control a vampire hunter (or at least it seems so), who ventures into some old castle to defeat the vampire who lives there, fighting various creepy enemies on the way.
The game consists of six levels, which in turn are divided into three "stages" each. Unfortunately, Konami was not too consistent while splitting the stages, and therefore in some cases a stage might be only one screen long, while in others it might be more like a dozen. When you load the game, you are returned to the beginning of the last stage entered (at least most of the time - as with the length of the stages, Konami weren't too consistent here either; in some longer stages there is more than one "return point"), so be careful where you save!
Every level has its own unique style and feel, which is completely different from the rest, and on several levels you will encounter unique traps, which although not really demanding, need a bit of thought to get through.
Your initial weapon is a whip whose reach can be increased by finding certain powerups. These (and many others too) can be uncovered by smashing the candles littering the castle here and there, as well as some of the blocks. Later you find additional items - not all of which are weapons in the normal sense: holy water (acts like grenades), time-warp artifact (freezes all the monsters and moving blocks for a period), crucifix (good old bomb-style powerup that destroys every visible enemy) and several others. It can be quite annoying that a powerup is lost when you you find and pick up another one. Other powerups include money bags (increase your score), hearts (provide charges to use special items) and food (easy - health powerup). Pretty much standard.
The enemies are weak at first, but later you will encounter more (and tougher) ones, and naturally on the end of each level there is a BBB (Big Bad Boss) waiting for you. Bosses also become subsequently harder, each being completely distinct from the rest, beginning with the giant bat on level one to DEATH INCARNATE (literally) on level five to the final boss, the vampire on level six. If you have somehow beaten Death and think he was hard, then wait till you get to the vampire - that thing is nearly invincible (you CAN defeat it; I did, but it's really hard). There is a large variety of other foes in your way, but once more, nothing far from the platform genre standard here. There are some that fly, some that shoot, some that regenerate after being killed and so on.
Despite the initial impression of low difficulty, the game is in fact pretty hard; its levels sometimes take a lot of time and several attempts to complete. And it only gets harder on the following levels.
The enemies can hurt you a lot, and health powerups are scarce, not to mention that they are hidden as well. Fortunately, the ubiquitous save-load technique helps somewhat.
The keyboard controls are a bit awkward and might take time to get familiar with. Maybe joystick users will find it easier, but I cannot confirm that, as in the ten years of my computer experience I never bothered to obtain one.
Although it might appear from my review that the game has quite a few flaws, it is in fact highly addictive and will keep you glued in front of the screen until you finish it (not an easy task; it takes about six hours of constant gameplay). If you don't mind archaic graphics, give Castlevania a go and you won't be disappointed.
-Good graphics (for 16-color palette, at least)
-Variety of monsters and traps
-Varied special items
-Varied levels, each different from the others
-Has this "something" that attracts the player
-Controls take some time to get used to
-High difficulty, sometimes bordering on insane
My rating: 3
The game has some positive and negative aspects. As both sides are pretty much equal, it is pretty much impossible to increase or decrease it. Not a game of the year, but you might still have a lot of fun if you like platform games.
Start the game with PLAY.bat.
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