Retro Reviews is a new series I’ll be trying out as I take advantage of my enormous backlog of video games from over the years. I’ll be sharing my thoughts on some old games from the past, taking into consideration the context of their release, but mostly seeing if they hold up and stand the test of time. And what better way to kick off this series than with a juggernaut title of the NES, the first Castlevania from 1986.
I’d never played a Castlevania title before attempting this one, though the gameplay always looked fun and exciting, and I love the Souls series, which some consider to be a spiritual modern day successor to the old school Castlevania. I was worried how well I’d be able to make the transition to playing a game almost thirty years old, but I’m glad to say it’s held up remarkably well.
After all these years, the gameplay is still incredibly engaging and fun. The controls have a deliberate miniscule delay to them, forcing the player to think ahead for all of their actions. It’s incredibly challenging when you can die from waiting a second too long to react, but executing attacks perfectly and defeating an enemy flawlessly is hugely satisfying.
The game’s design is perfectly crafted; you’re always given the tools to combat very enemy’s weakness. Axes, holy water, every secondary weapon is needed if your whip isn’t enough to handle a certain type of enemy. Scouring the environment for various upgrades to your whip and wall chickens to heal yourself assure that you’ll always be on your toes even between enemies. Despite the tough difficulty and slight input delay, the game always feels fair and rewarding.
It may sound a bit silly in the futuristic year of 2015, but the graphics of Castlevania hold up just as well as an NES game possibly can. The bright oranges and blues are incredibly memorable and help the levels really pop out and feel charming. Despite the 8bit graphics, the sprite characters and enemies make clear what you’re looking at. Many older games of this era rely a little too much on your imagination to aid in the visuals, but players will be able to easily distinguish between bats, skeletons, and each of the bosses with unique, clear representations.
The music is a huge standout, even with the NES’ limited capabilities. Castlevania takes full advantage of the hardware to utilize some of the most memorable music in video game history. The tunes still hold up to be catchy and atmospheric, perfectly capping off the game with music that gets your heart pumping and adrenaline running.
Overall I’m incredibly glad I went back to play Castlevania and appreciate it for the masterpiece that it is. It’s no wonder such an extensive series resulted from this first game, as it must have truly been an astonishing game in its time. I’m shocked at how well such an old game was able to hold up as well as it did, and I’m excited to continue along with this series now that I know its origin.