Games | NES | Castlevania

Article by Tomm Hulett? | October 6, 2010


Developer: Konami
U.S. Release: May 1987
Format: NES

As with any growing medium, it was only a matter of time before games started answering the big questions. With its NES business booming, Konami wasted no time in tackling one of, if not the, biggest questions to plague humanity: “Who would win in a fight between…?” Sure, the two opponents changed regularly. But whether you had a stake in Freddy or Jason, Alien or Predator, or even Terminator or Robocop, chances are you’d had some very heated (yet well-reasoned) arguments with your friends about the subject. Konami, haven to visionaries that it was, took on the bigs right from the get go: Frankenstein, Medusa, the Grim Reaper, even Dracula himself! For whatever reason (probably to prevent players from controlling bloodthirsty creatures of the dark), the game shifted from a totally rad idea you’d share with your friends after class to an epic adventure where one man takes on a castle filled with the last movie monster you’d want to face on a stormy night: the lot of them. That game? Castlevania.

Castlevania stood in stark contrast to its action-platforming peers. Where Mario moved fast and loose, Simon took a slow, methodical stride. The Belmonts armed themselves with a fixed-length whip, rather than Mega Man’s long-range blaster. Most notably, while many heroes like Samus Aran could change direction multiple times in midair, those who entered Castlevania could not. These limitations, combined with the darker, less upbeat music (infused with hard rock sensibility) created a more serious tone than the more fantastical games available on the NES.

I first heard of Castlevania in elementary school, listening in on a conversation between two of the cool kids who actually had Nintendos. One of them could not believe his friend had reached Frankenstein, as he himself couldn’t even beat the Mummy Men. My imagination lit up at the prospect of such a devilish castle. In a rare twist of fate, what I imagined in my mind as “Castlevania” turned out to be completely accurate (though it honestly could have been subliminal messages from the Sears catalog). What I couldn’t have imagined, though, is how good it felt to crack the whip, how amazing the music sounded, or how sinister and oppressive the atmosphere became after stage three. With Castlevania, Konami proved that—like Capcom and Nintendo -- their games were more than mere sums of parts. Any other developer would have made “that game where the whip guy fights all those monsters.” Only Konami could create Castlevania.

Previous: Super Mario Bros. 2 | GameSpite Quarterly 5 | Next: Mega Man