Games | NES | Castlevania II: Simon's Quest

Article by Jeremy Signor? | October 11, 2010

Castlevania II: Simon's Quest

Developer: Konami
U.S. Release: Aug. 1988
Format: NES

How do you follow up a game where you kill the main draw? By bringing him back to life, of course. Draculaís cyclical resurrections have become old hat to fans of the series, but the first wake-up call was the most thoughtful by far. The same Simon Belmont from the first game has been cursed from his last battle and must bring his foe back to life or die himself. It was a fair bit more involved than the conga line of famous monsters you had to face in the first game.

No, this premise was a commitment. The horror movie aesthetic from the first game was expanded to its next logical conclusion, building a world complete with villages and people. Ambiance was king, with several gameplay touches adding to the atmosphere. The day/night cycle blends narrative and gameplay while the non-linear progression allows the story to play out more believably. Songs such as the fantastic ďBloody TearsĒ channeled horror while still being an excellent track to kill monsters in a video game to. Konami was making great strides towards creating the perfect monster movie game.

Unfortunately, Simonís Quest ends up falling on its own sword by bungling a crucial element of good game design: communicating information to the player. The villagersí role, giving information and clues to the player, is short-circuited by the fact that many give information that isnít even close to being correct. One tells you to hit your head on Deborah Cliff to make a hole, which isnít particularly helpful given the fact that there isnít anywhere to hit your head in the first place. This game probably did more to sell Nintendo Power to kids than anything given that thatís the only way youíd know how to finish the game back when it was first released. This single mistake undermines the game and ensures that people will never look back and admire the Simonís Quest as a whole, but merely as a collection of excellent ideas in a broken game.

Perhaps tellingly, Konami soon retreated to what they knew they could deliver: a killer linear action game. Castlevania III was the first game on steroids. In doing this, they also retreated from their aspirations to make their perfect monster movie game. History shows this was the right choice, given that it led to excellent games such as Super Castlevania IV and Rondo of Blood, but looking at Simonís Quest reminds us of what couldíve been had Konami perfected their ambitions.

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