Some people have been ranting about how difficult The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is, and I guess they might have forgotten that Nintendo’s been publishing games with soul crushing difficulties for decades. Take the Castlevania series for example; it’s a series that’s been difficult since its earliest releases. Castlevania: The Adventure was released in December of 1989 on the Game Boy and it can be incredibly difficult just getting to the next level. My Retro Review cohort, Josh, reviewed one of the best games in the franchise, Symphony of the Night and despite being more accessible than some of the earlier games it still had quite a difficulty curve. Games only recently began holding our hand all the way from the beginning through the end credits. When I was younger, difficulty was not only a major part of the game’s design but also one of the ways developers were able to make games long.
This story takes place one hundred years before anyone even knew who Simon Belmont was. You play as one of his ancestors, Christopher Belmont, and are on a quest to defeat Dracula. Pretty simple right? Grab your whip and start running to the right to save the day. That’s pretty much the story. There weren’t as many possibilities in terms of story or presentation on the Game Boy. It didn’t matter too much though as it forced there to be a tight focus on gameplay and that’s where Castlevania has always shined. The Belmont boys have had a hard-on for killing Dracula that’s spanned hundreds and hundreds of years; can’t they just leave the poor guy alone? This game consists of a whopping four levels to get through, but let me tell you while the game is short, you’ll put in plenty of time by replaying levels over and over because of how often you’ll die.
That’s right. To complete this game you only have to get through four levels and four bosses, but man they do not make it easy for you. The controls are somewhat sluggish, especially when you have to platform over areas while fighting enemies that will repeatedly respawn. A is jump, B is attack and the D-pad controls your movement; yes back in the primitive days we only had two buttons with which to pass our games. You are timed and only get a certain allotment of time to pass the level, which makes things interesting I guess. Personally I hate timed missions and timed levels. I feel that you miss out on what may be in the level and a certain amount of enjoyment. Just because the developers were being so nice as well they took away sub weapons for this version, so all you do have is your whip, so don’t drop it or you are S.O.L.
The developers did attempt to give you a fighting chance in defeating Dracula though. While you don’t have sub-weapons, your whip is upgradable when you find orbs. Only problem is when you get hit by an enemy your whip slowly degrades, so not only do you lose health with each hit but you also lose weapon power. To get these orbs, hearts and coins you have to whip candles. The hearts give you health and the coins increase your point score which can actually help you. If you hit 10,000 points you get an extra life and for every subsequent 20,000 points you earn another. This is a nice bonus seeing as you only start with three lives. Once those lives are done then you begin again. The game is pure Castlevania though; this is no idle spin off this is the real deal. What really makes the game feel like Castlevania is the music. While the music may sound like it’s in a tin can and consists of MIDI files, it’s still intense and everything a Castlevania score should sound like. I just sit with my GameBoy Advance open and listen to music feeling like a total badass before I get schooled by a measly bat later in the level.
For the Castlevania enthusiast this is a title that you should take a gander at. You will like it, heck you may even love it because it is the original Castlevania formula just dumbed down a bit in a weaker system. Difficult games seem to be stuck in a niche now, but in 1989 that’s all we had. If you want to play a portable Dark Souls, then this is the title for you. There’s slow walking to the right, jumping that seems more like levitating, whips and chains and of course the Alpha Male Christopher Belmont that gets to destroy Dracula this time around. Grab a copy or a download of this title. It’s only $2.99 on the 3DS eShop so you can play it the way it was meant to be played for a very low price. You won’t be disappointed; you’ll be enraged.