Monday, December 5, 2011

Video game of the week: Castlevania for NES

In 1986 gamers across the globe were called upon to face the wrath of no other than Dracula himself. Armed with a trusty whip, and other weapons picked up along the way, gamers by the thousands ventured into the depths of the vampire counts castle, ready to wage war against chambers and halls filled with the evil Dracula's monsters.

Sound familiar? It should. For anyone who has spent a lot of time gaming over the last quarter century, the Castlevania series should be commonplace. Not everyone has played the original game, and not necessarily even the dozens of games and ports that came later in the series, but all gamers should at least recognize the title and the basic game background.

The original Castlevania was released by Konami in 1986, and it hit big in 1987 when it became available for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).

The year in the game is 1691, and players control the character Simon Belmont, who is descended from a long line of vampire hunters. Simon's job? To enter that castle and do away with Dracula.

Along the way, players face vampire bats, monsters, deadly pitfalls and a host of bosses, each one tougher than the one before. Special weapons and a few other helpful items can be picked up along the linear landscape that makes up the castle. Altogether there are six levels, each one ending with a boss fight.

The music from this game is quite classic, and stands up well today. The graphics are a little bit more iffy by today's standards, but they still compare well to the arcade graphics of the time and are much stronger than those of other mid-1980s consoles such as the Atari and Intellivision, perhaps even being a little stronger than the graphically-superior Colecovision.

Gameplay also holds up well all these years later, with relatively simple controls that allowed for a lot of fun without having to think too much about what your hands are doing.

This classic game has been ported to other consoles and computers time and time again over the years, and every so often a new game in the series is released. The original Castlevania game was quality in and of itself, and it showed the potential that was to come. Decades later, I'm honored to get to play this game from time to time.

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