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Super Nintendo - (1991) Super Castlevania IV - 8/10
#1
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Game: Super Castlevania IV (1991)
System: Super Nintendo
Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Rating: 8/10

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Contrary to a certain sentence in the scrolling text in the beginning, Super Castlevania IV is actually a 16-bit remake of the original Castlevania game. As such, it follows the quest of Simon Belmont, a whip-wielding warrior who must cross valleys, dungeons, ancient temples, and other spooky places to confront Dracula, an evil entity that awakens once a century. A Belmont must take a stand and stop him from ruling all of Transylvania and finally the world itself, fighting hordes of ghouls, demons, zombies, axe-throwing knights, bats, and so on. It's pretty straight-forward stuff, so nothing to make you really think. Just a really classic tale of good against evil, but told in a darker setting.

The controls are smooth and easy to understand, as it's a platformer to the core. The eight-direction whip feature is a great addition, because the three Castlevania games before this one were lacking that convenience, so if you didn't have an axe with you, you were toast! They were absolutely necessary to complete certain levels in Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse, because of how difficult the game was designed to be, even if you could conveniently switch between characters. Super Castlevania IV allowing the whip to strike eight directions, as well as conveniently swinging it around with just the D-pad and swinging from platforms a la Indiana Jones, made levels a cakewalk.

On the other hand, the game is way too easy, and you could beat this stuff in your sleep. One or two of the later levels do give you a bit of challenge, but once you play through them often and memorize all areas, they're not much of a threat. It's also the fact that you can easily rack up your lives, so when you do get knocked off a platform or lose all of your health, you start back from the last checkpoint. Even after beating the game, the challenge factor doesn't really make that huge of a difference. Enemies do take a few more hits, but that's about it. The bosses remain the cakewalks that they are. Their patterns are easily predictable, thus laughable and not even worth naming. I did like that some thought went into the battle with Slogra, the spear-wielding enemy resembling a skeletal pterosaur. When you do reach him, you have to carefully duck around and attack him when he gets close to you, as he attempts to land on you from the top. When you knock off half of his health, he gets more aggressive and dashes towards you. When he gets close to you again, make some distance from him, and then try to attack him again. See, I like that this boss actually had some strategy in mind. It's too bad that Death and some of the other famous bosses in the series didn't have any real strategy involved. Just whip them until they die. No patterns of any sort. Then again, it's the eight-direction whip feature that cheapened the difficulty of the game. I will still say that many traditional Castlevania features remain intact in this game, such as the additional weapons that you can pick up, and unlike the boring pile of crap that was Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, this game is much closer to the first and the third of the series. It's a good 16-bit debut, but it's not the epitome of Castlevania, at least according to this reviewer!
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The presentation of this game is superb. Just from the intro itself, you get a chilling, dark vibe out of the dusty stone walls that have insects floating by. The colors are also utilized quite well for the console, considering it was just launched a year before this game. As you go through the levels, you can only be in awe as to how much love went into crafting the visuals. It fits the Halloween mood easily, and all the sprites are animated smoothly. I didn't really care for how the armored knights looked, as they looked a bit choppy, compared to how they looked like before. The backgrounds are just incredible, though, and the game comes with a lot of great visual resources for harvesting, in case you have an indie game project that you'd like to spice up a bit with your own edits. I can't say for sure if I really like the sound effects. I know that it's an old game, but some of the things heard just aren't anywhere near realism for me. I don't like how the whip sound when cracked. It sounds too airy. The sound effect of the skeletons' bones breaking apart is cool, though, and I like the grunts that the enemies make when they're killed. The soundtrack is decent, but some of the songs are too happy for such a usually dark, moody game. The first level's theme doesn't really blend with the darker nature of the level presented, for example. I do love the game's version of "Bloody Tears", which has always been one of the most epic game songs in my opinion. "Beginning" and "Vampire Killer" also make their return in this game, which are two other classics. I also like the theme from the seventh level, otherwise known as Unliving Quarters.

Super Castlevania IV is a fun, classic Super Nintendo platformer that has a legacy of its own. Definitely deserving of praise, but it shouldn't be considered the series' be-all and end-all, as the game before and after it have qualities about them that can't truly find in this game's case. Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse does have limited controls, but it's my favorite of the series, and it pushed the Nintendo console to its limits, as everything about it is definitive of a legendary masterpiece. I also think that Castlevania: Rondo of Blood is much more engaging than Super Castlevania IV, and Castlevania: Bloodlines is an undersung gem from the classic Castlevania days. Still, if you're new to the series, then this game would be the right one to start off with, as it's much more user-friendly than most other games. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is an entirely different experience, and most other games that had followed since then are very foreign to the Castlevania of old. If you like simple platforming with a bit of challenge thrown in, then give this one a go! Konami released yet another classic.
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