Liam’s Game Room #79 (Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse (NES/Famicom)

Introduction

Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse is an action platformer developed and published by Konami for the NES and Famicom in 1990. This game was a return to the action platformer style that Castlevania II didn’t do because Castlevania II went for more of an exploration platformer and is notorious for being really cryptic with telling the player how to progress. However, this was not the first series on the NES where the sequel to the original game was completely different because Zelda II did this as well. Castlevania III was also interesting in the regional differences because the American version was made to be a more difficult game because of the rental market that was flourishing during the late 1980’s and throughout the 1990’s. During this time period though, there were quite a few examples of different regions have different difficulties because Super Mario Bros 2 was not released originally in the West, but instead was a reskin of Doki Doki Panic as Nintendo considered Super Mario Bros 2 Japanese to be too difficult for Western audiences.

Story

This game is set in the year 1486, and the Belmont clan are called into action by the church because Dracula is threatening to swallow the entirety of Europe into eternal darkness. The Belmont clan have no choice but to call upon the current wielder of the vampire hunter, Trevor Belmont to once again fight and defeat Dracula. However, there are three companions that Trevor can call upon Sypha, Grant and Alucard, even though he can only be accompanied by one of these characters. The route to Valhalla and the final battle with Dracula is determined by which companion Trevor has or whether he does not have a companion.

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I like the fact that there are a good variety of companions that can be found depending on what route the player decides to take and I also like the fact that it actually can change the ending is actually a cool concept. The story gives enough backstory to the player to realise that the game is in fact a prequel to the original Castlevania game, but what confused me is why it was called Castlevania III when chronologically it is the earliest in the timeline at the time.

Gameplay

The first major thing I need to talk about regarding the gameplay which is of course the difficulty of the game. I feel that the game really tests the player’s ability to get used to the same controls that Castlevania I have where the player is dedicated to every jump, whilst having no way of changing the direction of the jump in midair. The major problem with this game’s difficulty is that it is a very sharp difficulty curve right from the start of the game and if the player has no idea where powerups are, then it will make for a rough and brutal game. I think that the demands on the player are exceptionally high and the game demands respect from the player because the game from the start makes sure that the player takes nothing for granted. I like the fact that the game starts out hard, but there are some jumps that require pixel precision and the jumps will require many attempts to get right. The positive is that the game does give the player unlimited continues as well as passwords so that the player won’t lose their progress.

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The controls of the game are one of the few minor issues I have because the controls for players who have not played any of the games in the franchise will find the controls both clunky and awkward to learn. I think it is the fact that the game requires the player to dedicate themselves to every button input and there is no room for error at all. I found though that after playing the game for a little while that once I got used to the quirks of the controls, that the game was quite enjoyable and there is quite a good feeling when I was able to nail a really difficult section. All of the characters all control really well and there isn’t any character that I found difficult or weird to controls compared to the other characters.

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Finally, the graphics of the game are simply stunning and they have really stood the test of time very well. The backgrounds are dark and almost dystopian in their design because the game always communicates a sense of darkness throughout the game. The scrolling in the game is really smooth and there are no issues with the backgrounds looking like they loop at any point. The characters and bosses all look fantastic because there was so much care and detail put into each of the characters to the point where each limb reacts independently when the character takes damage. I think that the game’s graphics are timeless and at no point did I ever think that the game looked old at all.

Music

The soundtrack of the game is simply fantastic because each theme sounds really fleshed out and the themes also are quite long compositions considering the space restrictions on the cartridge. The composer did a fantastic job of really grabbing the atmosphere and the feeling that the environment should impose on the player and really added an extra layer to the world. I feel that the themes are really memorable because each theme is catchy and I sometimes find myself actually humming the tracks from this game as I do things around the house. This is a huge positive because it takes quite a bit for a game soundtrack to rub off on me this well.

Conclusion

Castlevania III is one of those games that for players who really want a challenging game but with difficulty that will really reward the player for playing well. I find the game really enjoyable even though it did frustrate me a lot at times, but it was a frustration that really drove me to continue to want to finish the game. The controls have a steep learning curve to them and I felt that the game was unfairly brutal at times, but the amazing graphics and fantastic soundtrack makes this a game that the player will want to finish no matter how hard it gets.

9/10

Copyright ©2017 Liam Piper. All Images Used Under Fair Use

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