It’s Halloween and Nintendo and Konami are celebrating by re-releasing one of the best games to grace the 16-bit era, Super Castlevania IV. This game is the game that made me a Castlevania fan. It swallowed me into its world as a kid and I was so enamored with the game that I used a “My First Sony” tape recorder to create radio-show-style stories using the sound effects and music from the SCIV sound test.
Fangs For The Great Game!
Growing older has only made me appreciate the game more. With a critical eye on every aspect of the game, the only flaw I can find in it is that there was occasional slow-down in chaotic battles. But this is completely forgivable seeing as most of the best SNES games fought with the skimpy processor to maintain framerate.
This Castlevainia installment is widely (and controversially) considered as the peak of the franchise. With dark, gothic and detailed levels and characters, it sits in stark contrast with the colorful, anime styles of more recent entries. And with its feet firmly planted in the old-school classic platforming genre as opposed to the later metroidvania installments, purists sing its praises. Super Castlevania IV is much like Zelda’s “Twilight Princess” as opposed to later installments’ “Wind Waker”.
This was the first and only traditional Castlevania game to allow you to whip in 8 directions. Its controls were easy to understand, responsive, and satisfying. Although some fans of the NES original bemoan the ease of control, Super Castlevania IV is no easy game to complete.
Each and every level was unique, bringing its own setting, challenges, enemies, and even gimmicks. Spanning the gamut with everything from ubiquitous Parallax Scrolling, faux transparencies, to Mode 7, Super Castlevania IV pushed the SNES to its limits and beyond with each level. And levels were tied together in a pseudo story-line with an overworld map that would appear after every several levels showing you your position in the quest to reach Dracula’s castle and then the grind through his castle to the keep.
As a kid, I would make up stories about what the levels meant, why the enemies were the way they were, what they were like before being ghost waltzers or zombie dogs. Each level of the game screams epic story to you with no obvious story besides the quest to vanquish evil.
For instance, in a ball room level within Dracula’s castle, you can find a secret room hidden in the floor by whipping the floor in a certain spot. In that room is an old man ghost and his zombified ghost dog. The dog leaps through the level damaging you if you make contact as his owner slowly follows. He harmlessly holds his lantern as though he’s looking for his companion or guarding the treasures in the room. When you whip and kill the leaping dog in order to progress, it falls to the floor. The old man drops his lantern in shock, falls to his knees and weeps over his fallen companion, complete with tears, then vanishes.
This leaves you to ponder “What have I done??” have you cursed the old man to an afterlife alone in sadness? There are epic moments like this throughout the game that give you the framework of a story and beg you to fill in the blanks with your own imagination. It’s masterful.
The music in this installment of Castlevainia stands the test of time and ranks with the best of any video game. The soundtrack can easily hold its own against the legend that is Symphony of the Night, taking into account that it is from the 16-bit era. If ever there was any doubt of the prowess of the SNES’ sound chip, this game blows them away. With haunting melodies and symphonic rock swells and ebbs that would not be seen again until Star Fox’s epic music, Super Castlevania IV has a superior soundtrack that leaves an impression long after you have conquered Dracula.
Each boss is memorable in its own way. You’ll face everything from a skeleton rider to a stone golem in your quest to face the ultimate evil. You’ll stare down Medusa, and whip a ghostly disembodied scull with a morbidly long tongue. Attack the skull, and a rain of tongues comes from above that you must avoid. The bosses are challenging and imaginative.
Overall, who could ask for more in a 16-bit game? Gorgeous visuals, fantastic music and sound, memorable levels and characters, tight and satisfying control and gameplay, a huge adventure, it all comes together in a nearly perfect package. Happy Halloween! And if you didn’t have the chance to play this Halloween gift the first time around, you owe it to yourself to own it on your Wii U today.