25 Years of NES Part 13: Castlevania 3: Dracula’s Curse
Eschewing the unconventionality of Simon’s Quest, Castlevania 3: Dracula’s Curse is a glorious return to ganeplay style of Castlevania 1. And like many game series with odd or experimental second games, the third Castlevania not only returned to the first games formula, it took everything about the first Castlevania game and made it better. It is a revision, a perfection of the game that was Castlevania. It looks better, plays better and sounds better. Since it was already a good game, the improvement makes Castlevania 3 one of the best games on the NES.
Graphically, Castlevania 3 is as good as NES games got. The improvement is not to the level of the change from Super Mario Bros. to Super Mario Bros. 2, but the game looks very good. It is detailed and vibrant, though dark. There are some nice effects, like the slightly vision obscuring fog with the lightning in the background. It really looks great. The sound is just as good. Due to technical differences between the NES and the Famicom, its Japanese equivalent, music in the game is of a slightly lower quality in America than in in Japan, but that only shows how good the Japanese sound quality was because Castlevania 3 still sounds great. The Castlevania series frequently has great music, and Castlevania 3 is among the best.
Dracula’s Curse plays mostly the same as the series originator. Whipping, jumping and sub-weapons are all the same. The main character has changed to Trevor Belmont, Simon’s ancestor, but he still moves with Simon’s rigid, arthritic gait. Seriously, the man needs to see a chiropractor. The game is still plodding, methodical and slow. You collect hearts by whipping candles, find meat hidden in walls and kill all sorts of nasty undead monsters.
There are some changes, though. The open-ish world from Simon’s Quest is gone, but there are branching paths now. Between levels you are get to choose two options on your path to Dracula. Also, there are differences in the level design. Castlevania 3 has vertical scrolling stages and vertical scrolling sections of stages. These sections add a different challenge to the usual primarily horizontal gameplay.
The big change, though, is the addition of other playable characters. In the course of the game, the player will encounter three characters that can be brought along to help, though only one at a time. There is Grant, the pirate who can climb on the walls and ceiling to get to places that Trevor can’t. Next is Sypha who is not very mobile (and despite what the game says actually a lady), but has weak magical regular attacks and devastating special attacks. Last is Alucard, Dracula’s son, who can turn into a bat and fly around. The player is bound to run into at least one of these characters during the game, and can agree to take them with him. If the player already has a companion, that companion can be discarded in favor of the new one. Depending on your play style, any of the characters can be useful. Combined with the branching paths, the other playable characters add tons of replay value to the game.
Castlevania 3 takes the first Castlevania and improves in just about every way. Every thing that made Castlevania great is back, but now there is more of it. The changes aren’t as radical as Castlevania 2’s, but the changes that are there actually improve the game, unlike its predecessors more experimental attempts. Castlevania 3 shows Konami as a developer who knew the NES inside and out and were able to perfect their NES gaming craft.