Retro-Review: Castlevania II – Simon’s Quest

Title: Castlevania II – Simon’s Quest
Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Director: Hitoshi Akamatsu
Programmer: Yasuo Kuwahara
Release Year: 1987

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Gameplay:  4 out of 10

Despite the low point total, I liked the gameplay. It’s surprisingly fun. Konami decided to take a risk with this game, making it in the same vein of Zelda II: Adventure of Link and Metroid. Castlevania II is a non-linear game, allowing the player to revisit dungeons and towns. The emphasis in the game is on exploration and discovery. The player needs to go around, talk with villagers to figure out what to do, power up the whip, collect hearts and items to gain more power and unlock new areas, and venture into one of the five mansions of Dracula to collect his body parts. Simple.

There’s a day/night feature in the game, probably one of the first games ever to include this, which changes the difficulty of the game. The monsters are far more difficult during the night than during the day. The villagers also disappear at night, presumably hiding in their homes to wait for the monsters to go away. It added a nice little dimension to the game. Also, Simon Belmont levels up, gaining more hit points with each and every level.

So why the low rating? There’s one puzzle in the game that has no hint at all. Simon has to kneel in front of a cliff with the red crystal equipped. This summons a tornado, picking Simon up, and taking him to the next part of the game. The only way the player could know to do that was to either have someone tell him/her or to have read it in Nintendo Power. This is a huge problem for the overarching gameplay of Castlevania II.

Go to around 55 minutes into that video so you can see it for yourself.

All puzzles within a video game needs to have hints/clues of how to solve it within the game. This is one of the most fundamental axioms of game development. Gamers tend to get help when a puzzle may be too difficult for them to solve. The gamer shouldn’t need to get help because there’s no other way to beat the game.

The worst part about this puzzle is that the player has no way to know if there is a puzzle or not. It’s just as likely that the gamer will believe they are stuck and move onto another game. There’s no way to tell if maybe they missed something somewhere, so they go back to talk to everyone. That gets boring and frustrating!

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Story:  9 out of 10

The story was freaking brilliant. At the end of Castlevania, Dracula cursed Simon Belmont. Simon has to resurrect Dracula or else he’ll die. Simple and effective! That’s the entire story for Castlevania II. That’s why I love the story. There are no twists or turns to this masterpiece. Simon will bring Dracula back from the dead and try to kill him again.

Oh, and if you ever wondered where the trope of three endings in video games came from, look no further than Castlevania II. There were three possible endings based on how quickly you beat the game. If you don’t beat the game fast enough, Simon will still die from the curse though you defeated Dracula.

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Graphics/Sound: 5 out of 10

The game doesn’t go too far out of its way to push graphics or music forward. Parts of it resembles Zelda II, while other parts looks more like a traditional Castlevania game. The graphics and sound, overall, were pretty average.

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Replayability:  9 out of 10

The game was addictive as hell. I don’t know what it was about this game. But I loved exploring everywhere and trying to do speed-runs through this game. Many other people who played this game seem to agree. I had no problem finding videos and pictures for this game. It seems to be close to a cult classic among 8-bit fans, and for good reason.

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Total:  27 out of 40

Does it hold up well? Like, when you compare it to modern Castlevania games, will it still be as addictive? Honestly, no. If you’re into retro games, you’ll get a HUGE kick out of it. If not, the game does show its age. But that shouldn’t be a surprise so anyone. The game came out back in 1987, roughly at the middle of the 3rd generation consoles.

I love the game, but that’s nostalgia. If I were a new player, I would be frustrated at the one puzzle that I would need to look up to solve. Or heck, I’d get bored because I couldn’t advance and move onto another game. That is really not to the game’s benefit.

 

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