Castlevania: The Ultra-Difficult NES Romp of Yore

Castlevania on the NES
Nice butt!

Whilst Super Castlevania on the SNES remains the masterpiece of this much-lauded series, we’re taking a quick look back at where it all began. Hitting the NES in 1986, this action-adventure 2D platformer from Konami is great fun… but insanely bloody difficult.

Castlevania

For some reason, Nintendo first published Castlevania on its Family Computer Disk System add-on for the NES.

The Famirī Konpyūta Disuku Shisutemu was actually only decommissioned in 2003, although it only shifted just over four million units during that time. So, it’s no surprise Nintendo soon realised the high-quality Castlevania had a ready and waiting market on its main games console.

As you can tell from the clips, it’s a classic 2D platformer. A really fine example of the genre, too, as at the time this was on Nintendo’s level of excellence.

You take control of Simon Belmont, who enters the land of Castlevania to wipe out that evildoer Count Dracula.

Armed with only his trusty whip – and apparently wearing very little judging from that design artwork higher up – it’s your job to guide him through a mass of Medusa heads, bats, dogs, and other guff. All of it to a rocking soundtrack.

As we’ve covered on very many occasions, NES games remain so damn difficult as developers made their titles’ shelf lives last longer with massively exaggerated difficulty settings.

And Konami did not hold back from the difficulty in the Castlevania series. On the NES, it really did go over the top – the difficulty is legendary, as the Angry Video Game Nerd paid tribute to in his excellent series of videos.

Despite its difficulty, Castlevania holds up really well as a fun video game experience.

It’s as frustrating as hell, sure, when you’re trying to overcome a relentless wave of Medusa heads and bats. As a gamer, there’s a certain element of muscle memory involved to ensure you can get through the stages.

Mindless repetition also becomes common. That element of gaming in the 1980s/1990s where you just had to keep repeating a section until you beat it. No cheat codes, no hand-holding – just battle on to the bitter end.

So Castlevania – followed by its two insanely difficult NES sequels – is a perfect encapsulation of that era. And that makes it something of a glorious relic to return to in the modern age.

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