Retro recollections: Castlevania (NES)

Time, I thought, to really sink my teeth into my retro gaming collection. Where better to start than Konami’s classic Dracula-fest, Castlevania?

I’m not a big believer in the whole “pile of shame” concept — that idea that if you’ve got a lot of unplayed games, it’s somehow shameful or problematic. Sure, it probably does point to an investment of funds that could perhaps have gone in another direction, but ultimately, the games don’t care.

That being said, I’ve got more than a few games sitting around, and as I’ve stated before, I don’t like thinking of myself as a collector as much as a gamer to speak of. If what you want is shrinkwrapped and listed on eBay as “R@RE!”, you’ve come to the wrong place.

All of which leads me to a lazy, rainy cold Sunday afternoon here in Sydney, and a little time on my hands. Time I decided I’d spend playing through Castlevania on the NES. I’ve played Super Castlevania IV through countless times, but not the original, despite the fact that I’ve owned a copy for quite some time now.

A game with only two buttons, jumping and whipping, plus optional weapons activated by pushing up while hitting the whip button. How hard could it be?

Now, I could have made this easier on myself with the NES Mini, or perhaps an emulator, what with save states, but the cartridge was right there, so I figured I may as well just go for it.

Rihanna probably wasn’t singing about Castlevania. Probably. But then again…
 

About six hours later… and I’m done. Both with finishing the game, and mentally and physically.

Essential details:

  • Game: Castlevania
  • Format: NES, PAL version
  • Play time: About six hours
  • Number of deaths: 1,367. OK, maybe I’m making that up because I stopped counting after about 600 or so. But it’s in that kind of ballpark. Many, many Belmonts laid down their lives this day.
  • Primary cause of death: Dracula. Roughly 80% of the lives spent were on the final boss, because you don’t get to BE the final boss by being a pushover.
  • Secondary cause of death: Being knocked back into pits. Castlevania LOVES kicking you back into pits. If only Simon Belmont had arms that could grab ledges. If only…
  • Composers called James Banana: One
  • Other observation: I have serious Nintendo Thumb for the first time in many years. The NES controller might be a classic, but it sure ain’t a comfortable classic.

Yup, Dracula ate up more than a few hundred members of the Belmont clan before all was said and done.

Without spoiling too much for those who haven’t played (and I’m sure there are countless playthroughs on YouTube, not to mention speed runs and the like), the first form is tough, but once you suss the pattern, not too tricky.

That second form, though? DAMN.

DAMN both in the sense of “DAMN THAT THING IS TOUGH” and “DAMN MY THUMBS ARE SMOKING”…

I may have yelled out loud when it was all said and done.

OK, I totally did.

I may have also engaged in some celebratory singing
Also, I totally wasn’t kidding about the James Banana thing:

 

Next time, I think I’ll try something a little easier to while away a few lazy hours.

Maybe Winnie The Pooh’s Rumbly Tumbly Adventure.

I’m pretty sure that there’s no Dracula in that one.

Retro recollections are just random musings on retro subjects, usually whatever I’m playing at the moment.

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Retro recollections: Is it important to play all of a classic game series?

There are plenty of classic game series, but when approaching them, is it vital to start at the beginning?

Credit where it’s due; my thoughts around retro gaming today can be traced back to a tweet made by the excellent Alex Boz, AKA @ausretrogamer

Pretty simple, right? I mean, I was a little surprised that he had never played any Zelda game, but I certainly don’t mean that in a judgemental way. There’s just way too much retro gaming history for somebody to have played everything. Just not possible. There are numerous games and game series, including some of the big ones that I’ve never played, so I’m certainly not going to judge anyone else.

Still, I suggested that he should play it, because it is the granddaddy of the Zelda series. Pretty much everything that has been built in the Zelda universe comes from that game in one way or another. I could even make the claim (and I believe I’m about to) that it’s the closest thing to the the Switch Zelda: Breath of The Wild in the entire series run.

No, really. You start The Legend Of Zelda in an open area with lots of danger, and very little real direction. You’re free to go wherever you like, and plenty of things will kill you if you’re not careful. You can follow the game script, but you’re not forced to. Sound familiar?

Still, while The Legend of Zelda is a great classic retro title, not every game in the series really is. I wouldn’t particularly recommend anyone except a completist spend too much time with the sequel, The Adventure Of Link. It was an ambitious title, to be sure, but it doesn’t play quite as well.


Although this ad is perfectly charming.

And that got me thinking. Games are an art form without a doubt, but they’re an evolving art form. I do think it’s important to play the classics, both because they can be great fun, and because it’s a great way to inform your overall gaming knowledge, whether you’re just a player of games or somebody who wants to make them.

But nobody has time to play everything, and the evolving nature of games (and the missteps along the way, interesting as they might be) aren’t as worthy of your attention. If I was picking the Zelda games that (in my opinion) you must play, I’d say The Legend of Zelda, then Link to the Past (because damn, that game is FINE), then Ocarina of Time (of course), probably Wind Waker (if only for the art style) or Majora’s Mask (because it’s so very offbeat for Zelda).

I’m still to dip my beak into Breath Of The Wild myself, but it seems likely to be on the must-play list. I had a lot of fun with Link Between Worlds, but that’s very heavily informed by Link to the Past. Equally, if there’s time then the Oracles series, or Twilight Princess or Skyward Sword are fine, but essential? Maybe not. Naturally, your tastes could vary.

And that’s just one retro games series! There are dozens, if not hundreds!

Retro recollections are just random musings on retro subjects, usually whatever I’m playing at the moment.

Lead image: Daveoratox

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