Review of Super Castlevania 4: An All-Time Classic!

Review of Super Castlevania 4: An All-Time Classic!

Review of Super Castlevania 4

Castlevania. This is the name of a time-honored and famous series of games that you only hear in connection with a surprisingly successful Netflix series these days. Or if the deeply-fallen Konami developer studio condescends to at least pay attention to its old classics once every few years: Then there are at least a few fine collections of the best and best-known series parts for the starved fan, ported to modern systems without a lot of frills .

New software from the vampire universe was last released in 2014 in the form of the successful, but somewhat arbitrary, 3D action adventure Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2. The current part of the Metroidvania launched with Symphony of the Night -The Castlevania division, the Order of Ecclesia for the Nintendo DS, is even further back: 2008! And what were we excited about! Rock-heavy, beautiful, innovative and refined with a fantastic soundtrack, Order of Ecclesia ended the 2D career of the series with a precision landing.

Table of contents

1 Back to the ... Garlic roots? 2 Pilgrimage to Hell 3 A family as stiff as the undead they hunt 4 Just calm blood! 02:16

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Back to the ... garlic roots?

Even the first screen of the game is wonderfully dark and atmospheric. Before we even reach the castle, we have to overcome a few levels. Source: PC Games However, it is the Castlevania purists, so fans of the old school in the style of the serial debut, who have to endure the longest without new food. The last really new title in this spectrum, apart from various reissues and remakes, was Castlevania Legends for the Game Boy from 1998. If you ask fans these days about the best part of the classic series, you usually get two answers: Rondo of Blood or Super Castlevania 4. The former has already been given a remake collection on the PSP, and was therefore published for the first time in its original form outside of Japan. However, the latter is likely to be the favorite for many die-hard fans in this country. Reason enough for us to whip out our whips and take a closer look at the SNES classic Super Castlevania 4.

The first screen we see in the original NES game for comparison. The castle is already very successful here, only Simon is a bit ... monochrome. Source: PC Games You can tell that it took a while to get into the topic. The story of the series is too fragmented, its current shadowy existence too incomprehensible. There is only one thing left to say about Super Castlevania 4 itself: Strictly speaking, it is not the chronological fourth part of the series, but a reinterpretation of the first Castlevania. So we slip into the (very) tight leather armor of Simon from the Belmont family, a family of long-established vampire hunters who have to free Transylvania from Count Dracula and his host of demons once every hundred years. We stand in an iconic pose at the gates of the castle, and the goal is once again the highest tower in which the prince of darkness waits to be rubbed down.

Pilgrimage to Hell

Glaf Dracura? In the western version of the game the cross on the stone and the "engrishe" writing are missing. No religion at Nintendo! (Source: MobyGames) Source: PC Games Stop it! Where we were able to walk through the entrance gate in the first Castlevania after a few seconds and demolish the Count's first candlesticks, part four keeps us tense a little longer. Because the number of levels has been increased this time and for the first half of the game we are only busy getting near the castle in the first place. To do this, we have to go through a destroyed village, across a swampy cemetery, we have to cross a river where the current changes as if by magic, and we have to survive a brittle stalactite cave. What immediately catches the eye: Super Castlevania 4 looks damn good right now for an early SNES title!

Frankenstein's monster lies in wait for us at the end of a truly caustic level. Fortunately, the slow giant is reasonably easy to defeat. Source: PC Games We traverse detailed, atmospheric environments with different levels of backgrounds that scroll at different speeds and thus create a feeling of spatial depth. In a section of the fourth stage, the SNES then lets its Mode 7 graphic muscles play and conjures up a deceptively real, three-dimensional tunnel in the background. Well, the frame rate drops a lot, but the surprise effect was worth it! The visual variety is also otherwise high, because once we have reached the castle, we hop over gigantic swinging chandeliers, through gloomy torture chambers and of course up a clock tower riddled with traps.

A family, so stiff like the undead they are chasing

Snapshot before the catastrophe: The little fireball is enough to knock Simon off his socks. Source: PC Games And what about the good Simon Belmont? Well, compared to the first Castlevania, we're sure the stick isn't that deep in his bum anymore. Simon still struts through his adventure as stiff as a board, but that is simply a tradition at the Belmonts. With regard to the controls, however, a lot has changed: We can whip in eight directions, crouch, jump on (but not off) stairs and change our direction of movement in the air. The latter alone ensures a dramatically better gaming experience than before in the 8-bit offshoots. The stairs, which were once so tricky, are now much easier to cross, and as usual, we can kill the incredibly annoying flying opponents a little faster with our versatile whip. In addition, by holding down the attack button, we can hang our chain and move it manually to repel projectiles, for example.

We can well imagine that many players had their jaws dropped to the floor when this effect occurred in 1991. In any case, poor SNES is overwhelmed! Source: PC Games The good old vampire killer, as our murderous instrument is affectionately known, is not only suitable for killing: At certain points in some levels we can hook ourselves with the whip and then swing from platform to platform. This works surprisingly well and is used, for example, in a particularly original sequence to rotate an entire section around us while we dangle from the hook. Thanks to Mode 7! In addition, we are also equipped with one of the classic sub-weapons, such as throwing axes, throwing knives, holy water bottles and crosses (although the latter two were, of course, belittled to fire bombs and boomerangs in this country). Does this extensive arsenal of weapons and the more user-friendly controls mean the elimination of the infamous Castlevania difficulty level?

Just calm down!

This flying skull with the giant tongue is called "Puweyxil" in the western version of the game. Whoever reads his name backwards knows why! Source: PC Games Yes, Super Castlevania 4 is easier than the series first. Much like it is easier to walk over hot coals when you are allowed to wear socks. Because the countless traps, platforms as well as old and new enemies are still very often placed exactly there with meticulous precision and move exactly to the places where we absolutely cannot use them. If even the smallest bat hits us, we sail back meters and usually fall straight into the next abyss, because flying opponents and tiny platforms go hand in hand in Super Castlevania 4! Otherwise we will be faced with a colorful potpourri of all sorts of ghosts, undead, movie monsters and animate objects.

Ghost Love Score: The spectral dancer couple may be a pretty annoying boss, it starts the horror romance- Castlevania is in an excellent mood. Source: PC Games Here the game shines with a lot of variety: While we encounter different variations of skeletons, ax kicks and ghosts in almost every level, many enemies are thematically adapted to their surroundings. In the noble ballroom, for example, ghost dancers and lively noble furniture want to pound us, in the cemetery zombie hands break out of their musty graves and subterranean lakes are populated by fish people. In the boss fights that await us at the end of most of the levels (or even in the middle of it), our increased attack arsenal has a noticeable effect on the level of difficulty. We can destroy the mini-scythes of Grim Reaper or Medusa's snakes with the defensive position of our whip much easier than before, and some bosses go down without a sound in the sub-weapon inferno. But that doesn't mean that Super Castlevania 4 is a walk in the park.

Because we have to get used to the many directions of the whip, which we logically control with our direction of movement. Checkpoints are far apart, healing items are rare and we have to continue to fight bosses in a confined space, where, thanks to their huge hitboxes, we quickly run out of space to evade. Many challenges in the game are trial-and-error, only that we like to traverse a few rooms over and over again for each new attempt. Resistance to frustration is therefore still a basic requirement in order not to lose your nerve on the eerily beautiful ghost train ride! Finally, a few words about the soundtrack. Just a moment, now?

Isn't music always THE trademark of Castlevania, and isn't it always so catchy that the many moments of frustration only feel half as bad? Not in Super Castlevania 4, because instead of lively, catchy melodies, the game primarily relies on a mystical, threatening soundscape at the beginning. Old and new hits such as Bloody Tears, Simon's Theme and of course the Vampire Killer can only be heard late, but they are placed in the right place: In the last phase of the fight against the Count, Simon's theme tune starts and provides the necessary motivation boost, to blow out the lights to Dracula again!

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