Last one of these on the list, promise.
#5: Super Castlevania IV
Man, this is a weird one. Or at least, it was a weird one back in the day. Between the spoken-of century of tranquility(on the back of the box, at least), the exploding gravestone of Dracula (as seen above), that it stars Simon Belmont, and… oh yeah, the fact that it was called Super Castlevania IV of all things, it’s easy to see why people would view this as another sequel following the Nintendo Entertainment System games, taking place after Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest (which ended with a scene of Dracula’s aforementioned grave, and a hand even emerging from it in some cases).
It’s easy to see why people would think that… but those people would be wrong.
Turns out that Super Castlevania IV is actually a remake of the original Castlevania. So why not just call it “Super Castlevania“? You got me.
The premise is familiar enough, as Simon heads on up to Dracula’s place on a dark Transylvanian night, but things are different this time around. In addition to the graphic and sound overhaul provided by the power of the Super NES, you don’t start right at Dracula’s doorstep like in the NES original. Rather, you must traverse the entire castle grounds just to reach where you began in that progenitor of the series. All along the way, you’ll run into an even larger variety of ghouls, demons, ghosts, spectres, and monsters — many of which are specially designed to take advantage of the Super NES’s distinct capabilities, such as transparencies (perfect for ghosts) and Mode 7 scaling/rotation of enemies, rooms, and backgrounds.
The enemies are bigger and badder than ever before, but so is Simon, truly making this Castlevania feel suitably “super.” While Simon can still equip the same variety of weapons he wielded before, he can now use them more easily with their own dedicated button, making fighting from stairs a bit easier. But above all else is the improvement of the whip.
Yes, the Vampire Killer is truly a weapon to be reckoned with this time. Still able to be powered up through its three stages, Simon can now swing it in every direction — the four cardinal and four accompanying diagonals, meaning no menace is safe from its righteous wrath. What’s more, Simon can allow the whip to hang loose after cracking it, where he can then flail it around as needed to hit whatever comes his way, or even use it as a mystic shield against the projectiles and smaller foes that approach him. Oh, and there’s also swinging from anchor points with it.
In short, it feels glorious, and makes the player feel like a badass.
Perhaps too much of a badass, as it sadly turns out. Despite how well it works, Konami would never again use this sort of versatile whip mechanics in any Castlevania game, which is a true shame. Some believe it’s due to the fact that the whip is so good that it all but makes the special weapons feel redundant and less useful. While it’s difficult to argue this point, at the same time, I would have been completely fine had future installments built upon and around the whip instead of trying to all but force you into using the special weapons.
As such, this leaves Super Castlevania IV as one of the best and most unique entries in the series, particularly among the old pre-Metroidvania style installments to come later. It’s just a shame that we never saw a Super Castlevania V follow-up by remaking Simon’s Quest… though at least that didn’t stop one person from making their own that I forgot to mention yesterday:
Looks like it borrows more from Castlevania: Rondo of Blood on the visual level to me, but that’s by no means a bad thing.
David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you’re interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.