#8: Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse

The third and last part of the Nintendo Entertainment System trilogy of Castlevania games returns to the series’ roots in a big way. Konami had seemingly begun taking the concept a little more seriously by this point, but still played up the idea of it being like a monster movie in the introduction above, helping to set the atmosphere for a new monster-slaying romp.

Much of what I said in yesterday’s piece applies here, only more so. The graphics are better, as is the soundtrack, and the legions of Dracula are more varied than ever before. Plus, the part about it “not being the destination, but the journey” applies here as well, as you don’t simply begin on the grounds of Castlevania as before; rather, you have a voyage to make just to reach the Count’s estate, with choices all along the way. Will you take the long way around the map and storm the front gate? Or perhaps if you brave the clock tower, you can use that bridge that serves as a direct connection to the highest reaches of this haunted castle.

As Simon’s overrated ancestor Trevor, you will also find kindred spirits along the way who wish to help you topple the Count. There is Grant DaNasty, the zombified pirate whose agility and wall-climbing abilities allow him to bypass many obstacles with ease, but at the cost of Konami USA reducing his armaments to a puny handheld dagger (making the thrown version a special weapon, alongside the axe), leaving him rather vulnerable in a tight spot. Sypha Belnades is another vampire hunter who is capable of wielding incredibly potent fire and ice magics, but is a bit of a glass cannon. Then there is Alucard, who really kind of sucks for being the son of Dracula, and not in the way that role should entail. His fireballs and bat transformation aren’t altogether useless, but you’ll probably get the least use out of them among the entire array of options.

Unfortunately, Trevor learned nothing from the teamwork displayed in Konami’s first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles title, and will only take one partner with him to swap out with at a time. But which will you choose? (Probably not Alucard.)

Fortunately, I didn’t find Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse to be quite as relentlessly unforgiving as the original, even with the changes Konami made to provide a more difficult experience to western audiences (side note: it’s like yelling at the wind with Konami at this point, but I could so go for options in some of their games like this that allow a choice between the English and Japanese versions — or a hybrid that gives us the Japanese game with English text). It still gets quite tough, particularly towards the end of the game (I don’t think I’ve ever passed the falling block segment), but one could argue that the difficulty curve is spread out more evenly over a much longer game.

Much as I enjoy this title, however, it’s definitely one of Nadia’s favorites as well. Perhaps in the spirit of the season, she’ll share some of what she enjoys about it, too? (Seriously, I don’t know if she will or not. Feel free to ask her.)

Oh, and just so you don’t think I’m going to be too predictable, one hint for tomorrow: it’s not a Castlevania game.

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.