Okay, so this one’s probably going to raise some eyebrows.
#6: Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest
The sequel to the original Castlevania, much like other unorthodox sequels of the time, tends to get a lot of flack these days due in some part to how different it is. A more exploration-based game than the straight-up action of its predecessor, Simon’s Quest set the series on a path that would be picked up again many years later in the form of Symphony of the Night. Unique and innovative, the game unfortunately tends to receive a lot of scorn due to the obtuseness of its puzzles — and the fact that the villagers will bold-faced lie to you, even in the Japanese version.
Strangely enough, though, I never had any real problems with it. Then and now, it’s one of my favorites from the entire series, and I can beat it now ever bit as easily as I could then, even with no guide to help. Of course, the fact that I found it easier than its predecessor — and successor — to such a point that I could actually finish it is probably one reason that could be attributed to my longstanding fondness for the title.
Whereas the original game was a romp through Dracula’s castle, killing every monster and baddie to grace a Universal Monsters movie and more, those same creatures have taken to roaming the Transylvanian countryside in this game, and Simon Belmont returns (in spiffy new armor) to put the count’s curse to rest right beside the one who placed it — six feet under. It’s that free-roaming, no time limit gameplay that really helped endear the game to me at the time, taking you to all sorts of locations including graveyards, villages, marshes, caves, and the five manors which housed the parts of Dracula that Simon had to retrieve. I wish more games in the series since would have included that sort of scope.
The game has received a ton of notoriety over the years, thanks in no small part to being the very first Angry Video Game Nerd review. He’s later admit that the game isn’t as bad as that first episode made it out to be, though it does have some irksome points, and I even agree with some of them — the long, dragged-out “horrible night to have a curse” transition among them.
Fascinatingly enough, the game has a pretty active following in terms of folks who make ROM hacks and remakes. One of my favorites replaces all the non-Simon characters with characters from other Nintendo Entertainment System games, while another — highlighted by the Nerd himself (11:50 in if you want to skip to it) — fixes the vagueness of the clues and the speed of the transitions, making an overall more palatable experience. It’s just a shame that Konami won’t likely be doing anything to allow more people to play this version — or one like it — officially.
Finally, it’s worth noting that one of the scariest, most Halloween-riffic parts of this game isn’t even in the game itself! Rather, it was the cover of the second issue of Nintendo Power magazine, featuring a model dressed as Simon holding the decapitated head of Count Dracula. Apparently, this image was grisly enough to give children nightmares — as well as the Nintendo Consumer Service representatives who had to take the phone calls from those kids’ angry parents!
Incidentally, that’s one of — if not the only issues of Nintendo Power I need to restore my collection after my originals were thrown out. It’s been hovering near the top of my Amazon Wish List ever since — that hole in my collection might just be the scariest part of all!
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.