Castlevania: Why should you care?

In ancient times, there was the Nintendo Entertainment System.  And lo, I was the only kid in the neighborhood who didn’t have one (and with it, the ubiquitous Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game).  Only able to play Nintendo when visiting friends, I never developed the intense obsessive reflexes most of my generation got.  And to this day, I have never actually, personally, beaten the original Castlevania.  Because it is freaking hard.  I mean, seriously, Simon Belmont moves with all the grace and agility of a garbage truck, and they expect me to beat Death with him?

And of course, by the time I really got the chance to dedicate myself to trying, I also had the far, far superior Super Castlevania IV available to me.  So I played that instead. The game that first brought me into the franchise was Castlevania: Bloodlines.  The game that sealed the deal was Symphony of the Night. But we’ll begin this by discussing the original Nintendo-hard installment.

It looked like this.

The brown blob in the middle is the hero, Simon Belmont.  The white blobs are zombies.  The line between them is the Holy Whip, the Vampire Killer.  Your goal is to maneuver that clumsy brown blob through the castle, over various bottomless pits and up and down stairs that will kill you if you’re careless when you try to get on or off them, and past skeletons, fishmen, suits of armor throwing axes at you, and all sorts of other blocky blobs of 8-bit color.  Your goal is to track down Dracula, who’s back from the dead again, and give him a good thrashing.  By itself, this does not sound like much to spark the imagination.

There was also music.  It sounded like this.

But to him who is faithful, it is known that the 8-bit sound is but a placeholder for this, or perhaps this.

This is the story of Simon Belmont.  The heir to a long legacy of heroism, his peaceful life ends when a castle appears where no castle was before.  The time has come, as it must once each century, for Dracula to return to the world of the living, and with him comes his demon-haunted citadel.  And only one man has the strength to send the evil lord back into the darkness.  One man who has the strength to wield the sacred whip that was forged for the sole purpose of slaying evil, sanctified with innocent blood willingly shed centuries ago; a weapon borne by your ancestors.  The night is dark, and the path is long, but at last you find yourself at the gate of the castle.  It stands open, welcoming you.  Once you cross the threshhold, it shuts behind you.  No turning back.  No seeking aid.  You stand alone, ready to fulfill your purpose in life, even if it costs you your life.

One man ventures forth alone into the darkness, with nothing but heart, faith and steel.  That’s the heroism of legend right there.

Next up: the Belmont legacy!


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