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The Into:

Castlevania. A name which evokes fond memories of feverish days and nights slaying errant vampires, gargoyles and all manner of ungodly creatures. If you’ve played any of the games in this series, you probably know what to expect – stellar platforming, exploration and combat. If you’ve played the first 3 games in the series, even before you kill Dracula before you’ve accepted that he’s just going to resurrect in the sequel. But who cares, as long as it’s fun right?Super Castlevania 4 SNES Review

The Gameplay:

Enter Super Castlevania IV.

SC IV is a reboot of sorts – it retells the tale of our whip-wielding protagonist Simon Belmont, as he battles internal and external demons, locked in an eternal war against Dracula. The story begins with Belmont in the countryside, and you have to hack and slash your way to the titular Castlevania.

The first thing that strikes you about SC IV is how much better everything looks. While it may not look like much, this was a huge graphical upgrade for the series. The 16-bit hardware allowed Konami to create some truly memorable visuals like the golden treasury level.

Interestingly, this game chose to abandon the exploration mechanic that previous games were known for. In Castlevania III for example, players could choose different characters and take different routes to reach the final Dracula boss fight. In Super Castlevania IV though, you move forward like a regular platforming game, and are only able to play as Simon Belmont. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though, as keeping the progression linear allowed the developers to create a more focused campaign. Later games in the series would of course feature an open-world style exploration mechanic and journey through a series of levels, unlocking different areas and revisiting certain passages after a door/passageway had been opened.

SC IV goes back to the basics – one hero against the hordes of darkness with a whip. The iconic whip weapon has some upgrades this time around though. You can now use the whip to attack in eight directions. You can also hold it forward to shield yourself from damage, use it as a nifty swing hook to get over platforms and even spin it around like a whirling sphere of death. Simon Belmont himself looks much the same – stiff-legged and rigid, but the whip mechanics make him a lot more compelling this time around. 

The Elements That Make It Great:

The sound design and music bears special mention, because it is freaking awesome. Music has always been one of the strengths of the Castlevania franchise, and SC IV is one of the main reasons it gained this reputation. This game features a dynamic, multilayered and complex soundtrack with compositions that were previously unseen on a Nintendo console. The soundtrack still holds up today. Don’t take our word for it – listen to a sample on YouTube. Super Castlevania IV’s sound design is an engineering triumph and a testament to the power of the SNES console.

A lot of the elements that became series regulars were introduced in this game – Skeletons, Bone Dragons, Medusa Heads. A lot of the elements of this game would eventually inform Symphony of the Night, one of the best Castlevania games of all time.

Great level design, attention to detail, engaging combat and a truly fantastic, all-time-great video game soundtrack make this game a definite must-play if you’re into platformers or Metroidvania style games. This game can serve as a nice introduction to the Castlevania series if you’ve never played it before. Be prepared to die a lot though. Unless you get enemy patterns and timings down, you’re going to have a hard time. And of course, there’s the joy of making the perfect jump after 16 attempts, only to get hit in the face by a Medusa head and have to do it all over again.

Spoiler alert – Dracula doesn’t die in this one either.

PS: There’s an excellent Castlevania animation series out on Netflix now. Enjoy! 😉