Format reviewed: Arcade
Submitted by: Nathan White
Nintendo’s Vs. arcade hardware, released in the mid 80′s, was truly unique at the time of it’s release. Nintendo took what they did with their earlier dual screen Game and Watch releases and their 1984 arcade release Punch Out! and designed an entire arcade hardware configuration based on dual screens. Although Nintendo offered the Vs. arcade hardware in a model called the UniSystem, which had just one screen, the PCB itself and even the name “Versus” is a clear indicator that the true avenue for this hardware was the DualSystem. The DualSystem itself was released in both upright and cocktail models. Many games such as Vs. Tennis, Vs. Baseball, and Vs. Balloon Fight took full advantage of the hardware and utilized all of the DualSystem’s controls and both monitors for game play.
Nintendo introduced many successful franchises to North America via the Vs. arcade hardware. Franchises such as Super Mario Bros., Duck Hunt, and Excitebike were first released in North America as Vs. games. Behind Nintendo, the most prolific developer for the Vs. arcade hardware was Konami. Konami released Vs. arcade versions of The Goonies 2, Top Gun, Gradius, and Vs. Castlevania, although few of these games took advantage of any multi player aspects of the Vs. hardware and none utilized both screens.
Vs. Castlevania in particular is among the most sought after Vs. titles in the current collectors market. The game was released as a daughter board instead of a set of ROM chips. This was a measure to curb piracy and even today the daughter boards cannot be replicated. This adds to the overall value of the game becasue it cannot be burnt to ROMs like many other VS. titles. In fact, Vs. Castlevania is so popular that when it was discovered that simply replacing one easily burnt ROM chip could change a Top Gun daughter board into Vs. Castlevania many collectors noted that the price of Vs. Top Gun spiked considerably.
Vs. Castlevania is essentially identical to the Nintendo Entertainment System version of Castlevania, save for a few slight changes. Most notable is the difficulty. Vs. Castlevania when set to normal (via the dip switches) is a much harder game. Every enemy depletes at least 4 slots from your life bar, with many past stage 7 depleting a minimum of 6. This is pretty heafty considering the NES version’s baddies typically take away 2 life meter slots. Vs. Castlevania can also be set to a hard mode in which most enemies can kill you in 2 hits and some later in the game can easily you in just 1 incidental touch.
Another difference between the two games is the color pallete. Due to the RBG output and arcade monitor quality picture, the colors on Vs. Castlevania appear much more dividly. The contrast is greater and the muddy lok of the NES version is some softened by the appearance of blah greys coming out more like dark pinks.
Oddly enough, even though Vs. Castlevania is a much harder game (and trust me, it is) I was able to get a lot farther in Vs.Castlevania then I was ever able to get in the NES version. In fact I was able to make it all the way to the stage before the final showdown with Dracula- and this in just three days of playing. (Note: I just received this game on Thursday of last week in the mail; I had managed to track one down specifically for he purpose of reviewing in for Halloween. It came just in time!).
Vs. Castlevania is certainly one of the more worth while Vs. titles to add to your collection, and is challenging enough to stimulate even the most weathered old school gamer.