Format reviewed: Nintendo 64
Developer: Konami Computer Entertainment Kobe (KCEK)
Submitted by: Michael Levy
For all fans of things that go bump in the night, Castlevania was meant to be a beautiful thing on the Nintendo 64. However, the end result was a mixed up macabre mess of early 3-D platforming and exploration, one that Castlevania fans still to this day have mixed feelings on. Released in 1999, Castlevania 64 as it was dubbed by gamers, held great reward for those who were willing to dig.
Though it is now been removed from the official canon, Castlevania tells the story of two vampire killers: Reinhardt Schneider (a very distant member of the Belmont/Morris family) and Carrie Fernandez, a magical descendant of the Belmont’s Curse character Sypha Belnades. The two meet various different supporting characters, such as fellow hunter Vincent, an vampire (not by choice) named Rosa, and a small boy named Malus who is Dracula incarnate.
Levels are varied, but typical for the series. One of the best parts of this game is the level of atmosphere. Between the ambient music and classic N64 fog, the overall feeling of stepping into a forest feels real. Other levels include caves, castles and clock towers. While some levels feel barren and awkward (such as the second level’s castle, giving the feeling of being awkwardly lost,) others are a breath of fresh air for the series, such as the infamous garden maze. The bright contrast of green trimmed hedges and being chased by a frankenstein with a chainsaw arm or skeletons on motorcycles is laughable, but it was a moment of new ideas that was unseen in any other game in the franchise release.
The real challenge in the game is battling the controls and camera. The platforming is difficult and requires a major learning curve. Taking simple steps is absolutely necessary when dropping to various platforms, otherwise, a slip can cause an unwanted death. Running feels floaty, making platforming difficult. Because of this, the camera is all over the place, sliding all over when jumping. Carrie is a little quicker than Reinhardt and uses magic orbs and metal arm bands, whereas Reinhardt is the classic Belmont using a whip and sword. Sub-weapons are back, with holy water, crosses and knives making a return. Meat can be purchased and used, along with night and moon cards.
Similar to Simon’s Quest, Castlevania uses a night and day system that changes back and forth, however instead of switching quicker each time, the game takes a lot longer to change from night to day and vice versa. Certain areas of the game can only be accessed at a certain time of day. Though this doesn’t happen often, it can force the player to run into difficulty if they have run out of cards and there is no more powerups around. There is a store where one meets a demon that will sell meats and time cards, but he doesn’t show up until after the maze garden level.
Despite the poor camera and controls, the gameplay is still classic Castlevania, and though the game’s rich in atmosphere, the shoddy control and camera is what players really remember. This is the game that fans of the series love to point to when claiming that 3-D Castlevania doesn’t work. These people are wrong as the game itself is a solid entry in the franchise and should be recognized for breaking new ground that still to this day in many ways has not been revisited.