Castlevania 3: Dracula's Curse
Box Shot
Castlevania 3: Dracula's Curse
Platform: NES
Publisher: Konami
Designer: Konami
Genre: Action
Players: 1
Published Date 1990
Reviewed by: Kurt Kalata

I'll try to say this only once in my review: Castlevania 3 is probably my favorite Nintendo Entertainment System games of all time. Why? It had great graphics, plenty of action, fabulous music, tons of variety and was replayable to boot. Honestly, what more is there to video game nirvana?

Chronologically, this game takes place one hundred years before the original Castlevania. You are no longer Simon Belmont but rather his grandfather Trevor. Dracula and his band of meanies are terrorizing Europe, and they've enlisted you to destroy him. Unlike Castlevania 2, this game plays much like the original title. The status bar should seem familiar, the game plays in set stages, and the four special weapons (dagger, axe, holy water, and boomerang) are back. All of the RPG elements, like using hearts to buy things and gaining experience have been removed.

However, the game is not completely linear like Castlevania. Once you beat the first level, you are given a choice: you can either enter the Clock Tower or go directly into a forest. This is one of the major changes in the game...when you beat certain levels, you have two paths to choose from. There are essentially two major paths: one involves crossing the lake via ghost ship and entering Dracula's castleat ground level. The second basic path is an underground passage that brings you into the lower bowels of the fortress. And yes, there are even more divergences off of these paths. This greatly boosts replayability, as you'll want to play the game through three of four times to see all of the levels and bosses.

Another new addition to Castlevania is the addition of "spirits". At any time during the game, Trevor can shapeshift into the accompanying spirit and use his powers. The first spirit you find is Grant DaNasty, a former pirate who's incredibly agile, can change the direction of a jump in mid-air, and can cling on walls and ceilings. Another spirit is Sypha, a weak magician with a wimpy staff weapon, but three powerful magical spells that replace the special weapons. Finally, there is Alucard, son of Count Dracula, who can turn into a bat (hey, he's a vampire!) and has a weak but far reaching fireball weapon. Unfortunately, Trevor and the spirit use the same life bar, so don't expect any energy boosts when you change spirits. Just like the multiple paths, this gives the game more replayabilty. Enemies require different strategies, depending on what spirit you have in your party. There are even four different endings, depending on your partner!

The graphics, on a whole, are excellent. There are still some blocky areas reminsicent of the original Castlevania (the church tower in the first level is an example) but the overall look of the game is still cleaner. Trevor looks much better than Simon in either of the previous two games, and each of the three spirits also look extremely cool. There's a whole collection of neat looking bosses, although some of them are used too many times (in one certain path, you'll face the same Cyclops three times, no difference.) The sound effects are roughly equivalent to the original, with some new grunts and groans from players and bosses alike. The music, as with all Castlevania games, is excellent, many of them featuring excellent drums. The prayer scenes that opens the game not only looks cool, but has an excellent way of portraying our Trevor as a holy warrior of evil, with a few crackles of lightning to sizzle things up a bit. On the whole, however, the quality of the tunes are very spooky or very tense, but none match the jaw-droppingly cool themes of Castlevania 2 or even the still-excellent Castlevania 1 music. The only theme I really liked was "Beginning" in the first level, but the rest of the tunes are still very good.

The game controls the same way as the previous games, with the same rather slow paced gameplay we've come to expect from Castlevania. Grant Danasty makes jumping quite a bit easier, since you'll have to negotiate plenty more jumps and moving platforms than in other CV games. On the bad side, making Grant change positions when climbing on walls can be difficult and can often lead to a fatal fall if not timed perfectly. Of course there are still the bats that come in at just the right moment to knock your hero off to their doom. This game shares many of the frustrations as in previous titles in this series, but it really doesn't seem as bad. Sure, later levels are really hard when hits take away four life bars (out of sixteen) and those dumb jumping Igor fellows are leaping all over you, but with practice and plenty of patience then it becomes quite a bit easier and more tolerable.

There's really no need to reiterate what I said at the beginning of the review, but I will anyway: this game is essentially perfect in gameplay, reducing the frustrations that plagued earlier titles and adding in so many cools additions that make this game absolutely rule. Now buy it.