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.