Hello and welcome! My name is Katosepe and I’ll be your host for today’s Video Game of the Day.
Konami is a company very much in flux these days. They release some collections of their older games as well as their perennial football games but in general, they’ve stepped back from gaming quite a bit to focus on other business ventures. To today’s gamers, it can be hard to remember a time when Konami was one of the biggest powerhouses in gaming, releasing hit after hit for the NES. Today’s game is one such hit that spawned a franchise lasting decades. Today’s game is Castlevania, developed in-house by Konami and released on the NES in 1986.
In modern times, Castlevania is synonymous with the Metroidvania genre. The genre even takes half of its name from Castlevania. Back in the NES days, though, this wasn’t the case. Castlevania 1 is a linear, side-scrolling platformer where players must battle creatures of the night through six stages, each containing three sub-levels. There were no RPG mechanics, maps to explore, weapons to collect, nothing like that. Players had nothing but their own skills and smart use of subweapons to help them on their way.
Simon Belmont, the hero of this game, always has his trusty whip to fight the undead but can also pick up one of five subweapons. These include holy water, knives, axes, a cross, and a stopwatch. Simon can only have one weapon at a time and each has a limited number of uses. Simon must pick up hearts to increase his ammo with these subweapons. The upside is that each weapon works slightly differently and can give Simon an edge in tough fights where the whip may just not cut it.
When Castlevania was originally released in Japan, it released on the Famicom Disk System, a floppy disk based system that never saw release in the west. It was also titled Akumajou Dracula which roughly translates to Dracula’s Demon Castle. Because of the game’s religious name and creation on the disk system, it was an unlikely candidate for localization in the west. The high critical and commercial reception convinced Konami to port the game to cartridge and localize the game as Castlevania for western audiences.
Castlevania was as great a success in the west as it had been in Japan. Critics would criticise the extremely high difficulty of the game and the numerous cheap deaths but this was the NES and players loved the challenge. Castlevania quickly became one of the top games for the NES and spawned several sequels. Today, Castlevania 1 is often overshadowed by the generally superior Castlevania 3, Super Castlevania 4 and Castlevania Bloodlines, which also shared the original Castlevania style before switching to the Metroidvania gameplay we know today. Still, NES fans who love a challenge still seek out the original.
Thank you so much for listening and a big thank you to Old School Gamer Magazine for sponsoring this episode! If you love learning about retro games, go check out their free digital magazine at oldschoolgamer.com/day. That’s oldschoolgamer.com/day. Don’t forget to check back here tomorrow for another Video Game of the Day.
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