Super Castlevania 4


Review by Matt Paprocki



Graphics: 6

Sound: 6

Gameplay: 7

Overall: 7

In a world filled with guns, blood, and ludicrous amounts of violence, it's pretty impressive to see just how accepted "Castlevania" has become. The series has always been a little slower paced, giving gamers just a whip to fend off hordes of various creatures to take out Dracula himself. The first entry of the series on the SNES is a bit hit or miss, but still a solid minor classic that does enough right to make it worthy of its namesake.

Little has changed from the series' roots on the NES. Players still control a member of the Belmont clan, walking up and around one of the shoddiest castles ever made (this must have been a workers comp nightmare when it was first built). Players collect hearts to supplement their secondary weapons, which can be fired with a press of the R trigger (a great change from the 8-bit entries). The biggest addition is the ability to swing the whip in a full 8 directions, making it much easier to destroy upcoming dangers before they become too big an issue.

All the usual challenges from the earlier games have been included here. Rotating platforms prove to be a huge problem, usually put together right in a row simply to annoy the gamer behind the controller. That makes the level design a little suspect in places and definitely frustrating enough to turn some people away. The usual monster roster is here too, including those always infuriating Medusa heads.

Initially, "Super Castlevania 4" seems rather dull. It has a much slower pace, enemies are spread liberally around the levels, and it introduces some of the newer concepts (like the whip swing which lets you make it to platforms too far to jump from). This can lead people into a false sense that they're actually going to make some real progress. Then those later levels come in pretty quick and simply slaughter them.

Early on in the first level, you're allowed to actually go behind a huge gate, a great idea that is never explored further. It's one of those things that makes the game feel a little rushed in spots. It's like the programmers had some really great way to take this series in a new direction, but just ran out of time.

The same goes for the graphics engine. It probably had less to do with time than it did unfamiliarity with the new hardware. This is a minor upgrade, sporting some nice background details, a dash of mode-7, and sharp transparencies. Things get a little rough when there's no parallax scrolling to be found, slowdown gets prevalent, and enemies barely feature any animation. It's rough, but it does have an overall solid look, enough to make it seem like it was worth upgrading to the newer hardware.

All of the music here is wonderfully composed, with a great mix of some slower paced music during some of those long stair climbs and faster paced, more dangerous sounding tunes for those tense moments. Unfortunately, it's again obvious that the hardware was not taken advantage of. Very few of the (many) available audio channels have been used on the music. Instead, you're forced to listen to a monotonous (and rather cheap) sounding whip lashing constantly throughout the game. The few minor voice samples do not make up for anything.

Though rough all around, there's enough Konami quality to make this well worth playing. It's a game that played better upon its release and it simply hasn't aged as well as some of the companies other titles. If you're really looking for some "Castlevania" action on the Super NES, check out the under appreciated "Dracula X." It's not a great port, but that doesn't mean that it's not a fantastic criminally underrated title.


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Last updated: Sunday, May 01, 2005 02:18 PM