Dracula slays in thirds
Castlevania. The name alone is well renowned to veteran gamers worldwide as one of Konami’s masterpiece franchises, having expanded from the NES to various gaming consoles and a glorious revival in anime form thanks to Netflix. As a video game veteran myself, I know of the many battles between the GOAT vampire hunting Belmont family and the infamous prince of horror monsters, Count Dracula. Ever since I was exposed to the first Castlevania game, I fell under its spell, wanting my chance to place a stake into Dracula’s chest. I finally got my chance to do so when I got my first game, Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse for the NES.
In Dracula’s Curse, you take on the role of Trevor C. Belmont, forefather of series hero Simon Belmont, who is called upon to save his village of Warakiya from Dracula and his resurrected army of darkness. Trevor has one small but powerful advantage with him: the ability to transform into three partner spirits: Alucard, Dracula’s forgotten son; Grant Denasty, pirate terror of the seas; and, Sypha Belnades, vampire hunter/mystic warlord. Along with this shaper-shifter ability and equipped with the mystic whip and Poltergeist ax bequeathed by the Poltergeist King, Trevor sets off into the night ready to do battle against Dracula.
Gameplay is basic like most action-platforming games with simple moves such as moving left and right with the control pad, jumping with a button, and attacking with basic weapons by using combinations for special weapons. These controls have special designations for Grant, controlling how high he can jump and climb walls, and for Alucard, who can transform into a bat. To give this team of vampire hunters an extra advantage, Trevor can upgrade his mystic whip to a long-ranged chain whip and can use various Warakiya items such as the banshee boomerang, battle ax and a pocket watch that temporarily freezes enemies. Sypha has her magic staff as her main weapon in addition to using elemental orbs that can produce fire, ice and thunder attacks. Grant has use of the dagger, but he can only use the mystic ax as his secondary weapon. Alucard has use of a destructive ball that can be upgraded to shoot three directions.
While I appreciate these effective techniques to dispatch the undead, there were flaws such as learning to time each attack or risk falling off a stage. Also, whichever partner spirit Trevor teams up with, the partner takes damage, creating a struggle to survive in certain stages. I also learned that you collect stone hearts to power weapons and if Alucard is your partner, he would turn into a bat. That’s fine but that skill eats up your hearts and if you run out, he could turn back into human form putting him and Trevor in a MAJOR bind.
Adding to the frustration, there is a time limit to complete each stage, adding either challenge to gameplay or making you curse and smash your controller to pieces.
A word to the wise: Dracula’s Curse is challenging but LOOK hard for special items such as leg of werewolf, which refills your life meter; and, the invisibility potion that also gives temporary protection to give you the upper hand. Also, if you must go up a row of stairs, ALWAYS press up on the control pad to walk otherwise you will fall and lose a life.
The game’s music is excellent, staying true to the series’ theme of classical horror. If you heard a Castlevania theme before, you won’t hear anything new here. This isn’t Castlevania IV just yet, after all. The replay value is there although it will require you to have patience to and excellent strategic skills when choosing paths to take and partner spirits to work with.
Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse is an example of how Konami built a respected franchise in its early days without disrespecting their development staff and letting them do what they do best. Dracula’s Curse is good but not without its quirks and flaws. If you love old-school platforming in the Castlevania control vein, jump in and partner up to take on Dracula once more.