Retro Review: Castlevania: The Adventure / Game Boy (1989)

I am a HUGE Castlevania fan and have been since I got my hands on the original NES classic. There’s something about the music, the mood, and the plight of the Belmonts that sucked me right in. I didn’t have an original Game Boy (the Color was my first Game Boy) so the chance to play this on the Virtual Console on the 3DS was exciting for me. That is, until I actually played it.

Castlevania: The Adventure is a prequel to the original Castlevania and Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest. Though the advertising in America had the protagonist named Simon (confusing people into thinking it was a sequel), it is actually the story of Christopher Belmont. I can tell you this, Christopher had it far worse than those that came later than him. Why you ask? Well, let me tell you…

The game mechanics in Castlevania: The Adventure make it brutally hard. Gone are the ladders from Castlevania and Castlevania II. They’re replaced with ropes and jumping platforms. The ropes aren’t so bad, though if you miss one and fall down you plummet to your death. No, the real challenge here lies in the jumping platforms. Some are stationary but most fall out from under you as soon as you touch them. If there are three or four in a row and you mis-time our first jump you are doomed to fall. It’s not possible to make up the ground with your second jump. This becomes an even bigger issue since most of these jumping hazards are three or four screens into an area. Die and you have to redo an entire chunk of the zone.

That musical score is amaaaazing…but look at the chugging frame rate

I know it sounds like I’m bemoaning the difficulty of an old school game, but believe me, I’m well seasoned in hard games. I cut my teeth on Contra and Ninja Gaiden. The difference here is that no matter of skill can improve the jumping mechanics and sluggish framerate. Most games of this era rewarded your ability to learn enemy patterns and practice. Then there are games that are just hard because they’re not made particularly well. Castlevania: The Adventure falls into the latter category.

It’s not all sour grapes here. The music in Castlevania games is the stuff of legends, and this entry has some of the best. It’s also a very good looking original Game Boy game, especially being one from the early days of the hand held. The backgrounds are very detailed and add a lot more depth than the typically spartan games from that time. While I am indeed a big fan of the series as a whole, Castlevania: The Adventure is hard to recommend as anything more than a novelty or for die hards. Funny enough, when the game came out it was highly regarded, mostly for the previously mentioned graphics. As a whole though, the Castlevania community sees this as one of the lesser entries.

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