For those reading one of my SNES review blogs for the first time, here is the basic concept:
"While the SNES was a constant presence in my childhood, I never had a large collection of games for it. In fact, many of the games I played I still don't know the names of. It wasn't until I say the uproar over Breath of Fire 6 that I knew I played Breath of Fire 1 in the SNES.
After reading the excellent top 100 SNES games list by IGN:
I decided to go back and play those 100 games and review them. Well, as I looked closer at the list, I realized that there are many genres that did not age well from the SNES (racing, sports) and many other genres that I am simply not good at (shmups, arcade shooters) and others that I need other players to play against for an accurate representation (fighters). Also, I played many of the more well known games such as Final Fantasy and Super Metroid."
We finished with the legacy reviews, so we are beginning with the reviews after my hiatus. Please feel free to give me advise on my reviews, as I always look for improvement.
Also, here are a number of extra rules for Destructoid:
-If you have any suggestion of a game that is not in the IGN list that I should review, please suggest it.
-Make a bet on each game to check whether Chris Charter played it or not.
Without further ado, here is:
21- Super Castlevania IV:
Genre: Action Platformer.
First things first, I am changing my rating system to better rate different genres according to their own rules. It will still be from 50 quality points, but every title will start from 25 and earn/lose points according to criteria important to the titles and genres themselves.
In 1997, the history of Castlevania changed drastically. The release of Symphony of the Night ushered in the age of the "Metroidvania". It had so much effect on the franchise that basically most games after it followed the same format. For many younger gamers, they had little knowledge of Castelvania's past as a straightforward Action Platformer.
The dual identity of the franchise can clearly be seen in the post and pre SotN games. While the "Metroidvania" focuses on exploration, and has some light RPG elements strewn in, the older games focused on providing solid Action and an atmospheric adventure.
Super Castlevania IV is the best of that bunch.
"On a dark and eerie night, Dracula rose from his grave..."
Starting the game, you get the feeling that the village sent its biggest dweeb as a sacrifice to Dracula. Simon Belmont seems very inadequate as a hero: he walks slowly, jumps with no conviction, gets bullied around easily, and you don't think a whip is going to cut it. Also, he wears what I think are pantaloons.
Facing this unfortunate hero, we get every manner of evil imaginable in the game. Skeleton soldiers throw bones at you, the stages are riddled with traps, bosses are not a joke, and those Medusa heads. Oh god, those damned Medusa heads. To top it off, you can't cancel your jumps, and any heat launches you backward. So, if you had one shot at that boss and you were at full health, kiss you chance goodbye if he hits you within a ledge.
Death after death, you slowly begin to doubt the success of your mission. Then, you get it. Simon no longer feels like a dweeb. You start to understand precession he needs to fight. Flailing your whip like an idiot will not do anything. Waiting, and striking at the optimal time is key. A Medusa head flies towards you in it oscillating fashion, looking at you with hat, snakes riling in its head. Wait for it just before it reaches your whip range, and then...STRIKE.
Armed with your trusty whip, along with an array of secondary weapons, each with their own use and trajectory. The game becomes about distance. The whip is versatile enough for most of the game; you can strike in eight directions and even flail it around to block projectiles (which is extremely useful in some bosses). Along with the whip, you can use a secondary weapon that consumes hearts (which are not health points like you would assume but rather "Magic points"). Each secondary weapon has its ow niche, and the player can experiment to see which ones they favor, but ultimately the Whip can be all you need.
You see, after the task seems initially daunting, and Simon's movement feel restrictive, you begin to understand the importance of distance. Each step takes you closer to your target, but they closer to you as well. Jumping is always a dependable arc, which you memorize with usage. Once you realize how to use distance to your advantage, your whip starts to decimate enemies, your jumps evade every obstacle, and the theme of Simon deservedly blow into your ear.
Dracula should have stayed in that grave.
Excellent Precession Based Gameplay: +4
Varied Strategies and Weapons: +2
"The Power of Dracula Starts to Revive Itself"
Now that you are finally looking like a Belmont, Dracula is your ultimate goal. His incessant revival once again throwing the world into darkness. Its unfortunate that Castlevania didn't do much with Dracula or its setting before Symphony of the Night. We all know how Dracula is one of the most interesting characters in literature, and yet he doesn't get a single line in the game. Neither does Simon.
In fact, the game gets on with all its narrative in the well-done opening sequence, and then the game begins. Dracula provides the justification of the setting, and Simon can be replaced by a slimmer and taller Mario (basically Luigi).
Such a game could have done well without any further effort into narration. However, Super Castelvania then proceeds to surprise us with its stage design, which tells us the story through atmosphere and style. Similiar to Metroid's Zebes, the stages of Super Castlevania tells us the story of Dracula perhaps better than those days stoke action narrative could.
When you proceed from the grounds to the Castle, you do so in an organic manner, traversing in the way caverns and such. When inside the castle, ghostly figures dance in the abandoned ballrooms. The treasure rooms shows signs of Dracula's greed. And as you finally go near the Lord of Darkness himself; you are reminded of his relation to death through non other than itself.
You could say that I am interpreting narrative where non exists, but my interpretation is aided by the game's direction. Through both music and visual design (which I will speak about later), the game highlights what is going on. When I am walking in the forest, and sneaking in the caverns, I don't see Dracula's eyes on me. However, when I enter his castle and hear the epic sound of "Bloody Tears" raining on me, I have no doubt that I am close to the end. Similarly, in the last stage, we cannot mistake the fact.
Mute Dracula: -2
The Game Does the Talking: +4
Since he is protecting himself with death traps and all sorts of ghouls and ghosts, we must assume that Dracula's choice of bosses must be up to standard. Unfortunately for Simon, our assumption is correct.
I am not going to say that Super Castelvania has absolutely great bosses, but I am going to say that they are mostly very good. Owing to the combat style of Castelvania, I feel it is more difficult to program boss battles that are as memorable as those in faster games like Mega Man for instance. In super Castelvania, the big bad guys are difficult, daunting, and mostly look and feel that way.
While each foe can easily end you, figuring out their patterns make the fight more manageable. Then, in a sudden twist, the boss changes their patterns and you find yourself in jeopardy. Without this change in patterns, most bosses would be just good, but they gain both personality and depth through that shift. Making boss battles the highlight of most stages.
Enforcing that idea is the end of the game, where you face many monsters as you climb up to Dracula. While I think this run has one extra boss that I didn't like (no one likes you blue Gargoyle), it showcases the game's affinity for storytelling through gameplay, as well as its solid combat. The final battle against Dracula is both a brawl and a spectacle, one that is worth the end.
Very Good Boss Battles: +4
That Final Boss Marathon: +1
I don't know how I would feel about Super Castlevania IV if I play it on mute, but I know that my impression of it would be less impressive. Through their music, Masanori Adachi and Taro Kudo elevated every aspect of the game.
From the start, you realize your in for an adventure, and the tracks never let on. With mysterious and atmospheric tracks like "Forest of Monsters" and "The Submerged City", moody tunes like "The Waterfalls", and epic fan favorites "Bloody Tears" and "Vampire Killer". And who could forget the ever present "Theme of Simon".
The game has a suitable track for every stage in the game, and it even changes tracks as the stage progresses from one phase to another. Without a single dud, and many great tunes, Super Castlevania surely has one of the best SNES soundtracks. If I would complain, only complain about the short loop time of "Bloody Tears" which is noticable, but its such a great song that who cares (I want to hear an updated version of it so much).
Moving on to the game's graphics, we see further evidence of design to fit the narrative. With obvious gothic influence, the game's stages and monster are all wonderfully made to feel like a suitable medieval stomping ground for Dracula. Not satisfied with only simple graphics, the small Konami team used their directing wizardry to great effect.
For instance, the dripping water in the caves is a direct reverence to the waterfalls above, and as we the see the mountains in the background, the foliage in the foreground reminds use where we are. Most impressively, this is a game that was released at the SNES's launch, and yet it sits heads and shoulders above latter releases. It even made use of the famous Mode 7 chip, but in my opinion, that stage was actually the least interesting stage in the game in all aspects.
With both music and graphics, the game immerses the player well in the game's world. Especially the music, which takes hold of the player and adds a much appreciated 3rd dimension to the game.
Graphical Design: +3
Super Castelvania IV is one of the best games in the SNES. It holds really well for its age, and through both gameplay and presentation, it delivers the old Castelvania experience in spades. Some might complain about its short length compared to today's standards, but with a game like this one, which is not that short in SNES standards, replaybility is key.
This is a game that takes hold of you, and you want to beat it again. In my mind, the best Simon Belmont is one who goes through the stages without missing a beat. Both the gameplay and music deserve the effort to excel like that, and through their hypnotic touch, many players would end up doing just that.
1- Spikes are one hit kills.
2- If it looks like a trap, it probably is.
3- After striking with whip, hold it limp and wiggle the it around with the D-Pad to guard against projectiles.
4- Do not flail the whip like an idiot (unless your are guarding against projectiles).
5- Stopwatch does not work on bosses.
6- Spend some time in learning the distance of your whip
I can't believe such a great game missed the top 20. However, it gives us extra hope that all these games are gems. In fact, I know many of them are such gems. Which is why I am actually not going to review them since I already played them.
However, I can confirm that "Super Mario All-Stars","F-Zero", "DKC 2", "FFIV", "Mega Man X", "Super Mario Kart", "Super Mario World", "FFVI", "Super Metroid", and "Chrono Trigger" are all deserving of their top 20 spots. In fact, I played most of them several times which is why I am not going to play them again for review purposes.
The Next game I am going to review is the cult classic "ActRaiser" which sits @ #19 in IGN's list. We are in the top 20 now, so I expect this to be great.
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