Part of the 2nd 9 Days of Heck event! You think you know everything about Castlevania? Well, think again! Time to meet one of the most overlooked- and challenging- games in the entire series!
Played on: MAME
Also on: PS2 (Japan Only), PS4
(Cross Your Heart is now playing in your head)
Date posted: October 28, 2018
Who doesn’t know about Castlevania? Everyone knows how it all began- Back on the NES, right? With Simon’s Quest and Dracula’s Curse following afterwards, before ushering in the next gen with Super Castlevania IV. And that’s it. Right?
Indeed- Haunted Castle, released in the arcades in both Japan and America in 1988, is one of the more obscure Castlevania games, up there with Vampire Killer on the MSX 2 and the often overlooked Castlevania: Chronicles on the PS1 in terms of obscurity. Sadly, it’s also considered one of the weakest (but is so unknown that I don’t think it warrants a “Hated in the Nation” seal) due to one very fatal flaw….
A note: For the longest time, Haunted Castle was not available in the states- unless you found one of the actual arcade machines (quite a rarity, now-and-days) you either had to import the Japanese only PS2 release (Oretachi Gēsen Zoku Sono 15) or emulate on MAME. However, recently, it’s been ported to the PS4 under the Arcade Archives line. Emulation is fine, but remember to support official releases! Support your local arcade!
Oh. Yeah. You want an actual premise? Simon Belmont (yes- that Simon Belmont) gets his wife stolen by Dracula, and he has to get her back. It’s as simple as that!
Don’t let the name fool you- this is classic Castlevania, through and through. You have the whip, of course, and yes- the heart system is here. However, it’s different now- no longer do you obtain weapons and hearts from whipping out candles, but now are dropped from enemies. Also, the weapons have changed considerably- now there are bombs and torches, a weird blade thing, and the cross fires out smaller crosses. The stopwatch is the same though. All in all, there solid additions.
Also, this marks the first game where you can use a weapon other then the whip, as you can find both a morningstar and a sword in your journey to defeat Dracula, who’s dead and loving it (he also stole your girl, so that’s also a problem).
The visuals are great, it being an arcade and all. Nice big sprites that convey the various monsters and scenes quite well, and at the time, looked above and beyond what consoles could do at the time. This was, of course, thanks to better hardware that was much more expensive and bulkier then what you could find at home.
Of course, Castlevania’s bestiary is here! Zombies, skeletons, and bats are ever present in your journey, along with a lot of other mainstay enemies, like the hunchback, evil knights, and even mummies! And yes, some of the classic bosses are here too- Medusa (called wicked mermaid in official documents for some reason) Frankenstein’s monster, and of course, Dracula, make appearances. You also have some crazy new monsters like dryads, big eyes, and harpies, all of which make their very first appearance in the Castlevania mythos. It’s a regular monster mash!
The music is fantastic and really complements the spooky visuals of the game quite well. Kenichi Matsubara did a great job with the soundtrack, as you can clearly tell. You may recognize a lot of the tracks as well, as a lot of them were reused for various other games in the series, including Aria and Dawn of Sorrow, among other titles. Take a listen below!
Let’s talk about difficulty, because Haunted Castle might be one of, if not the hardest, Castlevania in the entire series- for a myriad of reasons. First is the fact that the arcade original only allowed you to continue a pitiful 3 times- and each continue only had one life. Three lives! That’s it! Oh, and your health doesn’t refill, and there is no healing items in sight. Good luck!
Also, enemies do a lot of damage. There are simple enemies like zombies that can take away a whole chunk of health for merely colliding into them. There are enemies like the ghosts that sometimes fly out of skeletons that are hard to avoid, thanks to the huge-ass sprite of the character.
-First Castlevania to use the “crumbling bridge” set piece present in a lot of the Castlevania game
-Created in a mere six months!
Incredibly difficult, but still a blast to play- Haunted Castle is the Castlevania entry that needs more attention! If you are a classic fan of Castlevania, then you simply can’t pass this one up! The game is available on the PS4, so make sure to get it if you can! I just hope your really good, or that you know how to use save states, because you’re defiantly going to need some help to get though one of the hardest games in this classic franchise!
Agree? Disagree? Good! Leave a comment about how terrible my taste is in the comments below!