Castlevania for Nintendo 64 (I don't care what Konami officially named it; it's Castlevania 64) is a game that I convinced Colin to order when he was drunk. Colin didn't have a Nintendo 64, however - a fact he realized once he'd sobered up. In a massive cargo container full of other games and Gundam DVDs and such, he decided to give the game (which was complete in box, I might add) to me. Naturally, since I kind of convinced him to buy it in the first place, I had to play it.
This is the first 3D Castlevania game, and while it's competent enough for a first venture into 3D, it hasn't aged particularly well. The visuals are okay but a bit muddied even by N64 standards, and the controls aren't exactly precise. It's all perfectly playable, but it's apparent that it was a relatively early effort on the system. The prequel, Legacy of the Darkness, that was released later, takes advantage of the RAM to use higher resolution textures, which I imagine would make a big difference in terms of how well the game has aged. In terms of genre, it's what you'd expect from Castlevania - an adventure platformer but in 3D. The game features two characters, and I played as Reinhardt Schneider, a descendant of the Belmont Clan and heir to the Vampire Killer whip. Needless to say, his quest is to defeat Dracula and fulfill his family's destiny for the next 100 years. Little known fact - Raccoon City was actually in Transylvania, and before the Umbrella Corporation acquired the mansion, it served as Dracula's castle. Like legit, the Villa level looks so much like the mansion in the original Resident Evil that there's no way it was just a coincidence. I liked that, though, because Resident Evil had one of the greatest settings in survival horror history. Over the course of your quest, you find that Dracula has quite the troupe of vampires in his castle, and you'll have to deal with them quickly or else suffer vampirism which will kill you after a few minutes. It's a cool albeit at times frustrating feature.
The music is fairly mediocre - nothing bad but nothing impressive - but the voice acting, while sparse, is pretty impressive for the Nintendo 64 where it is featured. A cartridge with far more limited capacity than its CD counterparts isn't exactly known for featuring robust voice acting, but there actually were a couple of bits of voice acting, and it was pretty impressive. The general sound effects were also well done, giving the game a distinctly creepy but not "horror" atmosphere; you could definitely tell that you were in a place not meant for humans, but it didn't go so far as to give the legitimately scary vibe of Resident Evil, and I think that's an important tone balance to strike for Castlevania.
The most frustrating part of Castlevania 64 isn't the difficulty but WHY it's difficult. It's not difficult for the same reasons as Super Castlevania IV, for example - that game was hard because it required a lot of memorization and careful jumps. This game, on the other hand, is difficult because of imperfect controls and questionable design choices. Some of the platforming segments require almost pixel perfect precision in a game with imprecise controls and a low resolution making that kind of precision extremely difficult. There are also a couple of segments that just seem overly convoluted to me - get from one end of a stage all the way to the other while carrying a chemical that will explode and instantly kill you if you jump or take a single hit anywhere along the way with several sections that require extreme precision while avoiding enemy attacks along the way. There are climbing parts where you have to jump and climb various ledges with instant death water below, but it's sometimes rather hit or miss whether or not Reinhardt actually grabs the ledge or just plummets. I know that Castlevania games have a legacy for being difficult, but this seemed less like good design challenge and more iffy design.
Overall, I did enjoy Castlevania 64, but it was definitely more frustrating than I think it needed to be and for the wrong reasons. The visuals are about par for an early N64 game going for a realistic art style, but the controls really left a lot to be desired. I'd be interesting in playing Legacy of Darkness to see where Konami improved from this first attempt, but there was definitely some room for improvement here. Given that, from my understanding, Legacy of Darkness includes this original with the improvements, I'd recommend folks skip this one (unless you find it dirt cheap) and go straight for that.
My Rating - 3 Neps
I'm a teacher.
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach high school history; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.