Also available on 3DS, Wii, and Wii U via Virtual Console and Windows
Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse is a great example of a company looking at what worked and what didn't work in the past and using that information to make a better product. Castlevania III went back to the action-adventure format of the first game and fixed almost all of my complaints with the original title. Not only that but it adds branching paths and multiple optional playable character, giving the game some significant replay value.
This return to first game's format makes it an infinitely more enjoyable experience for me than Simon's Quest. A couple times throughout the game, you'll have a choice to make with regards to your path. There's one "straight" path to Dracula, but taking some of the side paths can get you other playable character. In addition to the game's protagonist, Trever Belmont, there are three other playable characters - Sylpha Belnades, a priestess on a secret mission to infiltrate Dracula's castle; Grant Danasty, a rebel from Wallachia who tried to raise an army to overthrow Count Dracula; and Alucard, Dracula's son who changed his name to Alucard (Dracula backwards) to show that he opposed his father's evil and tyrannical way of life. Each of these character have a unique style of play that give the game a different feel.
Castlevania III is a prequel to the original game, taking place roughly 200 years before the events of the first game. In the 15th Century, Dracula's demon armies have begun ravaging Europe, and the Church has no choice but to turn to Trevor Belmont, the head of the Belmont Clan and wielder of the Vampire Killer whip at that time, for help. The Belmonts had previously been banished from Wallachia as the people feared their super-human strength, but "the enemy of my enemy is my friend," as they say, and Dracula was a much bigger threat to the people of Wallachia than the Belmonts.
While graphically very similar to the first Castlevania game, Castlevania III brilliantly outshines its predecessors in every other regard. The music is top-notch, keeping the action going and mood consistent the entire time. My two big complaints with the first game - the slowdown and apparent ability of enemies to past through supposedly solid walls - have both been addressed to one extent or another. There's still some slowdown, and it's still irksome, but it isn't NEARLY as bad as that of the first game, and that significant improvement makes a huge difference. As for my gripes with the enemies, that's been fixed, too. The Medusa heads still bob up and down through the floor, but their movements make it clear that it's intended for them to do that; the other enemies that seemed to pass through walls and floors unintentionally never did so, at least not during my playthrough.
Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse feels very much like the ambitions of the first game fully realized. It's clear that Konami's team was much more comfortable with the NES hardware by this point as the performance is significantly improved over the first game. Minimal slowdown, fewer enemy glitches, and overall better level design make this a superior game in every way. Multiple playable characters and branching paths give the game a high amount of replay value, and the near-perfect soundtrack is the just the icing on the cake. This is definitely a magnum opus of 8-bit gaming, and it's no surprise that Netflix chose this game as the basis for its Castlevania series.
My Rating - 5 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.