Also available on Wii and Wii U via Virtual Console
Super Castlevania IV was not only the first Castlevania game to be released on Nintendo's 16-bit console but also a full remake of the original Castlevania, relling the story of Simon Belmont's journey into Dracula's castle to slay the vampire lord and save 17th Century Transylvania. Konami held nothing back with this game, making full use of the Super Nintendo's horsepower to deliver a truly incredible game that took the high standard they set for themselves with Castlevania III and raised it even higher.
Right off the bat, it's clear that Konami's team put a lot of TLC into Castlevania IV. The controls feel better and tighter than the NES games' ever did, the music is top notch, and the visuals are phenomenal. The isn't just a straight remake of the original Castlevania, though. While it does retell the events of the game and base a lot of its levels on the first game, there are several completely new levels. For instance, in the first game, you started off right there in Dracula's castle, but you start this game outside, fighting your way through the horde of eldritch horrors to get to the castle. The same goes for the soundtrack; the game's music is a mix of 16-bit renditions of music from the NES games as well as completely original tracks created for Castlevania IV. The whole game just has a fantastic presentation.
Konami thankfully kept the format of the game the same as the original - linear action platforming. Like the original, falling deaths are going to be a common thing for you - especially on the last two stages - but the game is a lot more forgiving with the landings for your jumps than the NES games were. In the games on NES, your jumps had to be pretty much pixel perfect, and while there are some jumps here that require precision, you're not often going to see Simon's foot go through part of the floor on the edge of a platform. It sounds like a small thing, but that little bit of leeway prevented a LOT of deaths in my playthrough. That will not, however, protect you from the flying Medusa heads and bats that make a return here and live for the sole purpose of knocking you off platforms at every available opportunity. The Medusa heads seem a bit harder to dodge here than in the original game because they're patterns aren't quite as exact, but they also seem easier to hit, so it balances out.
While it's true that Konami made good use of the Super Nintendo's capabilities, including some fantastic use of parallax scrolling and some truly impressive Mode 7 functions, they did so at the expense of some performance. While most of the game runs extremely smoothly, when there's a lot going on or heavy use of Mode 7 features, the game suffers from significant slowdown. This doesn't ruin gameplay, per se, but it's severe enough that it can break your rhythm if you don't expect it. It's a shame, too, because the visual effects used are incredible, especially for 1991, and the game is nearly flawless otherwise. Also, as seen below, apparently Colonel Sanders' angry wraith haunts Dracula's castle. Still not sure what that's about.
Super Castlevania IV is not without its flaws, but it still remains an exemplar of what a 16-bit adventure game should be. The controls are solid, the level design is superb, and the visual and musical presentation are almost unrivaled in the fourth console generation, at least from my experience. This game is nothing short of a masterpiece, and while there are some disappointing performance issues where some of the more graphically intensive effects come into play, that does not detract from incredible overall product. It's not a particularly cheap game, it's not nearly as expensive as some Super Nintendo games these days, and it's absolutely worth every penny. This is a must for Castlevania fans and SNES collectors. Even more casual gamers are doing themselves a disservice by not at least downloading the Virtual Console release on Wii or Wii U.
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.