Also available on Game Boy Color and 3DS via Virtual Console
The Castlevania Adventure gets a bad rap, and it's really not nearly as bad as folks make it out to be. It's got its flaws, for sure, and I'll address those, but for a game from 1989 on the original Game Boy and one of the system's first games, I thought it was really quite good, and aside from some frustration, I thoroughly enjoyed my time playing it.
Castlevania Adventure is a prequel to the original Castlevania and sequel to Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse. The game's protagonist is Christopher Belmont, the member of the Belmont Clan who faced Dracula in the 16th Century - 100 years after Trevor Belmont but 100 years before Simon Belmont. Unfortunately, the folks at Konami's American office didn't know what they were doing and put Simon's name both on the box and in the manual, leading to a ton of confusion when Castlevania Adventure II: Belmont's Revenge came out a few years later and suddenly started talking about some dude named Christopher.
As I said, I don't think this game deserves a lot of the harsh criticism it gets from players these days, but there are some definite flaws. It takes him FOREVER to get anywhere, and you can forget about outrunning enemies. He also drops like a rock after he jumps. If you've played the first Castlevania NES, you know that Simon got a little bit of air before he landed. I guess Christopher ate a hearty diet of lead because he drops faster than my bank balance when a new Nintendo console launches. In sharp contrast to his supersonic drop, his gait is downright glacial. Christopher moves about as quickly as a continental shelf. His slow speed and rapid descent in and of themselves didn't bother me, but it made stage 3 excruciating to get through. In stage 3, you spend the majority of the level jumping from rope to rope and making pixel perfect jumps. All this while you're being pursued by a spike wall that moves just a little too fast for comfort. You pretty much have to climb the rope to the top to be able to make your jumps with how fast he falls, but remember that he moves really slowly, but ALSO REMEMBER that there's a massive wall of instagib spikes rapidly closing in on you. It's extremely stressful and indescribably frustrating and really the low point of the entire game.
Now that I've discussed the game's major flaws and why most of the Castlevania fandom seems to despise it, let's take a look at what the game does right and why I, personally, really enjoyed it. The game is broken into four stages, and as I've already said, stage 3 sucks ass. The first two stages, however, are a lot of fun, and aside from the normal frustration that comes with Castlevania games, I had an absolute blast playing them. Yeah, Christopher's slow as molasses in an igloo, but that's okay (when you're not trying to outrun homicidal spike walls). Stage 4, being the last stage and the one in which you fight Dracula, is obviously a very challenging stage, but it didn't feel as maliciously sadistic and almost unfair as stage 3 did. It'll frustrate you, for sure, but it's still fun to play. One thing that I think is important to note is that the game doesn't try to do too much. I'm sure you've all played a game that had some great ideas but just did too much either for the hardware or the controls to really facilitate properly. Castlevania Adventure didn't do that. With a D pad and two buttons on a handheld system that already isn't particularly powerful, they didn't needlessly complicate things; they kept it simple by removing subweapons and hearts. Some folks are going to be disappointed by that, sure, but keep in mind that this was not only the first Castlevania game on a handheld but one of the first third party games on the Game Boy; it's more important to get the core gameplay right than to do too much and screw it up, and I think given the game's slow pace, less is more.
Don't let the internet fool you; the Castlevania Adventure isn't nearly as bad as folks make it out to be. It's far from perfect, but at the end of the day, for what it is and when it was made, it's a good, competent Castlevania experience. The movement is slow, and Christopher falls too fast, but all things considered, I thought the game controlled pretty well. Given the Game Boy's limitations and the fact that this game came out just six months into the system's life, I think Konami made a fantastic first effort here. It may not have aged well, but that doesn't mean that it can't still be an enjoyable experience if you can put it in the context of 1989.
My Rating - 4 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.