Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse (Akumajō Densetsu) – The Perennial Favorite – IMPLANTgames

Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse (Akumajō Densetsu) – The Perennial Favorite – IMPLANTgames


Jump and whip.
This was the foundation of the Castlevania
franchise.
The two core gameplay elements which defined
the series.
If one took away the music, graphics, and
horror movie themes, it would still be easy
to identify a Castlevania game thanks to the
underlying mechanics.
I wonder what would happen if these two Castlevania
pillars were fundamentally changed…
Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse is the
final chapter of the NES trilogy, and a return
to form.
While the second game experimented with a
large connected overworld, RPG elements, and
a vastly expanded item set, Dracula’s Curse
is a more traditional Castlevania experience.
It would be years before Castlevania would
expand upon the ideas presented in the second
game.
However, Castlevania III still experiments
with new features.
First is branching paths.
At various points in the adventure, the player
is given the choice to take a lower path,
or upper path, each featuring different stages.
These paths all eventually converge, but it
does add replayability and variety to the
experience.
And unlike a 3D Sonic game… one doesn’t
have to replay the game multiple times to
unlock a true final boss, which is nice.
More importantly, these different paths feature
different side characters.
Trevor Belmont controls exactly the same as
Simon as best as I can tell, from jumping
to whipping.
Even the sub-weapons are the same, lacking
any additions.
However, while Trevor is old hat, the three
new characters are anything but.
Upon beating certain bosses, the player will
have the chance to let one of the characters
join the party.
Once joined, the player can switch between
Trevor and the ally at any time with the touch
of a button.
Sypha introduces new magic to the game, with
a flame spell, homing ball spell, and a freeze
spell… that I never used on my recorded
run.
It can also be used to freeze water which
is neat, I guess, but mostly useless.
The flame spell is alright, but isn’t really
better than the whip.
The homing orbs are game breaking though,
eliminating the players need to aim while
dishing out some impressive damage.
Alucard’s gimmick is his ability to turn
into a bat and fly, which does use up hearts.
This allows the player to fly past certain
obstacles and short cut through some areas.
The trade off is Alucard doesn’t have access
to sub-weapons, except the stop watch.
He does have a projectile attack though, which
fires in three directions once fully upgraded,
but it lacks the damage output of the whip.
Lastly, there is Grant.
He moves noticeably faster than the other
three characters, he can change directions
in the air, his jump is higher, and he can
climb up walls and ceilings.
His primary weapon is also the throwing dagger,
in the Japanese release anyway.
He even has access to sub weapons, so one
could have a throwing dagger, and the ax,
which is a powerful combination.
Or I guess one could ignore all of the alternate
characters if they so choose.
As I play Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse,
I can’t help but think about how these characters
change the core gameplay, and wonder if the
developers considered all the possibilities
these new characters brought to the table.
From boss interactions to platforming, Castlevania
III is a often a much different experience
than its predecessors.
Another major change is the verticality.
The original Castlevania was a side-scrolling
affair through and through.
For the most part, the stairs were merely
used as a screen transition.
Castlevania II is a different beast.
The towns and mansions scroll in all directions,
and stairs are no longer just a screen transition,
but a more integral part of the experience.
Unfortunately, Simon walks up stairs extremely
slow, and there were rarely any obstacles
to contend with, so these segments felt a
slow and boring, breaking up the pace of the
game.
In retrospect, I rather appreciate how the
first game handled them, as screen transitions,
rather than the main component of the stages.
In Castlevania III, the vertical elements
are vastly improved over Simon’s Quest.
Trevor moves at the same speed on stairs,
but enemies are actually designed around these
moments so level pacing remains in tact.
Even better, stairs aren’t always the focus
of the vertical sections anyway.
In the first level is a long trek up a tower,
and half the time, the player is required
to jump to make progress, rather than just
march up the stairs.
It is a good teaching moment too, letting
the player see exactly how far, and high,
Trevor can jump, information which will be
crucial later on.
As the player ventures closer to Dracula’s
tower, these vertical sections turn into auto-scrolling
sections.
Sometimes upwards, and sometimes downwards.
These moments can be tough, with the player
expected to deal with difficult enemy patterns
while on stairs, and make accurate jumps,
all while the screen slowly moves, forcing
quick decisions.
It is a stark contrast to Castlevania II…
which never seemed to utilize the vertical
movements in meaningful, or engaging ways.
Dracula’s Curse also marks a return of a
superb presentation.
The tile works is truly exceptional.
Despite limited cartridge space, memory limitations,
and color limitations, the artist managed
to craft a vibrant and detailed world.
I was struck by the swamp stage, not only
by the excellent color usage, but the decaying
trees in the background.
Even with limited information on the screen,
it is clearly communicated to the player exactly
what the environment is.
The caves are another awesome area.
Despite there being just a single background
layer, there is still depth.
The far background is blue and details are
small.
And then there is a closer layer, with a different
color pallette and the rocks more easily defined.
It gives the scene extra depth, and represents
a level of artistry not often found on the
hardware.
And as this game takes place in the 1400’s,
there is plenty of brick.
And again, the artists at Konami managed to
take this simple building material and make
it visually interesting.
Be it large bricks, small bricks, background
bricks, round bricks, the environments feel
natural and realistic, rather than feeling
like a grid of basic tiles.
There are plenty of organic elements as well.
Water plays a much more prevalent role in
Castlevania III compared to its predecessors.
There are plenty of waterfalls for example,
and they are significantly more interesting
than those found in Simon’s Quest.
This is a simple effects, just alternating
colors to simulate movement, but little touches
like this go a long way in the overall level
of polish presented.
The sprite work is also terrific.
I love the monsters in the swamp.
Thanks to clever animation and color shifting,
they actually look like they are dripping
with mud.
Or these headless monsters.
Despite their small size, compared to a boss,
it is easy to make out exactly what the creature
is.
The level of details is at times, truly stunning,
and Castlevania III contains some of the best
pixel art I’ve seen on the hardware.
My only complaint would be the slowdown.
At times, Dracula’s Curse chugs along.
While one could say this is proof the game
is pushing the hardware to the limits, I would
say the game is pushing the hardware past
the limits.
The result is extremely sluggish gameplay
pulling the player out of the experience.
I feel some restraint should have been exercised
to keep the gameplay smooth.
The excellent presentation continues with
the soundtrack.
I should preface by noting I am playing the
Japanese version.
I chose this version primarily because the
Famicom cartridge includes the Konami VRC6
memory mapper chip, which includes additional
sound hardware adding three channels of sound
to the stock hardware.
Unfortunately the NES does not support audio
expansion through the cartridge slot, so the
soundtrack was reworked for the Western release.
Anyway, my lack of familiarity with the Western
release prevents me from making a determination
on which soundtrack is superior.
But having been an NES fan for my entire life,
I was excited to hear something completely
different coming from the hardware, and thus
I purchased the Famicom cart.
And wow, the audio team at Konami did not
disappoint.
Not only do the three extra sound channels
allow for extra complexity not available on
the stock hardware, but the channels were
put to good use with some absolutely stunning
compositions.
‘Beginning’ is an epic tune and an amazing
way to kick off the adventure.
The opening is loud and intense, much like
the game, and then segues into the verse with
some rich piano notes harkening back to the
monster movie roots the game was based upon.
They build into an epic chorus, with an extremely
sinister beginning, while ending with what
can be described as a guitar solo.
Something which would sound right at home
in a TSO concert.
The energy found within in this track is contagious,
and the piece easily stand shoulder to shoulder
with ‘Vampire Killer’ and ‘Bloody Tears.’
‘Clockwork’ was another stand out track
for me.
First, it sounds like an organ.
The instrument choice is excellent as it fits
the time period for which the game takes place,
and is also a classic instrument often used
in horror movies from which the game takes
clear inspiration.
Second, the mechanical nature of the clock
tower mirrors the technical marvel that is
a classic organ.
I don’t want to take anything away from
the composition though.
The crunchy base blends perfectly with high
pitched notes to create something which sounds
both organic, and mechanical.
The way the notes climb in pitch perfectly
matches the vertical nature of the stage,
and the track stayed with me longer after
putting the controller down.
‘Mad Forest’ is another that struck me
with each play-through.
The opening is dark and heavy, and sets the
perfect mood for a forest which begins with
a dilapidated building containing crushing
spikes.
Again, the piano and organ motifs lend a rich
gothic feel which permeates the entire game.
The structure continues the trend of a verse
building towards an epic chorus packed with
energy.
The additional sound channels are also utilized
perfectly here, with a layer of depth I’ve
not experienced on the hardware.
The track manages to sound menacing, haunting,
and suspenseful all at the same time, and
really sets the tone for Trevor’s quest
towards Count Dracula.
Lastly, there is ‘Anxiety.’
While I’ve highlighted three tracks with
a lot fast pacing and high energy, Anxiety
is the complete opposite.
It is slow, the notes linger on for what feels
like forever, and the chorus is filled with
an overwhelming sadness.
Considering this track plays on a haunted
ship which appears out of nowhere, one would
have to conclude the ship is haunted.
And the music captures the feeling perfectly.
Castlevania III contains many more memorable
tracks and as a whole, nearly every one of
them is amazing.
Like the first game, the composers matched
the music to the environments and moods the
protagonist is experiencing, giving the game
a cinematic quality.
On paper, Castlevania III is a terrific game
featuring great production values including
excellent graphics and an amazing soundtrack,
and added variety from multiple playable characters.
However, these elements alone don’t make
for a great game.
Yet again I must reference the infamous Sonic
’06, which features excellent visuals with
true 720p running at 60 FPS and a stunning
soundtrack, with a whopping 9 playable characters.
Yet that game is… not good.
Needless to say, I find the checklist style
of reviewing to be an inadequate way to determine
a game’s quality.
Instead, I find the most important aspect
of a game are the interactive bits, the elements
other forms of entertainment cannot replicate:
the gameplay.
First, the opening level in Castlevania III
is excellent.
The first section contains no enemies, allowing
one to quickly acclimate with the control
scheme, jumping, and stair climbing.
It is simple for sure, but I appreciate these
brief moments letting a player get up to speed
without tutorials or text boxes.
I also like the item placement.
The first sub-weapon offered is the dagger,
which just so happens to be an excellent weapon
to use against the bats, offering observant
players a safe way to take down these enemies.
The stage also features these flippable platforms.
Nothing happens when standing on one, but
if the player jumps, or gets knocked back
into one, they flip and Trevor falls through.
The first few have platforms underneath as
well, so a player isn’t killed before figuring
them out.
The practice is a welcome addition, as these
obstacles are featured later on in the adventure.
Their introduction, and the progression later
on, are excellent and well designed.
While not exclusive to the first level, now
is probably a good time to point out the double
and triple shots.
Some viewers pointed out using the sub-weapons
on enemies and candles 10 times will cause
candles or enemies to drop double, and later,
triple shots.
This is fairly easy to pull off in stage 1,
with an abundance of candles and easy enemies
to wrack up hits on.
Despite the stage not normally containing
a triple shot, I was able to reach the boss
of the stage with Holy Water and a triple
shot, allowing me to drop three holy waters
at a time, and quickly decimate the boss.
There were two other areas where I found this
trick invaluable as well.
Death is another beast of a boss, but it cannot
be cheesed like the first game thanks to a
different platform structure.
I found grinding candles with the Axe throughout
the level, to ultimately turn the double shot
into a triple shot, to be the easiest way
to dispatch this devilish foe.
Lastly, is the final boss.
The final area before Dracula contains the
cross, and thanks to the stairs, one can grind
candles for hearts by going up and down them.
Using the Cross to break the candles, will
eventually reward the player with the double
shot, and triple shot, which makes the final
boss encounters significantly easier.
Moving past the first stage however, and Castlevania
III is far more inconsistent.
The difficulty, pacing, and level length varies
wildly from beginning to end.
Easy levels follow difficult areas.
Sometimes the ideal weapon is available, sometimes
it is not.
Never in a game have I suicided so often so
I could just start over to obtain the correct
weapon or multi-shots.
And there is some serious balance issues with
the side-characters.
First, Alucard feels under utilized.
His weapon is so awful there seems to be no
reason to even try to use him.
The whip is just better.
The flying is interesting, and I guess is
a counter balance to the nerfed weapon, but
I honestly rarely used him, just to skip a
few obvious sections here and there.
About the only time I found having him as
a side character engaging, was in stage 7.
In the middle of the level is a mid-boss,
something the game occasionally throws at
the player, which can suck up a lot of hearts
to defeat.
The section after this, is an obnoxious block
falling segment, which can be bypassed with
Alucard’s bat power.
However, one has to make sure they have enough
hearts, to actually make the trek up.
I found it fun to make sure I was stocking
up on all available hearts, to make sure I
had enough to get through both of these obstacles.
However, outside of this, there was no resource
management needed.
Just switch to Alucard, engage the bat for
a few seconds, and then switch back.
While I rarely used Alucard, Sypha was more
useful.
Well, her energy orb attack is anyway.
It costs just a single heart to use, launches
three enemy seaking projectiles, and the orbs
do massive damage.
Against Medusa here, one orb will do three
hits of damage.
Against the final form of the final boss,
it does two damage.
Do the math… and one can see how devastating
this is.
However, it doesn’t feel balanced.
The massive damage, ease of use, and efficient
heart cost, feels game breaking.
And in most cases, it absolutely is.
Last but not least, is Grant.
While I rarely used Alucard, and occasionally
used Sypha, Grant is a character one can use
for a majority of the game.
His wall and ceiling climbing abilities allow
the same types of shortcuts as Alucard, but
doesn’t require hearts to use.
However, his primary weapon is game breaking,
especially on bosses.
There are so many instances where Grant can
just sit on the screen launching daggers and
completely cheese a boss.
While I can only speculate, I hope the throwing
daggers were removed from the Western release
as a way to balance out the character.
He is seriously overpowered.
On the flip side, I did enjoy him on vertical
sections.
His taller jump allowed obstacles to be tackled
and jumped over in a completely different
way.
My only complaint is with how his climbing
actually works.
It is a bit finicky and climbing around corners
can be janky.
On a few occasions, Grant never made the transition
and promptly died.
And this leads to my another complaint with
Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse.
The game is at times, incredibly cheap.
For whatever reason, the designers loved to
have an enemy appear as soon as a screen loads.
This means cheap hits on the player.
The platforms don’t always match Trevor’s
fixed arc jump, like against this boss fight
against the Bats.
This gear on stage 2 is a real pain, and the
medusa head always seems to dive down at the
perfect angle to knock the player into a bottomless
pit.
Collision detection often doesn’t make any
sense.
For whatever reason I could not register a
hit on this Frankenstein’s monster encounter
with the whip.
Though I had no issues whatsoever with the
ax.
On a different path, the encounter includes
a platform which places the whip at the perfect
height, and it always registers a hit.
Why?
These inconsistency drives me nuts.
Checkpoints are another oddity.
Generally speaking, in a hard game, checkpoints
are placed after a tough section.
Once a player finally overcomes an obstacle
they are rewarded, and don’t have to repeat
it again.
However Castlevania III doesn’t always follow
this.
There are a few roadblocks that will likely
trip up new players.
On the bottom path, stage 6 has a baffling
checkpoint.
After dying on the boss, players are reset
to this screen.
As Trevor respawns with the leather whip,
which has a short reach, the player is vastly
overmatched by this Red Skeleton, who has
a long whip.
It feels like the checkpoint should have been
on the next screen, where a player lacking
any upgrades has a fair shot at success.
Level 7 is another road block.
This stage is loooooong.
There are these acid drip screens.
And brick drop areas.
A sub boss.
The vertical flight area.
A collapsing platform medussa head area.
A vertical scrolling section.
And a final boss, with three different segments.
This was absolutely brutal on my first playthrough,
and I must have spent hours on this thing,
getting a little farther each time, just to
get hosed by falling blocks, taking damage
while going up stairs, being surprised by
enemies attacking as soon as one enters the
screen, and by what is perhaps the most difficult
vertical scrolling stage found in the game.
The level is absolutely brutal, and would
feel more at place as a final stage.
But nope, there are still three stages to
go.
It is bizarre and feels out of place.
This jump here requires pixel perfect precision,
with Trevor halfway off the platform before
jumping, to land on this see-saw thing.
Again, I suspect this was a life suck for
many first time players back in the day.
Most of the platforming in Castlevania III
is fine, but stuff like this just feels way
out of place.
Also feeling out of place are these acid drop
sections.
The player is tasked with just sitting there,
doing nothing, until the blocks disappear
revealing the path forward.
There is no strategy here, nothing difficult
about it, it is just a time waster, and a
pace breaker.
Finally, there are the bosses.
These will either be incredibly easy depending
on the platforms provided, or incredibly frustrating.
And of course, if one has Sypha with her electric
orbs, or Grant, virtually all of them are
easy.
Some bosses, like the this hammer wielding
guy are decent with Trevor.
One has to pay attention to the boss’s actions.
If he stops and moves his legs, he is about
to charge.
If not, it is safe to jump and whip.
Good stuff.
This flying demon thing is also decent.
He does three short hops, and then a long
hop, which is the time to run underneath.
If I lost track of the count, I would often
die.
But it felt fair, and the pattern was easy
enough to learn.
Others, aren’t engaging at all.
The mummies are easy.
Just whip high for the first one.
Then kneel and whip low for the second one.
Yawn.
Alucard, before he joins the team, is also
easy.
Throw an axe, whip the projectiles, repeat.
The difficulty, fairness, and challenge, are
all over the map and adds to the inconsistent
feeling.
Now I understand my critiques will be a surprise
for many.
Castlevania III is often heralded as the best
of the classic trilogy, and one of the best
games available for the Nintendo Entertainment
System.
However, I feel like the cheapness and inconsistencies
are often glossed over and accepted as 8-bit
hard.
I reject this notion NES games are somehow
exempt from critique.
With that said, there are some great moments
in Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse.
For one.
I do enjoy how useful the subweapons are.
I found myself using subweapons far more frequently
in this game than the previous two.
The amount of enemy patterns requiring different
techniques is awesome, and many moments in
Castlevania III are engaging and action packed.
The exact kind of twitchy action one looks
for when revisisting 8-bit action titles.
And I can’t stress enough how good some
of the vertical auto-scrolling segments are.
Timing jumps, keeping one’s eye on multiple
enemies, figuring out when to attack and when
to dodge enemies, all within strict time limits,
is a rush.
Unlimited continues are again a God send,
and while I hate to beat a dead horse, it
is worth repeating some of the most difficult
NES games feature unlimited continues.
So when games released much later fail to
adhere to an established, and correct, design
standard, I find it unacceptable.
Like Simon’s Quest, Dracula’s Curse also
features a password save allowing one to pick
up where they left off, if they need to take
a break.
Overall, I can’t help but feel like something
is lacking from the overall experience.
Some checkpoints are forgiving, others are
cruel.
The difficulty of the stage order is bizarre.
Some boss encounters are a cake walk, others
maddening.
It makes for a poor game pace.
For every moment where the classic Castlevania
flow is alive and well, where enemy patterns
are well timed, and skill is needed for progression,
there an equal amount of frustrating moments,
and others lacking any sort of engagement
at all.
The defining jump and whip gameplay is strangely…
absent.
Instead Castlevania III is filled with ideas
that are never fully realized.
The extra abilities offered by the new characters
feel tacked on, and the level design rarely
takes these abilities into account.
Challenges are bypassed, bosses are cheesed.
There is no longer a defining gameplay element,
or a cohesive design theme.
Castlevania III doesn’t feel tight and meticulous,
but rather, unfocused, and inconsistent.

90 thoughts on “Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse (Akumajō Densetsu) – The Perennial Favorite – IMPLANTgames”

  1. Another great entry in the Castlevania saga…

    My first Castle-game… so many years ago…

    It was an epic adventure… so difficult but so enjoyable…

    Thanks once again for you effort :)…

    It's always a pleasure to watch your job ':^)

    Never give up!!!

  2. It's the NES. There are so many games on there that don't even do anything worthwhile and still run like junk – it's really difficult to determine whether a slowdown is down to pushing the hardware that hard, or whether that's just a quality issue. That being said, it's not that different on last-gen and modern consoles either, is it.

  3. The character re-balancing is definitely one of the reasons I prefer the international release. Grant is less overwhelming without the throwing dagger and even Sypha is indirectly toned down due to the reduced frequency of ice and lightning magic drops. Sadly, there's no "decent Alucard" version.

    Even with one lousy character, however, this is still my favorite of the series. I love it for its variety, pizzazz, and sheer brutality.

  4. They did change Grants dagger in the NES version, but once you learn to use it, it's even more broken then the throwing dagger.

  5. I was totally looking forward to this review since you posted the notice last week. Great job! Hands down one of my favorite games from my favorite game series. Hell, I even own a Dracula’s Curse t-shirt with the box art on front.

  6. Excellent review of a childhood favorite of mine. Extremely professionally done, quality video. A true benchmark for video game reviews.

  7. I hated the death Tetris segments as a child, how orange everything was, and how difficult stairs were to “catch.” Stairs are fixed in Castlevania IV. Much more manageable difficulty.

  8. Dracula’s Curse is a great game, even though I’ve never played it before on the NES. Not as good as the original Castlevania, but a marked improvement over Simon’s Quest – especially the new characters to work with! Another exceptional video to watch after a long day.

  9. A lot of the bosses are better in the western version; in the cited Spirit battle for example, the mummies' bandages have their wavy trajectory so you can't dodge them by just crouching and whipping in place, while the Cyclops will walk under platforms so he can't be avoided by just standing on them, and the Leviathan shoots three much larger fireballs. The difficulty is additionally more levelled out as it uses the "all enemies deal the same damage based on the point of the game" system, though some may not like how difficult the final few levels can get.

    As for Alucard, a vital ability his bat transformation grants that wasn't covered is that you can switch to Alucard and transform into a bat at any time, even if you're in knockback after being hit. Thus you can use Alucard to save you if you got hit into a pit or mistimed a jump, a very big boon he grants you over Sypha and Grant. In fact because of that and his ability to skip any difficult/tedious platforming section for a meager heart cost, I think he is the most useful partner for someone good enough to handle the combat with Trevor; Sypha's extra combat edge with her spells is mostly excessive if you're good at the game, and Grant is decidedly inferior in combat to Trevor and can't skip as much as Alucard while being just as helpless in knockback as Trevor/Sypha are. Because of that, even though he is definitely the weakest character on his own, Alucard is my preferred partner, especially if I'm tackling the NES version's hard mode, where being able to use him as a Stopwatch holder also becomes relevant.

    For one more note regarding your difficulty with the Frankenstein's Monster, you don't need to whip his head to hurt him, hitting him anywhere hurts him, so you were making it a lot more difficult on yourself than it had to be. As long as you get to the fight with enough health to take more than a couple hits, he is pretty easy and you can beat him by just mashing it out with him.

  10. The Japanese version is actually generally seen as the easier version.
    The international version is generally harder, the enemies hit harder, the player characters are nerfed and you have less health.

    The international version also has no battery back up, just a password if i recall correctly.

  11. I said it once, I'll say it again… You and gaming historian are the absolute best…

    Also…focusing on aspects of gaming other forms of entertainment cannot replicate- awesome point, especially for those who are obssessed with graphics and visuals…

  12. I don’t think you’re really wrong about anything here but I still find this game to be more fun to play than the first. I’d go so far as to say it’s my second favourite NES game. Though given I’d call Fire Emblem 2 my favourite I might be the problem here.

  13. Great review on an overall excellent NES game. I played the Japanese one too, but would like to own the US one, along with SOTN. I don't remember too much about it from when I played it, so I can't comment further.
    Have a great Thanksgiving!

  14. You're gonna love Rondo of Blood once you get round to it. It's incredible if you love classic castlevania. It has everything good about the NES games but with so many tiny subtle improvements that add up to it feeling the most smooth and responsive castlevania game. And you don't die when you fall in pits, you just enter different levels. There seems to be dozens of different secret full length levels, and so every playthrough is very different. And the super attacks are very useful.

  15. As always: great content! I like how one can watch your videos, disagree with your conclusion but appreciate your criticism nontheless. That shows how good you are in not only analysing but also in expressing / reflecting your thoughts!

  16. Mmmmm, minor essay time!

    You make a lot of great points in this video. I think it's fair to label the game as inconsistent, but I personally see it the other way around. It's a package that offers a lot of flexibility and options. Feel like breaking the game? Then by all means go for it, skipping those difficult sections with Alucard or Grant. Or you can instead take the risk and play out those hard parts normally. You're welcome to cheese the Doppleganger with Sypha's ball spell, or you can try to figure out a riskier pattern with Trevor instead. Are you up for an even greater challenge? Then try the second loop.. or don't, it doesn't really matter, the option is at least there.

    Castlevania III isn't the same kind of tightly knit romp you get with Castlevania Bloodlines or even the original Castlevania, but what it lacks there I feel it more than makes up for in variety. It's the all-you-can-eat buffet of Castlevania games! Eat a lot, or eat very little, it's up to you.

    I do think Castlevania III is the kind of game that gets better with time and experience. It has a very high skill ceiling cap compared to the others in the series, and so while it can still appeal to newer players, it has an absurd amount of longevity for more experienced players seeking a greater challenge.

    You mentioned not being familiar with the regional differences, so I'll try to shed some light on that. I personally find the Western release more interesting from a gameplay standpoint, thanks to these changes:

    – There were hitbox tweaks, a good example being the first skeleton boss. In the Japanese version you can't whack his head, but in the NA version you can.
    This means you can sit and duck on the rightmost platform in the NA version and actually connect with your whip.
    – The mummy projectiles weave up and down in the NA version, much like the original Castlevania, making them more difficult to deal with.

    – The rightmost blocks on the Cyclopes fights are filled in on the Japanese version. They are not in the NA version, allowing the Cyclopes to walk through them. This requires you to jump back over the Cyclopes and deal with his running motions much more often, and this makes the fight much more tense.

    – Enemies appear in more locations in the NA version.

    – Bone pillars shoot faster in the NA version, making that vertical stretch in the red tower much more difficult.

    – Loop 2 is significantly more difficult in the NA version, replacing medusa heads with these bouncing skulls that bob up and down randomly and are extremely tough to deal with. A select few enemies are beefier and harder to deal with, and there are more enemies overall.

    – You take more damage in the NA version. For example, on the final stage, a single hit will take five blocks of health. In the Japanese version, it's four.
    – Grant's unlimited dagger has been removed and now has a short-range knife making close combat more challenging. He can still use the dagger as a sub-weapon if you want the benefits of Japanese version Grant, but now it has to be used manually and it uses hearts, balancing things out.
    You can still use the dagger and the axe on walls and ceilings just like in the Japanese version, you just have to have them as sub-weapons.
    – The hydra boss on Sypha's water level shoots fire straight in the NA version. In the Japanese one, their fire moves towards wherever you are on screen, making this one of the few parts that is harder to deal with in the import version.
    – I believe some sub-weapon placements have been cycled around.

    – There are some checkpoint differences, the big one being at the Dracula fight. Instead of respawning at the bottom of his stairs, you get sent back to the previous checkpoint. This is one of the major changes that is pretty much universally seen as a negative in the NA version.

    – There are probably other changes I am forgetting, but it's nearly 5AM as I write this.

    There are aesthetic differences as well with some being more subtle than others. The jumping demon boss has more visual detail in the NA version. The hunchback replacements in the Japanese versions are normal hunchbacks in the NA version, looking like they do in the original Castlevania. The zombies on Stage 1 are slightly more hunched with arms reaching out in the NA version. I am pretty sure there are other small changes.

    Regarding the music, I do find the USA version much more moody which I think fits the world more naturally. I do like the Japanese soundtrack for its more "in your face" tunes, thanks to the extra sound channels and its generally beefier sound.

    My personal biggest issue with the game is the reuse of boss fights (Cyclopes, Mummies, Big Bat, etc), but it's a minor gripe.

    A couple of more things that I shouldn't even bother commenting on (but I am going to anyway):

    – Frankenstein's hitbox (16:48): For this fight, all you have to do is whack him in the legs. The reason you were missing when jumping is that the hitbox for the head area is in fact not the head, but the neck, which is why you were missing. It's a quirky place for the upper end of its hitbox, but it's the same on both forms of Frank that you showed in the video. I understand the point of the, well, point in the video, but it's sort of moot though since you can simply stand and whip the legs.
    – Grant's finicky wall climbing (16:10): In the example given in the video (walking on a ceiling and then attempting to climb up along the side of a hanging block), I believe you need to hold diagonally upwards (or downward if you are climbing down) and Grant will automatically grapple properly. Then you slowly move from that diagonal direction to "up". Then when you want to climb up and around to your standing position, you rotate slowly towards the direction you want to go. You never want to let go of the d-pad or the A/B button (whichever is required to latch on, I don't remember)–that's when you slip and fall. You should be able to do it consistently 100% of the time, it's just about knowing exactly how to do it. It feels fickle at first, but mastering it is satisfying and makes you feel like a boss.

    PS: If you ever want to take a look at the NA version in the future, I can lend you my cart for a bit. If anything it will give you a better idea of what some of us had to deal with growing up.

  17. Love this game, picked up my own copy (use to rent) when I bought the top-loader at a Guam K-mart — still have both to this day.

  18. …. Never played any Castlevania games on the nes… I should have played them as I'm 36 and "I was there" when they got released…

    Ah well. I'll tackle them as I wait for your review of Super Castlevania and Bloodlines! 😉

  19. Castlevania 3 one of my favorite games on the NES. Yes this game is a complete mess with the difficulty…..but yeah. IDK why even the japanese version has passwords instead of a save battery like Simon's Quest but well Konami stuff. The OST is amazing in both versions although the VCR6 wins in my books. The first level is a great introduction and if you're the patient guy and just throw the holy water to every candle can get the triple shot and cheese the second level like a boss. All the subweapons barring the dagger are great in this game in every way. The melodies really fit the levels except for one Riddle sounds more like a final boss theme (like in Adventure Rebirth) and strangely Pressure it's played on the greek ruins level from Alucard's route. Both routes level 7 are hard but yeah Alucard's route is just bs difficulty i remember being stuck for hours in one section and the autoscroll is just obnoxious. Sypha just breaks the game and Grant too but the final phase of Dracula boy is just easier with Trevor at least for me. Also i love that Dracula's 3rd phase was based on Pazuzu the demon wind king. Yeah the american release is just harder overall cause of one big tradition from the og Castlevania……the enemies just hit you harder every 3 levels and Sypha/Grant lose to 5 blocks of energy thanks to their frailty although yeah they break the game so it's fair in a sense. Great review as always Kris keep up the good work man 😉

  20. Oh, don't worry. The Western version nerfed Grant's weapon from one of the most broken ones into the worst in the game. The mummy got buffed too; it's a lot tougher, but (besides damage) I prefer the buffed fight compared to the Japanese version; the projectiles are harder to whip.

  21. The notion that your preferences for unlimited continues is the "correct" way is nonsense. It's justa prefence for not having to prove you can pass the test without a bunch of retries at the problem . Neither is right or wrong.

  22. For a series of games based on films and novels, you really are ignoring all the cinematic moments on this game, such as the rapid tower climb or the acid roof.

  23. Great review. I really like this game but it is a game that I never had as a child so there is no nostalgia attached to it. There are a few reasons that keep me from loving this game and I think you touched on them all. The overall difficulty can be brutal and unfair sometimes.

  24. I bought this game as a kid. Still one of my favorites of the castlevania series. The song Rising is another good tune. And no the western version doesn't let Grant throw unlimited daggers. He jabs a knife instead.

  25. Back when this game was released video gamers didn't really examine games like today. Castlevania 2 is looked at poorly now but back then, it was pretty cool. I don't think game design during the nes era was considered as much as it is now. Now every part of a level seems to have to fit perfectly in the overall game to keep a player's attention. The reviewer does bring up some good points about castlevania 3. I didn't use the extra characters a lot but it was fun trying to get them and see the different endings.

  26. Hey Kris, good review as always. So how would you rate the first three Castlevania games compared to each other? Castlevania 1 over 3 over 2? Would you recommend buying them for nowaday prices? I guess they are much more expensive here in Europe than the United States, though. Thx for your review(s).

  27. I'd like you to go back to the scoring system that you used before in your channel. Numeric scores help me have a more precise idea of your thoughts on the game. What score would you give to each game in the original Castlevania trilogy, for example?

  28. This is the best classic-formula Castlevania ever made. Fight me! 😛

    Seriously though, I love this game, but I never thought about some of your criticisms. They make a lot of sense from a game design perspective.

  29. I think the difference in opinion you and much of your audience share regarding the game's character variety really speaks to Castlevania III's ability to make a very personal experience for each player.

  30. I agree the game is a lot easier if you know everything exactly, but isn't that always the case? As a kid I didn't even always know where all the weapons were and getting triple shot was just lucky or it took a long time. First time I heard about the trick was on the internet. The European version is a bit different and though Grant can decimate from up close with quick stabs it is very dangerous as well. My ''easy'' run is always with Sypha and though I played through it with all characters I only use Grant/Alucard for platforming. I was especially disappointed with Alucard as he can barely kill a normal enemy from point blank range. By the way, I love freezing water with Sypha and it is something you should do, or you're not a good Dutchman. (You can be excused) Anyway, I had a good time with this and it offered a good deal of challenge and variation.

  31. Yeah umm, how to put it with regard to Sypha:

    Flame spell: "Double the damage of an upgraded whip strike, with a taller hitbox for hitting enemies' feet through floors"
    Thunder spell: "Up to six times the damage of a single upgraded whip strike, depending on how many of the three homing orbs strike a target"
    Freeze spell: "Basically lets you sequence break by jumping on top of frozen bats, axes, fireballs, ravens, etc., lets you one-shot all regular enemies, including otherwise invincible ones, makes water not push you–is in general a speedrunner's best friend"

    Set your starting name to URATA and master that vampire-slaying witch trap.

  32. Fantastic video. I'm going to echo a lot of what people said and say you should probably give the US cart a shot, maybe for a separate vid in this series. Also, if you haven't yet, I recommend checking out last year's Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon. I also think that would go well as a vid in this series.

  33. I feel the opposite when it comes to Grant. He feels underpowered in the north American version so I rarely use him. With the throwing dagger, the character feels a lot more balanced.

  34. clocktower, I believe, is meant to represent the harpsichord. an instrument that rivals the organ in the good ol' gothic monster feel, but is heavily used in baroque music, which – again, I believe – was the intention of the composers

  35. This game has a lot of nostalgia for me. Have been playing it since I was about 5 years old. While I truly agree with what you have to say. Parts being broken, cheap etc. This game was so hard, you really had to find the cheap broken aspects sometimes if you wanted to stand a chance. The international release is really balls to the walls difficult. For gods sake, when you lose to Dracula you get sent back 2 rooms instead of below where the fight takes place! Your joy in the stair parts of the game baffled me. LITERALLY the stairs are the toughest part of the game. That only creates challenge, not depth, it was moments like that you had to learn how to cheese the game with sub weapons, TOO BAD the controls make it nearly impossible to use them.

    Something I don't think people think about, I legitimately believe the 2 main routes; "Sypha / above ground" is truly the "easy" path, and the "Alucard / underground" is MOST DEFINITELY the "expert" path. Even after playing both many many times, the latter is still way more difficult. If you believe that Sypha's abilities cheese the game, then stick with the fire ability. Its still plenty challenging if you do that.

    The soundtrack here is truly the best 8-bit one there is. The famicom version takes the cake in sound quality. But the NES version still found a way to be unique and amazing, as clearly demonstrated in the song "Rising", which was the only version to include Arpeggios. The NES soundtrack has the nostalgia, but the famicom has the quality.

    For nostalgia's sake this is by far my favorite Castlevania game, AND NES game. When I think of it I think of the fact that it took 10 years to beat. So as I grew and learned pivotal things in my young life, this game was there, ready to kick my ass and make sure I knew I had plenty of learning to do still!

  36. This game is more demanding then what the nes was capable off, the vrc6 chip was responsible for alot of things the nes couldn’t do.

  37. If the difficulty felt unbalanced you should try the NES version. It's harder but way more balanced. Plus some enemy and boss sprites are improved and it includes cheat codes not in the Japanese version. IMO it's the superior version, feeling more complete.

    Plus not to fanboy but I can't believe you think the games awful 🙁 it's phenomenal for NES standards with tons of replay value and I fail to see how the other characters make the game lose focus when their abilities add nothing but variety and encourage exploration of the paths and the character's usefulness. Plus if you want a "jump and whip" only game then just play with Trevor- you don't HAVE to pick a side character and thats where the different choices and options for each playthrough comes in for a beautiful package. The game was definitely made by people who knew what they were doing

  38. Hooray for 30 years of Castlevania 3,or Dracula 3 cause i belive that's the game's codename. The amount of damage on the japanese release depends on the enemy itself,while in the international versions it depends on how far you are along the game. also,another interesting thing on the version available on the recent Castlevania anniversary collection is that for some reason, some graphics like the zombies were redesigned. and also,the tittle screen was going to look completely different.

    This is probably my favourite of the NES castlevania games,but i do admit i get sick of it halfway through it due to some stages dragging for too long while being annoyingly hard. I'm glad you chosed the japanese version since that's just the better version overall,and i much prefer the JP soundtrack over the international one.

  39. Love this game. I didnt appreciate it as much as a kid, but imo, it's one of the three greatest NES games –
    Super Mario Bros. 3
    Mega Man II (tho I prefer IV personally)
    Castlevania III

  40. I think it's funny you say you hoped Grant's throwing knives were removed for the US release, because that's exactly what they did, and the game suffers greatly for it. Grant is no fun at all to use with his 3 pixel length normal stabbing knife and is essentially useless since even when trying to climb anything with him he can't defend himself well. The fact he can throw knives is the only reason I will ever play the Japanese version of this game from now on. It is just more fun. The US version is a terrible butchered port in my eyes. Getting Grant is optional. If someone thinks his over powered or too easy, just don't get him. I'd rather have that choice than have it taken away completely which is what they did when they brought it overseas.

  41. I think one of the worst feelings in the world is when you want to enjoy something, but it doesn't let you. I desperately wanted to enjoy Dracula's Curse because on the surface, it's perfect. Beautiful colors and pixel art, fun gameplay, superb music, replayability, it has it all. But the dodgey controls and platforming, irregular difficulty spikes, and absurd stage lengths, for me made it an ordeal, not a thrill ride.

  42. I think the point of different charachters is that they are like the games difficulty setting in the same way Nintendo has Funky Kong in Tropical Freeze

  43. Great summary of what made this game special and props for focusing on the Famicom version in particular as it by far has the superior soundtrack. The VRC6 chip is put to brilliant use for sure. You just earned a subscription from me, keep up the great work.

  44. You think the inconsistency in this game is bad? Don't play Circle of the Moon (please play Circle of the Moon I love it but the difficulty is terribly inconsistent)

  45. I've never played the Japanese version. There are mistakes, cheap shots, and inconsistencies, for sure, but this is still one of the best NES games to my taste.

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