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mars 27, 2014

A Castlevania Adventure appreciation, for game boy



Some Castlevania fans hate the first Game Boy game: Castlevania: The Adventure (or as I call it: The Castlevania Adventure. In Japan: Dracula Densetsu). But I want to write an appreciation blogpost. This is the one of only two Castlevania game that I have beaten, the other being a GBA game that didn't make much of an impression (it was one of the two games on the double pack, don't know which).

This is the only Castlevania game I have enjoyed anyways.
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In my videos this time I stopped the recorder whenever I died and then unpaused when I reached that stage again. So it took a lot longer to play than what you see in the videos. You have unlimited continues but you restart from the start of the stage when you are game over, and some stages are very long.

While you do move quite slow, it has a nice feeling to it. It is very simplistic and I really appreciate that. The game was released in Japan in 1989 and was one of the earliest game boy games. My theory is that the sluggishness is because of bad programming. You can feel the game speed up at times, such as right before the rope at 01:20 in the video above. In some ways it feels like an experimental game.

There is also strange flickering in the screen, and it seems that the game has a hard time to keep up with the timer. This is the only GB game I know that has a real time second timer in it.

Anyways, I actually like the game the way it is. The game only has 4 stages and that is fine  for me. I am worried if I start playing one of the other Castlevania games on GB or NES/Famicom that they will be long and tedious. Maybe the reputation of those games is what prevents me from wanting to try them out. Also it seems boring to try out games that "everyone" talk about. I think it is more interesting to try out unknown or unappreciated games.

The Castleva Adventure was one of the first GB games I played when I got back into video games four years ago. At the time, I thought the game was super hard! Especially stage 3. When I play it now, with more gaming experience, I don't think it is equally impossible. Last night I played through the game up to Dracula and it took me about 4 hours. I then tried for an hour to beat him, but I didn't manage this time.

The first stage isn't that hard, as you see above. There are some tricky jumps and surprise enemies, but even newbie gamers (like I was) would beat the stage after a couple of tries.

Stage 2 gets a bit harder. Some enemies that require some thinking to figure out how to beat best. Some jumps that may be tricky for a complete newbie. But still, with a decent console (such as a Super Game Boy), it shouldn't be too hard.
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Remember, in 1989 all we had were the first generation game boy, with its yellowish screen that was hard to focus on. We still loved it. There was no similar handheld gaming console before, and I remember how amazed I was about Super Mario Land. Just seeing moving pixels, real music, with enemies and actual gameplay was amazing. But I didn't know there was a game called Castlevania, unfortunately.

After stage 2, here comes stage 3. For an unexperienced gamer, this stage is like hell. It is long and has moving spike walls and many tricks that will kill you the first time.
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After 04:11 in the video, the stage goes on for another tough minute that I didn't record.

When I played the game four years ago I left my GBC on during the days and nights, using a power supply. You can always continue from the stage you are at and have unlimited continues. It took my a couple of days to beat the stage, as I could only play in the evenings.

After stage 3, there will the final stage. At least I think it is the final stage.
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This one is also long and has more difficult enemies. From gamefaqs I found there is a secret room that will help you out at 5:30 (I thought it was at 4:30 first, that's why I jump like crazy there). I also found a simple way to get passed the difficult enemies at 7:40 right before Dracula. Those enemies gave me the hardest time before I discovered the trick.

Playing the game now, it feels challenging, but not extremely. I played Dracula for an hour and didn't beat him, but just look back to my last beaten game, Rolling Thunder 2 that I blogged about recently. It took me 1 hour before I even reached the end boss, and then 2 hours to beat him.

I think it is nice to see how much feeling and atmosphere they were able to put into such a simplistic game.  You move slowly, but it never gets boring. Every screen has a carefully thought out challenge, even if it may seem simple. Nothing is just thrown into the game to fill it out, as many other games would do it.

With the true stero sound you have on the game boy, the music will also sound better than on the NES.

I like to grade game boy games because I have most experience with them and so I think I can grade them fairly. I rate this game 4/5. Despite all my praise, it is sluggish. The controls are stiff , and the constant slow downs and then speed up again create a challenge in itself.

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