Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse

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Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse NES Box art

ConsoleNintendo Entertainment System, Nintendo Famicom
DeveloperKonami
PublisherKonami, Palcom
GenrePlatformer, action
Release Year1989 – 1992
Game Number3
Purchase (NES)Click here to purchase from eBay.

After the disappointment that is Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, one more Castlevania entry came out for the NES. Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse is the last game of the NES trilogy, and a very good entry I might add. It’s one of the best action platformers on the NES, taking the original Castlevania formula and building upon it to make an even better game.

 

Where It All Started

Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse NES gameplay

Unlike the previous two entries in the series, Dracula’s Curse is a new story that functions as a prequel. In this game, you are Trevor Belmont, an ancestor to Simon Belmont dating two centuries back. For the first time, Count Dracula launched a legion of monsters to attack Europe and proved to be a powerful foe. So the Pope hired Trevor as a last resort to find and slay the count.

Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse NES gameplay

Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse returns back to the same gameplay as the original Castlevania, completely dropping the RPG and exploration elements of Simon’s Quest. For better or… well, better. Unlike the first game’s six areas, Dracula’s Curse has over ten areas to explore. There is also some degree of non-linearity since there are moments when the path branches out.

Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse NES gameplay

Once again, you’re using the Vampire Killer whip and you can pick up multiple sub-weapons to make your journey as easy as possible. Because you’ll DEFINITELY need every little help you can get.

Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse NES Grant Danasty

Dracula’s Curse is also the first Castlevania game to include multiple playable characters. Whenever Trevor defeats a specific boss, he has the option to recruit an ally. There are three in total: Grant Danasty, Sypha Belnades, and Alucard. Each have different strengths and weaknesses.

Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse NES Grant Danasty

Grant fights using a weak dagger (throwing dagger in Famicom version). He moves faster than Trevor, can control his jumps in mid-air and can scale walls and ceilings easily. His specialty is finding shortcuts in difficult areas and attacking from certain vantage points for bosses.

Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse NES Sypha Belnades

Sypha is a mage who attacks with a weak staff. However, she has access to exclusive sub-weapons that allow her to use powerful magic spells.

Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse NES Alucard

Alucard, the son of Dracula, can shoot fireballs and even turn into a bat to bypass difficult obstacles (this quickly uses up hearts, however).

Unfortunately, you can only travel with one partner at a time. While Grant is possible on all playthroughs, Sypha and Alucard are only hidden in specific routes.

With the addition of these characters, it’s possible to get four different endings: one where Trevor defeated Dracula alone, one with Grant, one with Sypha, and one with Alucard. The non-linearity and the inclusion of these characters give Dracula’s Curse a higher replay value.

 

The Most Difficult of the Trilogy

Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse NES gameplay

Of course, it isn’t really a classic Castlevania game if it isn’t hard as balls. And you will not be disappointed by Dracula’s Curse. The knockback effect I discussed in my Castlevania review is still present here. But there is one more big flaw that will bring your piss to a boil.

Stairs. Any level in this game concerning stairs or vertical platforming is guaranteed to be a nightmare. While you’re on a stairway, you can only move up or down. If an enemy hits you, you freeze in place instead of falling back. But because you generally so slow while on the stairs, it’s hard to dodge incoming enemy attacks.

Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse NES gameplay

There is also an infamous segment where you have to wait for falling blocks to pile up so you can reach the doorway high up. The pattern of the falling blocks is so inconsistent that I keep dying before I reach halfway to the exit. This stage is only available in the most difficult route, where you can recruit Alucard. So thankfully, you can just trying flying up to the exit if you have him as the partner character.

In other words, vertical platforming is bullshit. You’re nearly defenseless and it’s insane to try to dodge anything coming from above you. Without a doubt, Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse is the most difficult game in the NES trilogy. With all its improvements, it makes up for them by making the enemies and stage hazards even nastier.

Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse NES gameplay

Dracula’s Curse is also notable for being one of the first Castlevania games that consist of levels outside of Dracula’s castle.

In the original Castlevania, the entire game is centered around the castle.

In Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, you explore mostly country. Dracula’s castle is the final destination.

In Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, over half of the first areas consist of the countryside and other natural areas. Because of this, the game has the opportunity to try different environments: clock towers, haunted forests, ghost ships, sunken ruins and underground crypts. Its overall visual design holds up strongly, as expected of the best Castlevania on the NES.

Dracula’s Curse also has one of the best soundtracks in the entire series.

Here’s another interesting tidbit. The Famicom version of Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse has a few differences from the international release of the game. Aside from different enemy designs and the fact that Grant uses throwing daggers as a default weapon, the Famicom game had a more advanced sound chip: the VRC6 coprocessor chip. This chip added two more pulse-wave channels and a saw-wave channel to the game’s already present five sound channels. Because the NES is incapable of using external sound chips, the international release of Castlevania III didn’t include the VRC6.

TL;DR version: the Famicom game has more advanced chiptunes.

Very interesting indeed. It’s like the NES and Sega Genesis sound chips teamed up to make this one incredibly soundtrack.

Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse NES Sypha ending

So in the end, Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse improved an already great formula. I know I haven’t really discussed the finer points of the game mechanics here; if you want that, check out my Castlevania review. The mechanics are fundamentally the same, so the explanations should work for this game as well.

You can’t go wrong with this game. It’s another shining classic of the NES, therefore you should play it if you haven’t already.

Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse

Price Varies
Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse
9.6666666666667

GAMEPLAY

10/10

    GRAPHICS

    10/10

      SOUNDTRACK

      10/10

        Pros

        • On top of carrying over the original Castlevania gameplay, the addition of new characters and non-linearity give the game a much higher replay value.
        • The visuals are some of the best to appear on an 8-bit system.
        • One of the best soundtracks in the Castlevania series, coming in two different versions.

        Cons

        • Stairs and vertical platforming are the most frustrating aspects of this game.
        • Hardest Castlevania game in the NES trilogy.
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