Super Castlevania IV is one of the best SNES games of all time, as well as one of the best Castlevania titles of all time.
|Console||Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Famicom|
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Super Castlevania IV is the series’ first leap into the 16-bit era and ends up being one of the most memorable entries. Along with more powerful graphics and sound, the capability of the gameplay had also evolved. The end product: a long and arduous quest to slay one of the horror genre’s biggest baddies: Count Dracula.
The Prince of Darkness Returns
The plot of Super Castlevania IV is a retelling of the first game in the series. The prologue explains that Dracula rises from the dead every hundred years, where he will once again terrorize the world with his armies of darkness. And that’s exactly what happened, so Simon Belmont must go to Transylvania to confront the Prince of Darkness and put a stop to his evil plans of conquest.
A Long Journey Ahead
As expected, Super Castlevania IV is an action platformer in the same vein as the original Castlevania and Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse. Simon Belmont is back in action, kicking ass with his Vampire Killer whip.
This time, Simon can now whip in eight directions instead of the usual two directions in the previous games. He can whip upward for harder-to-reach enemies and candles. And he can whip downward in the middle of a jump.
Also, by holding down the attack button, you can use the D-pad to swing the whip around. At first, it seems like a goofy trick. But as it turns out, this is a good way to destroy projectiles or perform quick, weak attacks against enemies. Sort of like a makeshift flail.
Furthermore, Simon can whip these golden bat wall decorations to use as a makeshift swing. You can hang on by holding down the attack button and use the D-pad to swing back and forth or loosen the whip to get more range.
This amount of control over the Vampire Killer whip allows for smoother combat. You are no longer restricted to a delayed horizontal attack. Practically every enemy and candle is within your reach now.
The sub-weapons also make a return, though they generally behave the same way as they originally did in the NES games—which is kinda disappointing. In which case, I still strongly favor the boomerang cross and holy water over everything else.
Super Castlevania IV also dropped the idea of additional characters and non-linearity—though there is a short secret stage in the game. I also found this disappointing since it gave the previous game a lot more replay value.
Still, that’s not to say the gameplay is considerably worse—because, really, it isn’t. There’s no problem with Super Castlevania IV’s linearity, especially since the game is packed with stages. There is a total of 11 stages, as well as a secret bonus stage.
Simon can now change direction in mid-air, previously an ability that only Grant Danasty in Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse had. He can also use the crouch-walk to get past areas with low ceilings and overhead traps. These features definitely help in making the game less strenuous.
Part of Super Castlevania IV’s appeal is its big improvements in graphical capabilities, such as utilizing the SNES Mode 7 feature. The best known example in the game is stage 4, where you cross a constantly rotating cylindrical room. By this point, you know you’re not just looking at static sprites with simple animations. This is some magical quality eye candy here.
The game also tried to include more locations of European landscapes, similar to how Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse did. The first half of the game is just Simon getting to Transylvania, crossing mountains and rivers while fighting off Dracula’s forces. These first few stages are a good example of a game trying to set up an atmosphere, something that Super Castlevania IV seemed to break past expectations in.
This game has one of the best soundtracks in the series.
There are also good remixes of the first stage music of the whole NES Castlevania trilogy.
Notice how many tracks are slow-paced or quiet compared to others. You’re not just playing an action-adventure game. You’re undergoing a long journey, and the soundtrack perfectly emphasizes that.
The Battles Up Ahead
Super Castlevania IV, in my opinion, is one of the easier entries of the series because of the whip’s improved versatility. Still, it doesn’t mean there’s no challenge. Some of the bosses in this game can be particularly nasty. The Dancing Spectres and the Zapf Bat come into mind. And don’t get me started on Dracula’s personal guardians…
There are also moments in the game that can be really frustrating, such as Stage 4’s rotating room, Stage 6’s fast-moving and persistent enemies, Stage 8’s spiky traps that kill you in one hit, and ESPECIALLY Stage B’s breakable stairs and flying platforms that lead to Dracula’s lair.
That last one is actually quite unfair, because there are times when the flying platforms spawn and you can’t even reach them. So you have no choice but to commit suicide. You also can’t see the ceiling spikes right above you, so there are going to be a LOT of cheap deaths from this one part alone. It’s god awful.
In spite of that big level design flaw, Super Castlevania IV is a very solid game for the Super Nintendo. It’s easily one of the best games that the system had to offer, so I’ll end this review with what I said in my Castlevania III review.
You can’t go wrong with this game.
Super Castlevania IVPrice Varies
- Major improvements in whip controls and maneuverability.
- Very impressive graphics and visual effects thanks to the SNES Mode 7 feature.
- One of the best soundtracks in the Castlevania series.
- Some challenging bosses, even with the easier difficulty.
- One of the easiest entries in the series.
- The final level is badly designed, coming with insta-kill hazards that you can't see.