There are few gaming IP that can successfully stick around for decades. Spinning off into over a dozen games, a beloved Netflix show, and making a home in Super Smash Bros. is an impossibility for many. For as simple as it is, Castlevania really isn’t like anything else gaming has to offer. There are few names synonymous with gaming, and pop-culture as a whole as “Belmont.” Castlevania was a 1986 action-platformer for the NES. With Ninja Gaiden and Contra, Castlevania defined what “difficult” would be for kids. I’ve been a huge fan of this first game for many years, but I’ve not dabbled much with the series outside of the original trilogy. I never felt compelled to. That all changed with the introduction of Simon and Richter Belmont to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. So, let’s get strutting and start this review properly.
Super Castlevania IV is a reimagining of the first title in the series. Released in 1991, for the Super Nintendo, the game follows series original protagonist Simon Belmont in his quest to take out Dracula once and for all. He thinks that anyway. The Belmonts have been fighting Dracula for generations. With some even fighting alongside Alucard, Dracula’s son, in their efforts. The game doesn’t do much to explain its plot in cutscene. You’re given visual story ques throughout gameplay, and the manual always exists for you.
As much as I talked up Castlevania as a franchise, it’s fair I write this review as if someone has never played it. Castlevania is known for a certain few recurring “moves” each character can perform. As a platformer, Simon can jump and attack. Simon also has access to a few sub-weapons which you get through breaking candles on your adventure. You may only have one sub-weapon at a time.
Castlevania is synonymous with a few specific hindrances. These series staples began in the original, and are still as prevalent as ever here. When hit, Simon will go flying backward. Often dubbed the “Belmont strut,” you have a relatively slow speed. Another phrase you might’ve heard is “jumps like a Belmont.” When you jump, you’re committing to it. You won’t be able to change direction once you’re off the ground. Simon drops like a rock when you walk off of a surface.
In Super Castlevania IV, Simon is a lot more mobile than his original incarnation. You can aim your whip in eight directions, even while crouching, and use your whip multiple times if you’re in the air long enough. It makes this game much easier for newcomers than other Castlevania titles. It is also important to bring up the stairs, a Castlevania fans worst enemy, you can jump onto the stairs in this game. That seems small, but I promise it’s very important.
Being a game from 1991, there were times where I felt level design was unfair. This includes some boss fights, notably Death, too. Of the 11 levels, most were fine, and they’re short enough for me to not really be upset. Someone who knows what their doing can easily beat the game in under 2 hours. I took my sweet time with save states in the Anniversary Collection on Switch.
Super Castlevania IV looks, and sounds, beautiful. There are tons of great-looking visuals that had me excited to progress in levels on their own. There’s a lot of showoff for Mode 7 that I don’t think ages too well. It makes sense that it’s there, and I didn’t find it too intrusive, so I’ll let it slide. The soundtrack is filled with songs that have been in my head for years and will be for many to come. It perfectly fits the gothic atmosphere of the game.
I highly recommend you play Super Castlevania IV. If you’re looking for a way to play it, the Castlevania Anniversary Collection is available for relatively cheap on all modern platforms. It goes on sale super often too. You won’t be kept around for long, but I can’t think of anything I genuinely hated here. I’ve been dreading the games of this era for review, but if they’re anything like my experience here, I have nothing to worry about. I loved Super Castlevania IV.
The Castlevania series was introduced to Smash in Ultimate. Many, including myself, viewed this as long overdue. Especially with Snake’s inclusion in Brawl. Castlevania hit Smash hard with 2 characters, 34 music tracks, a stage, 29 spirits, a few items, a boss, and an assist trophy. You can’t say they didn’t pour their hearts and souls into representing this franchise.
Simon Belmont, in Smash, can’t get any more faithful than he is. He keeps the strut, the weird jump, and all of his other moves from this game. That’s why I chose to do Super Castlevania IV instead of the original. While the Simon in Smash uses his original design, in practice he acts more like the Simon from this game. I don’t have a single grievance with how they handled Castlevania in Smash. Honestly, I hope one day we can see Alucard as a full-on playable fighter in the roster. I know a lot of people share that sentiment too.