Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse vs Super Castlevania IV
As Castlevania is fresh in everybody’s minds because of the Netflix show, I thought it was time to look at the game that show was based off of, and the remake of the first game. Those being Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse and Super Castlevania IV respectively. I chose these two to see which is the stronger entry, the final NES game, or the first SNES entry?
First of all, neither game has a particularly deep story, but it is important to note that Castlevania III takes place in 1476 and Castlevania IV takes place in 1691. Either way, the story is basically the same for both, kill Dracula. In Castlevania III you play as Trevor Belmont, and in Castlevania IV you play as Simon Belmont, both of whom wield the family whip, The Vampire Killer.
However, the first big difference between these games are the playable characters. Trevor can bring along a partner, each of which has their own reasons to fight the Prince of Darkness, Dracula. The first of which is Grant Danasty, which is his birth name and not his rapper alias, but he wants to join Trevor as not only was he turned into a monster, but Dracula also killed his family. Later, after defeating a cyclops that froze her, Trevor can recruit Sypha Belnades, a witch, or a Speaker in the show. The final companion you can take along with Trevor is Dracula’s son, Alucard. However, Castlevania IV is Trevor from beginning to end. But if the controls are bad, the number of characters doesn’t mean anything.
Let’s start with Castlevania IV first, and Simon controls amazingly. He has the Vampire Killer whip as his main weapon, and with it he can whip in all eight directions, and hold it to create a shield-type barrier. Both he and Trevor have the trademark Belmont Strut, which means they walk at a somewhat slow pace, however, jumping is where it all matters. Luckily, Simon has something normally unbeknownst to most Belmonts, fluid midair controls. Normally, especially in the NES games, if you were jumping, it was like a leap of faith, because you couldn’t influence your control midjump. However, that problem is now alleviated, but that along with better whip controls do make the game an overall easier experience, but more on that later. Both Simon and Trevor have access to subweapons, and both have the same weapons. So they have the watch, which stops enemies, the dagger, which shoots out like an incredibly weak arrow, the axe, which launches in an arc, the holy water, which drops on the ground and leaves a small fire, and finally, the cross, which is just a boomerang. These operate off of hearts for ammo, and can be upgraded to shoot two or three. So, if hearts are ammo, how do you heal? The answer, is wall chicken. Yes, you can break the walls and get chicken to heal with, and I have to say it does look pretty good.
Now, we move to Castlevania III and all of its different playstyles. Staying in familiar territory we have Trevor, with the aforementioned Belmont Strut and stiff jump. However, his Vampire Killer can only be swung left and right. Before we tackle any of the partners though, how does the system work? You just press the minus button, and the two characters switch, leading to characters you explore with, and others you fight with. Although, you can only have one partner at a time, and you must always have Trevor in your pair. Now, on to Grant, who has a pathetically short attack, a small dagger, but he more than makes up for it because he can climb walls and ceilings, and has fluid midair controls. Next is Sypha, who has a weak staff attack normally, but can get three separate spells, which are the Holy Fire, Blue Splash, and Holy Lightning. The Holy Fire has a quick, medium range fire shoot out in front of Sypha. Blue Splash summons six icicles around her that can freeze enemies to make them platforms, or freeze any water it touches. Finally, her Holy Lightning has three homing lighting balls appear in front of Sypha. She walks at the same pace and jumps just like Trevor. And last but not least, Alucard. However, this is not the Symphony of the Night Alucard who is faster and stronger than about any Belmont, no this is Alucard in his first appearance. His main weapon is his Balls of Destruction, which can shoot one, two, or three depending on his upgrades. His coolest aspect is that he can transform into a bat to fly over hazardous obstacles, and laying seeds for his eventual rise to fame.
Now that we know how the games play, but how do they look? Well, considering the games were on two different consoles, one has vastly superior graphical capabilities, but that doesn’t mean it’s better. As Castlevania III is on the NES, both the colors and capability were decreased, however, I don’t feel that the game is crippled by it. The levels are all different enough, and have the correct colors used to make them stand out. By this game Konami had learned the limitations of the NES, and knew how to create interesting levels. Castlevania IV is on the SNES, which is a 16-bit console, unlike the 8-bit NES, allowing more complex and living environments. Not only that, but as most levels were just remade from the original Castlevania, developers were able to expand them, and add extra details. However, new levels such as the treasure level really showed of the graphical capabilities of the SNES for Castlevania. This is also in addition to the different models. Trevor, Grant, Sypha, and Alucard all look unique and different enough so that you know who they are, but Castlevania IV has a realistic looking Simon, at least, as realistic as possible on the SNES. Another thing i found while playing the games is that they have a similar structure, as both games first have you getting to the castle, then finally going in to finish the game.
So, it comes time for me to make a decision. Which do I prefer, the deeper, more refined Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, or the new and shiny remake, Super Castlevania IV? In the end, I prefer Dracula’s Curse. Not only does it bring many new things to the table, whereas as Super Castlevania IV is just the original with a fresh coat of paint and a new whip, but it also feels like Castlevania III embodies the classic Castlevania series more. It has the whip delay, the stilted jumps, and the knockback, which aren’t the most fun or progressive features, but they’re why we love and remember Castlevania. We love it for its difficulty, because when we eventually overcome the challenge, it feels that much better. Castlevania IV removes an element of that by making the whip to powerful, which effectively replaces the need for sub weapons as well. Plus, Castlevania III shows more story progression, and makes it so it isn’t just the Belmont show. This also adds Alucard, who later takes up the mantle in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, which hosts a battle against fake versions of Trevor, Sypha, and Grant.
Overall, I think that Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse is the better game. It adds new and interesting gameplay, helps give a stronger story, had a mastery on NES graphics, and helped introduce a largely popular character down the road. I understand that most people prefer Super Castlevania IV, and it was my first Castlevania game, but I still think the mastered NES game beats the rookie SNES game any day.