Castlevania Gameboy Mini-Reviews

I never really sat down with any of the Castlevania Gameboy titles before past or present, so I figured October would be a good time to round out playing all the CV games between the console, Gameboy and the gba titles, I had done the Nintendo console titles as a Castlevania Retrorevisited, streamed the gba titles to show them off, and did full reviews of them last year. I tried out Castlevania Adventure 1 and 2, the often hated Castlevania legends, and the spin-off Kid Dracula.

All games played with normal SGB color enhanced improvements on Retroarch. It’s worth noting that in Europe the GB Konami Collections vol 1 and 4 had Castlevania Adventure 1 and 2 in full color. For the sake of the reviews I played the normal versions, but at the end of these mini-reviews, I’ll show some screencaps of the ports for the Konami Collections.

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Hack Showcase: Castlevania Hacks

Hack Showcases and RPG Hack Showcases are a series where I show off various game and rpg hacks. I try to stick with hacks that improve gameplay or add quality of life features, completely or partially change the plot and characters, along with dialogue, graphical and sound improvements. I try to stick with games that have enough changes in the beginning to show off, and when I can, try to show parts later in titles. There may be spoilers in the reviews and videos. Some of these I may stream or play on my own.

Continuing my Castlevania theme, I decided to try some Castlevania hacks. Not like the Bisqwit one, the kind that really change the nature of the game. inspired by some friends, I found some neat ones I tried out on stream for the 3 NES titles, and after some searching, found ones for Harmony of Dissonance and Aria of Sorrow even! I really enjoyed trying these out and going to revisit them! I’ve never been into hacks that increase the difficulty of games, some of these do, but it’s not a major difficulty spike that feels unfair.

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Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PSX) Review

Released in 1997, SOTN is a direct sequel to Castlevania Rondo of Blood, which at the time hadn’t gotten a proper US release. In this one, Richter Belmont has disappeared and Castlevania itself reappeared 4 years after the events of Rondo of Blood. Alucard, Dracula’s son last seen in Castlevania 3, awakens to discover what has happened with the help of an older maria from the previous game. This is the first of the Metroidvania style games, where the player explores an entire castle, gains new abilities, and fights bosses to uncover the plot. A second mode letting you play as Richter in a traditional Castlevania is opened up upon finishing the game. The game sports an amazing soundtrack and a number of dialogue scenes with voice acting (even if it is cheesy). SOTN wasn’t a big hit at first, until critic scores and word of mouth raised its status among gamers, prompting a number of re-releases.

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Castlevania – Aria of Sorrow (GBA) Review

Aria of Sorrow is the 3rd Castlevania game released for the GBA. Another Metroidvania style game, this one takes place in the future 2035, where Dracula and Castlevania were trapped forever in a solar eclipse in the aftermath of the Demon War of 1999 where the current Belmont, Julius, as a hero of. Soma Cruz finds himself trapped in Castlevania with his childhood friend and discovers he can absorb the souls and abilities of enemies in the castle. Aided by Genya Arikado, Soma discovers the truth behind his abilities and meets others trapped in the castle and one trying to revive Dracula himself. Aria has an amazing soundtrack and graphics and plays like the previous titles, and has a Pokemon aspect to it with collecting souls to gain different defensive and offensive abilities. Finishing the game unlocks Julius mode (who is a total badass!!), a boss rush, and a hard mode.

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Castlevania – Harmony of Dissonance (GBA) Review

Release in 2002, this is the second of the GBA Castlevania trilogy and another metroidvania style game. Telling the story of Juste Belmont (next Belmont after Simon) who with his friend Maxim, infiltrate Castlevania to save their kidnapped friend Lydie. As the plot moves on, you discover there are 2 castles, one harder than the other that you can switch to via warp rooms. Sporting a great soundtrack and a different style of graphics than the previous game. Juste has access to use all the normal sub-weapons, gaining levels and new abilities, and using magic books based on the elements to augment the power of the sub-weapons. A 2nd mode letting you use Maxim and a boss rush opens up when you finish the game with one of its 3 endings.

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Castlevania – Circle of the Moon (GBA) Review

Circle of the Moon is the first of the GBA Castlevania games which follow the Metroidvania formula established and popularized in SOTN. Taking place in 1830, Morris Baldwin leads his son Hugh and student Nathan Graves to Castlevania to stop Camilla from reviving Dracula earlier than expected. Morris is captured and Hugh and Nathan are forced to find their way through the castle to fight Dracula. You take the role of Nathan, who carries a whip that can also be spun around and used as a shield against projectiles and kill weaker enemies. Dracula’s castle holds many secrets in its various areas and you need to use all the skills you have to find your way. The DSS cards you find from enemy drops give you different offensive and defensive abilities when used together. Each of the action cards is based on someone from Roman mythology, while the attribute cards take from Greek and Roman names. This castle holds different areas than what other Castlevanias have, including a Battle Arena. This game was eventually taken out of the main Castlevania continuity.

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Retrorevisited: Castlevania 1, 3 and Super Castlevania 4 (NES, SNES)

Retrorevisited is a stream series where I revisit a game or a game series I haven’t played in over 10 or 20+ years. I’ll go through to try see what I remember until a game over or I run out of continues. In some cases muscle memory may slowly return, in others probably not. This is a chance for me to revisit games of my youth that I still have or had at one point, playing them with and without nostalgia goggles, and do with mini-reviews of them too. If I decide to play any fully later and do a full review, parts of the mini-review would be incorporated into it. Depending on the playstyle or system, games reviewed will either be mini-reviews or one about all games in this session.

So I’ve always enjoyed the early and recent Castlevania titles from the first one to SOTN, the gba titles and Dracula X Chronicles. Even with the high difficulty of some games and the metroidvania aspect to the titles post SOTN they were always ones i came back to. Castlevania 1 was one my first NES games which I think i still have. I could always at least get up to the area before Death and i learned on my own as a kid and teen how the holy water can lockdown bosses. CV3 i rented a lot as a kid too and loved the improved graphics and music and the aspect of having one of 3 partners. So much in my password notebooks I had passwords for wherever I left off in cv3 with Trevor and Grant, Alucard or Sypha! No idea where the farthest i got was, but maybe around the beginnings of penetrating Castlevania itself. Castlevania 4 I loved and still do to this day as a 1st gen SENS title showcasing the SNES’ abilities. The music is incredible and being able to swing Simon’s whip in any direction was great! The boss fights and levels were incredible to my young eyes and I had a number of passwords for this one written down too!

(Reviews will be of cv1 and 3 together, and cv4 in a separate paragraph due to different system as the other 2.)

GRAPHICS AND SOUND: The graphics in cv1 and cv3 are beautiful and really fit the mood of the game. There’s some areas that are brightly colored, and others that are darker and forbidding. The color schemes really fit the mood, underground areas and forests are what you would imagine them as you penetrate the grounds of Castlevania to fight Dracula himself. All the bosses are big and colorful and look as they should. There is some graphical flicker in cv1, not as much in cv3 though. The music in these games is legendary! Cv1 you hear the classic Vampire Killer and Bloody Tears for the first time and will be pumped up to fight! Music in other areas fit the mood, like the underground you fall into after fighting the Mummies in cv1. Music is even more incredible in cv3 with more instruments to the classic Castlevania tracks, and you’ll like the music in the Clock tower area too! Killing enemies with your whip makes them explode, your hero “oofs” when hit, and the sub-weapons sound as they would in real life such as the sound when you throw the boomerang or break bottles of holy water all over the floors.

Castlevania 4 was one of the first SNES titles and a showcase of what the new 16bit machine could do with better and more enhanced colors and palettes, along with showcasing the mode 7 abilities during some boss fights. Like the NES titles, the graphics and colors fit the mood of the area of the castle grounds you’re in and check out the backgrounds too! First time you hear the 16bit music you’ll love it and want to hear more, from the 16bit renditions of the classic Castlevania tracks to Theme of Simon in the first stage when you enter the castle grounds! Sound effects are cleaner than that of their NES counterparts, though again Simon yelling “oof” when he gets hit will get annoying. The creeking sound when you swing on rings really sounds good!

PLAY CONTROL: In cv1 Simon controls like a brick. He feels quite heavy when it comes to jumping and falling off platforms. You got a whip and jump button, and using the special items involve holding up and your attack button. Cv1 and 3 will require pixel-perfect jumps at times, though it can be for nothing with the pushback if you get hit by an enemy. Trevor in cv3 controls a lot looser and lighter. Jumping feels lighter and he doesn’t seem to feel wet cardboard. Of course both games you can lose control fast if you get juggled badly.

When it comes to your partner sin Castlevania 3, all have strengths and weaknesses. Grant is good for crawling on walls for shortcuts, but he has low range and he’s slippery trying to control him on walls. Slypha’s a glass cannon, but her magic can destroy everything! Alucard has range with his fireballs and can turn into a bat to fly over obstacles.

In cv4 Simon controls a lot better. You can also swing your whip in 8 directions to be able to attack enemies before you jump, along with holding it in front of you like a shield. Jumping is easier and there’s spots in the game where you have to swing your whip on a ring and swing over to farther platforms.

CHALLENGE: The challenge in all 3 Castlevania games is about the same: hard. Memorization is the key – memorizing where enemies spawn from and how they move, including bosses. Another key is the aforementioned pixel-perfect platforming at times, and the knockback when you take damage, which can leave you in trouble fast. Whip and explore everywhere to find hidden hearts, treasures, and wall meat! Knowing how and where to use the sub-weapons is another key. In cv1 you can use the holy water to lock some bosses in place, and just pelt them with holy water and attacks from your whip to achieve victory with little damage. Bosses range from mummies, cyclops, dragons, and even Death himself before fighting the big man Dracula.  Thankfully all 3 games have unlimited continues, and cv3 and 4 having a password to return to where you left off. Cv3 also has three partners you can take with you: Grant, Sypha, and Alucard. Each has their own abilities and skill set. Grant can climb walls, Sypha with her destructive magic skills, and Alucard can turn into a bat and fly around and over obstacles. Castlevania 3 also has multiple paths on your journey to and into Castlevania itself, with different enemies, landscapes and bosses to fight, and partners to find.

I GIVE CASTLEVANIA 1 AND 3 (NES) 4 OUT OF 5 HOLY WATERS!
I GIVE SUPER CASTLEVANIA IV (SNES) 4.5 OUT OF 5 HOLY WATERS!

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Castlevania Dracula X Chronicles (PSP) Review

Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles is a 2.5 remake of Castlevania Rondo of Blood for the PSP, released by Konami in 2007. This game stars Richter Belmont on a quest to save his beloved Annette from Dracula, who had been revived by the dark priest Shaft. Along the way Richter will meet Maria, a young girl with special powers who becomes a playable character. You’ll go through a number of the traditional Castlevania stages as Richter or Maria, and trying to find the well-hidden other 2 maidens along the way along with Annette. Saving the maidens will give you the ability to break red skeleton walls and crystal walls to find more secret items. Along the way you can unlock ports of the original pc-engine Rondo of Blood, along with Symphony of the Night. Other secrets include finding different tracks among the three games and a boss rush mode. Stages 2 through 5 have varying paths to explore, resulting in fighting a different boss and opening up an alternate of the following stage. Auto-saving after levels is a godsend with a game like this. Extra goodies with this include the aforementioned ports, sound tests, watching videos of the boss battles (you pay with the money you earn in stages), and a different types of boss rush modes. Rondo of Blood essentially is the missing link between the old school Castlevania platforming titles, and the later popular Metroidvania style games starting with SOTN. This review will mostly cover the Rondo remake, with mentions of the original Rondo of Blood port and SOTN.

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Hack Showcase: Castlevania 2 English Re-translation + Map (NES)

Hack Showcases and RPG Hack Showcases are a series where I show off various game and rpg hacks. I try to stick with hacks that improve gameplay or add quality of life features, completely or partially change the plot and characters, along with additional content, dialogue, graphical and sound improvements. Non-rpgs I try to give a full run to, or at least enough for a solid review. Rpgs I will stick with titles that have enough changes in the beginning to show off, and when I can, show parts later in the games where more differences appear. There may be spoilers in the reviews and videos. Some of these I may stream fully in the future or play on my own. Reviews are open to later revisions due to bug and content updates or me playing them and finding anything new I wish to bring up.

Castlevania 2, the black sheep of the original NES trilogy. Not a pure platformer like 1 and 3, but more of an adventure game with rpg elements like Zelda 2. Also made famous by the bad translation of clues and townspeople gossip which made figuring out progressing through the game harder then it should have been unless you had friends who knew what they were doing. Or Nintendo Power. And that infamous Nintendo Power cover that gave kids nightmares. I don’t have many memories of playing this as a kid except off and on renting or with friends. That said, never finished it either. I discovered another improvement to Redacted by romhacking.net user Bisqwit. He took what was done in Redacted and improved it even more! Other features include:

  • NTSC version (there is also a PAL option)
  • MMC4 chipset (there are also MMC3, MMC1, MMC5, UNROM and VRC6 options, see the vending machine)
  • Reintroduced some features that the English releases removed from the Japanese version — Includes the extended ending text, as well as Konami-style Start text on the power-on screen.
  • Map function — An in-game map is included. It helps understand the layout of the game world, and to know the name of whichever place the player currently is in. It compensates for the lack of actual game manual, which in the Japanese releases included a map. Press the select button to view the map in the game.
  • SRAM save function — Game can be saved at any time into internal battery-backed memory and loaded later.
  • Cinematic prologue
  • Seamless fading between night and day times
  • Quality-of-life improvements to game controls: Jump down stairs with down+A, hit stun on stairs, Simon blinks when hurt
  • Extra dialog in select locations — Small changes that improve the game experience without changing the nature of the game.
  • Language — English.

When I played this I added 3 other hacks to it: the Annoyance Fixes by tkempkes, False Floor & Breakable Block Replacer by Greyfield, and the Game Over Penalty Reduction by NaOH hacks (links provided at the end of this post). The Game Over one reduces the amount of hearts lost at a game over to half instead of all of them. Annoyance Fixes includes patches for a faster day and night transition, getting double hearts, empty space replacing false floors. False Floor & breakable Block Replacer changes the false blocks around the game to a different shade so you don’t have to always throw holy water around. I’ve played this hack with and without these additional patches, patches are compatible with this hack.

This review updated after a new video playthrough on 9/26 with version 2.12.0.1 of the Bisquit hack, and latest versions of the Game Over Penalty, Double Hearts and False Block Replacer hacks available. Review will reflect with and without the additional hacks.

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