Castlevania II - Simon's Quest

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Castlevania II - Simon's Quest

Postby ГРИ » May 25th, 2009, 10:41 pm

When I was younger, I would play this game ALL the time at my cousin's house. I'd gather hearts, die, vainly gather hearts, and then die again. Needless to say, I didn't get very far into the game, but I was extremely drawn to it. The creatures were relentless, some of the puzzles seemed impossible, but the Quest was fully intact. It would taunt me from the NES game case, even after playing Super Castlevania IV (which I thought was EXTREMELY weird, Simon's Quest being the first Castlevania I played), SOTN,  etc..

As such, my "horrible night to have a curse" lasted a little over a decade and a half,.

Then just last week (I'm feeling an "out of the mist" cliche coming on), I was in the local used game store, doing my normal thing, flipping through the NES games, when I saw that label ...

*Ahem* So, all nostalgia aside, on with the review.

Graphics / Sound -- Exactly what you'd expect from an 8-bit Castlevania. The music is top-notch (although having only a few tracks), the whip sounds like a whip (the flame whip sounds extremely dangerous), and the holy water sounds ... well, annoying. The graphics are also fitting, although it can be confusing as to what town/mansion/woods area you're in, since the only thing that changes is the palette.  Perhaps Konami wanted you to get confused?

Gameplay -- Well, the whip-swinging and holy water-throwing-ness are here. It feels like a Castlevania, although it eschews the original arcadey format of most of the early titles. However, the gameplay is hampered by three major flaws:

1. Backtracking  / getting lost / killing time

In my opinion, the day/night cycles were a perfect addition to the game; you were (somewhat) safer in the daytime whereas at night the enemies became twice as tough and Simon had no refuge to retreat to. However, on the other side of the coin, you had to waste time waiting until morning to buy laurels or something.

As for buying stuff, it took an effort to keep track of where I could buy goods, given all of the non-descript buildings. Yuck!  Same with remembering what woods led where sometimes. 

2. Sometimes endless heart collecting

You lose all your hearts when you use all of your lives, and items can be pretty expensive. Yup. (Isn't grinding for Worlds of Warcraft or somtehing?)

3. Major "battling" problems

In most Castlevanias, there's a steady consistency as to how powerful your whip is compared to your enemies. Konami threw this out the window for Simon's Quest -- for the bulk of the game, I either felt too weak or too stong -- you could reach a new area and be faced with creatures that take 4-8 hits, and go back to  the area with a handy-dandy new one and blow through everything. WILDLY UNBALANCED.  Once you got the flame whip, you're unstoppable in that department.

In addition, sub-weapons are grossly underpowered, making most of your sub-weapons pointless. And the bosses?  (Insert 5 minutes of silence here. Death shouldn't have been neutered.)

Konami might have bettered the system a bit by making Simon weaker as the game clock ticked, forcing Simon to get better whips to be strong enough to face the baddies (who could have been a little more consistant in the total HP department). And make sub-weapons progressively stronger by leveling up? (Was there any discernable change between levels after reaching level 2 or 3??) Meh. I enjoyed whipping the snot out of the undead,  but when you're killing the same regenerating skeleton over and over again for "those last 30 hearts," it gets tiring.

At least Konami got the "Quest" part of "Simon's Quest" right. There's plenty of villagers to talk to , and the use of holy water as "secret uncoverer / paranoia inducer" is pretty fitting. Although some of the puzzles are seemingly impossible (I had to find the instruction booklet online to figure out a couple), figuring these out is highly elating.  The Mansions were also pretty well thought out, with plenty invisable holes and dead ends. Frustrating? Yep! But again, it felt awesome to drive those oak stakes into Drac's body parts.

Replay -- If one were to complete the game, I doubt it would get much play afterwards, unless they NEEDED to see one of the better endings. Or if they enjoy pain.

Password system -- 16 characters long, but I didn't have any trouble saving my progress (why do I have to DIE to get one them?). Only uses capital letters and numbers. It's a creepy screen, too.

Sooooo ... after enough years, my Curse is finally lifted. But will you need to have a curse? Unless you're a Castlevania die-hard, enjoy figuring out stone-cold puzzles (in a Shadowgatey sense of the word "puzzle"), or someone who loves collecting hearts, I would say NO.

Cheers. Pip pip cheerio, and all of that rubbish.


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