2021/11/12: NES: Castlevania, Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse

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2021/11/12: NES: Castlevania, Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse

Postby VideoGameCritic » November 12th, 2021, 1:34 pm

I finally got around to sprucing up my old Castlevania reviews. Simon's Quest dropped from a C- to F.
Let me know what you think.

Zack Burner
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Re: 2021/11/12: NES: Castlevania, Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse

Postby Zack Burner » November 12th, 2021, 1:50 pm

Well nice to revisit classics every now and then! The original Castlevania despite some gameplay flaws is still highly playable and memorable. I'll agree with Simon's Quest being the weak link, I've played through it several times but never got the ending I desired, that was a mess that makes the N64 game look like a masterpiece. As for Dracula's Curse, oh man, I gotta return to that one! The ability to play up to three different sub characters and branching paths really boost replayability. The endings vary per character, but I think my personal favorite is the one with Sypha as it's the most canon in the storyline, in fact they get close to each other. The 2nd place nod goes to Alucard's as he's just a badass.

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Re: 2021/11/12: NES: Castlevania, Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse

Postby Matchstick » November 13th, 2021, 3:34 pm

It's hard to argue with the overall placement of the three titles. Dracula's Curse gets the best score (because it's the best) Simon's Quest gets the worst score (because it's the worst) and the original Castlevania is somewhere between the two (because it is). Any argument over the scores is just varying shades of gray.

As far as Simon's Quest getting an F, while I can't say I entirely agree with that, it certainly isn't a great game as it is. I have beaten it in its original form, but I've also been fortunate enough to play some fan hacks over the years which have smoothed out its rough edges (improved the translation, eliminated the delay between the day / night shift, quadrupled the amount of hearts and EXP earned, made the invisible flooring in mansions visible, etc) and it is incredible how great this game can be with a its most-glaring flaws properly addressed.

It's a good game, just buried beneath a series of poor design choices.

That's more than I can say for some other games on the NES "F List," but I'll say this - if Simon's Quest is an F, it's definitely the "Best of the Fs." I'll take it over The Terminator, Home Alone 2, or Karate Champ any day :D

EDIT: Minor grammar quibble in the Simon's Quest review. Last sentence, fourth paragraph: "Hearts to buy critical items in town..." Should it be, "Hearts are used to buy critical items in town," instead?

Paul Campbell
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Re: 2021/11/12: NES: Castlevania, Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse

Postby Paul Campbell » November 15th, 2021, 1:29 am

The music for Simon's Quest is certainly repetitive and lacks variety, but it does this while also sporting one of the most iconic and memorable video game tunes EVER with Bloody Tears.

Even though I agree that the game has an absolute ton of problems, I have so many memories of so many friends all playing the game at the same time and sharing information with each other at school. There was something different about how that game came across back then. I think we just assumed that we didn't have all the information we needed, or that all the quirks were intentional and somehow purposeful. I think I probably thought that right up until I first watched AVGN's review all those years ago, and heard such a harsh critique from a completely separate perspective from my childhood. That might have been the first time I actually considered the possibility that the game was just poorly constructed. As a kid I kind of assumed that they didn't allow games to have really glaring problem... You know, that whole "Nintendo Seal of Quality"...

I'd be interested to know what changed between then and now to make you drop it so heavily...

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Re: 2021/11/12: NES: Castlevania, Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse

Postby Alucard1191 » November 15th, 2021, 12:18 pm

I'm going to echo the "in general this is accurate." However, I also don't know if Simon's Quest really is F material. Maybe a D? I look at other F rated games and would rather play Simon's Quest over all of them as well. But overall total agreement. 3 is best, then 1, then 2.

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Re: 2021/11/12: NES: Castlevania, Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse

Postby MSR1701 » November 15th, 2021, 3:21 pm

Simon's Quest is the prototypical "you WILL need a Guide to Play this Game" game, as the localizer teams not only translated the hints with the usual late 80s character space limits (which made the hints cryptic to decipher), but also kept the intentional BAD/False hints that Konami had in the game, which only exacerbated the issues.

As games of this type go (side scrolling adventure, proto-Metroidvania), this is one of the better of its type on the NES, though I would easily take Zelda II over this one given the chance.

Come to think of it, both Zelda II and Castlevania II have great soundtracks. Hmm...

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Re: 2021/11/12: NES: Castlevania, Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse

Postby DeadHorse11 » November 16th, 2021, 11:14 am

Here's my take on Castlevania II - Simon's Quest. Back in the 1980's, many games did not provide tips or hints throughout gameplay. Many games had questionable "Engrish", but the Developers English translations were still much better than my Japanese. There wasn't Google Translate at our fingertips like we have today either, so that should be taken into consideration. Regarding gameplay, one had to rely on what little help the game manual could provide; sharing tips with friends, or a gaming magazine like Nintendo Power. With a game like Simon's Quest, it isn't necessarily any more cryptic or unintuitive than The Legend of Zelda or Zelda II: The Adventure of Link for example. The player just had to kind of figure it out on their own through trial and error, and in The Legend of Zelda for instance, that meant burning every bush, bombing every wall, and trying to figure out certain patterns (like finding the graveyard, or level 5). I do remember the manual in Simon's Quest mentioning that some of the villagers were liars (perhaps cursed), and that some were trustworthy. Probably the most important clue the game itself provides however, is that one villager (in the very first town) mentions that there are 13 clues to solve Dracula's Riddle. This means the player must find those 13 clues in order to proceed, rather than rely on the game to hold the player's hand. The clues (red scrolls) could be found by using the holy water to break ground or walls. The game is an obvious departure from the original Castlevania, but it is also less linear. At the time, it was an intriguing game as a result. Also, the music in this game is easily some of the best on the NES. The game is not without its flaws, but is still a very solid title in my opinion. My personal biggest complaint is that the game did not have enough bosses, and the final battle with Dracula was rather lackluster. The bosses needed to be more challenging, and each body part of Dracula should have been guarded by a boss. Outside of that, I would agree with the overall reader rating for this game. Growing up back then, I can think of much much worse games that actually deserve an 'F' rating. There was nothing worse than renting a game that you realized was literal garbage after only a few seconds in, let alone buying one with only the box art as your guide! So yeah, B-.

- DeadHorse11

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Re: 2021/11/12: NES: Castlevania, Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse

Postby mbd36 » November 18th, 2021, 11:59 am

Funny thing, I loved the original Castlevania as a kid. I've always preferred linear Castlevania. My next door neighbor friend was never into Castlevania except for Simon's Quest. He was always more of an RPG/adventure guy. Maybe non-linear RPG fans would generally be more partial to SQ.

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Re: 2021/11/12: NES: Castlevania, Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse

Postby Darrin » November 19th, 2021, 9:37 pm

I like to think that much of the time I agree with Mr. Critic but I have to say I preferred his original rating of Simon's Quest. I feel that an F is far too harsh. I remember back when the game first came out it seemed like lots of people really liked it and the magazines seemed to as well (from what I recall, anyway). I also remember that Simon's Quest was not the only game with "tough puzzles" to figure out. When you stop and think about it, are Mario 3's warp whistles really any easier? Duck for five seconds on top of a random white block and you fall into the background? I have always preferred "Happy Console Gamer" to "Angry Video Game Nerd" as the former seems more humble, appreciative, and focuses on the fun of playing video games.

I try hard to give games and their creators the benefit of the doubt, and my patience for putting up with mediocrity is probably far higher than most in this regard. I like to try to ask myself: "Could I sit down and make a better game than this?" and that helps keep me more appreciative. It's sobering when you stop and think about all the work that goes into a game.

Some have mentioned that the "transition screen" takes too long between day/night sequences. But when you stop and think about it, is it really any longer than most of the load-screens for any CD-based game? What is it, like under 10 seconds? I chalk it up to a first-world problem. And besides, you spend a huge part of the game in mansions where day/night transitions don't occur anyway. And if you are going for the best ending (essentially doing a speed-run), you have to complete the game in less than 8 days of in-game time anyway, rendering those "pesky" transition screens a moot point anyway.

I think it's cool how Simon's Quest game was ahead of its time by already setting the groundwork for the Metroidvania style that would dominate years later. And to get the good ending you have to have the game memorized and do it as quickly as possible, which is super rewarding. And the dark gothic atmosphere is fantastic, with the iconic "bloody tears" music track as well. I would easily rate this game a B- at worst. I definitely think VGC was more right in his assessment the first time around :)

Sure Simon's Quest can feel a bit like Atari's "Sword Quest" from time to time when it comes to the puzzles. But from what I understand, the Japanese version does a better job of giving adequate hints (due to localization issues). So at the very least, people should reserve their nay-says for the English version. And even still, it's not as if the English version has nothing in the way of having some helpful hints either. Not only does the game have a plethora of those "red hint books" to find (some of which are actually helpful), but the game's original game manual has some hints in it as well. Below are some interesting sources I dug up.

NES game instruction manual:
https://www.thegameisafootarcade.com/wp ... Manual.pdf

All clue books:

In defense of Simon's Quest:
https://kotaku.com/in-defense-of-castle ... 1835599200

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Re: 2021/11/12: NES: Castlevania, Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse

Postby JustLikeHeaven » November 24th, 2021, 11:49 am

I think if you’re reviewing Simon’s Quest in the 80s…sure the F feels deserved. How many of us rent or bought that game only to be absolutely stumped by its cryptic nonsense? Honestly, most of us had to grab a Nintendo Power and beat the game that way.

In 2021 the game is perfectly playable and everyone knows it requires a walkthrough or guide to understand it’s nebulous translation and wonky secrets. The way you can permanently upgrade Simon is great. The world is large and exploration is a fine touch compared to the linear first game. I enjoy quite a few of the songs.

I dunno…it’s probably a C in terms of grade. It’s playable and the action/controls are responsive/feel good. I give it bonus points for its ambition. It’s not the dumpster fire the Internet wants people to think it is. It’s the weakest NES entry, but I’d still play it over a big portion of the system’s library.

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