Measuring Up The Classics Castlevania Series

Steven has been texting me like a lunatic these past few weeks, which is a return to the norm. He completely ditched me several months back, although he’ll blame everything on me. The good news with this constant communication is his unending desire to see me write unique articles. His latest idea was a very intriguing one. He challenged me to write an article on the Castlevania series, but instead of simply talking about each game, to try and break the games down in terms of difficulty and fun factor. So that’s exactly what I’ve done. I also mention where you can purchase the digital version of each game, if they’re available. I only look at the classic action platforming Castlevania games and not the Metroidvania titles, so keep that in mind if a certain game is missing.

Castlevania III: Dracula’s Cruse

CV3

Of the entire classic line, this has to be the hardest Castlevania. The final boss has three forms instead of two like the original, you have to play as multiple characters to in order to progress, therefore forcing you to get good with everyone, and it’s just damn hard. It’s also one of the most rewarding games in the entire series. It’s significantly longer than the original Castlevania, and plays in a very similar fashion. You know exactly what I mean by that the first time you play the game. For most, the third CV is also one of the very best NES games ever created, and I have to agree with that. It’s a true gem. If you haven’t ever had the chance to play through CV III you should do so as soon as possible.

Difficulty Rating: 5/5

Fun Factor: 5/5

Available on the Wii Virtual Console.

Castlevania: Chronicles

CVC

There’s a very big disclaimer that needs to be made here. If you play this game in the original X68000 mode, it is actually the hardest Castlevania game ever created. That’s mainly because you only get four lives, and five hits from anything will kill you. Good luck finishing the fifth level is all I can tell you. The remastered version was completely rebalanced and much more forgiving so if you play that version you can expect around the same level of difficulty as the original NES Castlevania, but if you really want to prove your manhood, try the original unaltered version. Sadly taken as a whole I never found the game to be all that spectacular compared to the rest of the series mainly because it was released after Super Castlevania IV and yet features none of the refinements. Being more or less a remake of the original NES classic, it’s a good game, but so much more could have been done. I consider IV to be the vastly superior remake.

Difficulty Rating: 5/5

Fun Factor: 3.5/5

Available on the PlayStation Network.

Castlevania

CV1

Having just wrote that article with Steven it’s no secret that the original remains one of the most challenging games in the vintage series. Everything that makes Dracula’s Curse difficult started here, the only difference being there are so many more ways to die in the third part. Castlevania remains a highly rewarding game that players all over the world continue to go back to because of the steep difficulty and how highly rewarding it truly is. Who can ever forget taking down the Grim Reaper or Dracula for the very first time?

Difficulty Rating: 4.5/5

Fun Factor: 5/5

Available on the Wii and 3DS Virtual Console.

Castlevania: Rondo of Blood

CVRoB

Being the very last of the traditional Castlevania games to get released prior to the age of the Metroidvania titles, Rondo of Blood was also the most exclusive. For decades it was only available in Japan for the PC Engine CD, which was better known as the TurboGrafx-16 CD in North America. Sadly the game was never released outside Japan until it finally shipped worldwide as part of the Dracula X Chronicles for the PSP, and then eventually made its way to the Virtual Console on the Wii. Rondo of Blood is an outstanding game that mixes many elements found in Castlevania III, multiple playable characters, non-linear progression and extremely challenging boss fights and level design. While not quite as difficult as the two games mentioned above, it’ll still kick your ass more often than not. The highlight of the game has to be the incredible visuals and the rocking soundtrack. If you’re a huge fan of Symphony of the Night, you simply have to play this one as it ties story elements from the previous games together perfectly with what comes afterward.

Difficulty Rating: 4/5

Fun Factor: 5/5

Available on the Wii Virtual Console.

Castlevania: Bloodlines

CVB

The one and only Castlevania game to ever grace the Sega Genesis also happens to be one of the most unique. It features a difficulty select, something none of the other games in the series had at that point, and it also combined many elements from the Bram Stoker novel with series canon. Players could play as either John Morris or Eric Lecarde, each having their own unique set of abilities. John was the typical whip wielder and Eric used a spear. While not necessarily as difficult as the games that came before it, it proved far more challenging than Super Castlevania IV. I’ll always remember Bloodlines because it was the first title in the series to feature blood, at least from those games released in North America.

Difficulty Rating: 3.5/5 (Depends on the difficulty you select to play on)

Fun Factor: 3/5

Currently unavailable in digital format.

Castlevania: The Adventure

CVTA

Sure it was an early release on the original Game Boy, but that doesn’t mean it has aged well. In fact, this game often doesn’t even feel like a Castlevania game. It features no hearts, because there are no sub-weapons, it has no stairs, only ropes, and above all else it makes the NES Castlevania feel like Simon Belmont is as agile as Spider-Man. I was never a huge fan of this one years back, and that really hasn’t changed much over time. Prepare to get highly frustrated by making the most perfect jumps of your life.

Difficulty Rating: 3/5

Fun Factor: 1/5

Available on the 3DS Virtual Console.

Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest

CV2

This one is a hybrid game, playing out completely differently than the original NES classic. Think Zelda II, and you know what I’m talking about. This game featured towns, a rich storyline and completely non-linear gameplay. It can also be one of the most challenging and frustrating videogames ever created if you don’t use some sort of strategy guide. It took me over a year to complete the game when it was originally released way back when because more often than not I couldn’t figure out where to go or what to do with the various items. Apparently logic was thrown out the window for this one. Simon’s Quest will teach you to fear the night.

Difficulty Rating: 2/5 (with guide), 156/5 (without guide)

Fun Factor: 4/5

Available on the Wii Virtual Console.

Super Castlevania IV

CV4

Of the classic series, this is my favorite. Why, because the controls were spot on, and because the challenge was a real challenge, not like the others where one of your biggest hurdles was just getting your character to jump the next platform. Another reason why this one is much easier is because the sub- weapons can be used much more effectively than ever before. I think the biggest shock though comes in the form of Dracula, and just how bloody easy he is to defeat compared to all the other iterations. Whatever the case may be, the mood, atmosphere, music and graphics remain incredible all these years later. Download this one from the Wii Virtual Console and prepare to be blown away.

Difficulty Rating: 2/5

Fun Factor: 5/5

Available on the Wii Virtual Console.

Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge (Game Boy)

CVBR

While difficult in its own right, the game as a whole is much more refined compared to the first Game Boy outing. This one features sub-weapons and while the levels remain long, the continue points feel fair. If you want to experience any of the three Game Boy Castlevania games, this is the one to start with. It has an excellent soundtrack and is the most detailed of the three GB releases.

Difficulty Rating: 2/5

Fun Factor: 3.5/5

Currently unavailable in digital format.

Castlevania: Legends

CVL

While significantly better than The Adventure, Legends pales in comparison to Belmont’s Revenge. The Game Boy was extremely old in 1998, when the game was released in North America, and yet it features less detail than that of the second GB release. Why this was ever released on the GB to begin with is mind numbing because the Game Boy Color was already out at this point. Does that make any sense at all? On the flip side, the story was much more refined, and helped connect several story threads together. It was also pretty cool to play as the very first Belmont.

Difficulty Rating: 2/5

Fun Factor: 3/5

Currently unavailable in digital format.

Castlevania: The Adventure Rebirth

CVR

Compared to the rest of the classic action platforming series this one is a relative joke. It’s extremely easy, even with the difficulty raised to max. That’s not the biggest issue though, the main problem is that the game simply doesn’t have all the modern features added like being able to jump on and off stairs, and the level design is extremely bland compared to something like Rondo of Blood or Super Castlevania IV. So while it’s an enjoyable game in its own right, when compared to the rest of the series it comes up short. This isn’t the game fans were hoping for when teased with a new action platformer in the series.

Difficulty Rating: 1/5

Fun Factor: 2/5

Available on the Wii Virtual Console.

So there you have all the classic Castlevania games I’ve played through in terms of how difficult they were to me. One caveat here is that I haven’t played all of these games in a while so don’t use this article as a guide when you plan to check the series out. You might find certain titles much more difficult than I did. That said, the top five are most certainly spot on. If you do decide to give the series a play-through, leave me a comment as I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

2 thoughts on “Measuring Up The Classics Castlevania Series”

  1. Awesome article. A quick note before I start, there are actually hearts in Castlevania: The Adventure, but since there are no sub-weapons, the hearts enemies (or candles) drop in this one actually replenish your health. This was the first (and only time time I think) that hearts were used to replenish health in a Castlevania title. I also recently just completed Adventure….. and I agree with what you said. Although I seem to remember enjoying it a whole lot more as a kid, it is an extremely bland game. Ridicously challenging however because of the jumps that require surgical precision, and that level with the pointy things following you all over the place is over the top frustratring, especially considering you only have 3 or 4 lives to complete that 10 minute stage.

    I hope we see eShop releases of CV 2 and 3 soon on the 3DS. Really want to play those, somehow don’t feel like replugging my Wii and investing money on the virtual console when I know it’s a system that don’t use anymore. I have Super Castlevania on there, a title I’ve been dying to replay for a while. I also really want to re-play the portable metroidvania titles. I honestly never got the chance to play them all, but I do remember those having some of the toughest boss fights in the series. Bloodlines sounds like a fun game, I’m surprised you didn’t mention the super nes dracula X, as it’s quite consusing that one. Apparently it’s a great game, just that compared to the original it’s crap. Also I’m never sure if it’s the port of Rondo of Blood, since some say it’s actually somekind of semi-sequel as it was called Dracula XX in japan. Anyhow, awesome article, keep them up.

    1. Thanks for letting me know about the hearts, like I said, haven’t played some of these in a long time.

      As for Dracula X, the only reason I didn’t mention it is because I actually forgot to. It was one of the games that was giving me issues with the article as I was looking for more concrete info on why it was made to begin with, but no one seems to have any idea. It’s actually a reworked quasi-sequel to Rondo, but it is just so bad compared to the source material. Even compared to Super Castlevania IV it looks aged. That said, if people really want to check it out on its own merits it’s a decent game, but the series is typically excellent, which is why this one falls short. It features the exact same characters, storyline and gameplay as Rondo, except watered down. The stages are reworked so it isn’t a direct clone, but it sure feels like it. Why it was made in the first place remains a mystery considering how vastly superior Rondo was.

      One note to make about Dracula X on the SNES is that it features one of, if not THE hardest Dracula boss fight. You have to take him down while jumping from one column to the next. One hit by anything and you die, simple as that.

      I, too, hope Nintendo and Konami continue to release the series on the eShop for the 3DS and allow us to use the tablet on the Wii U for remote play. That would be excellent.

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